Sean Brady: A Developing Southpaw

Sean Brady was selected out of Ida Baker High School in Cape Coral Florida in the fifth round of the 2013 draft. Though he has only been pitching professionally for four seasons, baseball has been part of this life for as long as he can remember.

“Like everybody, I’ve been playing since I was 3 years old,” said Brady.

As a high school freshman, he had the opportunity to play for the 2010 edition of 16 and under Team USA. The team excelled in the Pan Am games, winning a gold medal. He had an impressive collection of teammates, including current Major Leaguers Corey Seager and Albert Almora, as well as Astros top farmhand Alex Bregman, and the Indians’ own Nellie Rodriguez.

Brady pitched in four games, earning a 1- 0 record with four strikeouts in four and two-thirds innings pitched while limiting opposing hitters to a .071 batting average.

“To this day my time with Team USA is probably my best baseball experience,” said Brady. “Playing in Mexico and winning the gold medal with everybody was awesome, you can’t ask for a better experience than that.”

After getting a brief taste of the Midwest League at the tail end of the 2014 season, Brady spent all of 2015 with the Low-A Lake County Captains, starting 26 games. He won seven of those starts and tallied an impressive 118 strikeouts to only 29 base-on-balls. This earned him a step up the organizational ladder to High-A Lynchburg for 2016.

The jump from high school to the professional ranks and now to the High-A level is forcing him to make some adjustments and to work on adding new pitches.

“It was a big step going from high school to pro baseball,” said Brady. “When you throw 90 miles an hour in high school it plays up, but you can’t do that anymore. I’ve had to make an adjustment to my game.”

Part of this adjustment has been the addition of pitches that he can throw for strikes. He has consistently used both a four-seam and two-seam fastball and a curveball since his professional debut. He has added a change-up and a slider to mix things up.

After struggling a bit early in the season, giving up four or more earned runs in four of his first six starts, he sought out the counsel of Hillcats pitching coach Rigo Beltran.

“After my first outing I went to Rigo and said ‘We’ve got to work on the change-up’,” shared Brady. “We went into the cages the next day and starting to work on it and I’ve been sticking with it since, and it’s helped me.”

Over his past eight starts, beginning with a May 26 outing against Wilmington, Brady has shown marked improvement in his effectiveness. On that date, he threw seven shutout innings against the Blue Rocks, limiting them to five hits and striking out eight.

In his past two road starts (June 28 and July 3), he has continued to pitch well. In Wilmington he tossed another seven shutout innings, limiting the Blue Rocks to three base runners on two hits and a walk. He followed that up by going six innings against the Carolina Mudcats, allowing only a single run on a solo homer by Tanner Murphy. In both outings he earned the victory bringing his season record to 7-3, and equaling his professional career high total in wins.

This success translated into Brady earning Carolina League Pitcher of the Week honors for June 28 through July 4. Over that span, he started two games, winning both, and chalked up a 0.69 ERA and a 0.76 WHIP.

The success continued in his last start on June 8, when he limited Salem to just two runs on four hits, walked one, and struck out five over six and one-third innings to earn his third consecutive win in as many starts. He has won six straight decisions, with only two no-decisions mixed in since that May 26 start against Wilmington.

“To an extent, it helps sitting in the stands and seeing what the opponent does. We’ve had good scouting reports on them [Wilmington]. Really the biggest thing for me is my arm slot,” said Brady about his improved approach to being a starter in the Carolina League. “It was getting lazy, meaning it was three-quarters instead of over the top. In between starts I worked with our lower level coordinator Matt Blake on arm position, and it helped me against Wilmington.”

For Brady, his arm slot is about feel. He needs to be comfortable and get the repetitions that put him in that comfort zone, allowing him to be effective and keep his team in the game for a chance to win.

Characterized as durable, Brady considers that to be a valuable skill.

“For me that’s a big thing,” he shared. “I try to pitch to contact and let my defense work. We have a good defense and they work to help me have a good game and go six or seven innings.”

One of four left-handers on this year’s edition of the Hillcats, Brady rooms with one of those fellow lefties – reliever David Speer. Speer, who recently took a turn with AAA Columbus as the organization shifted pitchers around following Cleveland’s 19-inning marathon in Toronto, has also had a successful season.

“We all kind of talk a lot about what we do in certain situations,” said Brady regarding the conversations between him, Speer, and the other two lefties on the Hillcats, Luis Lugo and Justus Sheffield. “It definitely helps. It’s fun to go out there with a bunch of lefties and see how they pitch guys.”

With the Hillcats showing themselves to be a strong team in the Carolina League, Brady will continue to get his turn in the rotation and looks to try to match career milestones of innings pitched and number of starts from last season. If he can continue to pitch effectively and healthy, these markers are within reach as he is likely to get another ten or eleven starts during the regular season.

Mastering his array of pitch offerings and maintaining consistency in his arm slot will only help him to continue to pitch effectively. Any effective left-hander has a good chance to spin out a long career in baseball, and it seems that Brady is developing into one of those effective lefties.

Photo: Jay Westcott/The News and Advance

David Freier was born in Brooklyn New York in 1966 less than a decade after the Dodgers had departed the very same borough. His first professional baseball game was at Yankee stadium and to this day he and his father still argue over who started for the Orioles that day (his father says Mike Cuellar, while he insists it was Jim Palmer). Being a lover of underdogs he naturally became a Mets fan. He grew up in Montclair New Jersey which had the advantage of being home to two baseball legends, Yogi Berra and Larry Doby, as well as having a local college which regularly held baseball card conventions that fed his baseball card hobby. While attending college at the University of Richmond he and some of his friends attended a Richmond Braves game in the then (1985) brand new Diamond stadium, and now home to the Richmond Flying Squirrels. This began what has become a passion for the minor leagues of baseball. During his 10 years as a Richmond resident he and his future wife developed an affinity for the Braves, especially when Richmond fan favorite Francisco Cabrera scored the winning run to knock the Pirates from contention and vault the Braves into the World Series of 1991. During extensive travels he has rooted for the Minnesota Twins, Minneapolis Loons, St. Paul Saints, Iowa Cubs, Philadelphia Phillies, Erie Sea Wolves, Berkshire Bears and of course the Lynchburg Hillcats. To date he has visited over 110 different baseball parks in which he has seen a game. He joined the Society for American Baseball Research in 2000 and has been a member ever since, where he participates on the Biographical and Minor Leagues committees when time permits. In his day job he is an Associate Professor of Biomedical Science at Lynchburg College in Virginia.

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