Hunter Brown: Astros 2022 Minor League Player Of The Year
See also: Baseball America updated all its prospect rankings for subscribers in August.
Hunter Brown’s breakout came with a delayed reward.
The 24-year-old righthander pounded Triple-A Pacific Coast League lineups for far longer than he should have this season, but he could not crack a Houston rotation that was, at times, seven deep.
Brown bided his time in relative silence. His blue collar work ethic is among his most revered traits. He sports a no-nonsense, head-down mentality derived from his upbringing in Detroit.
At Triple-A Sugar Land, Brown blossomed into one of baseball’s best pitching prospects, pairing a mid-90s four-seam fastball with two elite breaking pitches. No Triple-A pitcher with at least 100 innings had a lower ERA than Brown’s 2.55 mark. He struck out 134 batters in 106 innings, too.
After Brown's impressive stint in big league spring training, Astros coaches and executives implored him to improve his command. In 2021, Brown walked 4.5 batters per nine innings, posted a 1.42 WHIP and averaged 17.5 pitches per inning.
Brown lowered all three rates in the minors this season— 3.8 walks per nine, a 1.08 WHIP and 16.7 pitches per innings—while impressing scouts with a better ability to repeat his delivery. Brown said he gained more trust in throwing his breaking balls for strikes early in counts, too.
Brown’s arsenal is built around his four-seam fastball, one that touched 99.8 mph at the Futures Game in July. He sits around 96 mph and can elevate the pitch for swinging strikes.
Brown can generate groundball contact with both his curveball and slider. He had a 54% groundball rate at Sugar Land this season, resulting in double plays that helped him escape from some command-induced jams.
September roster expansion finally opened a spot for Brown in Houston. He was called up on Sept. 2.
Brown held the Rangers scoreless across six innings in his MLB debut before his journey reached a sweet apex. He made his second MLB start at Detroit's Comerica Park, with a throng of family, friends and former Wayne State University teammates in attendance.
Brown walked just two batters, got two massive groundball double plays and punched out six with a fastball that peaked near 99 mph—taking some lessons learned from a long minor league season into a big league rotation audition.