The Detroit Tigers picked Beau Brieske in the 27th round of the 2019 draft.
The right-handed pitcher went from Perry High School in Gilbert, Arizona, to Glendale (Arizona) Community College and then to Division II Colorado State-Pueblo, with each stop providing hurdles along his journey to becoming a professional baseball player.
“There was a chance I was going to get picked up, but then again, I had to wait for 26 rounds before I got picked,” Brieske, who signed after he was drafted for $75,000, said last month. “I think that opportunity fits the story perfectly. At that point, you’re a low-key guy. No one really expects anything out of you.
“That goes along with the type of player I was my entire career. I was under the radar the whole time, just consistently getting better and competing. The opportunity was all I needed. It gives you a chip on your shoulder to know you came from there and can compete with anyone.”
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Brieske, 23, wrapped up his first full season of pro ball in 2021, after the minor leagues were nixed in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. He posted a 3.12 ERA with 23 walks and 116 strikeouts over 106⅔ innings for High-A West Michigan (13 starts) and Double-A Erie (eight starts).
His performance put him on the organization’s prospect list, as he was ranked by MLB Pipeline as the Tigers’ No. 27 prospect. By the end of the season, he secured Tigers’ minor league pitcher of the year honors. (Outfielder Riley Greene, one of the best prospects in baseball, won player of the year.)
Therefore, Brieske is officially on the Tigers’ radar.
“As soon as I got back home, I just wanted to get right back to work,” Brieske said. “I see myself as someone that still has so much room to improve. I had a good year, and I was happy with it, but I was not satisfied at all. There are a lot of things I want to work on and have been working on up to this point. I’m excited to see how it translates next year.”
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Brieske was a freshman at Glendale CC in 2017.
That’s when “the switch flipped for me,” he said, signifying a newfound inner focus. His goal was to play pro ball, and he believed he could make it. Brieske came out of the bullpen as a freshman but pushed his way into the starting rotation as a sophomore. Pitching coach Jon Huizinga, a former Michigan State pitcher, taught him to develop secondary pitches, attack hitters and find confidence.
Brieske’s maturation and self-awareness in his early development changed the trajectory of his career. He posted a 3.28 ERA with 43 walks and 117 strikeouts over 129 innings during his two-year stint at Glendale.
“I have a pretty good foundation that I was blessed with, but there needed to be a lot more dedication, discipline and work to go along with it,” Brieske said. “I got out on my own and was living with two roommates. We all pushed each other. We were chasing it together. It was a perfect storm for me. It all kind of clicked at once.”
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At CSU-Pueblo, Brieske delivered 116 strikeouts and just 27 walks, but he had a 5.42 ERA and a 1.582 WHIP over 79⅔ innings (in 14 starts).
Brieske wasn’t proud of his results.
Still, he did enough to get the Tigers’ attention in the 27th round.
In 2019, the 6-foot-3 righty made 10 of his 11 starts in the Gulf Coast League. He posted a 3.12 ERA with nine walks and 28 strikeouts in 17⅓ innings. The COVID-19 pandemic left him with an uncertain future, though. He had to improve on his own in 2020.
“(I learned) fastball command, the ability to attack with my heater, throwing inside to guys, then being able to paint low and away and elevate when I need to,” Brieske said. “It makes it a lot easier if you can command the fastball.
“And then, I would say my breaking balls. I didn’t have a good one coming out of the draft. I had one that I could throw for strikes, but it wasn’t a quality pitch. I developed two, and the COVID year helped with that because I just had more time.
“The first one was a curveball. I thought that matched up with my fastball pretty well because I have a high arm slot with ride on my fastball. I was trying to work on what started as a cutter, and it turned out to be a slider. I just ran with it. As of now, the slider is further ahead in the development stages, as opposed to my curveball.”
Brieske, armed with new talents, started climbing the ladder in 2021 with High-A West Michigan. He registered a 3.45 ERA with 15 walks and 76 strikeouts over 62⅔ innings in 13 starts. That earned him a July 27 promotion to Double-A Erie. He finished the year with a 2.66 ERA with eight walks and 40 strikeouts over 44 innings in eight starts for the SeaWolves.
He features four pitches: fastball, changeup, slider and curveball. His fastball averages 94 mph but can reach 96 mph; it’s a weapon when he throws strikes, which he showed he could do in May 2021 by piling up 23 strikeouts and no walks in his first four starts combined. He also throws an 81-83 mph changeup, an 84-86 mph slider and a 76 mph curveball.
“I had to rise to the occasion and focus more,” Brieske said about his jump to Double-A. “I realized that my first start. I had to focus more with each pitch and make sure I executed to where it’s a quality pitch, even if it miss with it. … By that point in the year, everything was more consistent. I started trusted my curveball, so I was throwing four pitches every start. That in itself, throwing four pitches at a guy, is going to lead to more success.”
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Brieske, who averaged 1.9 walks and 9.8 strikeouts per nine innings, is trending toward making his MLB debut in 2022. (A stop in Triple-A Toledo probably comes first, though.) He has to prove last season’s breakthrough wasn’t a fluke, but the Tigers believe he has the tools to be an impact pitcher.
To prepare for what could be a big year, Brieske is working out at Kalvary Fitness in Peoria, Arizona, with personal trainer Benjamin Williams. If Brieske continues developing, the Tigers should have a late-round gem ready to emerge.
“I wasn’t very highly touted, but I think everyone knows that,” Brieske said. “If you look at me, you might not think much. It might not seem like that big of a deal, the jump that I’ve made to this point. But I feel like I’m getting better every single year.
“My goals are so much further than where I’m at now. I don’t feel like I’m anywhere close to what I’m capable of doing. My goal is to be one of the best ever, to be honest. If I set my sights on anything else, I’d be limited myself. I have a long way to go. I’m just having fun with the journey.”
Contact Evan Petzold at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @EvanPetzold. Read more on the Detroit Tigers and sign up for our Tigers newsletter.