Height 6-2, Weight 200, B/T: R/R, DOB: 5/27/1988
2009 Redlegs Baseball Prospect Ranking: Not Ranked
In the early rounds of the 2009 draft, the Reds focused on rebuilding the pitching depth in the system. They selected Mike Leake and Brad Boxberger, both of whom were polished college pitchers and came with a lower degree of risk. Given the lack of pitching depth in the system, the philosophy of acquiring lower risk pitching prospects made sense.
Boxberger made his professional debut in the Arizona Fall League after a successful collegiate career for the USC Trojans.
DRAFT POSITION AND PHYSICAL BUILD
With the 43rd overall pick in the 2009 draft, the Cincinnati Reds selected University of Southern California pitcher Brad Boxberger.
Boxberger was a draft eligible junior who is listed at 6-2 and 200 lbs and both bats right and throws right. He joined Mike Leake to give the Reds a one-two punch of polished college pitching prospects in the first two rounds.
Boxberger certainly has the bloodlines for success, as his father Rod went 12-1 with a 2.00 ERA and earned College World Series MVP award for the 1978 national championship USC team. Brad was drafted out of high school by the Royals in the 20th round of the 2006 draft, but he decided to follow in his father's footsteps by attending USC.
Boxberger jumped right into the starting rotation as a freshman and quickly proved that he belonged. He started 14 games and worked in 90.0 innings posting a 3.20 ERA with a 72/34 K/BB ratio in a tough Pac-10 conference. His performance was so strong that he took over the Friday night starter duties for the Trojans.
His sophomore season didn't go quite as well, as he split time between the rotation and the bullpen. Over 18 total games and 9 starts, Boxberger posted a 6.12 ERA in 50.0 innings with a 52/26 K/BB ratio. He missed roughly 3 weeks due to elbow soreness and ultimately ended the season as the team's closer.
During his junior season, Boxberger showed no lingering effects of his elbow injury. He went back to starting fulltime, making 14 starts and tossing 94.0 innings. He posted a 3.16 ERA with a 99/50 K/BB ratio. His performance was strong enough to earn him All-Pac-10 honors and reestablish his MLB prospect status.
ARIZONA FALL LEAGUE
Boxberger made his professional debut in the Arizona Fall League for the Peoria Saguaros. It was far from smooth sailing, as he worked in 12.2 innings and posted a 11.37 ERA. On the less disturbing side, he posted a 13/7 K/BB ratio and a 1.18 GB/FB ratio. His longest outing of the AFL season was 3.0 innings, so he was limited to short outings.
Of course, it's not as bad as it might seem, as the sample size is very small, the pitchers are typically fatigued after a long season of throwing, and the AFL is a notorious hitter's league. So, his performance should be taken with a grain of salt. At the very least, he got his feet wet and has a better understanding of what it takes to succeed at the professional level. Hopefully, he'll be better prepared when the 2010 season gets underway.
ARSENAL AND MECHANICS
Boxberger works with three solid pitches that have plus potential. He throws a 91-93 mph four seam fastball with good movement that touches 94 on occasion, a 78-80 mph curveball, an 82-84 mph slider, and a circle changeup that has good late sink to it. He needs to demonstrate more consistency with his pitches, especially his offspeed offerings. His overall command also needs improvement, as it tends to come and go. But, he has a good feel for pitching, which should help his development. Even so, his stuff may play better in the bullpen where he doesn't have to hold anything back, which could improve his velocity a tick or two. In his short stints in the AFL, his fastball velocity has topped 95+, even reaching up to 97 mph.
On the mound, Boxberger uses fairly conventional mechanics. To start his delivery, he moves his left foot forward and rotates his right foot on the rubber. He then brings his left leg up into his leg kick, which includes significant hip rotation. In fact, his leg kick includes so much hip rotation that he almost points his knee at the second base and shows his back to the hitters. It's not quite that extreme, but it's certainly heading in that direction.
Here's a look at him in action:
He keeps his hands up near his chin until after his leg kick and he breaks his hands. He has a good arm swing and keeps his elbow in good relation to his shoulder. Despite his significant hip rotation, his lower body drive off the mound isn't strong and his stride is rather short, both of which result in him bleeding potential energy from his delivery. In addition, his shorter stride leaves him with a very upright delivery and follow through. Ultimately, his lack of a strong push off the mound prevents him from utilizing his body as effectively as he could in his delivery, which is somewhat surprising because of the significant hip rotation that he uses.
Boxberger isn't very tall, so he doesn't have the advantage of pitching on a downward plane. In addition, he doesn't come completely over the top, but rather utilizes a high three-quarter arm slot with a free-and-easy arm action. In fact, his arm action is so loose that at times it looks like he slings the ball to the plate, which could help explain his inconsistency.
Here is another great look at Boxberger in action during the AFL courtesy of David Pratt on Vimeo:
Overall, his pitching mechanics are fairly clean and there aren't any significant red flags, but he could do a better job of throwing with his body to minimize stress on the arm. In addition, he has a bit of looseness to his overall delivery that could cause problems with consistency. The fact that he suffered from an elbow injury in college isn't a great sign, but it wasn't serious and he doesn't seem to be suffering from any lingering effects.
Boxberger has the ability and repertoire to work as a starting pitcher, but may ultimately profile better as a high leverage reliever. Still, the Reds will give him every chance to work as a starter, which would be better for his development and give him more value to the organization if he can stick in that role.
For now, Boxberger's polish and varied repertoire earn him the #13 slot on the list.