Sometimes you see minor league numbers so good, you do a double-take. So that’s what you do: look a second time, and then you get a more realistic view of the prospect. Meet Brandon Pfaadt (just don’t pronounce the ‘P’ and you’ll say it right.)
- Born: October 15, 1998
- B/T: Right/Right
- 6’4″, 220-lbs
- Drafted by the Arizona Diamondbacks in the 2020 June Amateur Draft out of Bellarmine University (Louisville, KY).
His raw numbers are listed above courtesy of baseball-reference.com. Let’s aggregate by year then focus on the important numbers for minor leaguers:
Ah, the holy grail: all green! Looks pretty spiffy, doesn’t it? Any problems? Not from this angle. OK, so let’s do that double-take:
Now we see a more nuanced picture. Indeed, his A-ball performance was all that and then some. So he got promoted to High-A where he still put up good numbers, but the strikeout rate slipped into merely good territory and took K%-BB% with it. Nice WHIP still.
Then he gets promoted to Double-A, and let’s pause for a moment and note he spent the entire season as a 22-year-old. A 22-year-old at low-A is par for the course. At High-A he’s a bit young. At Double-A he’s quite young. And it was here at Double-A that Pfaadt’s numbers finally backed up on him.
His strikeout rate dropped 5-6% per level, and by that rate he’d reach the Majors and be lucky to get 20% (no, it doesn’t go that linearly usually, but still). His K%-BB% rate is hovering just above Fair level, and his WHIP shot well up into that Fair category. In short, he reached his level of competence — at least in 2021 as a 22-year-old.
On the full season, well done, Brandon. You earned those all-green numbers. I’m just saying be cautious and note the breakdown by level tells us that he needs to do some more work at Double-A. Fortunately, to do that next year at 23 is perfectly reasonable. This is not an ace potential from a major college program. He got drafted in the lost year from a DII school. To even make the Majors would be a tremendous triumph.
I think he’ll make it.
EDIT Feb. 16, 2023: Well, folks, he was better than I thought:
He not only came back to Double-A in 2022, he dominated them. 2021’s numbers are out the window now. But forget Double-A, it was what he did next that blew the doors off the barn:
He then went to Triple-A, but more than that, it was Reno in the PCL, the worst place for a pitcher to go. But look at his August numbers, where he was on the road for four of his five starts including two games at Albuquerque and one at Las Vegas. In other words, we are in 1.500 WHIP territory if you don’t wind up in therapy instead.
He walked a few more, he struck out a few less, that’s it. Then in 31 more innings in September, he was back to dominating. While pitching on the Moon! I don’t recall seeing that before. No participation ribbon for Pfaadt, he grabbed the gold cup and did it looking good. I mean this is like going to Coors Field and striking out 15 or something. Phenomenal performance!
In Low-A he wiped out the righties and did very well against the lefties.
In High-A he did well against both.
In Double-A he regressed, but it was the home runs that done him in, yer honor. Yet despite that 1.45 WHIP against lefties, he actually had 11 Ks to just one walk against them. That’s impressive stuff, even if the results weren’t great. I’ll take process over results.
Nothing much now.
Here’s the good news: After a lost 2020, he got to pitch in 2021, and did it at three levels, and showed great command at all three levels. Yes, command, not just control, for he doesn’t aim for the middle of the plate but has the ability to work outside the zone when it suits him. Look at his walk rate and you’ll see that it works for him.
Furthermore, he has four pitches in his repertoire, with a dynamite slider, a mid-90s FB, a high-80s changeup, and a curve that sits in the upper-70s-to-low-80s. That’s SP material if they all develop, or even just three of them become at least average. He’s almost there.
Give him another crack at Double-A to start 2022, and if he does better move him to Triple-A, and then he’s ready to help the Diamondbacks whenever they need another arm. It might be as a bullpen piece to start, but I think Brandon Pfaadt has the skills to become a major league starter. Maybe not an ace, but to even be a #5 would represent a dream come true for the young man.
I’m rooting for him.
EDIT: Heh. He made it. He’s now one of the top pitching prospects in baseball. Pick him up now, if it isn’t too late already.