Brandon Erbe dropped to the third round of the 2005 draft because his velocity dipped late in his Senior year of high school. He was back at full strength for his professional debut and has been making other teams feel foolish for passing him up ever since. The Orioles kept him on a strict pitch count in 2006 and never let him throw more than 5 innings, but he was still the ace of the low-A Delmarva staff. All this, and he won't be able to legally drink for another two years.
DOB: 12/25/87 Height: 6-4 Weight: 180 B/T: R/R
Brandon Erbe's age 18 season:
Brandon Erbe has excellent command of his fastball that he throws anywhere from 90-98 MPH. Scouts believe that there is still some projection left in his slender frame, and that he may hit 100 MPH in a few years. Erbe can throw his fastball to both sides of the plate, although some within the organization want him to work inside more. He has flyball tendencies that were masked by a pitching-friendly context, but his ultra-low home runs allowed rate is a testament to his stellar command within the strike zone.
Erbe is a good athlete with fast arm action. He was able to iron out a long stride to the plate that had previously caused some to believe he was destined for a high-leverage relief role. He still has a tendency to throw across his body, but 114.2 innings in 2006 quelled a lot of the concerns about Erbe's ability to stick in a rotation.
Erbe sets up his fastball with a slider that has excellent potential. Right now, his command of it comes and goes, but that should improve with more repetitions. He is also able to take a few MPH off his fastball while altering his grip, which adds cutting movement to the pitch. His high-70's changeup projects as a solid pitch as well, but he needs more work repeating his arm action.
After the 100-inning mark, the Orioles were even stricter with Erbe's pitch count, limiting him to 3 innings per outing. It was a smart decision, as Erbe faded down the stretch in his longest baseball season to date. There won't be any long-term repercussions; it's simply going to be a few years before Erbe will be able to build up his durability to handle a full major league workload.
Brandon Erbe's mound presence and feel for changing speeds belie his youth. He will begin 2007 as a 19 year old in the same position that the much older Garrett Olson and Radhames Liz were in at the start of 2006. He will start the season in high-A Frederick's rotation, but a strong showing could push him up to double-A Bowie as soon as mid-season. His unique combination of size, stuff, command, and pitching acumen make him a good bet to do just that.
Brandon Erbe has the potential to emerge as a Curt Schilling-type, eating up innings and racking up strikeouts at the top of a rotation. If he is forced to the bullpen, for any reason, he could emerge as an elite closer. By this time next year, it wouldn't be surprising to see Erbe team up with #2 Prospect Billy Rowell to form one of the top prospect tandems in baseball.
Michael Hollman is the Senior Writer for Inside The Warehouse and can be reached via email at Publisher@InsideTheWarehouse.com