1. Zack Brown, RHP Milwaukee Brewers
Easily the biggest surprise of today came from the Milwaukee Brewers who decided not to protect one of their very best prospect, right-handed pitcher Zack Brown. Brown, who spent the entire season in AAA San Antonio, will more than likely be selected very early in the Rule 5 Draft. In fact, the odds of Brown falling to the 6th pick may be slim to none.
Brown isn’t a future ace or anything and he isn’t coming off a stellar season by any stretch. But what Brown could be is a solid, mid-rotation arm and those are extremely valuable. When Brown is on, he throws a sinking fastball that sits 92-95 with the ability to maintain velocity late into his starts.
He backs up the good heater with a plus curveball and has shown a good feel for a changeup which could leave him with 3 quality offerings. Brown is able to work both sides of the plate and earns high praise for his work ethic and baseball IQ, things the Mariners covet from their prospects.
Brown needs to clean up his delivery to have more consistent command. He walked 64 hitters in 116.2 innings in 2019 and his 4.94 BB/9 was a career-high. But in the past, Brown has hovered in the 3.5 BB/9 range, with over 8 K/9 as well.
2019 just wasn’t a great year for Brown but his track record should ease some of those concerns. His best trait is his ability to induce groundballs, which he did at a 56% clip in 2019. Brown is an excellent candidate to stash in the bullpen as an opener or low-leverage, multi-inning reliever early in 2019 while determining his future in Seattle.
If Brown hits his ceiling, he can be a groundball heavy, #4 starter similar in results to Mike Leake. While it isn’t an exciting comparison, Brown would be working for the league minimum for his first 3 seasons and could work his way into the future plans of Seattle at that time.
There is no downside in giving Brown a chance to figure himself out at the big league level. If he can, the Mariners may recoup enormous return on investment. Brown is exactly the type of player to gamble on in 2020 and if he is sitting on the board with the 6th pick in the Rule 5 Draft, the Mariners should jump at the opportunity to add him.