The hook, the bender, the yakker, Uncle Charlie—whatever you want to call it, the curveball is Mitch Bratt’s best pitch, and one that he’s hoping will help him find success at the next level.
Where the 17-year-old Canadian lefty takes it remains to be seen. Bratt is committed to Florida State, and currently comes in at No. 175 on the BA 200, but he recently left home in Newmarket, Ont., in order to raise his draft stock ahead of the selection process through some extra time on the mound with Georgia Premier Academy in Statesboro, Ga.
Bratt began throwing the curveball just a couple of years ago, messing around with the grip in a game of catch and quickly realizing its potential. He’s made minor tweaks to it, and will adjust his grip on the mound depending on whether he’s using it as a get-me-over pitch or a harder breaker with increased movement. But as he shared insights into his repertoire and toolbox—while running through a scouting report on himself using a form previously utilized by Major League Baseball’s scouting bureau—it became quickly evident just how important of a weapon it has become.
“I’ve always had confidence in it and the ability to throw it at any time,” Bratt said. “It’s always been a good pitch for me to use, and it’s always been an out pitch for me … I just need to keep throwing it, trying to put it in spots I’ve never really been familiar with throwing before—like backdoor curveballs to righties, or starting at a lefthanded hitter’s front shoulder and letting it go down to the lower part of the zone. Buckling knees, it’s always fun to do that.”
Throughout his time with the Toronto Mets program and the Canadian Junior National Team, Bratt has offered an overall level of consistency in his command that evaluators are excited about. Though he believes his curveball to be a more valuable piece in his toolbox at the moment, there’s little doubt that others would consider his command to be superior. Paired with athleticism, a loose delivery, and an 18th birthday a week before the draft begins, Bratt’s projectability makes him attractive.
As he works toward achieving similar consistency with his favorite pitch, he acknowledged that occasionally the curveball is affected by circumstances beyond his control.
“The difference is the seams,” he said. “I’d much rather throw with bigger seams because I can wrap my middle finger around the ball a little bit more and get that extra spin on it, and depth … compared to when the seams are smaller and I’m not able to get around it as much or really spin it off that middle finger from the seam. With bigger seams I get a lot more spin, the spin is better, and it’s a tighter pitch.”
As he graded out the future projection of his curveball—after looking up the 20-to-80 scouting scale and gleaning a quick introduction to it prior to completing his self report—Bratt indicated that he hopes to see the pitch bear resemblance to that of Barry Zito’s in the future, and he believes it can get there.
“I’ve watched quite a bit of video on him and his ability to throw a nasty curveball,” Bratt said. “I’ve watched how he holds it, and the movement he gets on it. I feel our movements are pretty similar. His is obviously way better, but we get similar movement on it so I try to emulate that as much as possible. I just need to continue to throw it and progress with it, and stay on that track to continue to make that pitch better.”
On top of continuing to refine what he considers his top tool, Bratt added to his repertoire over the last two months to come out of the offseason with a four-pitch arsenal. He’s mixed in a slider, which the young hurler hasn’t thrown to hitters as of yet, and because of pandemic protocols, he was only briefly able to even throw it to a catcher, but he’s hoping it can be a difference-maker this spring.
“I feel confident that I can differentiate the movement between the curveball and the slider,” Bratt said. “My curveball is not loopy—it’s got a tight spin to it—but it’s more of a 12-6 with downward action, compared to my slider which moves a little more left and right and spins differently, and the path to the plate is a lot different too … I feel pretty confident with the slider grip I have now. I’ve been throwing it for four bullpens and it’s starting to take shape and come along.”
The slider is an offering Bratt wants to at least be able to flash as a weapon as he gets into games, but he’s also well aware of the dangers of letting the rest of his repertoire slip if he shifts his focus too much.
“The biggest thing Toronto Mets [pitching coordinator] Jordan Prosper told me was that if I’m going to throw the slider I have to throw every other pitch that much more often to keep up with it,” Bratt said. “So if I were to throw a 20-pitch ‘pen with no slider before I started throwing a slider, that’s fine, but now I’ve got to throw a 25 or 30-pitch bullpen because I’ve got to work on that slider probably seven or eight pitches in that bullpen.”
The slider will make its official debut in Georgia—complementing the curveball, and a fastball that Bratt got up to 93 mph in his final bullpen at home in Canada—where the lefty hopes to continue the progress he’s made and add to his potential impact.
“I don’t throw overly hard, or as hard as some other draft prospects,” he said. “But my ability to be fluid and clean on the mound has definitely helped me with command and control. If I can have a repeatable delivery, everything else will fall into place.”