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The View From Behind the Backstop: Brian Hunter

Yes, we are three months away from the MLB draft, but there is live baseball to watch. Jeffrey checks in on recent pitching convert, Brian Hunter, the Saturday night starter for University of Hartford.

Jeffrey Paternostro

Brian Hunter, RHP

University of Hartford, senior

6'3", 210

Age: (as of 2014 MLB draft) 21.6

Date(s) seen: 3/22/14 vs. Binghamton University: 7 IP, 7 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 9 K

2014 so far: 27 IP, 29 H, 16 R, 14 ER, 12 BB, 29 K, 3 HR

The short of it: A recent convert to pitching, Hunter lacks above-average stuff, but could be an interesting under-slot senior pick based on his sinker/slider combination.

The long of it: This is Hunter's first year as a full-time pitcher. He started at University of Hartford as a catcher and was still DHing up through his junior season. There is definitely a bit of converted catcher in his mechanics. He takes the ball almost straight back by his ear, and mechanically everything is kind of herky-jereky, as if he is going through a serious of discreet movements rather than initiating a flowing delivery. There is some deception inherent in that funk, but he doesn't hide the ball particularly well. His release point is a tick below true three-quarters.

Like Sean Newcomb, Hunter showed a full four-pitch arsenal in his start. His fastball is a two-seamer that sat 88-90 and touched 91-92. He can get grounders with it, and even some guys to swing over it when he's locating down in the zone. It's a true sinker with some armside movement as well. However, like most sinkers, it flattens out up in the zone, and if Hunter's command isn't there, it gets tattooed. His primary breaking ball is an upper 70s slider that bumped 81. Hunter has feel for the pitch, and it had consistent late break, but it showed more tilt than depth. He also tended to use it exclusively as a chase pitch, preferring to use a mid-70s curve to spot for a strike if he wants to get ahead with something offspeed. I think he may tip the slider a bit as well, as it looked like he didn't bring his arm quite as far back during his delivery. The change-up was reasonably advanced for someone new to pitching. It's a bit firm at 82-84, but there's some late fade to the offering, and he was confident throwing it in various counts to left-handed batters. He could also work it in or out of the zone.

Hunter is a tough arm for me to peg. There's not a lot of stuff here, and he is probably physically maxed out at this point. He did carry his stuff through the entire start, and is a bit of a bulldog on the mound, simply not afraid to go after guys. He's the kind of fringy arm I like, but realistically he's likely to end up in the pen, maybe even as soon as his first full-season ball assignment. Still, he's a guy without much experience on the mound, and he has surprisingly advanced secondary offerings considering that. If you are into lazy comps, there is a Met arms he reminds me of if I squint a bit. His size, repertoire, and approach are similar to Logan Verrett. Now Verrett was a much better prospect coming out of college, as he showed more velocity at the time, and had a much better slider, but both are righthanders without ideal fastball velocity, and like Verrett, Hunter flashes a pretty solid changeup and will occasionally drop in a first-pitch curve to keep right-handed batters honest. They have similar builds and are both good athletes. Again, the slider and fastball were clear separators for Verrett as an amateur, but I could see Hunter following that sort of path if he maintains his stuff in the pros, or maybe even tightens it up[ when he gets more seasons as a full-time pitcher under his belt. That's not a future top 20 guy in your system, but could be a useful pick outside of the top 10 rounds, or maybe even earlier if you can use his senior status to get him well under slot somewhere at the back of the first 10.

The optimistic projection: As I said, there's a little bit of Logan Verrett in here, I think. So whatever Logan Verrett turns into?

The pessimistic projection: Tops out as an A-ball bullpen arm.

Where will he go: I would consider giving Hunter $10,000 or so in the 8th-10th round to increase my budget flexibility. Something like what the Mets did with Daniel Muno in 2011. Barring that, he probably goes off the board somewhere in the following 10 rounds.