The Boston Red Sox are currently playing at a historically great level thanks a 25-man squad that has been firing on all cylinders. A lot of this has to do with their star players, such as Chris Sale, Mookie Betts, and J.D. Martinez, jumping into another level of performance. Some of it has to do with some over-performers, along the lines of Brock Holt, Matt Barnes, and the semi-recently acquired Steve Pearce. They may have just added another unexpected contributor, one that could possibly play a role for them in October.
A last minute Spring Training invitee, Ryan Brasier was signed as a reliever out of Japan. Drafted in the sixth round by the Angels 11 years ago, he had a slow ascent through the minor leagues, mostly as a reliever, finally reaching the big leagues in 2013 at the age of 25, appearing in seven games. He would go on to miss all of the 2014 season due to injury and would be granted free agency the following offseason.
After spending roughly nine months without an organization, the A’s signed him to a minor league deal. After only appearing in six games rehabbing in 2015, he spent all of the 2016 season in Triple-A, pitching to the tune of a 3.56 ERA in 60 2/3 innings, striking out 70 and walking 19. He found himself with the NPB’s Hiroshima Carp in 2017, posting a 3.00 ERA across 26 relief appearances for them. The Red Sox gave him another shot with a major league organization, inking him to a minor league deal in the early weeks of Spring Training. They sent him down to Triple-A, where he performed well (1.34 ERA, 2.35 FIP, 21.2 percent K-BB).
A 15.4 percent swinging-strike rate that ranked ninth in all of AAA (out of 327 pitchers with at least 40 innings pitched) along with a 69.5 percent strike-rate suggested he was ready for another shot in a major league bullpen. He would get just that.
Brasier has only thrown 16 innings at the big league level, so there is admittedly a small sample size here, but nonetheless he’s looked great. He’s rocked a fastball that sits at 97 mph, touching 98 (threw around 94 mph in his first big league stint five years ago), with an unhittable slider, and a hard sinker that also sits 97. With a nasty repertoire like that, success shouldn’t be shocking.
The pitch that’s mostly driving Brasier’s success is his four-seamer. With a sample size of 131 of them thrown, hitters are slashing .077/.202/.115 on it. Again, small sample size, but it’s been phenomenal.
Top 10 Four-Seamer wOBA Against
The out-pitch for Brasier has been the slider. Out of 341 pitchers with at least 50 sliders thrown, Brasier has the seventh highest swinging-strike rate. He’s thrown 49 of them against lefties, getting a ridiculous 15 swings and misses against them.
Top 10 Slider SwStr%
Add all that up and you find an absurdly high 41.7 percent out-of-zone-swing-rate, a rate that ranks fourth out of 353 pitchers with at least 10 innings this year.
After being stuck in the minors, dealing with a long Tommy John recovery, and having a brief stint in Japan, it’s quite refreshing to see a story like Brasier’s. If he keeps this up, he’s easily finding himself a postseason roster spot for the Red Sox, possibly playing a critical role for them out of the bullpen. Adding that arsenal of his to their staff could maybe form a stellar bridge with Matt Barnes to Craig Kimbrel.
Patrick Brennan loves to research pitchers and minor leaguers with data. You can find additional work of his at Royals Review and Royals Farm Report. You can also find him on Twitter @paintingcorner.