We missed on this one, but not really. Several of the prospects ahead of Woodruff will not contribute to the Brewers for at least a few years, so the fact that Brandon contributed the third most WAR of any top ten prospect out of the tenth spot in our list is a bit misleading.
But not too misleading. Woodruff looks to have a very good chance of being in the Milwaukee rotation to start the 2018 season, especially with the injury that will keep Jimmy Nelson out for much of the season. It’s possible that the Brewers will sign two free agent starters, which could relegate Brandon to Colorado Springs or the bullpen to start the season, but it’s also plausible that he will take the ball every fifth day in the big leagues, so long as he’s healthy.
Woodruff worked 43 innings in eight starts for Milwaukee after his August call-up, going 2-3 with a 4.81 ERA (xFIP of 4.72). His WHIP was at 1.33. That was good for a fWAR of 0.6, trailing only Josh Hader and Brett Phillips among Brewers rookies in that category.
Woodruff jumped into the top ten list last winter off of a surprisingly successful 2016 campaign at A+ and AA ball. He put together very solid numbers in 2017 at AAA Colorado Springs. For those two minor league seasons, he had a 3.20 ERA , WHIP of 1.13, and worked 233.1 innings. Over that span he allowed just 14 home runs and struck out hitters at a rate of 9.4 per 9 innings pitched.
Hi small sample size as a major league starter saw him allow 5 homers in those 43 innings, or a rate of 1.05 per nine innings. That almost doubles his minor league rate for the last two seasons of 0.54. He was even higher at the major league level than his 0.96 HR/9 at Colorado Springs.
So were we wrong in only voting Woodruff in at the tenth top prospect slot? Probably so. It is quite possible that Woodruff will produce a career WAR that would put him into the top three of this group. A good minor league season doesn’t alter scouts’ perceptions very quickly; it sometimes takes two or three years to erase low grades.
It would appear that Woodruff is headed for a solid back-of-the-rotation type of career in the major leagues. That certainly far from a guarantee though, of course. He might just never advance beyond what he exhibited last year, settling in as a depth arm in a swingman or bullpen role. The Brewers might sign two starters this offseason who produce well while Woodruff struggles at AAA.
Woodruff has shown enough control to make me think that he will master his craft at the major league level to be in a rotation somewhere for the next 5-10 years. He has shown durability in the minors and could contribute 200+ innings for several seasons.
It’s always nice to undervalue a prospect. It certainly beats the alternative.
Statistics courtesy of Fangraphs