Miami Marlins pitching prospect Austin Brice has had an inconsistent start to his professional baseball career. After being taken in the 9th round of 2010 MLB draft out of Northwood High School in Pittsboro, North Carolina, Brice has shown flashes of good performance, but he has been slow moving through the Miami Marlin's farm system.
A brief side note: I actually played high school baseball against Brice during his senior season. He threw in the low to mid-90s much like he does today, but still struggled with his command. From the batter's box it was obvious Brice was an elite talent, and he was able to dominate because of how hard he threw, and how sharp his breaking ball was.
Today he can reach the mid-90s with regularity, featuring an above average curveball, and a mediocre changeup. He has a smooth easy right-handed delivery, but in the past has struggled with repeating his release point. In fact, this offseason Nathaniel Stoltz of FanGraphs posted a fantastic article about that very topic.
Injuries and lack of control have held Brice back up to this point in his career. This season it appears that he is finally starting to put the pieces of his career back together, making him intriguing as a prospect for the first time since he was drafted.
After being drafted he began his career for the GCL Marlins and struggled initially. In a brief stint with them in 2010, Brice had a 4.32 ERA in only 8 1/3 innings pitched. His young age, injuries, and his inexperience led to him beginning the next season back in Rookie League. He started to find some success in his injury riddled 2011 season. Brice compiled a 2.96 ERA but was limited to only 48 and 2/3 innings. He finally made the leap to low A in 2012 with the Greensboro Grasshoppers.
In Greensboro Brice struggled once more. That season he pitched a career high 109 and 2-3 innings and posted an ERA of 4.35. Brice's career struggles reached a low point during the 2013 season. During a repeat year in Greensboro Brice's ERA jumped a career high 5.73 and it appeared as if his chances of one day contributing to the big league club were extremely slim.
This season has seen a welcome shift in performance for Brice. In 78 2/3 innings with Jupiter Brice has an ERA of 3.43 and a FIP of 3.47. Those numbers are not mind blowing, but they are still encouraging. Walks have been the killer for Brice in his career so far. He posted high walk rates of 16.7 percent, 15.6 percent, 14.1 percent, and 15.2 percent in his first four seasons. He has reeled in his walk rate a bit in 2014 as it currently sits at a career low 10.6 percent.
After unsuccessfully repeating a level in 2013 Brice's performance in 2014 has been welcome, and unexpected. If he continues to improve his command, he could become more intriguing as a trade chip if Miami wants to improve their major league roster. If he remains in the Marlins system and continues to have success, a move to the bullpen could be in order as Miami is currently rich with starting pitching prospects. Brice may very well never reach the big leagues, but potential still remains even after the tumultuous beginning to his professional career.