LAKEWOOD, N.J. — Andrew Brown already has a 95-mph fastball and a change-up that Lakewood manager Marty Malloy describes as "really good."
He has worked all season on improving his curveball consistency, getting it to the same level of quality as his main pitches. Last week, he might've finally achieved it.
"In his last outing, it was very noticeable the way he used it, when he used it, the fact that he threw it for strikes, [though] not when he didn't want to," Malloy said. "It's something that's been a progression, and he's done a nice job with it."
In that last outing, Brown held Hickory to two hits and no runs over six innings, dropping his ERA in eight starts — seven at Class A, one at high A — to 1.40 with a 0.867 WHIP.
Brown, a 13th-round pick of the Phillies straight out of high school two years ago, has had solid numbers throughout his brief professional career but still not made waves on the Phillies' prospect radar. The organization has struggled to decide whether to deploy him as a starter or reliever, too — he was initially a reliever in the Gulf Coast League in 2016, then a starter with short-A Williamsport last year, then began this season as a reliever for Lakewood before shifting back to starting in July.
Yet throughout that instability, Brown has managed a 2.56 ERA over 137 innings of minor-league work. He doesn't rack up big strikeout totals, but he draws ground balls impressively, a stat he attributes to his dropping two-seamer.
"Coming out of the pen is, I think, pretty difficult. As a starter, I feel more comfortable definitely, because I've started all my life," Brown said. "My first year, I was iffy on what my strengths were. Now, I know that I command my pitches well."
Brown said he has worked on his curveball all summer with the Lakewood coaching staff, a staff that barely knew who he was just a few months ago. "When he got here for his first outing, we really didn't know what we were going to get," Malloy said.
Yet the 20-year-old righty has already made an impressive impact on this league-leading Lakewood team. He hasn't allowed more than six hits or three runs in any appearance this season, and while his call-up to high-A Clearwater in late July lasted only one start, it was a solid one (four hits, one run allowed in four innings).
If he can make his curveball a reliable third pitch during the final weeks of the minor-league season, Brown might be due to receive, finally, some attention as an intriguing prospect moving forward.