Scouting Notebook: Time for Jonathan Broxton to lose some weight
If he were my pitcher, I would tell Jonathan Broxton that it is time to make changes if he wants to be the guy he used to be, the type of dominant major league closer who had 114 strikeouts in 76 innings in 2009. The arm strength is still here, but the mechanical flaws that have caused his fastball velocity to slip a grade and his once put-away slider to become downright slurvy at times can be regained only if he accepts that it is time to lose weight, improve conditioning and dietary habits and accept that what he is now isn’t enough to dominate anymore.
There are more forceful ways to say this, but that’s the job of the instructors, not the scouts. In a Friday night look against the Padres in which Broxton huffed and puffed his way to a save, he showed us all we need to know about why he is now a max-effort and average major league closer rather than one of the best in the game. The question now becomes if he knows it.
Broxton threw 20 pitches –- 18 fastballs, sitting 92-94 mph, mostly all straight with no life, not the 94-95 electricity we used to see. None of Broxton’s stuff is as consistently good as it was. Gone is the forceful and late giddy-up high in the strike zone. Broxton’s fastball no longer explodes with late movement. It’s much less hostile and much more ordinary. It’s just fast and decently located, but big league hitters will line up to face 92-94 any day of the year.
Broxton is drifting off to the first base side away from the target, causing him to aim his fastball, reducing its natural life, which was one of his greatest weapons. We also don’t see the same hard tail against right-handed hitters. He’s trying to compensate for a lack of power with finesse. This won’t work for whom he is.
Broxton’s body is the probable culprit. At 27, he’s no longer young enough to not care about it and pitch like he used to. He’s got too much mass to move, not enough athletic quickness, not enough core balance, strength and coordination to keep it all on-line. It’s like trying to steer a bulldozer with a string.
In this look, Broxton lacked a slider, which makes him extremely vulnerable. He’s taking the guesswork out of it. If he won’t trust his slider, why should anyone look for it? Broxton threw it only twice, the first with modest late shape to Chase Headley, who fouled it off.
Broxton threw it as his first pitch to Nick Hundley. He hung it and Hundley hit it hard to left, where Tony Gwynn Jr. bailed him out with a diving catch for the final out. While the cameras pointed to Gwynn, Broxton landed poorly and off to the first base side. He looked finished, spent and gassed. The needle starts below half full and runs empty too soon.
The arm strength is still here. The arm speed is still here. The arm still works. What is needed is a re-alignment and a philosophical change about his body. Being big is part of who he is, but he’s giving himself too much mass to move before he can clear his arm from his body. The results speak for themselves –- from electric to ordinary, from dominant to average. If getting by is good enough for Broxton, OK. But if he were my pitcher, just getting by would be a waste of his good arm.
John Klima is a product of the Major League Baseball Scout Development Program and the founder of www.baseballbeginnings.com. Catch his scouting take every Monday on latimes.com.
Photo: Jonathan Broxton jogs on to the field during a preseason game on March 28, 2011. Credit: Allen J. Schaben/Los Angeles Times