Aaron Brooks was in the middle of working his way up the ladder of the Kansas City Royals system. He went from pitching in Idaho Falls in 2011, to Kane County A ball in 2012, to splitting time in 2013 at A+ ball in Wilmington and AA ball in Arkansas. While taking the usual steps in his promotions, a surprising thing happened. Without much notice, he skipped AAA and on Friday was called up to the Major Leagues.
Brooks’ promotion was caused by a few needs and circumstances that bode lucky for the young pitcher. Firstly, Ned Yost decided he wanted to go with 12 pitchers, 7 relievers. The demotion of Pedro Ciriaco made room for another pitcher to be promoted. On top of that, some of the more deserving pitchers, like Danny Duffy, were prohibited from being promoted as they were optioned in the last 10 days.
So how do the numbers stack up for Brooks? Last year’s promotion from A+ to AA was met with mostly positive results. In 10 games over A+ ball, Brooks had an ERA of 4.47 which improved to 4.17 in AA. In A+ ball he produced a WHIP over 1.2 for the first time in his minor leage career, coming in at 1.26, which he was able to lower in AA to 1.196.
The only major red flag that can be indicated was the amount of homeruns he allowed in AA. He went from allowing only 4 HRs in A+ ball over 56.1 innings to 13 HRs in AA over 103.2 innings. Triple the amount of homeruns in less than double the amount of innings pitched. This predictably made his HR/9 increase from 0.6 to 1.1.
Are the increased homeruns a major concern? Is he being promoted too quickly, or is there something else that we’re not seeing? At Royal Revival, they rounded up several scouting reports on the young pitcher.
From Landon Adams:
I was a little surprised to see Aaron Brooks make this countdown and thanks to Twitterless Joe’s ranking, Brooks has cracked the top 30. Joe will point out that Brooks does a decent job in soliciting ground balls. While it is true, I don’t believe that this talent is strong enough to to overcome his inability to miss bats. Poor strikeout rates in the minor leagues typically translate to impassable strikeout rates at the Major League level. The best case for Brooks is that he can continue to limit walks and get ground balls, if he can do that perhaps he can carve out a career as a ground ball specialist middle reliever.
From Paden Bennett:
Not a huge fan of Brooks; so far in his career he has been consistently in the ERA range of 4+. He does through strikes and gets a fair amount of ground balls but I just don’t see much upside from Brooks. Look for him to be in Northwest Arkansas and post an ERA of around 4.
From Joe Cox:
I am the only person to rank Brooks, but I am glad I did. I am a sucker for strike throwing ground ballers who can throw hard. Brooks is exactly that, his fastball tops out at 94-95, and he also has a 2-seamer to go along with his off-speed pitches. Brooks is a guy who will tell you his philosophy is to go out to throw strikes and rely on groundballs to get out of trouble. How has it gone? Well, we have seen mixed success at this point.
2013 was Brooks third year in professional ball, and he spent it between A+ and AA, throwing a cumulative 160 innings. Looking at his 16 starts in AA we see good and bad. The good: 11 walks in 103.2 innings, less than one per nine innings. The bad: more home runs, 13, than walks. One thing I do like to see his significant drop in hits per nine, lowering his whip significantly from 2012.
We did see a decrease in strike outs, and that may never be a strong point, but if he can continue to keep his velocity up he just needs to find an out pitch, similar to what folks are saying about another ground baller in the majors currently, Joe Kelly. Brooks’ has had a much better FIP than ERA at each level; in part because of a BABIP over .300 each season and poor LOB% each season. As an Aaron Brooks optimist, I look at what another no walks pitcher did at age 23, Doug Fister, and see room for growth from the 6-4 righty.
From Dan Ware:
Like reliever Michael Mariot, Aaron Brooks has been a model of consistency. Unfortunately, his ERA has been consistently above 4, which isn’t exactly what you want to see. Although his ERA was at it’s lowest since the 2011 season, at 4.17, Brooks can give you innings, as he averaged 6.1 IP per start for Wilmington and Northwest Arkansas, so that’s easily a plus. Aaron will likely start the 2014 season with Northwest Arkansas.
Brooks seems to be aware he was brought up by some luck, and not because he tore up the Minor Leagues. He seems to have a humble approach to what his job is in the Majors.
“It’s a real honor for them to give me a shot. Obviously, they feel confident in my abilities,” Brooks said. “I feel like I belong here.”
Here’s to wishing Aaron Brooks the best of luck in the Majors, and hoping he surprises everyone. Including himself.