It's that time of year again when the team over at MLB Pipeline begins to release their updated lists of the top prospects in all of baseball by position. So far they have released the lists for the top right handed and left handed pitching prospects in baseball. As Derek discussed earlier today, our Milwaukee Brewers did not land a single player among the top 10 RHP. However there is a Brewer farmhand among the top 10 lefty prospects in the league, and that is none other than Josh Hader.
Hader joins some impressive company on the top 10 LHP list, slotting in at number six between Tyler Jay of the Twins and Cody Reed of the Reds. Julio Urias, Blake Snell, Steven Matz, Sean Newcomb, Sean Manaea, Amir Garrett, and Kolby Allard round out the rest of the top 10.
The 21 year old Hader (22 in April) was originally a 19th round draft pick by the Orioles in 2012 but was shipped to the Astros in 2013. The Brewers aqcuired Hader on July 30th of last year as a part of the return in the Gomez/Fiers deal. He was assigned to AA Biloxi, where he produced some outstanding results: a 2.79 ERA and 2.81 FIP in 38.2 IP covering seven starts. The lefty has a penchant for strikeouts and posted a terrific 32.9% K rate as a member of the Shuckers.
People around the league really began to take notice of Hader during his stint in this year's Arizona Fall League. Pitching for the Saguaros, Hader made seven dominant appearances (two starts) and allowed just one earned run in 16.0 innings pitched for a 0.56 ERA. He struck out 19 batters and allowed only eight hits and seven walks. According to Fangraphs he posted the league's ninth-highest average fastball velocity overall and the best by a lefty at 95.1 MPH.
Jeff Janis going to be the most loved dude out there in Wisconsin up until Josh Hader gets the call— Chris Kusiolek (@CaliKusiolek) January 17, 2016
According to his updated profile at MLB Pipeline, Hader's grades are now as follows:
MLB Pipeline praises his improved feel for his slider, saying he can use it to get swings and misses from batters on both sides of the plate. They also noted that a move to the first base-side of the rubber on the mound during the season has added even more deception to his delivery and helps play up his potentially dominant fastball-breaking ball combo. It's worth adding that according to a scouting report from Jeff Moore of 20-80 Baseball, Hader's slider is actually a curveball that sits in the 76-78 MPH range with a big, sweeping break.
Still, Hader has a smaller build at 6'3" and 160 lbs, which coupled with a high-effort delivery from a low arm slot may not bode well for him being durable enough to remain a starter over the long-term. The fact that he only pitched 6.0 or more innings in just six of his 24 minor league appearances last season only further illustrates that concern. His changeup also needs to improve as a third offering and his command can get a bit wild at times, though his walk rate did improve after coming into the Brewers' organization.
At this point, it looks like a good bet that Hader will at the very least be able to make an impact out of the bullpen as a high-octane reliever who can get plenty of swings-and-misses. If he proves he can remain as a starter, however, he could have mid-rotation or better potential. He'll certainly be an exciting arm for Brewers' fans and prospect enthusiasts to keep an eye on this season as he figures to get an assignment to AAA Colorado Springs to start 2016.
Other notable lefties in the Brewers' organization include Nathan Kirby, Wei-Chung Wang, Kodi Medeiros, Brent Suter, and Hobbs Johnson. Developing impact pitching has never really been a strong suit for the Brewers historically, but it appears right now that they might have more legitimate pitching talent, both righties and lefties, than they ever have had in their farm system before.
MLB Pipeline's own Jonathan Mayo had this to say about the Brewers farm:
While the big league club doesn't figure to do much in 2016, it's an exciting time to be a Brewers fan given the state of the farm system as a whole. The future certainly looks bright in Milwaukee, we've just got to wait patiently as our many promising prospects, like Josh Hader, complete their development at the minor league level.
Statistics courtesy of Fangraphs