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Monday, June 08, 2009Sometime after 5 p.m. Tuesday Lipscomb left-handed pitcher Rex Brothers is expected to become the first player selected in the first round of the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft since right-hander pitcher Bo McLaughlin in 1975 by the Houston Astros.
While it appears to be a certainty that Brothers will be a first rounder, just where he will be selected is still unknown. Based on the numerous mock drafts on the Internet the St. Louis Cardinals, who have the 19th pick, appear to be the favorite.
Other teams also on draft projections are the Arizona Diamondbacks who could choose Brothers with the 16th or 17th pick; the Cleveland Indians with the 15th pick, the Texas Rangers with the 14th selection, the New York Yankees with the No. 29 pick or the Detroit Tigers who select in the ninth spot.
Lipscomb baseball coach Jeff Forehand is thinking that the Tigers might be the ultimate destination for Brothers, a resident of Chapel Hill, Tenn., who finished his junior season with the second highest strikeout total in NCAA Division I with 132 in 94 innings.
“For some reason I feel like the Tigers pick at No. 9 might be his,” said Forehand. “The team that picks him doesn’t matter. I think he is going to be picked between nine and 15. I am just excited he is going to get the chance.”
Not only has he increased his strikeout totals each season with the Bisons, but he has also increased the velocity of his pitches.
“He has not only increased his velocity, but he is also throwing strikes,” said Forehand. “He is throwing hard fastballs on both sides of the plate.”
Few players have climbed up the draft list faster than Brothers. When the season opened he was projected to be a fifth-to-seventh round selection. But this season his stock has soared as he increased the velocity of his pitches and showed a new level of maturity.
“He has been a pretty grounded kid from the beginning here based on how he has been raised,” said Forehand. “As far as his maturity on the mound he has had the opportunity to get out there so many times. Off the field he has always had stability.
“He got here as a freshman and he was one of the best guys we had. He had to learn on the fly. He went out and took some lumps and figured it out on his own. That really, really helped him.”
One of the few criticisms of Brothers is that he lacks a third pitch to go along with his 95 miles per hour fastball and his 87-miles per hour slider. Forehand, however, says that Brothers threw a changeup from time-to-time this season.
“In college baseball a 95 miles per hour fastball is not something everybody has,” said Forehand. “Then he developed a very tough second pitch and is well on his way to developing a third pitch, a changeup.”
Forehand credits Lipscomb pitching coach Lantz Wheeler for helping develop Brothers as a pitcher.
“Rex threw a changeup seven or eight times a game,” said Forehand. “A lot of time he was throwing a fastball 95 miles per hour and he was throwing his changeup a little hard at 88 miles per hour.
“He needs to be able to get that changeup at 83 or 85 it is going to be an effective pitch. And even though he was throwing his changeup a little hard he was able to locate it.”
Forehand thinks that Brothers ability to throw strikes consistently is the biggest reason his stock rose this season.
“A lot of guys can throw the ball hard, but if they can’t locate it, then it doesn’t do them any good,” said Forehand. “He has learned how to locate his pitches. He and coach Wheeler have spent a lot of time on that.
“I think that is where the experience and maturity come in. He was a hard thrower when he got here. Now he is at a level where he knows that even if he doesn’t have his good stuff, he is still pretty good.”
Brothers has often spoken of coming to grips with the reality of becoming not only a professional baseball player, but a first round pick. Forehand commended Brothers for the way in which he handled the attention from scouts during the season.
“Handling Rex is easy,” said Forehand. “He knew coming in this season it was going to be a hectic pace. He saw that when he played in the Cape Cod League in the summer.
“He has always kept the Lipscomb team in his first slot. He has been respectful of everything that we have done. He has been raised to do things that way.”
Forehand stressed that he, his staff and Brothers’ teammates have downplayed the draft until after the season was completed.
“Rex didn’t talk about it until the season ended,” said Forehand. “The anxiety may have gotten to him a little bit but he never showed it. He never put it above what we were doing as a team. I think as the season has ended it is becoming more real to him that he is going to get the chance to go in the first round.
“I think he is getting excited about it. I told him to enjoy it as much as he could. He told me the other day he is ready to find out where he is going to go.”
Wednesday at 11:30 a.m. fans of the Bisons athletic department are invited to attend a lunch that is expected to feature Brothers. The price of the lunch is $10.