After a dominating half season with the Baysox in 2009, Brandon Erbe made the jump to Triple-A, which resulted in a 2010 season where he struggled and underwent labrum surgery. He had struggled with shoulder problems in 2009, but it was this past year (’10) where it finally got to the point where surgery was necessary.
When healthy, Erbe’s fastball sits in the 92-94 mph range and regularly touches 95. It’s a fairly straight pitch and is left up in the zone often (due to a hard foot plant), leading to high home run totals.
He throws a very sharp slider with good tilt and bite which is a plus pitch at times. Like his fastball, he often leaves the slider out and over the play which also contributes to the high home run rates Erbe has put up throughout his career.
His changeup still has a long way to go and he needs to do a better job of working it in with his other pitches. The basis is there for it to become an average pitch.
When Erbe is fully healthy and makes his return to the mound, it is likely to be out of the bullpen. He’s thrown just 160 innings over the past two seasons and after not pitching for a year because of labrum surgery, it makes sense to bring him back in a relief role. He could see an increase in velocity as a reliever and if he really thrives you keep him in the ‘pen.
Despite Erbe’s potential to become a #3 starter, his power fastball/slider combo would work nicely out of the bullpen. With a good amount of young starters already ahead of him on the depth chart, and more likely to pass Erbe as he recovers, a switch to the bullpen makes all too much sense.
It’s unclear when Erbe is going to be fully recovered, but the earliest he’ll be back on the mound is June 2011. When he returns he’ll head to Norfolk and could push for a big league job immediately if he’s healthy and in the bullpen.