Nationals MLB Draft Spotlight: Brody Brecht

College Baseball season is underway which means it is time to add top end talent to the radar as the Nationals prepare for July's MLB Draft. With the Nationals going bat heavy in recent years, they could look to add an arm this draft. Enter: Brody Brecht.

Iowa's Brody Brecht delivers a pitch during a NCAA Big Ten Conference baseball game against Ohio
Iowa's Brody Brecht delivers a pitch during a NCAA Big Ten Conference baseball game against Ohio / Joseph Cress/Iowa City Press-Citizen /
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Written in collaboration with Monty Taylor of College Baseball Central

Iowa Hawkeyes ace Brody Brecht is a 6’4” right hander with a lethal fastball/slider combination. His fastball velocity sits in the 98+ range and will hit triple digits often. Prospects Live ranks Brecht as the #8 college prospect and the second best college pitcher in the draft, which puts him right in the target area for the Nationals. Mike Rizzo, who’s known to prioritize power pitching in the past, will be salivating over this 21-year-old’s upside.

His first start of the 2024 college season encapsulated both Brecht’s upside and weaknesses. In 4.1 innings of work against Seton Hall, the righty racked up 11 strikeouts and allowed just one earned run. On the flip side, Brecht struggled with command of his two primary pitches and walked 6 batters in the Hawkeyes’ 5-2 opening victory. In 16 starts as a sophomore in 2023, he walked four or more batters in a game nine times. 

At the Jacksonville College Baseball Classic on Friday evening, Brecht faced what may be the toughest lineup he’ll face all regular season in the Auburn Tigers. A single game is a small sample size, but as it’s potentially the biggest test of Brecht’s season, it seems necessary to provide a report of his outing.

The potential Top-10 pick was impressive from the start. With a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first, Brecht took the mound and delivered a 1-2-3 inning. He threw only 10 pitches and induced a weak groundout to short sandwiched between two swinging strikeouts. A concern at the next level might be his lack of secondary pitches, but at the college level his fastball/slider combo is more than enough for even the elite hitters.

His command looked vastly improved from a week ago and his pitches were generating a lot of swing and misses. Auburn’s talented hitters often looked overmatched. His second inning was as efficient as his first– a 1-2-3 inning with two strikeouts on 14 pitches. In the third, he ran into some minor control issues, which resulted in a pair of walks. It was his shakiest inning of the outing and he gave up his only earned run on an RBI single to Auburn’s best hitter. Despite that, he still generated a handful of swings and misses while striking out three in the inning.

The 4th and 5th innings saw an efficient Brecht once again as he retired six of the next seven hitters on 29 pitches while striking out three more. Had his second baseman not made an error on a simple throw to first to lead off the 6th, the Iowa ace would’ve had another 1-2-3 inning. Instead he gave up his second hit of the game and unearned run before getting the third out on his 99th pitch.

Final Line: 6.0 IP | 2 H | 2 R | 1 ER | 1 BB | 11 K | 99 pitches

Brecht left the game with Iowa leading 3-2 after 6 innings, but the very first batter the Iowa bullpen faced after Brecht departed hit a solo moonshot over the right field fence to tie the game 3-3. Auburn went on to win the game 7-3.

“He’s just special,” said Auburn head coach Butch Thompson. “We saw a guy [tonight] like a Skenes, or a Casey Mize that we’ve had before. We just saw one of those guys tonight. We were fortunate to be close enough when he came out of the game.”

Auburn was hard pressed to generate any type of power against Brecht. Even when the Tigers put the ball in play, the balls were either weakly hit or ground balls at an infielder. In fact, of the seven outs that weren’t strikeouts, six of them were groundouts. And while he did have four walks, his command was much better than last week’s. He threw 60 of his 99 pitches for strikes.

The Nationals have gone position player heavy in the early rounds of the past few drafts, selecting players such as Brady House, Elijah Green, Dylan Crews and YoHandy Morales. Mike Rizzo could be looking to return to his ways of taking chances on premier talent pitchers who have a particular area they struggle with, such as an injury history or command. Brecht falls into the latter category, but his upside is tremendous and he would instantly provide a boost to the Nationals' farm system that is severely lacking in top end pitching depth.

As good as Brody Brecht is, and as high as his upside appears to be, his talent and stuff needs to be nurtured and developed, which is something that the Nationals haven’t done well in recent years. And if a team isn’t able to assist him in developing a decent third pitch to complement his fastball and slider, then it’s unlikely his future in the MLB will be as a starter. He very well could be a star, but the Nationals shouldn’t take the risk on him unless they’re 100% confident they can harness his raw talent into an elite caliber. If the Nats want to take a pitcher at #10, I would advise that they look for one with a higher floor even if the upside isn’t as enticing as Brody Brecht’s.