OK, there is some slight hyperbole in that title for someone who might not make the postseason roster and will likely not be in the postseason rotation. But there is no exaggeration in saying that the young pitcher, who sounds like a Sherwin-Williams paint color, had a major league debut that was as good as could be expected.
The founder of this word feast, Chip Bailey, suggested that this was the biggest debut of an Astro pitcher not taken in the first round since ninth-rounder Dallas Keuchel back in 2012. Of course, that was back in the depths of the “darkness,” Certainly, Keuchel was not expected to be a future Cy Young award winner. Heck, Brown throws his slider harder than Keuchel’s fastball ever reached. Before Dallas, maybe we are talking about 23rd-round pick Roy Oswalt who debuted with a terrific season in 2001?
Even before his debut, Hunter Brown had been doing everything you might ask of a young man with a great arm. He could have gotten a bit discouraged because, with many other organizations, he might have made the team out of Spring Training or with an early or mid-season call-up. But he worked hard and was one of the best pitchers in the minor leagues, putting up a 9-4 record with a 2.97 ERA in a league where an ERA under 3 is a badge of honor. His 1.085 WHIP and 11.4 Ks/ 9 IP were both strong as was his 0.4 HRs/ 9 IP. The small chink in the armor was his 3.8 walks / 9 IP, a little high but still much improved from his 5.3 walks/ 9 IP from 2021.
So, what did he do in his debut? He came out throwing strikes, and except for a few struggles in the fifth inning, he rolled through six shutout innings like the number one prospect he is.
Control? He threw 56 strikes out of 79 pitches. He reached three balls three times in the fifth inning (only one walk) and never in the other five innings. He started 16 of the 21 hitters he faced with a strike. Pretty impressive.
Stuff? His fastball topped out at a streaking 98 mph, some of which had to be a bit of adrenalin. He threw a 95.7 mph slider! His splitter was in the Keuchel fastball area of 88-90 mph. And his tough 12-6 curveball ranged from about 80 to 84 mph.
Clutchness? Don’t know if that is a word, but he pitched six shutout innings for a pennant contender in September of a pennant race. His teammates only gave him a single run to protect, and he did just that.
YIE – Yes, It’s Early. Hunter Brown may fall by the wayside like some of the other flash in the pans over the years, all the way back to Sonny Jackson (fairly long career, but never matched his second-place finish in the Rookie of the Year award in 1966). But the young man looked like he has everything it takes to be an MLB pitcher. He might never match the man he idolized growing up in Michigan, Justin Verlander, but what a guy to emulate.