Player Profile: Dan Brauer

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Another day, another player profile for your enjoyment. Today we’ll chronicle one of my personal favorites from the 2006 draft, LHP Dan Brauer. The Phillies selected Brauer #187 overall in the 6th round out of Northwestern University. If you remember from an earlier entry, the Phillies nabbed one of the most successful pitchers in Northwestern history two years prior in James Happ. Brauer, though, is a different case, as he was technically a senior, but with a year of eligibility left after missing all of 2005 with labrum surgery while Happ was a true junior. Brauer compiled a strong three years at Northwestern, finishing his career with this line:

236 IP, 3.24 ERA, 218 H, 103 BB, 230 K, 13 HR

Less than a hit per inning, a somewhat high walk rate, a solid K rate, and a very very good HR rate is pretty good production at a good school in a good conference, but you have to remove the top layer and look closer at his numbers. Looking at his numbers, year by year, give you a better idea

2003: 54.0 IP, 3.50 ERA, 8.33 H/9, 5.33 BB/9, 7.33 K/9, 0.00 HR/9
2004: 89.1 IP, 3.02 ERA, 8.06 H/9, 2.67 BB/9, 9.67 K/9, 0.50 HR/9
2005: Did Not Pitch (more on this in a minute)
2006: 92.2 IP, 3.30 ERA, 8.55 H/9, 4.37 BB/9, 8.74 K/9, 0.78 HR/9

So, from his freshman year to his sophomore year, he improved across the board except he allowed 5 HR in 2004 as opposed to zero in 2003, but he also pitched 30 more innings. He missed the entire 2005 season with labrum surgery. For those who follow the injury side of the game, the “l word” is the scariest word in the baseball injury dictionary. For an explanation of it, read this amazing Will Carroll article on the subject that he wrote in Slate a few years back. The rate of successful return from labrum surgery is literally less than 5%, which really meant that Brauer was battling more than uphill in 2006, he was virtually climbing straight up the mountain. However, he was strong enough to pitch the most innings of his college career, post hit and walk rates that didn’t suggest he was gone as a pitcher, post impressive strikeout and home run totals, win Big Ten Conference Pitcher of the Year and throw a no-hitter against Michigan State……not a bad return. Much like Tommy John surgery, which has a much higher “survival” rate, it takes time after labrum surgery to regain your control and feel for pitching.

A number of factors, including the shoulder surgery, his year of eligibility, and his lack of “dominating stuff” like that of his teammate George Kontos, probably led to his slide to the Phillies. He wasted little time signing for $150,000 and soon reported to Batavia. He showed the Phillies he was fully recovered and ready to go by posting a 1.96 ERA in 55 innings, allowing 39 hits (1 home run) and 18 walks to 65 strikeouts and was promoted to Lakewood, where he made 3 appearances, giving up 4 runs in 8 innings, allowing 10 hits and 5 walks to go along with 10 strikeouts. All in all, a huge season for Brauer, not only in his numbers, but in recovering from the most deadly injury a pitcher can have.

Clearly, the Phillies feel like they got a steal in Brauer in the 6th round. As I mentioned above, he wasn’t the most heralded pitcher on his team, falling behind Yankees draft pick George Kontos, who has a livelier fastball, but is also probably further away from making an impact at the big league level, and who might end up as only a reliever based on a lack of secondary pitches. What Brauer lacks in shear velocity he makes up for with his command and pitchability. Some people aren’t as high on him as me, and suggest he is ticketed to become a reliever in the near future, but I tend to disagree there. Before his surgery, his command was solid, and he was striking out people with relative ease. His control was a bit shaky in college in 2006, but that’s to be expected in trying to recover from major arm surgery. He doesn’t allow many home runs, and based on his short 60 inning sample from pro ball, he had over a 2:1 groundball to flyball ratio, though he did allow his share of line drives. His splits don’t indicate lefthanded specialist, as he had a .779 OPS allowed to LH batters and a .555 OPS allowed to RH batters. As I’ve emphasized in past write-ups, when you see a pitcher with better numbers against his opposite side, it’s normally an indication of a strong changeup and a not so strong breaking ball. In Brauer’s case, it might be just him getting unlucky, as his BABIP against LH batters was an abnormally high .412, with the “average” being somewhere between .275-.300.

So, what to expect in 2007. It’s my belief Brauer will remain a starter until he either A.) Struggles at a higher level, or B.) The Phillies deem it necessary to bring him up to the bigs and use him in relief due to injury/shortage of arms. Normally teams will leave guys in the rotation until there is a need to move them, and in Brauer’s case, there doesn’t appear to be a need to move him. He handled short season Batavia with ease, and could very well be skipped over Lakewood and go straight to Clearwater, depending on the rotation situations at both spots. If he continues to regain his control, which was ok at 3.29 BB/9, there’s no reason to believe he won’t move quickly through the system. He could end up in Reading either at the end of 2007 or mid 2008, and who knows from there, depending on the role the Phillies have in mind for him. Having pitched with extreme pain in his arm in 2004, we know he’s a fierce competitor, and if fully healthy, I think his future is quite bright going forward.

Finally, we have some video on him. If the video messes up the formatting of this page, I’ll remove it from the page and just link it, so if it disappears momentarily or the page looks funny, have no fear, I’m on the case.

His fastball sits in the high 80’s here, but some reports indicated he was in the 90-91 range near the end of the season as he was regaining full strength in his arm. He features the slow 69-72 mph curveball, ala Randy Wolf, which he can throw for strikes, as well as his slider and change, which we don’t really see on the video. The thing that I think is most important, from watching him pitch, is that he has a very simple, repeatable delivery which doesn’t appear to put much stress on his arm. He doesn’t seem to fly out of control or have a lot of extraneous movements, which probably bodes well for him going forward when considering consistency.

5 thoughts on “Player Profile: Dan Brauer

  1. Great writeup on a guy I previously knew very little about. I like the buy-low approach of getting guys whose college numbers were depressed by factors beyond their control; the fifth round in 2001 yielded a pretty good return on this model.

    Question about Brauer–how big is he? In addition to resembling Wolf in terms of repertoire and competitiveness (to the extent we can guess at something like that), is he also on the wee side, by pitcher standards?

  2. I sort of follwed Brauer late last season after he started putting up the good numbers. I’m glad you’ve profiled him; I, too, think he is an underrated pick. The pitching prospects look very deep with all of the young guys – Brauer, Pfinsgraff, Garcia, Hill, et al – making their way through the system.

  3. Very compact delivery, and he has all the looks of a quick-working pitcher, which I think is always a good thing. Good to see another pitcher, like kendrick, with a high gb/fb ratio.

    I think you’re reasoning about the comeback from injury is very sound. I guess the only thing to worry is to what degree he develops into one of those AAAA soft-tossing guys who always seemd to get hammered in the majors.

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