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Bernie On The Scene: Nobody Walks on this Beach

Bernie Pleskoff

Bernie Pleskoff is a former professional scout for the Houston Astros and Seattle Mariners.

Generally, we know a great deal about highly drafted players. We watch their progress through their minor league development and we anticipate the day they will make their major league debut.

That was not the case with Braves right-handed pitcher Brandon Beachy. In fact, when Beachy arrived last season to take the rotation spot of the injured Jair Jurrjens, most fantasy players and baseball fans in general hadn't even heard of him. But he made a tremendous impression on the Braves' front office and now the rest is history. Beachy is well on his way to a successful career as a starting pitcher for a fine organization. His command and control are among the fine qualities of the 24-year-old Kid from Kokomo. Few hitters walk, and few hitters square the ball up against his offerings. He could be a very prominent starting pitcher for years to come.

Beachy was signed by Atlanta for $20,000 as a free agent in 2008. The 6-foot-3 215-pound native of Kokomo, Indiana played third and first base at Indiana Wesleyan College. Beachy was also a member of the 2004 Class AA Indiana State Championship team representing Northwestern High School.

Beachy had a fairly good 2009 season for Low-A Rome in the South Atlantic League, Double-A Mississippi in the Southern League and High-A Myrtle Beach of the Carolina League. He threw 77 innings that year and struck out 95 while walking only 19. In 35 games, Beachy started only eight, working mostly out of the bullpen.

It was really the 2010 season that put Beachy on the map as a starting pitcher. What a year he had. He pitched 73 innings for Double-A Mississippi striking out 100 and walking 22 before a promotion to Gwinnett where he threw 46 very good innings. It was at Gwinnett where he converted from a reliever to a starting pitcher. At that level he posted a dominant 48:6 K:BB ratio with a 2.17 ERA and 1.01 WHIP. Braves executives took note.

His minor league totals look like this: 11-4, 2.55 ERA, 1.13 WHIP with opposing hitters batting .237 against him on the strength of a 228:49 K:BB. Not too shabby.

With a need for a starting pitcher when Jurrjens was hurt late in the season, Beachy got the call. He responded by throwing 15 innings with a 3.00 ERA and a 1.53 WHIP.

During spring training this year, Beachy was locked in a duel for the fifth starter's role with top prospect, left-handed pitcher Mike Minor. Beachy had a tremendous spring, throwing 20 innings and walking only four while striking out 21. He had a 0.90 ERA for the spring and opposing hitters hit only .189 against him. Case closed.

Beachy won the job and in his first start in the 2011 season Beachy faced a tough Brewers lineup, going six very strong innings and taming the Brew Crew to the tune of one run on four hits while striking out seven and walking only one. The Brewers batters hit .190 against him. Beachy knew how to work himself out of trouble and he showed a high degree of self-confidence and poise on the mound. Is there more to come? Scouts certainly think so.

Beachy works off his 90-94 MPH moving fastball. Actually it's a pitch that darts in on hitter's hands as opposed to sinking below the knees. He isn't afraid to use the entire plate or bust hitters inside. Beachy's secondary pitches include a very good changeup that usually comes in at between 76-79 MPH and a slurvy breaking ball that registers 81-84. From my viewing of Beachy, his changeup is well beyond major league average. The third pitch in his repertoire is not quite a curveball and not quite a slider. Hence, the slurve. He has also added a true slider to the mix as a fourth quality pitch. Once the fastball has been established, Beachy isn't afraid to take some velocity off his pitches and change the eye levels and balance of hitters. He has the ability to command and control all four of his offerings. It's his ability to throw strikes and keep the ball away from hitter's sweet spots that help make Beachy special.

As far as I can tell so far, Beachy is the type of pitcher that hitters have to reach early as he gets tougher to hit as the game moves along.

Beachy is an imposing figure on the mound. To begin, he is in outstanding physical shape. He has broad shoulders and a well-defined, very strong upper body.

I have only a minor concern about what I have seen of Beachy's mechanics on the mound thus far. To me, he looks like he doesn't get the trunk of his body enough into his pitches. In other words, he uses his strong arms but not his thighs and legs in getting power for his release point. I have a slight concern that he is putting more stress on his arm than necessary and he is working harder to gain torque than needed. Additional strain on the elbow or shoulder could result in an injury. However, Beachy is so strong and fit that he can probably continue pitching in his current fashion without negative ramifications. Other than that, I can find no real concerns with his mechanics.

I certainly can't guarantee how good Beachy can be at the big league level. Lots of scouts would say, "Show me again. And then again. I'll believe it when I see him repeat it." Let's not forget that Beachy looked pretty solid late last season. Solid enough for me to draft him in my mixed league drafts before the season began. I even told the commissioner of my league about him before the draft began. He trusted my evaluation, but I beat him to the punch and nabbed Beachy before he could even think about grabbing him. Will I be rewarded? I think Beachy has the temperament, the repertoire and the ability to hold on to his starter's role. I also feel he will find success and success will find him. Will he struggle at times? Probably. Even the best pitchers have off days and scuffle occasionally.

So yes, I do think we'll see Beachy repeat his outstanding start against the Brewers. I do think he'll keep his team in games. I think his ERA and WHIP will be low, his strikeouts high and he'll win games. He'll keep the ball in the park and he'll provide quality start after quality start. Why? Because he just knows how to go about his business by using his skills to the best of his ability. He's a mature, level-headed guy with a good work ethic on a team that knows how to develop and handle pitchers. While he may not be a top of the rotation, "lights out" type of ace starter, Beachy should settle nicely in the middle of the rotation and carve out a very respectable career as a dependable starter.