Welcome back to our series recapping the seasons for your 2015 top prospects. Today we’re catching up with our #8 prospect, RHP Tyler Wagner. If you missed any of the series, you can get caught up here:
Wagner, the Brewers’ fourth-round pick in the 2010 draft, has been brought up very traditionally through Milwaukee’s farm system. He spent his first three seasons with Rookie-level Helena, Low-A Wisconsin, and High-A Brevard County – with an appearance at the Arizona Fall League to wrap up 2014. Then he began 2015 with the road warriors at Double-A Biloxi. The 24-year-old rose quickly up organizational prospects lists with a dominant season with the Manatees in 2014. He led the team with a shiny 1.86 ERA accompanied by an equally-shiny 1.107 WHIP through 25 starts.
Wagner continued his dominant ways in 2015 earning the Southern League ERA title by edging out his teammate – and Southern League Pitcher of the Year – Jorge Lopez by a single point (2.25 for Wagner, 2.26 for Lopez). Wagner was one of 10 Shuckers selected to the Southern League All-Star game. His finest moment of the season came in a one-hit complete game shutout on August 1st against the Jackson Generals, in which he struck out five and walked three. He capped off his brilliant season with a eight strikeout performance in game three of the Southern League championship series, a 2-0 win for the Shuckers.
Wagner was rewarded for his strong start at Biloxi with a call-up to the big league team for a spot start in May when Wily Peralta hit the disabled list. He struggled in his major league debut, surrendering five runs on nine hits in 3.2 innings. That is not necessarily surprising from a 24-year-old who’d only been pitching at the Double-A level for a couple of weeks. Wagner resurfaced with the Brewers after the Southern League playoffs ended and made another pair of starts. That included a hard-luck loss to the Cubs on October 3rd in which he scattered seven hits and a pair of walks over six innings, allowing one run in a shutout loss for the Crew.
Wagner doesn’t miss a ton of bats--owning a career 7.2 K/9 ratio in the minors--and has struggled at times with his command. He has a career 3.1 BB/9 ratio. He has a deceptive delivery and a couple of above average pitchers – a mid-90s sinker and a slider with good movement – which seems to induce poor contact as he’s allowed a steady BABIP of around .270. He also does an excellent job of keeping the ball in the ballpark, with a career 0.6 HR/9 through four seasons.
It'll be interesting to see what Milwaukee does with Wagner and some of their other top pitching prospects, like the aforementioned Lopez. Both made the jump directly to the major leagues this season for a look--skipping past AAA-Colorado Springs entirely. Wagner could probably do with a bit more polishing in the minor leagues, but the Brewers have shown a certain amount of unwillingness to subject their best young pitchers to the thin air of the Rockies. Of course there's also a chance that Wagner could push for a spot in the Brewers opening day rotation, which has an opening behind Jimmy Nelson, Peralta, Jungmann, and Matt Garza. Though one would imagine that Zach Davies has the inside track on that spot should the Brewers fail to add a veteran this off-season.