The Appalachian Southpaw

Justin Goetz
PBR Georgia Assistant Scouting Director

Deep in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains stands a 6 foot 2, 175 pound gunslinger with the mentality of an outlaw on the mound. His name is Bryson Thacker, and his main focus is to attack hitters hands with no remorse. Well before committing to the University of Tennessee, Bryson has had big goals in baseball. He’s been firing baseballs and anything else resembling one in Rome, Georgia, since he learned how to walk. In one of our lengthy pitching conversations he told me, “I want to make it to the big stage and provide for those around me. I want to sit 97-98 and be an all around great pitcher who goes down in the history of MLB.”

If last weekend at the PBR Upperclass Fall World Series is any indication, he’s on a good track to reaching those goals. His FB reached 92 mph (91.8) in our event for 2023-2024 prospects, and I feel there’s so much more in the tank. His 2 seamer sits in the 88-91 range with aggressive sink & late tail at 1800-1900 rpm, certifying it as a true bowling ball. With his lean frame, perfect build up of pace, and lightning quick arm speed, there’s much more to come. But the high quality FB life and velo projection aren’t the only part of the arsenal that’s headed to the moon, he has 3 legit secondary pitches that make hitters' lives very difficult.

His sharp low-mid 70’s SLV bends air at 2800 rpm, with a ridiculous amount of HZB and late 2 plane depth making the pitch nearly impossible to barrel. He can throw the pitch in any count for strikes, paint it on both edges, and bury it for K’s. It regularly flashes A/AVG and will be a plus offering in the future. But what differentiates Thacker most, is his CH in the 78-80 range. The pitch is completely unrecognizable from his FB, repeatedly coming from the same arm slot with identical intent and late downer action. When hitters are sitting FB, he’ll get you to swing over the CH. When they’re sitting CH, he’ll blow the bowling ball by you!

He credits many of his recent improvements on the mound to Titans pitching coach Chuck Martin, who has helped him make the small adjustments that only make him better, without changing what makes him who he is. I noticed a big adjustment in Bryson’s separation & front side from 2021 to 2022 in PBR videos. The addition of a smooth, gradual rotation to the back hip through up+down+out phases, loading his upper half over the rubber in stride, creating elite separation. Where his chest used to follow his stride (causing it to fly open), it was now connected to the backside where it could fire to the plate as one, with his arm in throwing position. Now, he’s able to use his front elbow as a lever without his glove being in control and swinging him toward 3B. The progression toward north/south tilt in the shoulders & higher front elbow will continue to improve and make him more linear.

Even more notably, it’s helped Bryson repeat a higher arm slot on his pitches. This creates unpredictability where hitters can’t sit on one pitch, allows him to stay behind the baseball better, and get more spin on both breaking balls. Another breaking ball? You heard that right. He and Chuck have created a huge difference maker with a much different profile than his SLV, the cutter. Bryson’s CUT sits in the 83-84 range and gradually buzzes toward RHH hands with a completely different shape than his SLV. Not only is it a pitch to jam RHH, it also has the late depth to garner swing & miss, as you can see with the last pitch in the video above. As this cut fastball continues to develop where he can front door freeze LHH, it will make Thacker’s arsenal the most unpredictable I’ve scouted in recent memory.

Pitching Mechanics

Thacker’s first big velo jump happened as soon as he hit 9th grade, his FB jumping from 77 to 87, coinciding with a growth spurt and added strength. Already hitting 92 this fall before even starting his long toss program and being far from his eventual physical development in a lengthy frame, there’s surely another jump coming. But an even bigger tell for a velo jump is the perfect build of pace in the delivery, and his extremely rare arm speed. He’s slow paced to square up and create balance, medium paced through up+down+out phases, and pure fast paced & violent twitch post landing. This gradual build of pace loads & stores all of his energy for when both feet are on the ground, creating effortless momentum and front side leverage to explode through.

Why is his arm so fast? Athleticism, separation, arm action and God given genetics. Bryson is an explosive athlete in any sport he tries - in just one summer of playing consistent golf with friends, he can already drive the ball 320 yards. He creates an elite rubber band effect in hip/shoulder separation at landing, creating an incredible amount of torque by separating his upper half+backside from his front side at the exact same time in stride. His lengthy stride creates even more stretch in the hips near landing - allowing the arm and largest muscles on the backside to slingshot through his lead leg block. Quite simply, torque IS explosiveness. You can’t create elite torque without athleticism and well sequenced mechanics.

Lastly, Bryson’s ridiculously efficient arm action makes my prediction of another velo jump easy. It’s a short circle that drops out of the glove as he sits into his legs, staying compact to the body and picking up momentum quickly but gradually from start to finish. The hand goes to a perfect depth and the elbow stays slightly bent, preventing a slowing of momentum as well as keeping it in control. It connects with the quads & hamstrings at the bottom and works to the back hip, oblique, and lat as he scap loads. His exceptional scap load is an important part of creating that rubber band effect. As the elbow spirals efficiently, all of the biggest backside muscles previously mentioned are at their highest tension preparing to fire as one with the arm. With his FB/CH the elbow is in a good position at release and the ball explodes out of the hand with natural pronation, with the arm spiral helping him easily adjust to supination on both breaking balls.

Scouting Report

(17 at draft)

Future #2 or #3 in a rotation with rare explosiveness and athleticism. With an advanced build up of pace in the delivery and real feel for 4 pitches, he’s got one of the most unpredictable arsenals in the southeast. Despite being ahead of the game in many ways, the delivery is still slightly raw and can continue to improve, raising his ceiling even higher for me. An intense competitor on the mound who won’t back down from any hitter. The work ethic is strong and the projection on FB velo & pitchability are endless.

Future Tools (based off MLB scouting scale)

FB Overall - A/AVG (plenty of velo otw).
FB Command - Avg (sinker paints both edges consistently, hits spots up in zone with 4 seam).
FB Life - Plus (2 seam has bowling ball sink, late tail at 1800-1900 rpm. 4 seam carries up in zone).

SLV Overall - Plus (low-mid 70’s now, will work consistently upper 70’s in future).
SLV Command - A/AVG (can throw for strikes in any count, bury for K’s).
SLV Life - Plus (sharp w/ tight rotation, big sweep+late depth).

CH Overall - AVG (tunnels off FB well, intent, arm slot).
CH Command - AVG (Feel below zone, feel off arm side edge to RHH).
CH Life - A/AVG (heavy w/ late depth below zone, some fade arm side edge).

CUT Overall - AVG (developing tunnel off FB, provides a different look than other 3 offerings).
CUT Command - A/AVG (easier pitch to command than the SLV, which will command A/AVG).
CUT Life - AVG (gradual cut, late depth).

Separators - Athleticism, Arm Speed, Vast Repertoire.

Comp - Cliff Lee (more velo, less command).

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