By Todd Johnson
No prospect’s career development is ever a straight line. There are highs and lows and they are often close together. This is true for Myrtle Beach reliever Craig Brooks. In 2016, the young right-gander had an outstanding first half at South Bend and a disastrous second half with an ERA over eight for Myrtle Beach.
Now, on a second go around in Myrtle Beach, Brooks is having his best season yet as a Chicago Cubs prospect.
The Cubs drafted Brooks In the seventh round of the 2015 draft out of Catawba in North Carolina. A former American legion teammate of Preston Morrison, who was drafted one round later, Brooks played shortstop and third-base and pitched for the small school.
In his first year as a Cub, he did well to progress two levels in 2015. He played rookie ball in Mesa and short season ball in Eugene. In this video from then teammate Jared Cheek, you get a great view of Brooks’ delivery and speedy arm action. It is easy to see how he can throw in the mid to upper 90s with his fastball.
5’10” 180 pounds
24 years old
Mid 90s fastball
Can throw up to 4 pitches for strikes
Areas of Concern
In 2016, Brooks was outstanding as a reliever for the South Bend Cubs in the first half. He struck out 42 batters in 32.1 innings pitched. At the All-Star break, Brooks promptly earned a promotion to Myrtle Beach. To say Brooks struggled pitching for the Pelicans would be quite the understatement. His 8.25 ERA was a drastic signal that something was wrong.
In 2017, Brooks returned to Myrtle Beach with several things in tow. His command improved greatly and he attacked hitters at every opportunity. With a fastball that can ride between 94 and 97 most nights, Brooks is hard to hit just on one pitch. Although, he has really taken to throwing any pitch in any county, but he is still pitching off of his fastball.
For the season, he has a 0.52 ERA and two saves in 10 appearances to date. It seems as if his confidence grows after every outing. On Friday night, I got to see him strike out the side for his second save. He came into the game and just annihilated the top team in the Carolina League, Buies Creek.
AA Proving Ground
As with any prospect, AA Tennessee makes or breaks most prospects in the Cubs system. I can see Brooks pitching for the Smokies at some point this season. Myrtle Beach is not challenging him right now, but it is allowing him to succeed and gain confidence for the next level. At 24 years of age, the Cubs are probably not gonna let Brooks pitch too much longer at Myrtle Beach. I think the All-Star break would be a perfect time for him to move up a level. On the other hand, if he continues to pitch like he has the first month of the season, he might be there sooner than later. And with a fastball that sits in the mid 90s, his secondary pitches will determine the real rate at which he moves up to the system.