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September 6, 2012 at 7:15 AM

The Book: Drake Britton

Date: August 30, 2012
Team: Portland Sea Dogs

Line: 6.0 innings, 4 hits, 3 earned runs, 1 walks, 7 strikeouts, 85 pitches

Fastball: 44 pitches, 91-95 mph;
Grade- Plus-to-better

Slider: 22 pitches, 82-85 mph;
Grade- Fringe-average

Changeup: 12 pitches, 80-83 mph;
Grade- Below-average

Curveball: 7 pitches, 73-79 mph;
Grade- Fringe-average

Take: Britton threw from a bit of a lower arm slot than when I’ve scouted him in the past. His lower release point allowed him to get out in front of his fastball and finish the pitch more consistently. Britton had a much easier time than in the past staying on top of his heater to throw downhill and spot up to both sides of the plate during the outing. Previously, he could be on the rigid side mechanically because he struggled keeping his arm in the higher slot. He also landed more fluidly, which eliminated the instances of him releasing the pitch early. With his arm out in front of his body, Britton’s fastball command was clearly enhanced and his ease when throwing allowed him to still generate strong fastball velocity with the slight change in arm slot. He sat 93-95 mph deep into his start, showing the ability to pound the lower tier of the strike zone and also elevate on hitters during sequences. Britton used his fastball to produce outs and also get ahead in counts early.

While there was crisper execution throwing his fastball, Britton’s secondary pitches lacked consistent depth and finish. He was inconsistent staying on top of his slider and curveball, while producing wavering arm-speed with the changeup. In the now lower arm slot, Britton tended to wrap his wrist and also drop too far below the ball. The slider typically rolled, lacking depth as it broke down through the strike zone. There also isn’t much power to the pitch, but he did show about average command of it. I saw an offering that needs more tightening to miss major league bats and play off his fastball.

Britton’s curve has changed from early in his career, where the pitch previously showed deep, over-hand break. He did not show much feel for the pitch in the outing and had trouble spinning it, releasing most from the side to cause loopy break. He created far better snap from the past higher release point. Britton was much more comfortable throwing the changeup in this outing and the pitch showed improved arm-side fade. However, the finish needs works as most floated into the strike zone and grabbed too much plate. I see some room for growth with the offering though, as there was better separation and action created than previously scouted.

I came away mixed from this scouting opportunity. The improved fastball command clearly stood out, but on the other hand the quality and consistency of the secondary offerings wasn’t there in my eyes. Britton needed better fastball command first and foremost. His development was going backwards. The steps forward with his fastball command are a strong positive, pushing him back on the path towards a future major leaguer. I give him an outside shot at ending up as a starter long-term. The secondary stuff can become more consistent, but he is likely to be more successful at the big league level with a pared down arsenal in a relief role. Britton’s fastball can play up well in short bursts. He doesn’t over-throw to hit his peak velocity as a starter and now has an easier time repeating his release point when throwing it. The ball should explode on batters. The key, and the question going forward, is the slider. With increased power via creating more snap and staying on top of it, the pitch can miss bats. The downside is that Britton may not be able to command it as well, but he can still drop a slower version in for a strike from time to time. I can project him as a potential late-inning reliever with progress tightening up the slider and continuing to show he can repeat the arm slot. He may get a chance to start some games early in his career, but I feel the stuff will end up proving to be best served getting key late inning outs during the peak of his career.

Photo Credit: Drake Britton by drivfan08

Chris Mellen is Director of Scouting for SoxProspects.com. Follow him on Twitter @ChrisMellen