After throwing off the mound during a workout in the Atlanta Braves jerseys’ new stadium, Appalachian State’s Matt Brill pitched from one of the on field bullpens at Wrigley Field earlier this month.
For a Coal Valley, Ill., native who grew up cheering for the Chicago Cubs jerseys, it was a cool moment.
A redshirt junior in 2017, Brill said he has communicated with all 30 teams, and Baseball America ranks him as the No. 291 overall prospect in the draft. Based on those numbers, it’s possible that he could be selected on Day 2.
The 6 foot 2, 215 pound Brill, who missed the 2016 season as a recovered from Tommy John surgery on his right elbow, throws his fastball in the mid to high 90s and his breaking ball in the low to mid 80s.
“I’m really just looking for an opportunity,” Brill said. “I’ll be really fortunate if a team gives me an opportunity to go play.
More pitchers are returning successfully or even stronger from Tommy John surgery, and Brill posted a 4.45 ERA with 38 strikeouts in 30 plus innings as a reliever in 2017 under first year head coach Kermit Smith.
Brill’s ERA stood at 6.92 after he gave up a tiebreaking home run in the ninth inning of a late March home loss to Wake Forest, which made a Super Regional, but he allowed no runs over the next 11 plus innings and struck out 11 batters during that stretch to lower his ERA to 3.70.
When Brill made his 2017 debut in mid February, more than 22 months had passed since he heard a pop in his right arm and felt numbness in his fingers after delivering a ninth inning pitch at Little Rock.
“I think the second half of the season my stuff got better and I felt more comfortable,” Brill said. “That comes with just being on the mound a little more. I hadn’t been on the mound for about 19 months, and getting to Wilmington and being able to throw a competitive pitch was great.”
Surgery with the renowned Dr. James Andrews in Alabama preceded a rehabilitation program that included long hours with App State trainer Christina Biddle and pitching coach Justin Aspegren, who was hired less than five months after Brill hurt his elbow.
The future was uncertain for a pitcher who had generated more interest from MLB teams than Division I programs as a high school player.
A three sport athlete, Brill attracted some pro attention early in his time at Moline High School, leading him to give up basketball and soccer as a senior so he could focus on baseball. The New York Mets jerseys used a 24th round pick on Brill after his senior year, but he chose to attend Appalachian State, which was responsible for his only Division I offer, because he didn’t feel physically, emotionally or mentally ready for pro ball.
“I’ve handled some adversity, learned some valuable things at college,” Brill said. “That is why I think I came to Appalachian State. After going through everything I did as far as the injury, a coaching change, I learned the things I need in terms of preparing myself to play professional baseball.”
That’s why, with a year of college eligibility remaining, it’s hard to picture a scenario in which Brill is drafted in a reasonable spot but doesn’t sign. Juniors have more leverage than seniors, and Brill is four months away from turning 23.
It’s an extremely deep draft locally, with three in state players going in the top 15 picks and three more ranking among the top 45 prospects. Brill is considered the 21st best prospect from a North Carolina school.
“I want cheap mlb jerseys china to pursue baseball until I can’t anymore,” Brill said. “I think this is a good time for me to make my run at getting to the big leagues and being effective there for a long time.”