- Full name Brant Allen Rustich
- Born 01/23/1985 in San Diego, CA
- Profile Ht.: 6'6" / Wt.: 230 / Bats: R / Throws: R
- School UCLA
Drafted in the 2nd round (93rd overall) by the New York Mets in 2007 (signed for $373,500).
View Draft ReportUCLA's up-and-down season mirrored somewhat that of closer Brant Rustich, whose season has been mostly down as his performance lags significantly behind his tools. A physical beast at a listed 6-foot-6, 220 pounds, at times Rustich has three above-average pitches in his 93-96 mph fastball, power slider (at times touching 87 mph) and split-finger fastball. He's still bothered by a finger injury that caused him to redshirt last season, and his command is nearly nonexistent. In terms of stuff, he's a first-round talent, but his lack of pitchability makes him a 22-year-old with a 6.10 career ERA and 75 walks in 124 innings.
Organization Prospect Rankings
The Mets invested $373,500 in Rustich, their second-round pick, even after a tough redshirt junior year at UCLA in which he lost his job as closer. Prior to that 2007 season, he had surgery to repair a ruptured tendon in the middle finger of his pitching hand. Two and a half pro seasons later, Rustich hasn't been able to shake the injury bug. He continued to succeed on the mound in 2009, but he also continued to be undermined by a stress fracture in his humerus bone. Pitching with pain, he has a 2.77 career ERA in three pro seasons but has been limited to just 120 innings. He was sidelined twice last summer before being shut down in late August. The Mets hope that new medication will allow the bone to finally heal. Even with his physical problems, Rustich showed two power pitches in his 91-97 mph fastball and a slider that's his signature pitch. Though his delivery can get a little mechanical, he has good fastball command. He has dabbled as a starter in the last two seasons, but Rustich's future is as a set-up man. If he can put his health issues behind him, he'll begin 2010 in Double-A.
A susceptibility to injury and questions about toughness caused Rustich to cultivate critics within the organization. The former UCLA closer had a chance to impress in big league camp in 2008, but arm soreness resulted in him sitting out. The Mets, disappointed with Rustich's lack of tenacity, sent him to low Class A to begin the season once he was declared healthy. He pitched poorly in the first half but finally showed improvement after moving to the rotation, posting a 3.03 ERA in that role (4.76 in relief ). Rustich ranges from 91-96 mph with his fastball and has the potential for an above-average slider to go along with a changeup that has flashed plus potential. With Mets special assistant Sandy Johnson watching one game at Savannah, Rustich dominated with five no-hit innings and possessed an unhittable breaking ball. Scouts say that early in the season, that quality of stuff was not there, with a stiff arm action. Mets officials hope he'll grow out of the injury susceptibility, as Johnson once watched Robb Nen and Darren Oliver do in the minors with Texas. Rustich is currently considered a thrower without feel. The Mets haven't yet resolved whether Rustich will be a starter or reliever, but he'll be 24 this year and still will be ticketed for A-ball. He has better stuff than fellow 2007 draftees Antonini, Gee and Owen but lacks their durability and feel for pitching.
Rustich dominated in the Cape Cod League in 2005 and got off to a tremendous start at UCLA the following spring, but then he ruptured a tendon in the middle finger on his pitching hand. Following surgery, he struggled as a redshirt junior and lost the Bruins' closer job in 2007. New York drafted him in the second round and landed him for $373,500. Healthy in pro ball, Rustich showed a premium fastball, sitting from 93-97 mph with late life. He pitches inside to righthanders and uses his size well, throwing downhill with his fastball and an 84-87 mph power slider with tilt. His changeup shows flashes of being an average pitch. Control was a huge problem before and after his finger injury, but Rustich threw strikes as a pro as he used his fastball more. His delivery can get out of whack easily. His splitter was a plus pitch before he got hurt, but he hasn't thrown it much since the injury. His slider can be inconsistent. Rustich has enough stuff to start, but the Mets most likely will have him join Eddie Kunz on the fast track as a reliever. Rustich could jump to Double-A in 2008.
Minor League Top Prospects
Rustich and fellow Cyclone reliever Eddie Kunz both entered the spring as closers on Pacific-10 Conference contenders, and both lost the confidence of their coaches by the end of the season thanks to shaky command. Still, the Mets drafted both in the first two rounds based on flashes of brilliance, and Rustich showed much more progress in his pro debut than Kunz. Rustich can run his fastball up into the mid-90s, and his hard-breaking, mid-80s slider can be impossible for hitters to lay off when they're behind in the count. His changeup also can be an above-average pitch at times, but he hasn't yet developed enough confidence in either offering to throw them unless he's ahead in the count. He could emerge as a closer if he can avoid blowups and continue to refine his overall command.
Best Tools List
- Rated Best Slider in the New York Mets in 2010
- Rated Best Slider in the New York Mets in 2009
- Rated Best Fastball in the New York Mets in 2008