Weekend Recap 9: Brinson and Hader

After a strong offensive performance on Friday night, the bats went cold and the Brewers lost the final two games of their series against the Diamondbacks this weekend. Rather than dwell on two disappointing losses, including another bullpen blowup, let’s take a look at the Brewers debuts of the top two prospects in the system according to Baseball Prospectus: Lewis Brinson and Josh Hader.

Diamondbacks Brewers
Friday June 9 6 8
Saturday June 10 3 2
Sunday June 11 11 1

Lewis Brinson came to Milwaukee’s system last summer with the pedigree of a top twenty prospect in all of baseball. The biggest question regarding his future success in MLB hinged on his hit tool and patience, so of course in his first game, he saw 19 pitches over four at bats, drawing two walks to go with a strike out and ground out. Two at bats highlight what he is now versus what he could become in the future.

The first walk came off Robbie Ray in the 3rd inning. It was aided by a questionable ball one, a curveball that broke too much, causing catcher Chris Herrmann to move to the side to prevent the pitch from reaching the backstop. After that, Ray was wild with his fastball, missing badly twice. Brinson swung at the best pitch in the at bat, but couldn’t get the fastball. Like a hitter with good plate discipline, he didn’t chase fastballs of the plate, preferring to make Ray give him something he could hit. When Ray was unable to abide, Brinson walked.

Ray faced Brinson again in the 5th inning, producing a very different result: a strikeout on four pitches. In this at bat, Ray effectively changed Brinson’s eye level, going up down up down on the four pitches. The two up pitches were at the top of the strike zone, including a swing on a fastball riding in on his hands. Then Brinson brought the hammer: a diving curveball which hit the dirt. Brinson couldn’t help but chase it. That pitch produced sixteen whiffs yesterday, so there’s no shame in getting fooled by such a nasty curve, but laying off pitches like that will be the difference between becoming a superstar as opposed to a strong defender who bats towards the bottom of a lineup.

Josh Hader, the number two prospect in the system and nineteenth in all of baseball, also came to the team via trade (Carlos Gomez). Though a starter, he’s been brought up to contribute to the bullpen. Hader pitched the 7th inning in Saturday’s loss, striking out a batter while walking two (one intentional). The BP scouting report noted that his changeup needed improvement, and Hader did not bother throwing it in his debut. Instead, he threw twelve mid 90s fastballs, mixing in two sliders for good measure.

The walk was to the first batter. Hader was a little wild, though that ball one call was a miss by the umpire. Afterwards, he settled in and stayed in the zone, inducing popups on a fastball and a slider.  His strikeout of Jake Lamb to end the inning was a good example of both his poise and strength of his fastball. He got Lamb on three pitches, the last of which was a called strike. Hader effectively moved in the zone, and got a little extra mustard on that last fastball.

Starting Hader as a reliever can be a useful way to get him accustomed to MLB hitting, while giving their bullpen a shot in the arm. While he can’t answer questions about his ability to turn over a lineup while he pitches in relief, it is important for the Brewers to continue to force Hader to develop that changeup. His future as a starter, where he can provide the most value to the club, depends on that pitch. But at least for one day, it was nice to see him successfully debut.

Up Next: The Brewers finish their road trip with four games in St. Louis against the Cardinals, including a doubleheader tomorrow. The Cardinals just completed a three game sweep of the Phillies, which stopped a seven game losing streak against NL Central opponents.

Brewers Cardinals
Tuesday June 13 (Game 1) TBD [Jimmy Nelson (3.84 DRA)] Lance Lynn (4.90 DRA)
Tuesday June 13 (Game 2) TBD [Paolo Espino (6.77 DRA)] Marco Gonzales (Season Debut)
Wednesday June 14 TBD [Zach Davies (5.96 DRA)] Mike Leake (3.71 DRA)
Thursday June 15 TBD [Junior Guerra (6.22 DRA)] Michael Wacha (4.05 DRA)


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