Who exactly is this pitcher, Brendan McCurry, that the Astros acquired that utilizes two arm slots in his approach on the mound?
The trade of Jed Lowrie to a certain AL West rival for the second time in two years is yesterday’s news. But there are plenty of questions of whom exactly is the player the Houston Astros received in return from the Oakland Athletics, Brendan McCurry. Like, who is he exactly and what does he bring to the Astros going forward?
Originally, McCurry went to Howard Junior College here in Texas then transferred to Oklahoma State University, where he was played as both a utility player and a pitcher. After being the primary closer for Oklahoma State for his the latter portion of his collegiate career, he was then drafted in the 22nd round by the Athletics in 2014.
For his minor league career in the Oakland system, McCurry posted a 3-3 record with a 1.87 ERA in 91.2 innings. And he finished his time in the Oakland system with 119 strikeouts compared to just 20 walks. Not too shabby at all.
And with the trade now official, McCurry currently is the Astros 30th ranked prospect across the organization’s entire minor league system according to MLB.com. This ranking puts him just behind fellow prospects Jandel Gustave and Tyler White in the pecking order for those wondering at home.
Standing at 5’10” and 165 pounds, the 23-year old right-hander will probably start the 2016 season with the Corpus Christi Hooks at the Double-A level. And he brings an interesting skill set to the Astros organization, just not in the traditional sense.
But what is that skill set exactly?
Well, I’m glad you ask, valued Climbing Tal’s Hill reader.
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The intriguing aspect of McCurry isn’t necessarily his pitch set, but how he throws his pitches. Traditionally many pitchers use only one arm slot. But McCurry uses both a 3/4 and sidearm slot. Yes, you read that right, two different arm slots. Check out this link from Scout.com to see these various arm slots in action. This ability must have stood out to the Astros front office when they were exploring the Athletics minor league system.
McCurry’s best pitch is a plus curveball, which tops out in the mid 70’s. He also brings a fastball to the table that can reach up to 93 MPH with an 88-92 MPH average velocity. The key with his fastball is that McCurry can locate it to both sides of the plate, which is encouraging considering the lack of overwhelming velocity. He also offers a slider and changeup to finish out his pitching repertoire, which project to be average. And his pitch arsenal generates plenty of swing-and-misses, which is a byproduct of his unusual deceptiveness.
The differing arm slots appear to contribute greatly to McCurry’s deception as evidenced by his high strikeout percentage and K/9 in 2015 (40% & 14.04). And since his fastball isn’t known for its blazing velocity, any future success will be determined by his deceptive ability to locate pitches like his curveball.
As we all know, the Astros front office had multiple rationales to execute this trade with Athletics. The primary reasons being the opportunity to free themselves of Lowrie’s remaining contract obligations (2-years, $14 million) and the opening of another 40-man roster spot. And McCurry projects to be a middle inning reliever at best currently. But adding an arm like his to the Astros stockpile of young relief pitchers could pay future dividends that may make this transaction more of a win for the Astros.
Overall, this trade seems like a wise one at first glance that works out for both teams. And let us hope that McCurry continues to show us why the Astros decided to target him. After all, I would like to see him use his two-slot approach up close at Minute Maid Park shortly.
**Statistics provided by Baseball Reference and Fangraphs.com**