Left-hander Ben Braymer made the move from short-season Single-A Auburn to low Single-A Hagerstown in 2017 and got to work a simulated game against Nationals hitters prior to the National League Division Series versus the Cubs at Nationals Park
The Auburn product went 5-2 with 3.99 ERA in 65 1/3 innings over 13 games. Braymer, 23, struck out 76 batters and walked only 21 on the season. He surrendered only four homers.
I spoke with his teammate, right-hander Gabe Klobosits, about the experience, as well. They were a couple of the half-dozen pitchers that got a chance to throw to the Nats and get them ready for the Cubs. The pair were college roommates at Auburn.
“It was a great experience,” Braymer said. “I am super thankful they brought us in to throw against these guys. Hopefully, we were able to help them out and give them some live looks and some arms that they are going to be seeing. Individually, it was a good experience. It’s a good thing for all of our confidence to pitch against these guys, see how our stuff plays. The biggest thing was just being able to help them out.”
It’s not a coincidence that the Nats look to the Southeastern Conference for pitching talent. The 6-foot-2, 215-pounder, from Baton Rouge, La., was an 18th-round selection in 2016.
“That was a very good experience for me,” Braymer said. “Through the recruiting process, I always knew I wanted to play in that league and face that level of competition, which would prepare me for professional baseball and so far that’s been true.
“I mixed up all my pitches in different counts. Just throw strikes and mix it up, just be you. Everything starts with fastball command. Once you are able to command your fastball in and out, up and down, that’s when you can throw your other pitches in there - changeups in fastball counts, curveballs for outs or curveballs for strikes early in the count. I think, for me, it’s just mixing it up and keeping guys off balance and trusting what I have.”
Braymer said the changeup was his main focus at instructional league and a pitch he would like to refine into 2018.
“Heading into the offseason, that is going to be a main point of emphasis for me is continuing to develop that changeup and really throw it with good arm speed and trust it and just continuing to control all my pitches in all different types of counts,” Braymer said. “That’s going to be what I’m really working on.”