With all the attention focused on the return of Stephen Strasburg in Washington, it may be easy to overlook the promotion of Brad Peacock, who emerged from relative obscurity to become one of the most successful minor league pichers of 2011.
Brad Peacock was drafted by the Nationals in the 41st round in 2006 from high school in Wellington, Florida, where he was an infielder known for his strong throwing arm. After a season at Palm Beach Community College, he signed with the Nationals in the spring of 2007 as part of the old draft-and-follow process. He got lit up in the 2008 South Atlantic League, but was more effective after a June demotion down to the New York-Penn League. In 2009, he split the season between Low-A and High-A, combining for a mediocre 4.14 ERA, but showing some promise with a 104/42 K/BB in 148 innings along with decent scouting reports.
Last year he put up another mediocre 4.50 ERA between High-A and Double-A, but with a much improved 148/47 K/BB in 142 innings; the ERA did not reflect how well he pitched, and his FIP in High-A was much better at 3.14. Scouting reports were increasingly positive, and I rated him as a sleeper in my 2011 book.
Peacock was outstanding this year in Double-A, going 10-2, 2.01 in 99 innings with a 129/23 K/BB and just 62 hits allowed. Promoted to Triple-A Syracuse in July, he remained effective with a 5-1, 3.19 mark and a 48/24 K/BB in 48 innings with 36 hits. His walk rate spiked in Triple-A, but his stuff was good enough for him to compensate. Overall, in the minors he has a 177/47 K/BB in 147 innings this year, with just 98 hits allowed. He made his major league debut on September 6th, giving up four hits and a run in 1.1 innings while walking one. Not auspicious, but it was just the beginning.
Peacock has always had a very live arm, working at 92-94 MPH and hitting 95-97 on his best days. The keys to his improvement have been better command of a wicked knucklecurve, and development of a better changeup. The changeup still needs work, and his overall command (as shown by the walk spike in Triple-A) still needs refinement.
Many scouts see him as a future reliever and possible closer. However, with two plus pitches, if he can develop the changeup into an even average pitch, he could be a very good starting pitcher.