With one of the best sinkers in the minors, a fastball that sits in the low 90′s and a plus slider, Zach Britton had a breakout season with the Frederick Keys in 2009. Britton kept the ball in the park (.29 HR/9), on the ground (65%), held batters to a .230 average, struck out almost a batter a inning and kept his walks relatively low (3.33 BB/9).
I had the chance to catch up with Britton during my spring training trip at Ed Smith Stadium. We talked about winning the Carolina League Pitcher of the Year, what allowed him to have a breakout season with the Keys, his changeup, his sinker and his goals for 2010.
JT: How did it feel to win Carolina League Pitcher of the Year?
ZB: It was a big honor; there are a lot of guys that won it before me that went on to have really big careers, so it was a big honor.
JT: You had a really good year with Delmarva in 2008, what allowed you to step up your game with Frederick in 2009?
ZB: I think I just got better. It was another year of experience; I just carried it into the next season. I worked with some breaking balls, they started to work real well. Just more experience.
JT: Brent Allar said you’ve been working on your changeup, how important is that pitch for you?
ZB: It’s big, if you want to be a big pitcher you need to have a good changeup. The next step for me is to have a good changeup this year in Bowie and hopefully do well with that and move on.
JT: Your sinker is one of the best in the minor leagues, how do you use it effectively and work it in with your other pitches?
ZB My sinker is like my fastball, I throw it more than anything. It’s a pitch that really comes naturally to me. That pitch just sets up my slider and my changeup so if it’s working, it’s going to be a good day.
JT: How important is your sinker and what else does it enable you to do?
ZB:It’s really important, when I need a ground ball out it’s something I can go to. It helps get me out of tough situations, whereas if I was a fly ball pitcher it doesn’t really help me as much. Having a sinker really helps you get out of those tough situations, go deeper into games, not throw as many pitches and get early contact.
JT: Do you have a goal for 2010?
ZB: Go to Bowie, do well. Hopefully I’ll find myself in Baltimore.
JT: Your ground ball rate was the second best in all of the minor leagues. What advantages do ground ball pitchers have?
ZB: Like I said, you can go deeper into games and throw less pitches. You can really give your team a lot of innings, and that’s what you want to do as a ground ball pitcher. You aren’t going to strike out as many people, or you don’t want to, you can get a lot of first pitch contact and stuff like that. It’s going to help you go deeper into games and it’s going to help you save your bullpen.
JT: How do you want to improve in 2010?
ZB: I want more command of my pitches. You know, I walked a lot of people last year, really the command of all my pitches. The really big goal is just improve on last season.