By Contributing Writer: Nick Stevens
Things could not have gone any better for Brenan Hanifee in 2017. Last year’s 4th round pick out of Turner Ashby High School ripped through the New York-Penn League like a veteran.
Photo: Patrick Cavey
The 19-year-old All-Star started 12 games for the short-season Aberdeen Ironbirds. Of those, eight were quality starts. Hanifee completed the year with a 7-3 record with a 2.75 earned run average. His win total tied him for second most in the NYPL.
Over 68.2 innings, Hanifee allowed just 12 walks (4.3% of opposing hitters) and struck out 44. Despite facing seasoned college hitters and players with previous seasons of rookie ball under their belt, Hanifee’s command of the slider and near-pinpoint accuracy of the fastball kept hitters off balance all year long. Not to mention, his 6’5” frame and commanding mound presence are equally daunting.
As Hanifee continues to fill out, his velocity should increase. Currently he sits at 88-90 mph with his fastball, touching 93. Combining this increased velocity, his elite command, and more effective changeup, Hanifee will quickly rise through the Orioles’ farm system.
His defense on the mound is also impressive. Coming from a highly athletic background, he is able to quickly jump from the mound and field his position.
What makes Hanifee a highly promising and exciting prospect to watch is his ability to keep the ball on the ground. Nearly 58% of balls put in play were ground balls. Only twice did hitters launch a Hanifee pitch over the fence.
Of course, Hanifee is only 19 and has only experienced rookie ball; however, he appears to have the makeup of the exact pitcher the Baltimore Orioles are desperate for. Camden Yards is a very hitter friendly ballpark. Being a ground ball pitcher, such as Hanifee, is important to finding success in Baltimore. If you did not get a chance to see him pitch this season, Greg Goldstein, of Baseball Prospectus, has footage which you can watch here.
I expect to see Hanifee with the Delmarva Shorebirds to begin the 2018 season. If so, he may be one of the youngest players in the South Atlantic League (turning 20 on May 29th). While he remains an extremely underrated prospect that deserves more national attention, a strong performance in his first full season of pro ball should remedy that.