After a 2021 season that saw Seattle Mariners prospect Matt Brash dominate at both High-A and Double-A, expect his early spring training success to translate to a Major League invite.
When Brash was traded to the Mariners in 2020 as the Padres “Player to be Named Later” in the Taylor Williams trade, not much was known or expected of him. What has transpired since then had been a transformation not many may have seen coming, except Mariners GM Jerry Dipoto. The knack for finding underutilized talent on other squads may end up going down as Dipoto’s greatest ability and Brash is another name you can start adding to that list.
The College Years:
Before being taken in the fourth round of the 2019 MLB Draft, Brash was fanning batters at an impressive clip for the Niagara University Purple Eagles of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference. In his first two seasons, Brash amassed an 8-2 record and fanned 94 batters in 105 innings.
In his third college season, Brash put together what would go down as a record breaking year. Despite ending the year with a 4-5 record in 14 starts, his 2.43 ERA was excellent and he struck out a school and league record 121 batters in only 85 innings. He also only allowed 3 total HR in those 85 innings.
After his record breaking season, the Padres used the sixth pick of the fourth round of the 2019 draft on Brash where he went on to pitch a grand total of 10.2 innings for them that year but still managed a productive 16 Ks.
The Dominance of 2021:
Although the hype surrounding Brash may not have been there at the start of 2021, it didn’t take long for him to make an impact.
After taking a loss in his first game of the year in only three innings, Brash came in and pitched a gem of a game in relief a week later. He pitched four innings, allowed only one hit, zero runs and struck out 10.
Fast forward to the end of the year and Brash had a three game stretch in which it started to feel like he may have actually been pitching against little leaguers.
August 19th: 7 IP, 1 hit, 0 runs, 11 Ks
August 26th: 5 IP, 3 hits, 1 run, 10 Ks
September 2nd: 6 IP, 0 hits, 0 runs, 11 Ks
To make the last three starts even more impressive, those came after his promotion from High-A to Double-A. The higher level the competition, the better Brash seemed to perform.
The end of the 2021 season stat line was a thing of beauty. 6-4, 2.31 ERA, 97.1 IP, 142 strikeouts and a ridiculous .180 batting average against.
The Slider That Made It All Possible:
While his current arsenal of pitches consist of a sinking fastball, change up, curveball and slider, only two of those would be considered true plus pitches (fastball and slider). To call them plus pitches, though, may be an understatement.
Brash’s fastball tops out around 97-98 MPH and has lots of life. In his strikeout against the Arizona Diamondbacks Drew Ellis this spring the two fastballs thrown dropped 16 and 15 inches, respectfully. High velo fastballs with that much movement usually give the pitcher a go-to strikeout pitch…
Most pitchers don’t also have an elite slider like Brash, though.
The slider that Brash is able to throw quite consistently is an out pitch most pitchers can only dream of. “Wipeout” would be an excellent category to put it in. It’s a pitch so effective that it may take only one start at the major league level for his name to start appearing on “most impressive pitches in baseball” lists.
In that same at-bat against Ellis, Brash also threw two sliders. The first went for a ball but was 86 MPH, broke 41 inches vertically and 15 inches horizontally.
The second was even more impressive, breaking an absurd 46 inches vertically and 10 inches horizontally at 84 MPH and spinning at just over 3000 RPM. As a matter of fact, Brash actually threw a slider this spring training that spun at 3,158 RPM. The highest registered RPM of any slider thrown by a pitcher this spring.
A slider with that level of horizontal and vertical break puts him in line with the likes of Chris Sale’s devastating slider. The more unique grip Brash uses coupled with the fact he uses the exact same slow windup, explosive release off the mound for every pitch regardless of it it’s a fastball or slider makes it that much more deceptive and effective.
Check it out for yourself…
Looking ahead to 2022:
As if sits currently Brash and Justus Sheffield seem to be in a two man race for the final spot in the rotation to start the year. Although Sheffield has the major league experience, albeit not very successful experience, it seems likely the Mariners may opt to go with the younger wildcard they have in Brash. The one downfall he has would be his high walk rate but that’s to be expected of someone who’s so young with such a monster arsenal he’s still working on honing.
With highly touted prospect George Kirby also waiting in the wings, Brash will have to make an impact at the major league level should he be given the nod. On the plus side if he does make that impact, Kirby could actually be seen as a Flexen replacement (he would move to the bullpen) should Flexen struggle. The Mariners could even opt to run a six man rotation given Brash and Kirby’s almost guaranteed innings restrictions.
Regardless, at least to start the season, Matt Brash is going to be one name you’ll want to keep an eye on. In a perfect world where Brash manages to start the entire year I’d expect to see him around 140 IP, 180 Ks and a 4.10 ERA. Injecting that strikeout power into the back end of the Mariners rotation may be exactly what this team needs.