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Matt Brash's Journey From Obscurity To Breakout Culminates In Trip To Big Leagues

The Mariners appear set to pitch Matt Brash as they try to keep their playoff hopes alive. Seattle enters tonight  1 1/2 games behind the Red Sox for the second American League wild card spot, with Toronto sitting one game behind Boston.

The addition of Brash to the roster is a significant further sign of just how far and how quickly Brash has turned into one of the better pitching prospects in the game. In 2019, he was a Padres’ fourth-round pick out of Niagara, becoming only the 10th player in school history to be drafted.

Brash has come a long way in a short period of time. He ranked 288th on Baseball America’s Top 500 draft prospects in 2019. Our report at the time noted he had a solid fastball, a promising slider and a track record of success:

Brash is a 6-foot-1, 170-pound starter who has dominated the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference this season. After an injury limited him to just 28 innings in 2018 as a sophomore, Brash fell off the prospect radar a bit, but has bounced back in a big way by posting a 2.43 ERA in 85 innings and 14 starts this spring. He's struck out 121 batters (12.7 per nine) and walked 29 (3.06), while pitching three complete games and being named the MAAC Pitcher of the Year. Stuff-wise, Brash has thrown a fastball in the 90-95 mph range and touched 96 while flashing a plus slider, though the pitch needs to become more consistent to fully earn that grade.

In a loaded Padres system, he did not rank among the team’s Top 30 prospects for the 2020 Prospect Handbook, although he did merit a mention on the Padres depth chart as one of the best unranked righthanders in the system.

His time with the Padres consisted of 5.1 innings in 2019. The coronavirus pandemic canceled the 2020 minor league season and the Padres traded Brash to the Mariners that summer as the player to be named later for righthanded reliever Taylor Williams.

Brash ranked 39th on our Mariners prospect list in the 2021 Prospect Handbook. As a fourth-round pick with 5.1 innings to his name, he ranked that high largely because he had a promising slider.

By the midseason, he ranked ninth on our updated Mariners Top 30 Prospects list. At that point, he had jumped to Double-A Arkansas after spending the first half of the season at High-A Everett. That was a massive jump, but the reality is that he moved so quickly that our rankings are still catching up to how swiftly he has turned himself into a top prospect.

The 90-95 mph fastball he showed at at Niagara now regularly sits 96-99 mph deep into games. Not only does his fastball have velocity, but it’s a high-spin pitch with the movement to get swings and misses.

But his fastball, which earns some 70 grades on the 20-to-80 scouting scale, is only the appetizer for his his mid-80s slider. It’s a plus-plus pitch at its best with an exceptional amount of movement. As soon as he shows it in a game with the Hawk-Eye pitch tracking system in use, it will not be surprising to see him pop up among the pitchers who have the most movement on their slider. When he’s locating those two pitches, he can succeed with a two-pitch approach.

But he also throws a knuckle curveball and a changeup. His command and control have wavered at times this year, but they generally were better in the second half of the season. He’s had some injury issues at times and his high-effort delivery leads some to question whether he’s a starter or a reliever long term, but at his best, his stuff tops a very loaded Mariners system. He doesn’t have George Kirby’s command, but his fastball and slider are better than Kirby’s.

Brash just made it into the Baseball America Top 100 at the end of the season. He currently ranks 99th. He’s come so far so fast that it’s hard to keep up when trying to figure out where to rank him. He likely will move up again during our offseason rankings.

There’s risk here, but there’s also an exceptional ceiling. If it all comes together with his command, durability and development, he has the stuff to be a front-of-the-rotation starter. He’s a pitcher well worth watching.

2021 Milb All Starteam

2021 Baseball America Minor League All-Star Team

Below is the 2021 Baseball America Minor League all-star team as selected by the BA staff.

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