Winning organizations must find usable talent in every nook and cranny. That means picking early rounds, being prepared to weigh in on free agency and the trade market a bit, identifying talented releases for renovation, and landing on the right development plans late in the draft from time to time. time. This last element is the most difficult to achieve and becomes more and more difficult every year as teams become more and more consistent in identifying the best young talent.
For every rule there is an exception, however, and the Tigers are on a roll in terms of pitching prospects. In 2018, they landed a good one in southpaw Tarik Skubal in the ninth round and guided him to elite prospect status. Few suspected they had landed another potential MLB-caliber starter the following year when they selected right-hander Beau Brieske from Colorado State College Pueblo. While he doesn’t yet have Skubal’s former status as a prospect, Brieske’s 2021 season was a breakthrough of the caliber of Ryan Kreidler that made him the U.S. minor league pitcher of the year. Tigers, propelling him into our top 30 list at fifteen.
He still has a lot to prove this season, but forward command positions him for starting on-the-spot orders this summer. We debated him in the back of the top ten and may regret not getting him higher than fifteen, but we’d like to see his fastball play in the upper minors a bit longer before becoming too dazed.
Growing up in Gilbert, Arizona, Beau Brieske didn’t even pitch until his senior year of high school and he never became a draft prospect. After a lackluster freshman year playing third base and outfield for a community college, it was clear his path was to pitch. He found a pitching coach to work with in Jim Huizenga and dedicated himself to crafting full time. Along the way, Brieske grew a few inches taller to 6-foot-3 and began building his pitching muscle with reps and targeted strength and conditioning. His fastball was now over 90 mph and he found himself pitching for Division II Colorado State Pueblo in his sophomore year.
Heads still didn’t turn to Brieske during his two years with the ThunderWolves, but he continued to improve bit by bit. He developed a change and was able to start refining his curve and slider. After a solid but uninspiring junior year — at least from the perspective of major league teams — Brieske languished in the final rounds looking like he wouldn’t be drafted at all. After 801 selections in the 2019 entry draft, when other teams were poised to turn to the “get to know you” portion of the draft, the Tigers nabbed Brieske in the 27th round.
After the draft, the Tigers had him in Lakeland playing mostly in the Gulf Coast League. They limited it to light relief work, only throwing it for 17 1⁄3 sleeves, but Brieske was already ready to show them some things. He hit 28 batters during that streak with only a handful of hard-hit balls. Expectations weren’t exactly raised by dominant rookie ball hitters, but he quickly proved he was ready to tackle the A ball and may have flown under the radar in the draft.
It’s probably a good thing he’s had some success, as later draft picks without much prospect status have been hit particularly hard by the cancellation of the 2020 season. Without a big bonus to back them up, those players have faced many tough decisions regarding their future based on their likelihood of one day achieving their major league dreams. Brieske never wavered, resolving to take time off as an opportunity to drastically improve his game, and embarked on a disciplined daily regimen of strength and conditioning, working with his pitching coach and working out nocturnal flexibility. The results were clear in 2021, and before the calendar turned to June, it was suddenly attracting attention.
Brieske made 13 starts with the High-A West Michigan Whitecaps and quickly became a fan favorite. He’s knocked out 30.2% of Midwest League batters he’s faced, with an excellent walk rate and just five homers allowed. Along with a 3.45 ERA and 3.25 FIP, notice was served that this was a seriously improved young pitcher. Brieske then marked his breakout campaign with continued strong numbers on eight starts for Double-A Erie.
Brieske combines a good sneaky fastball with three solid secondary throws and forward control. One of the main pleasures of watching the Tigers farm system last summer was Brieske’s best outings, where he shrewdly tied hitters high in the zone and then worked them with shifts and sliders to down as they began to shield themselves from the high heat. He wasn’t usually as accurate and his mastery of his secondary pitches in particular was still variable, but at his best he looked remarkably polished. The stuff remains a little too underpowered to get really excited about right now, but with a little more tweaking, Brieske could be a pretty good backend starter.
In 2021, Brieske came out sitting at 92-94 mph and occasionally touching an extra tick or two higher. It’s just a bit light for major league work, but it has strength multipliers that allow it to earn an average rating. First, Brieske can spin the radiator decently and gets pretty good driving action in the zone. Second, and most important, its relatively low release point and flat plane to the top of the area helps it attract a lot of puffs and weak balls. When he moves the fastball in and out around the edges and then goes upstairs, there’s a lot to deal with, even in the low 90s.
His best secondary land right now is probably his slider, although the change isn’t far behind. It’s a pretty prototypical slider with a good swiping action, and sometimes it’ll break one with a little sharper tilt. With a little more refinement, he could have more ground there. He pairs well with the fastball, as does Brieske’s change. He gets good speed separation from the fastball with the circle change in the 80s. He doesn’t have a ton of depth, but looks deceptive on his exit and drew a lot of puffs last season. He’s also not afraid to use it aggressively against southpaws and it might prove to be his best weapon in the long run. Finally, there’s a curve ball that’s still a little crazy and obvious out of his hand, although he’ll steal a strike with it here and there.
Today’s Tiger prospect: RHP Beau Brieske is one of my favorites. Mix of four heights, low to mid 90s fastball, curveball, slider and a really good change. Achieved AA and posted an ERA of less than 3 in 8 starts. Large riser in the system. Here’s a preview of the change. pic.twitter.com/u7riNx4pAQ
— Trevor Hooth (@HoothTrevor) December 29, 2021
What really ties the whole thing together is Breiske’s balanced and efficient delivery. He generates good arm speed with a short arm kick that gives him some deception, and he throws a ton of strikes. It’s a pretty smooth move that bodes well for the continued development of Command, and even when he’s progressed a level there have been outings where he’s spotted three pitches really well and kicked the batters Double -AT.
Unless there’s another pop in his thing, and it’s hard to project too much ahead of his 24-year-old season, Brieske will likely struggle to hit his ceiling as a starter at midfield. -rotation. However, the level of polish he has already shown, along with a solid shooting repertoire, has him poised to be a viable starting option at the major league level. The latter stages may be the toughest, but after a very impressive breakout, his chances of building a great major league career look much better for the 2022 season.
Team scheduled for 2022: Double-A Erie SeaWolves
Because he’s already throwing plenty of strikes and isn’t far off from major league command, the Tigers have options here. Brieske will likely start the season in Erie and look to build on his late-season run there. However, he looked very capable of doing at this level last year, and if he has a strong camp, getting him started at Toledo wouldn’t go too fast. It’s safe to say he doesn’t have much left to learn in Double-A and we don’t expect him to stay there too long anyway. In the hierarchy of the most advanced pitching prospects for the Tigers, Brieske may have the inside lane against Joey Wentz and Reese Olson at this point. Expect to see it make its debut this summer.