As I am sure each and every one of you know, Brandon Maurer has made the Mariner’s rotation out of Spring Training, giving the finger to AAA, and bypassing it completely in the process. So because this is no longer news, this post isn’t going to focus on him making the team, but will instead focus on him and his past, and serve as a little bit of a bio on Seattle’s newest starting pitcher. He is fairly new to the top prospect scene, so I am sure a lot of you, like me, don’t/didn’t know much about him. And by the way, I will not be talking about his beard either, however I felt it at least deserved to be mentioned in the headline seeing as it is a work of art.
Maurer was drafted out of high school in the 23rd round back in 2008, and started his career later that season making 8 appearances in the Arizona rookie league. He then slowly made his way up the ranks from there, but did not get too much attention at first. He posted a 3.61 ERA and 3.75 FIP in 13 rookie league appearances the following year, which is solid, but not quite good enough to be picked on by people’s radar.
In 2010, he started to show his potential , posting a 1.64 ERA and 1.75 FIP in 4 starts in the rookie league, then being promoted to Single-A Clinton, where he only pitched 4.1 innings before suffering a season ending injury. He started off the following year on another positive note, before struggling in his promotion to A+ High Desert, and then getting injured again (although the injury may have come first, I cannot find any confirmation).
But last year is when things became interesting. Last year is when he stayed healthy. And last year is when he broke out of his shell, and onto prospect lists. He stayed healthy, and spent the entire season in Double-A Jackson with his fellow “Big 4″ members. He finally broke 100 innings, and was able to make a name for himself.
During his 24 starts last season he posted a 3.20 ERA and 3.05 FIP, which isn’t totally mind-blowing by itself. However, what might edge you closer to a total mind-blow is that he had a stretch near the end of the season in which he posted a 2.70 ERA and 3.3 K/BB ratio. To give you a barometer on what a good K/BB is, Felix’s career strikout-to-walk rate is 3.10. So yeah. There’s that.
As for his “stuff”, most reports say he has a mix of 4 average or better pitches, with the slider sticking out the most. The fastball lives in the 92-96 range, but sits pretty regularly in the middle around 93-94. He then mixes in the aforementioned slider, as well as a slower breaking ball and a change-up. It is pretty rare to see a 22 year old with a somewhat fully developed arsenal of 3 pitches, let alone the 4 that Maurer possesses. That alone should give you a good feeling about his future, as well as comfort any worries you may have had about him skipping AAA.
All that brings us to now. Maurer dominated during Spring Training, and, as much as I am sure they would have preferred to give him time in AAA, pretty much made it impossible for the organization to not give him a rotation spot. As firmly as I believe Spring stats overall don’t matter, I will share them anyway for those of you who do.* Brandon pitched 24 innings, posting a 1.50 ERA, walking just 7, and fanning more than 1 per inning, with 25 K’s total. When you pitch that well, its hard to be denied a place on the team, no matter how young you are. Maurer is scheduled to make his MLB debut Thursday against the A’s in Oakland, and I for one, am stoked.
In researching for this post, I, like hopefully most of you after reading, have become extremely excited for this kid. He had always been overshadowed by Taijuan Walker, Danny Hultzen and James Paxton. It was always the Big 3, with Maurer on the outside looking in. But Maurer said “F-you” to that notion, pitched his butt off, and surpassed expectations. He started out behind the Big 3, and ended up on top, beating all of them to The Show. It seems that the stats and scouts both agree that this kid has a bright future as a #3, or even #2 caliber starter for years to come. Maurer flipped the script on the frequently written “The Big 3, and Maurer”, and turned it into “Maurer and the rest of the Big 4.”
Which takes me to my last point. Does anyone think a new name for top pitching specs is in order? Big 3 is a pretty common used term in the sports world, but “Big 4″ just doesn’t do it for me. So I invite you guys, who are probably much more creative with this stuff than me, to comment below and help create an unofficial name to replace “Big 4″. We have a solid community here at SodoMojo, with a lot of faithful readers, so let’s use that to our advantage.
All I can think of is “Fantastic Four”, but that is kind of lame, not to mention trademarked.
And who knows? Maybe the nickname will become widespread, and that will help our community grow even more. The Legion of Boom was started by the 710 ESPN community. Let’s do the same here.
*When guys are competing, how a guy looks in ST can be helpful in the decision making process. But it is just as, and probably more, common for a guy to bomb after a great spring as it is for him to succeed. You have to take the player’s past performace and future projections into account as well, and can’t rely on 20 or so games against less than pro quality pitchers to make these decisions.
Oh, and by the way. 2 hours until Mariner’s baseball starts.