Thursday, July 31, 2008

Prospect Report: Brad Bergesen

For my third installment I initially looked to profile a hitter, such as the young L.J. Hoes or near-ML-ready Nolan Reimold. However Brad Bergesen, as he has done with the entire Orioles organization, has forced people to take notice. He has been quietly dominant this season, currently holding a 13-3 record at AA Bowie with a 2.68 ERA following his early season promotion from High-A Frederick. Those thirteen wins incidentally, tie the Baysox club record for wins in a season. With the O's pitching woes (to put it lightly) in the majors he has been the subject of conversation regarding a possible promotion to the big club. He did nothing to quell those rumors this past Tuesday when he treated the home Bowie fans to a complete game shutout against visiting New Britain.

So, who is Brad Bergesen? Bradley Bergesen stands at 6'2" and 205 pounds, and was born in Concord CA. Brad was drafted straight out of high school in the 4th round of the 2004 MLB Amateur Draft and signed quickly that July. Through the early parts of Bergesen's progression through the Orioles minor league system, he went through a stiff adjustment period when moving up in level. After a strong finish at Aberdeen in 2005, Brad struggled at Delmarva in 2006, going 5-4 with a 4.58 ERA. His season ended early that year as he was diagnosed with mononucleosis in early August. Bergesen rebounded strongly in 2007 at Delmarva where he tore through A-ball hitters in 15 starts, posting a 2.19 ERA and .214 average. Later in the season he was promoted to High-A Frederick where he struggled again, as hitters batted well over .300 against the right hander. Brad, as in 2007, bolted out of the gate in 2008 and dominated High-A before coming up to Double-A Bowie. Unlike last promotions, however, Brad Bergesen has stepped up in a big way against superior competition and continues to hold down offenses and pitch deep into games.

Strengths: Without a doubt Bergesen's greatest strength is his command. In 117.1 innings this season at Bowie he has allowed only 20 walks, leading to a ratio of 1.5 walks per 9 innings pitched. Even in some of his struggles last season, Bergesen only walked 26 batters in 150.2 innings. He utilizes his command to keep the ball low, and has thus become an excellent groundball pitcher through his career, holding a 1.68 GO/AO ratio currently this season. There is no doubt that Brad's future is as a starter rather than in the bullpen as he has excellent control of four pitches; a two-seam fastball, four-seem fastball, slider, and changeup. Another encouraging sign this season is that Brad has improved his velocity, with his fastball ranging from 90-92 mph, occasionally hitting 93.

Weaknesses: Although Bergesen has full command of four pitches, the prevailing opinion is that none of his pitches are above average. Combined with the fact that Bergesen keeps the ball in the strike zone there is some concern over whether or not he will be able to handle major league hitting. Bergesen will most likely rely heavily on guile to get by in the major leagues. If he doesn't hit his spots and keep the ball down, he's liable to get hit around pretty hard.

Projection: While many are calling for Bradley to be in the rotation later this season, don't bet money on it. The Orioles organization knows that he often takes awhile to adjust to each level, so it is far better to let him work his way through AAA before trying to attack the major league level. In that spirit, expect him to get a callup to Norfolk before the end of this season instead (with Hayden Penn most likely moving to the majors, but that's for another report). Brad will get a shot at making an impression on the staff next year at Spring Training, but expect him to start 2009 in Norfolk and most likely stay there through the end of August barring a major need in the big club. He will be in the rotation in 2010 at the latest.

(Photo Credit: Bowie Baysox)

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