At any moment you can check the big prospect lists and you’ll find 10-12 right handed pitchers on the list. You will also see very few, if any, left handers. Lately we’ve covered lefties Leo Crawford, John Rooney, Alec Gamboa, Jeff Belge and Darien Nunez. There is another under-the-radar lefty named Justin Bruihl, who put up some dominant numbers in 2019. After bouncing around early in 2019 Bruihl settled in with the Great Lakes Loons to post an ERA of 0.79 in 34.1 innings. He gave up only 23 hits, walked 8 and struck 42 while having a WHIP of .187. This is such a great improvement over 2018 when he had some struggles with his walk rate.
Justin was kind enough to answer some questions for us.
Tim Rogers: When you signed with the Dodgers as an undrafted free agent what were your other options?
Justin Bruihl: I was committed to play at UC Berkeley, and I also had a few other free agent offers from Other teams.
TR: How long did it take you to feel 100% after Tommy John surgery?
JB: Almost exactly 12 months, maybe a little bit longer. I’d say my biggest growth was the month or two following that. I saw a big jump in my velo during that time compared to what it was Pre surgery.
TR: In an article I read about being comfortable with your cutter and slider. You spoke about wanting to get your fastball back – command wise, etc. How did that go in instructs and the abbreviated Spring Training?
JB: I made a lot of progress during instructs and this offseason getting more comfortable throwing it again, which was the main issue I was having. I had gotten so used to throwing my cutter as my main fastball that my actual fastball had taken a backseat and the few times I tried to reintroduce my fastball in games it just wasn’t a very competitive pitch. But now I feel as though it is a viable pitch for me and the usage of it should increase whenever we get to playing games again.
TR: Any progress on the change up?
JB: For some reason I have an extremely difficult time wrapping my head around this pitch. Been trying to figure one out for 6+ years now. I’ve had flashes where I’ve thrown some good changeups but haven’t really been able to achieve the consistency I’d like. Recently with the break we’ve had from baseball I’ve had a lot of time to experiment with different grips and cues that have helped and I’m starting to form a good foundation for my changeup and finally seeing some better results. So to answer your question yes I’d say there is more progress than I’ve seen in the past.
(NOTE: Clayton Kershaw has been working on a changeup for over a decade. It is a very hard pitch to master.)
TR: Are there any other things you are working on?
JB: I’m currently working on creating a more efficient arm path. I have a tendency to get very long in the back and that leads to me cutting my fastball at times so I’m trying to shorten that up a little bit which should help the efficiency of my fastball.
TR: So far the Dodgers have kept you in the bullpen. Is that still the plan?
JB: I’d assume so. However, I could see myself moving to become a starter if I developed a solid changeup. That would give me four solid pitches I can run with but for now being a reliever is more likely for my future.
(NOTE: in Justin’s last few games of 2019 he threw 2 or more innings in most appearances.)
TR: What are the velocities of your pitches?
CH honestly have no idea, but if I had to guess probably around 80-82
TR: What do you credit for your great season in 2019?
JB: There are a few reasons, but for the most part I think the big reason for my success was my ability to throw strikes with all my pitches and competing in the zone rather than trying to be too perfect like I was the year before. I started trusting my stuff and throwing the ball over the middle of the plate and letting the movement do the work and force weak contact.
TR: What are some things you are doing to get ready for the next opportunity to play baseball?
JB: Gyms finally opened back up in my county so I’ve been getting back to work in weight room and starting to get some strength back that I lost during the hiatus. Also just continuing my throwing program, getting off the mound every couple days just trying to stay ready for whatever comes next.
There is no doubt in my mind that Justin Bruihl would have started the season with the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes. His control improved so much between 2018 and 2019 that he might be ready to make a quick jump to AA. As an old coach I know likes to say, “I like left-handers, they get hitters out.” As you can tell in the interview, Justin is a student of the game who is willing to learn. These are they types of players the Dodgers are looking to bring into the organization.
It is exciting to see a player take such a large leap from one season to the next. It’s never about luck but about hard work. I’m looking forward to seeing the hard work of Justin whenever we get minor league baseball back.
You can follow Justin Bruihl on social media on Instagram (@justinbruihl). I want to take a moment to thank Justin for taking the time to answer my questions. For the Dodgers prospects who have taken the time to do these interviews it is obvious that they are intelligent and thoughtful players.
To be honest, writing articles like these makes me miss baseball so much, especially Minor League Baseball.