The Astros added another lively arm to the system yesterday when they acquired Brad Peacock as part of the package for shortstop Jed Lowrie and relief pitcher Fernando Rodriguez. Peacock will enter spring training as one of the many pitchers that will be competing for a spot in the Astros starting rotation. Here we will take a look at Peacock’s slow trek through the minors, repertoire, and what he may offer the Astros in the future.
Peacock was drafted in the 41st round of the 2006 draft by the Washington Nationals as part of the draft-and-follow system and signed with the team in 2007. He made his professional debut in Rookie ball later that season and appeared in 13 games, seven as a starter, and posted an acceptable ERA of 3.12. He took a step back the following season in full season ball, and was demoted back to short-season ball where he posted mediocre stats. He got his second taste of full season ball in 2009 where he threw 100 innings and posted a 4.05 ERA. This earned him a promotion to High-A where he pitched 47.2 innings and posted a 4.34 ERA.
Up to this point Peacock had posted pedestrian strikeout numbers, and his command fluctuated, but he significantly improved in both areas during the 2010 season. He started back in High-A ball, and posted a very impressive 10.28 K/9 rate with an equally impressive 2.18 BB/9. His ERA was still mediocre at 4.44, but he posted a more telling FIP of 3.14. The performance earned him a promotion to AA where he once again posted a mediocre ERA of 4.66 in his 38.2 innings pitched. He struggled with his control there as his strikeout totals decreased but his walk totals increased significantly.
Peacock started the 2011 season back at the AA level which is where Peacock put his name back on many prospect lists. Peacock threw a total of 98.2 innings and posted an 11.77 K/9 rate while posting a very low 2.1 BB/9 rate. His ERA was a microscopic 2.01, and his FIP was even better than that at 1.87. This performance earned him a late season promotion to AAA where he would go on to throw another 48 innings while posting a respectable 3.19 ERA. Here he still averaged a strikeout per nine innings, but saw his walk rate rise to 4.5 BB/9. His spectacular performance in the minors that season earned him a promotion to the Majors where he made two starts and three appearances and posted a 0.75 ERA (3.86 FIP) in 12 innings pitched.
During the offseason the Nationals traded Peacock to the A’s as part of the package for Gio Gonzalez. Peacock failed to make the team out of spring training and pitched the entire season at Oakland’s AAA affiliate where he struggled to the tune of a 6.01 ERA in the very hitter friendly PCL. His strikeout rate remained a plus (9.29 K/9) while his walk rate remained in the mid-4 range. His FIP of 4.26 shows that he wasn’t as bad as his ERA indicated.
Peacock throws a four-seam fastball that sits in the mid-nineties and will on occasion peak a tad higher. He supplements that fastball with a knucklecurve that is a plus pitch when he is able to locate it. He also possesses a changeup, but that pitch is still a work in progress. According to Baseball America Peacock has also added a slider/cutter to his repertoire this past season, but the pitch is still a work in progress as well.
Peacock is different than many of the other arms that Luhnow has acquired over the past year in that he doesn’t generate an abundance of groundballs. His groundball percentage hovered around the 50% mark in 2008-2010 in A-ball, but started to tail off at the AA level. His highest groundball percentage AA or higher is 41%, and he only posted a groundball percentage of 35% last year in AAA. He has been able to offset the below average groundball percentage the last two years by being an above average strikeout guy, and has averaged over a strikeout per inning during that time frame.
Over the past two seasons Peacock has shown consistent righty/lefty splits. In 582 left-handed batters faced he’s posted a 3.51 FIP and has averaged 10.1 K/9 and 4.15 BB/9. In 597 right-handed batters faced he’s posted a 3.29 FIP and a 9.97 K/9 and 3.24 BB/9.
What it all boils down to for Brad Peacock is showing improvement in his control and command, especially with his two best pitches, his fastball and curve. With both pitches being above average it's possible that he could survive as a two-pitch pitcher in the immediate future as long as he can locate them. The improvement of his changeup and possible slider/cutter could go a long way to determine if his future is as a starter or a reliever. If the location doesn't improve then we may be looking at a future reliever. On the flip side if the location and his other offspeed offerings improve then we may be looking at a mid-rotation starter with a chance to be a little more.