Prospect of the Day: Brad Hand, LHP, Florida Marlins
Baseball attention in Florida is centered on the resignation of Edwin Rodriguez and the re-animation of Jack McKeon as Marlins manager. One of McKeon's first moves was the demotion of Brad Hand, a rookie lefty who made three starts this month. How soon will the southpaw return to Florida?
Brad Hand was drafted by the Florida Marlins in the second round in 2008, out of high school in Chaska, Minnesota. He performed well in his pro debut in the Gulf Coast and New York-Penn Leagues, then moved up to the Low-A South Atlantic League in 2009. He struggled with his command for Greensboro, going 7-13 with a 4.86 ERA. He walked 66 in 128 innings, but he did fan 122. He was much more effective in 2010, going 8-8, 3.33 with an improved 134/49 K/BB in 141 innings for High-A Jupiter.
Hand started 2011 with Double-A Jacksonville, going 7-1, 3.53 in 11 starts with a 44/27 K/BB in 64 innings and 54 hits allowed. This got him a promotion to the majors earlier this month when Josh Johnson got hurt, and Hand responded with a brilliant debut, allowing just one hit in his major league debut against the Braves on June 7th, fanning six and allowing one walk. However, he took a tough loss in a 1-0 game, and his two subsequent outings were dogged by command troubles. In 15.2 total innings over his three starts, Hand allowed nine hits and eight runs, with a 10/9 K/BB, including four homers. His ERA was 3.45, but his FIP was much weaker at 6.71.
Hand's fastball varies between 88 and 93 MPH, averaging right at 90. He mixes in a curveball, slider, and changeup. Scouting reports rate the curveball as his best pitch, but his fastball is solid for a lefty when his command is on. His changeup was rated as mediocre preseason, though he made enough progress with it this spring that the Marlins were comfortable giving him a major league trial. Hand has good size and physical strength at 6-3, 200, and has held up under a pro workload without ill effect.
The main thing Hand needs to do is sharpen his command. His K/IP ratio in Double-A wasn'tterrific, and it's no surprise that the early returns in the majors were mixed. Still, he has the look of a future number three starter, and more opportunities will certainly follow.