Ben Braymer was added to the Washington Nationals’ 40-Man roster back in November, so the 25-year-old, 2016 18th Round pick was protected from selection in the Rule 5 Draft earlier this month.
“I was sweating it for a while,” Braymer acknowledged during an appearance on MiLB.com’s podcast “The Show Before the Show”, when he was asked about finding out he had been added to the 40-Man.
“I figured I had a decent shot of that happening,” he said, coming off a 2019 campaign which saw him put up a 2.51 ERA, a 3.37 FIP, 21 walks (2.39 BB/9), and 69 Ks (7.86 K/9) in 13 starts and 79 innings pitched for the Double-A Harrisburg Senators, and a 7.20 ERA, 7.98 FIP, 35 walks (5.25 BB/9), and 47 Ks (7.05 K/9) in 13 starts and 60 IP for the Triple-A Fresno Grizzlies.
“I hadn’t heard anything definitive so I was just waiting on a phone call,” Braymer explained.
“Very thankful I got that phone call. It’s a huge honor for me and I’m very humbled that they think enough of me to add me to the roster, especially with them coming off of a World Series championship, I think that’s huge. As a competitor, I think, at least through my eyes, that you play the game to win. I know there’s a lot of things that go into that and the fact that they think that I’m close to helping them do so is extremely humbling and I’m very excited about it and thankful for the opportunity. I guess now the work just continues to go on and increases from here.”
MLB Pipeline’s scouts, who have Braymer ranked 14th overall in the Nationals’ organization, describe the left-hander, named the co-pitcher of the year in Washington’s system in 2018, as a versatile hurler who could excel as a starter or in relief, though in their estimation he profiles as a reliever with, “a 92-93 mph fastball [that] has bumped a few ticks higher in the past, albeit without much in the way of late movement.”
“He complements his heater with an above-average curveball with 12-to-6 action that is lethal on left-handed hitters -- they batted just .174 against Braymer in ‘18 -- and a changeup gives him a distant third pitch.”
Braymer, who has started in 52 of his 75 professional outings, said that he’s comfortable in whatever role he’s asked to work in, after he split time between the rotation and bullpen in 2018, then worked exclusively as a starter this past season.
“I really don’t have a preference to be honest with you,” he said. “I kind of really enjoyed bouncing back and forth between starting and relieving in 2018.
“I thought that it was a real big challenge for me mentally and physically because there’s different aspects to both.
“As a starter, you’re on a five-man rotation, so you have four days to figure out what you need to do, figure out what works best for you. Are you a bullpen on Day 2 or Day 3 guy? What kind of arm care do you need to do? What’s your weight program going to be like?
“So on, so forth. Then out of the bullpen, you kind of just have to base your routine off of how things go, in my opinion. If you pitch one inning and you throw 14 pitches, you’re probably going to be hot the next day, especially at the upper levels of the minors. And sometimes you might not be able to fit something in that you normally would want to, and kind of just got to roll with the punches. So I thought that challenged me in 2018 and I was thankful for it because I was able to test some things out early on and figure out what worked best for me. And then this year, being my first year starting full-time, I was pleased I was able to make all my starts this year and grow throughout that process and learn different things to implement.”
This past season, Braymer said, pitching at Double and Triple-A, he got to pick the brains of some teammates who’d been around the game a while, played at the highest level, and were all willing to share what they could with their younger teammates.
“Being able to just pick their brains on things and figure out what they see in a pitcher, or what a pitcher sees in a hitter, was super helpful for me because that’s something I hadn’t really dived into before. I realized then that I needed to be more cognizant of scouting reports and picking up on tendencies, and stuff like that. Like I said, I really don’t have a preference as far as the role goes. I think, as long as I’m on the mound, healthy, and competing, that’s really all I can ask for. Whatever the Nationals think — whatever role they think I can help the team best in is what I’ll do, and I’ll never have a problem with that.”
In a press release on the decision to add Braymer to their 40-Man roster, the Nats noted that he, “led Washington’s Minor League system with 26 starts, ranked third with [139 IP] and sixth with 116 strikeouts in his fourth professional season in 2019,” and, “held opposing batters to a .190 batting average (56-for-294) with just seven home runs, including just two homers across his final eight Eastern League starts.”
What changes in his mind now that he’s on the 40-Man and another step closer to getting the call to the majors for the first time?
“It obviously puts me in a great position to, hopefully, contribute to the Nationals’ success sooner than later,” Braymer said.
Reaching the majors, and proving all the hard work that he and his family and trainers did to get to that point was worth it is another motivating factor.
“I obviously fully believe in myself and my ability to do that as a player on the field and as a guy in the clubhouse. Every day that I train here in the offseason, that’s something that I’m working towards. That’s something that’s driving me to be the best that I can be, not only for me and my family, but for those guys as well because every single one of those guys deserves it, family deserves it. That’s something that’s going to fuel me and propel me to doing so.
“I think that’s a great position for me to be in — for anybody to be in. It’s something we all work towards and I’m just very thankful to be in that position.”