FORT MYERS, FL- I came to watch one lefty who’s climbing pref lists for 2009 and I ran into another for 2010.
Lipscomb ace Rex Brothers entered the spring as a strong follow for area scouts but has since become a prime target for crosscheckers and scouting directors. I was curious to see him and was treated, for six innings anyway, to a nice pitching duel against Florida Gulf Coast University sophomore Chris Sale.
Incidentally, our recent article on the top college sophomores listed Sale as the #3 lefthanded pitcher in the class. On Friday night, he would go on to outduel Brothers and take the 7-1 victory.
But Brothers was plenty of impressive in his seven innings of work (7H, 2R/ER, 5BB, 9K). We had him #162 overall for the 2009 draft in our last rankings on March 26th, but he is sure to move up in our update later this month.
The 5-11 ½, 210 lb (eye-balled) lefty has a body unlike any I can compare to at his position in the big leagues. One scout mentioned New York Mets injured closer Billy Wagner, but admitted that Brothers is 2-3 inches taller and has a bigger frame. I likened him to a much younger version of David Wells, but Brothers is 3-4 inches shorter than Wells.
How about a young Mickey Lolich? I had to go back forty years, but he did remind me of the former Tiger ace albeit Brothers is much more a product of the weightlifting era.
He’s thick and solid particularly around his hips and legs, which give him a pear-shape appearance. His upper-body is more rangy, which is how you want a pitcher to be. Brothers is at risk for excess mid- and lower-body weight in the future, but right now he is lean and powerfully built.
Not only is his body unique, but so is his arm-action. Brothers makes a light downward stab of his left hand almost immediately after separation, giving him an ultra-short arm-stroke. From the batter’s box, you can’t follow the ball out of his glove and it gives him plus deception.
His delivery isn’t quite the pure drop-and-drive that Tom Seaver popularized, but there are elements of that technique. Brothers rocks back a little bit, then drives with his powerful lower-half muscles and finishes with a low follow-through and a three-quarter release. It again reminds me of Mickey Lolich (whom I’m too young to have watched but have video of).
For pure arm-strength, Brothers is near the top of the lefty crop for 2009; the best I’ve seen myself. He threw 92-95 MPH in the first inning and was still hitting those velocities in the sixth. More impressively, he held those velocities whether he threw the ball high, low, or from the stretch. For strike three, he seemed to get a little more. I graded his fastball movement a little bit below-average; sometimes Brothers got a sink on it, but other times it straightened out when thrown as a four-seamer. He showed some command up-and-down, but not so much inside and outside. Brothers was what you’d call “effectively wild” with his fastball. I expect his fastball command to become average in the future.
Brothers’s slider is a hard one in the 84-87 MPH range. In the early innings, it had a short break. It wasn’t a strikeout pitch as much as a miss-the-wood-barrel pitch. But as the game went on, he started to get a downward bite on it to the point it looked like a hard curveball. At times, it was a plus pitch. I’d grade his slider as average now and project it to plus. I think it can become a bat-breaker against wood.
He showed very few change-ups, in the 82-84 MPH range. They were mostly straight; his arm-speed was okay, but he doesn’t have a lot of feel for it yet. In time, it should be an okay show-me pitch.
So you have a lefty who should be durable (because of his middle and lower-body strength, okay arm-action) with a plus velo fastball and a future plus slider. He showed a good amount of poise too; there was bad defense played behind him and a lot of squibbler hits. No balls were hit hard the whole night, but he still battled and showed good body language when he ran into bad luck.
Some teams will knock him down for his body-type, seeing that he has minimal projection and the potential to get overweight. I agree he’s not projectable, but don’t think his body is bad at all for a pitcher and there are plenty of overweight hurlers in the big leagues, if he should go that direction. He’s plenty strong and athletic and Brothers even showed nimble feet in his quick pickoff throw.
I think he’s got a real chance to go in the first round, there’s quite a package. I’m not shocked if it’s in the middle of the first round. Brothers is the kind of pitcher who can become a quality #2/#3 for a contender. He should move through the lower minors quickly and get through AA and AAA by gaining more command of the corners.
Interestingly enough, Brothers did not throw nearly as hard at Shelbyville High School (Tenn.) and that might be why he went undrafted. At the 2006 Perfect Game/WWBA 18U National Championship, Brothers topped out at 89 MPH. From our records, he was 20-30 lbs lighter as well.
As far as FGCU’s Chris Sale, the rail-thin 6-6, 180 sophomore threw an eight-inning gem against Lipscomb (5H, 1R/ER, 4BB, 8K). There’s a lot of funk to his delivery and at first glance (from 150 feet away), I thought he was dangerously high-effort. But Sale actually has a live body and a quick arm, there are just some odd moving parts with his long limbs, and a rough finish. I think it’ll smoothen up as he grows into his body and gets stronger.
Sale threw 88-92 MPH consistently with good running action out of his three-quarter slot. He also showed a mid-70s two-plane curveball that has a chance to become an average pitch. Seeing how immature the body still is, I give Sale a chance to throw a few MPH harder by the 2010 draft.
Sale was drafted in the 21st round by the Colorado Rockies out of Lakeland High School (Fla.) in 2007. Incidentally, he pitched in the same 2006 Perfect Game Tournament as Brothers and topped out at 86 MPH. Our scouts were keen to recognize his physical projection and upside at the time, which he has gone half-way towards realizing already.
Check back later in the week as I knock out a couple of Florida’s more intriguing but unconventional high school talents. Mitchell High School lefty Patrick Schuster has thrown three consecutive no-hitters and will take the hill again on Monday, April 20th. The young finesse artist may be the best present-day prep pitcher in the draft. On Tuesday, I’ll see Lake Region High School centerfielder Ronnie Richardson, a speedster who’s getting pro attention because his baseball skills belie his size.