Jordan Brink didn't throw a single pitch as a Fresno State freshman in 2012, and he split time between the outfield and the mound last season as a sophomore. Now he's a full-time pitcher, and he's working his way up the 2014 First-Year Player Draft boards with a dazzling beginning to his junior year.
Brink has gone 2-0 with a 0.42 ERA through his first three starts, allowing just six hits in 21 2/3 innings while striking out 15. The right-hander beat Texas A&M with seven shutout innings on Saturday, permitting just one hit while striking out five. He also gave up just one hit in a season-opening no-decision against UC Irvine, then took a shutout into the ninth inning against Nevada.
Brink hit .220/.292/.298 in his first two years with the Bulldogs, the second of which he began in the bullpen before working his way into the rotation at midseason. Fresno State outfielder and Yankees 2013 first-round pick Aaron Judge was a magnet for scouts, and they put Brink on their follow lists for 2014 after seeing him pitch in the mid-90s as a reliever.
Brink created more buzz by hitting 96 mph during fall practice, and even more with the way he has opened the spring. He has regularly worked at 90-93 mph and topped out at 95, and his fastball isn't even his best pitch. That distinction belongs to his spike curveball, which sometimes looks like a hard slider and reaches the mid-80s.
"It's easy plusses on both pitches," an area scout who saw Brink's Nevada outing said. "Maybe it's a 55 fastball [on the 20-80 scouting scale] as a starter, but he's got more in there. He's just learning to pace himself.
"The feel for spin, for me, is plus. That's one of the better breaking balls you'll see. It's hard and late. If he learns to land it in the strike zone consistently, that'll be the separator."
Though Brink throws strikes and has walked just seven batters in his first three starts, he's working on improving the location of his pitches in the zone. He's also honing a changeup that shows the potential to give him an average third pitch in time.
Brink is listed at 6-foot-1 and 200 pounds, so as with any relatively short right-handed pitching prospect, some scouts wonder if he's built for starting over the long term. Yet it's hard to argue with his results so far.
"There's a split camp on whether he's a starter or reliever in the end," the area scout said. "Going into the spring, I thought he was a lock as a reliever -- just come in and chuck it and throw gas. But he's starting to pitch, pitch to contact, develop a changeup, get stronger in the weight room. Look at what he's done in his first three starts.
"If he went in the second round, it wouldn't shock me. He can do a lot of things, he competes, he has makeup. And if he's 6-foot-3, he goes in the top 30 or 40 picks."