When Brad Peacock arrived at spring training earlier this year, he was a minor leaguer with 437 2/3 innings of work under his belt and only 38 2/3 of them at a level above Single-A. He was a former 41st-round draft and follow pick of the Nationals’ from 2006 with a career ERA that sat mostly in the fours.
Saturday afternoon, he stood in the Nationals clubhouse having been told that, sometime in the next week he’d make the first major league start of his career, and, to top it off, the Nationals had named him their Minor League Pitcher of the Year.
He was no longer the same late-round draft pick who entered professional baseball with 68 total innings of experience on a mound. He was a bonafide top prospect, one the Nationals have exceptionally high hopes for in the years to come.
“When I got to the GCL (in my first professional year) I was open to anything,” Peacock said, emphasizing his extreme inexperience on the mound (he was a third baseman in high school).
“I was trying to learn everything. Over the years, I kept picking the things that would work for me. They told me that I was a thrower and not a pitcher, so I just learned. I had some great coaches down in the minor leagues.”
One of those coaches was Randy Tomlin, the Double-A pitching coach, and he worked with Peacock this spring on his deception. Peacock, who has great stuff, throws in the mid-90s with serious movement on his fastball, was showing the ball too much, they realized.
In July, 10-2 in Double-A with a miniscule ERA and chosen for the MLB Futures Game, Peacock couldn’t talk enough about how much better he felt he’d been hiding the ball. It was, quite frankly, the most important improvement he’d made between 2010 and 2011.
The improvements he made were obvious. Peacock struck out 177 batters this season in the minor leagues. He walked only 47 and was giving up just six hits per nine innings of work.
The improved decption wasn’t the only reason, though, that Peacock has had such success this year. He’s finally escaped the label of being a thrower and not a pitcher. His fastball moves, his pitches are down in the zone and he rarely finds himself trying too hard to throw.
Saturday night, moments before the Nationals and Astros game began at Nationals Park, Peacock stood with Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo, minor league director Mark Scialabba and director of player personnel Doug Harris, accepting his Minor League Pitcher of the Year award.
“I’ve been in the minor leagues all my life,” Peacock said. “Just to put it all together this year, I’m happy to get this.”
Peacock made his major league debut last Tuesday, could pitch again Sunday and is most likely going to make the first major league start of his career this coming week in New York City against the Mets.
“In spring training, I was working hard with Randy Tomlin,” Peacock said. “To see all that hard work pay off, it’s great. I’m glad the Nationals thought of me for this award.”