McCade Brown was not a high-rated recruit coming out of Normal West High in Illinois.
The right-handed pitcher didn’t commit to Indiana University until the second semester of his senior year in 2018. Indiana offered Brown, a self-described late bloomer, a walk-on spot, he said.
The lack of recruiting attention motivated Brown. Over the last three years, Brown has transformed into a well-regarded starting pitcher at Indiana. This season, Brown has taken a significant step forward in his development, as he has been nearly unhittable in his first two starts of his junior year.
Brown has allowed just three hits and one run in 14 innings pitched this season. His success has caused him to vault up MLB draft boards. Now, scouts believe Brown could hear his name called in the top two rounds of July’s draft if he continues to dominate opposing hitters.
“There are some things you see and things like that, and you appreciate that and those recognitions,” Brown said. “But right now, that is something I am not focusing on. I am more focusing on what we have to do as a team to keep performing well and keep getting wins.”
Brown pitched in just 6 2/3 total innings in his first two years at Indiana. A back injury limited Brown to 2 2/3 innings his freshman season in 2019. Last season, he pitched in four innings before the NCAA shut down the college baseball season due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Last summer, Brown managed to pitch and gain more experience. He played in a college baseball summer league in Illinois and posted a 0.93 ERA with 50 strikeouts and 11 walks allowed in 22 1/3 innings. He allowed just five hits during the season.
That experience gave Brown confidence, which carried into his junior season at Indiana. In two starts, Brown has recorded a 0.64 ERA with 28 strikeouts and two walks allowed in 14 innings.
Brown is a 6-foot-6, 225-pound right-handed pitcher who throws a four-seam fastball, spike curveball, slider and changeup from a three-quarters arm slot and short arm action.
His fastball is his go-to pitch. It features a high spin rate and sits in the mid-90s. His curveball is a premium breaking pitch that generates about 3,000 revolutions per minute and serves as his best outpitch.
“Right now, I think just being able to spin the breaking ball and land it for strikes and get chases on it when I need it has been a big piece for me so far,” Brown said.
Brown primarily uses his fastball and curveball. Although his slider is an effective offering, he doesn’t rely on it a ton. It’s a pitch he’s used for a while but has tweaked throughout his time at Indiana. He wants to make his slider more of a sharper pitch that has late movement instead of the sweeping breaking it currently displays, he said. His goal is for it to be more of a cutter.
Besides refining his slider, Brown also wants to develop a better feel for his changeup. He has only thrown his changeup “two or three times” in his first two starts this season, he said.
While he hopes to refine his secondary pitches and improve his command and control, his top priority is leading Indiana deep into postseason play in what might be his final collegiate season, he added.
“Looking at my most recent start, my command was struggling in the first inning. I also was struggling with my mechanics,” Brown said. “I just want to make sure I am consistent with my mechanics and make sure the timing is where I want it to be. My goal is to just be more consistent with my command and mechanics over the rest of the season.”
Dan Zielinski III has covered the MLB draft for six years. He has interviewed 253 of the top draft prospects in that period, including three No. 1 overall picks. Multiple publications, including Baseball America, USA Today, MLB.com and The Arizona Republic, have quoted his work, while he has appeared on radio stations as a “MLB draft expert.” Follow him on Twitter @DanZielinski3.