Pitching prospect Matt Brash has earned a spot in the Mariners’ rotation to begin the season, per Daniel Kramer of MLB.com. The righty had his contract selected by the club in late September of last year but never got into a game, meaning it will be his MLB debut when he finally takes the hill in the coming days.
It’s been a remarkable rise for the Kingston, Ontario native over the past few years. Selected by the Padres in the fourth round of the 2019 draft, he pitched a few innings of rookie ball and A-ball that season. In 2020, of course, the minor league seasons were canceled by the pandemic, leaving Brash unable to pitch in any official games. At that year’s trade deadline, he was the player to be named later in a minor trade that saw reliever Taylor Williams go to San Diego. As noted by Kramer, Brash wasn’t considered a top 30 prospect of the Padres before the trade nor of the Mariners after.
In 2021, Brash proved that the Mariners had unearthed a hidden gem, as he threw 97 1/3 innings between High-A and Double-A, putting up an ERA of 2.31 between those two levels. Although his 11.9% walk rate was a bit high, his 35.1% strikeout rate was elite. Based on that dominant performance, the club selected him to their big league roster September 28th, hoping that he could help cover some innings as they were making a push for a wild card spot, despite Brash never pitching at the Triple-A level. He didn’t end up taking the mound in those final few games, however.
Based off his excellent work last year, Brash is now considered one the 98th prospect in the game by MLB Pipeline, comes in at #84 at ESPN and #45 at Baseball America. This spring, Brash has continued to build his reputation, throwing 9 1/3 innings with 12 strikeouts, 2 walks and just a single earned run. The new CBA features a provision called the Prospect Promotion Incentive whereby teams can earn an extra pick in the draft if a rookie-eligible player with 60 days or fewer of major league service who is included on a preseason top 100 prospect list by two or more of Baseball America, ESPN.com or MLB.com is promoted and finishes high in award voting in any year before he is eligible for arbitration. Since Brash cracked all three of those lists and has just six days of MLB service time, he could earn the M’s an extra draft pick for a Rookie of the Year win or a top three finish in MVP or Cy Young voting in his pre-arbitration seasons. If the international draft is implemented, he could earn the club a selection if second or third in Rookie of the Year, or fourth or fifth in Cy Young. A team can gain at most one PPI pick in the amateur draft and three total PPI picks for any individual prospect, two international and one amateur, with a max of one such pick per year. (Further details about the incentive are laid out by Evan Drellich of The Athletic.)
After an 89-win season in 2018, Seattle surprisingly decided to tear down their roster and enter a rebuild. After just a pair of losing seasons, they took a huge leap forward last year, winning 90 games and narrowly missing the postseason. Before the lockout, they added the reigning AL Cy Young Robbie Ray to the rotation, joining holdovers Marco Gonzales, Chris Flexen and Logan Gilbert. The 23-year-old Brash will round out that group to start the season. As noted by Kramer, Brash will be the first native of Kingston, Ontario to pitch in the big leagues.
Despite all that praise for Brash, he’s actually the second-best pitching prospect in the system, with George Kirby ahead of him on most lists. However, Kirby will head back down to the minors, based on the fact that he only logged 67 2/3 innings last year. “He didn’t have a huge workload last year,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said. “It’s really important that he continues to progress. George is going to pitch for us this year, there’s no question about it. And I think he’s going to be a huge part of how our season plays out.” Should Kirby continue to develop, the Mariners will have an excellent depth option ready to go in the event of a need in the big league rotation.