- Full name Brandon Allen Claussen
- Born 05/01/1979 in Rapid City, SD
- Profile Ht.: 6'2" / Wt.: 200 / Bats: R / Throws: L
- School Howard College
- Debut 06/28/2003
- Drafted in the 34th round (1,027th overall) by the New York Yankees in 1998.
Organization Prospect Rankings
The top pitcher in the Yankees system, Claussen went to the Reds at last year's trade deadline in a deal for Aaron Boone. Though he returned ahead of schedule from Tommy John surgery in June 2002, Claussen was shut down with a tired arm for precautionary reasons after three starts in August. Claussen topped out at 94 mph before the operation, and pitched from 87-92 in 2003. He fires slightly across his body, creating good arm-side tail on his fastball and adding tilt and depth to his plus 78 mph slider. His changeup is an average big league pitch. He has good command and can work both sides of the plate. The good news is the Reds sidelined Claussen before he reinjured his arm. The red flag is that healthy pitchers usually don't need to be shut down and his velocity isn't all the way back. Provided there aren't further setbacks, Claussen will get every opportunity to win a job in the Reds' revamped rotation in spring training. He profiles as a solid middle-of-the-rotation starter.
Signed as a draft-and-follow in 1999, Claussen emerged as one of the game's top lefthanded pitching prospects by leading the minors with 220 strikeouts in 2001. He also topped the organization with 187 innings, and the workload took a toll on his arm in 2002, as he had Tommy John surgery in June. The Yankees say Claussen's bulldog mentality and work ethic will help him return on schedule and to his previous form. He's expected to regain his plus velocity and sharp breaking ball. His fastball was in the 88-94 mph range, and his slider, the best breaking pitch in the system, was effective against lefties and righties. He had made significant progress with his changeup. After breaking down, Claussen needs to build his stamina and avoid further injury. His pitch counts will be monitored closely when he returns. He throws four pitches, but his curveball is no more than a show-me pitch. Claussen should be back sometime in the second half of 2003.
The Yankees have a strong track record with draft-and-follows out of Texas. They went back for more after signing Andy Pettitte out of San Jacinto Junior College in 1991. Area scout Mark Batchko tabbed Claussen in 1998 and Sean Henn last year. Claussen's 220 strikeouts led the minors in 2001. Claussen has increased his velocity during his ascent through the minors. He works his 89-94 mph fastball to both sides of the plate, and he had more success locating it last year than in the past. His knockout pitch is a quality slider with excellent two-plane depth. Claussen's changeup came on last season but still needs improvement to become more than a show-me pitch. He issued a few too many walks once he reached Double-A. Claussen was one of the few top pitching prospects in the organization to avoid injury last year, when he proved durable over 187 innings. Though they received several trade inquiries about him, the Yankees' refusal to part with him speaks volumes. He'll begin 2002 in Triple-A and is in line for a promotion later in the year.
The Yankees have worked the draft-and-follow process as well as any club, with Exhibit A being Andy Pettitte, a 22nd-round pick out of high school in 1990 who signed after a year at San Jacinto (Texas) Junior College. A 34th-rounder in 1998 out of Howard (Texas) Junior College, Claussen returned for his sophomore year before joining the Yankees. He reached high Class A Tampa in his first full pro season and has plenty of upside. He has a fastball that has above-average movement and velocity (90-91 mph). His curveball is his second pitch and his changeup is developing. Claussen's biggest needs are to consistently repeat his delivery and improve his command within the strike zone, two things that go hand in hand. He may start 2001 in Double-A and could reach New York at some point in the following season.
Minor League Top Prospects
Claussen had Tommy John surgery in June 2002 and returned to the mound in late April. The rapid recovery can be attributed to the same bulldog demeanor Claussen shows on the mound. Claussen's fastball ranged between 88-94 mph before surgery, and averaged more in the 88-90 range this season, though he did hit 92. His slider wasn't quite as sharp as it had been when he led the minors in strikeouts two years ago, but he did make strides with his changeup. He was still able to work both sides of the plate, though he sometimes relied too much on his fastball. Traded to the Reds in the Aaron Boone deal, Claussen was shut down after three starts for Louisville for precautionary measures. By putting his surgery two years behind him and adding an offseason of rest, he should regain his past form.
The Yankees have used the draft-and-follow rule to their advantage as well as any organization. Area scout Mark Batchko has nabbed three lefthanders out of Texas junior colleges: Andy Pettitte in 1991, Claussen in 1999 and $1.7 million man Sean Henn in 2001. Claussen, who made his final nine starts of 2000 season in Tampa, was dominant the second time through, registering double-digits in strikeouts in three of his eight starts. The lefthander improved the velocity and command of his fastball, which features plus-plus life and tops out at 93-94. He also bettered his big, tight curveball and changeup. Those pitches were instrumental in him leading the minors in strikeouts with 220 in 187 innings. "He gets all three of his pitches over the plate," Bradshaw said. "He pitches inside and works with a great tempo."
The Yankees wanted Claussen to improve his mechanics and his command within the strike zone this season. He did just that while leading the minor leagues in strikeouts. His fastball tops out at 94 mph, while he also throws a cutter, curveball and changeup. None of his pitches are easy to hit. "He has a great understanding of how to pitch," Reading manager Gary Varsho said. "He has everything you're looking for when you're breaking down skills. He has command, location and he can throw a breaking ball when he's behind in the count. He's tough to steal on. He's just not going to beat himself." Cliburn compared Claussen to another slightly built Yankees lefthander of the past, Ron Guidry. "He's got a tough out pitch with that cut fastball of his," Cliburn said. "It's a natural cutter at 90 mph. He's a lot like Ron Guidry was with that late breaker. Guidry had a slider, but Claussen's cutter may as well be a slider with the way it moves."