Niagara University junior pitcher Matthew Brash met with high-level management for the Padres last week, when he was invited to throw off the mound during a workout at Petco Park in San Diego.
On Tuesday, the Padres made Brash, a 6-foot-1, 170-pound righthanded pitcher, their fourth-round pick (No. 113 overall) during the 2019 Major League Baseball Amateur Draft.
“I’m really excited,” Brash said in a phone interview with the Buffalo News. “I knew going into the draft they were one of the more interested teams. So, I kept an eye on them and knew they were one of the leaders.”
Another possibility was the Los Angeles Dodgers, who also hosted Brash during his trip to the West Coast last week.
“We are so happy for Matt and his family,” Niagara baseball coach Rob McCoy said in a news release. “Out of high school, they trusted us to provide an opportunity for Matt to learn, grow and mature. With that, and combined with his unwavering work ethic, he was able to develop himself into a top prospect. This is only the beginning for him and we look forward to following his professional career.”
Brash is coming off a sensational season for the Purple Eagles. The Kingston, Ontario, native went 4-5 with a Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference-leading 2.43 ERA and set the Niagara single-season record with 121 strikeouts, which also led the MAAC and was 10th in the NCAA at the conclusion of the regular season.
Brash added a slider to his repertoire this season. That, combined with increasing the velocity on his fastball to the low 90s, helped Brash hold opposing hitters to a .194 average. He tossed three complete games, including two shutouts.
“Coming to Niagara, I only threw the fastball, spike curve and an OK change-up,” Brash said. “I learned how to pitch inside to batters. I didn’t have to do that in high school. I added a slider to complement the curve this season. My curve comes in about 80 (mph) and the slide is at 85-86, a little sharper with more movement. It was probably my best pitch this year.
“Having the full four pitches I can throw anytime … the slider made a big difference.”
Brash went 3-1 during his sophomore season, but only appeared in seven games due to a shoulder impingement. He returned toward the end of the 2018 season and pitched 8 2/3 innings in the victory that sent Niagara to the playoffs for the first time in 12 years.
“I tried to pitch at beginning of year, and my arm was sore, so we shut it down,” Brash said. “I wanted to come back and pitch for the guys to get into the MAAC Tournament, so I pitched a couple of starts at the end because I felt I could.”
To keep from suffering another arm injury, Brash spent last offseason gaining weight and working out. He didn’t throw a baseball at all.
“It was a really good rehab program,” Brash said. “I had no issues in the shoulder this year.”
Brash said that he will sign with the Padres. The 113th salary slot in the draft is $512,400, so there are plenty of reasons to give up his college eligibility.
“I’m definitely signing and hoping that I leave pretty soon and playing ball for the Padres this summer,” Brash said. “I will go back to school for classes in the fall semester, then report for winter ball.”
A sports management major, Brash is happy his Niagara education included baseball.
“I want to send a big thank you to all my coaches and the players there,” Brash said. “The coaches took me in as a freshman and didn’t change too much when they probably could have. They let me stay true to myself and gave me an opportunity to be successful and be a starter my freshman year. I’m really happy I chose Niagara. They gave me an opportunity to get where I am right now.”
Brash is the second-highest drafted player in Niagara’s program history behind Doug Farrell, who was drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the second in 1971 and third round in 1972. Brash is the 10th Purple Eagles player since 2005 to be drafted: James Avery, Dan Griffin and Reed Eastley (2005), Jeff Vincent (2006), Wynton Bernard (2012), Jordan Schwartz (2014), Daniel Procopio and Tanner Kirwer (2017) and Greg Cullen (2018).
The draft continues through the 10th round Tuesday before resuming with Rounds 11-40 on Wednesday.