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Milwaukee Brewers Prospects to Know for 2017: Arms

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Taking a look at the pitchers who could make an impact in Milwaukee this season.

MLB: Milwaukee Brewers-Workouts Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports

The regular season is officially underway for the Milwaukee Brewers, though things haven’t quite gotten off to the start that most would have hoped for. The club dropped their first two contests of the year against the Rockies before getting their first ‘W’ last night, and they’ve already had to deal with a significant injury (Junior Guerra’s strained calf), forcing them to dip into their minor league reserves to fortify the roster. Bringing up players from the minors may very well be a theme this year for the Milwaukee Nine, and the Brewers do boast one of the top farm systems in the league from which to draw as the rebuild continues.

Minor League Opening Day is set today, so let's continue our look at the prospects and rookie-eligible players that the casual fan should be aware of, those who could impact the Major League team this season. Yesterday we discussed the position players that one should be acquainted with, so today we’ll discuss the pitchers to be on the lookout for. Keep in mind with the unique situation at Colorado Springs, we could see players called-up from both the AAA and AA levels straight to the big leagues this year:

LHP Josh Hader
MLB Pipeline Rank: 3
2017 Age: 23

Hader is Milwaukee’s best and most advanced pitching prospect, and is considered by MLB Pipeline to be the best left-handed arm currently in the minor leagues. He runs his fastball up to the plate at speeds up to 97 MPH and gets swings-and-misses with his plus slider. He struck out 161 batters in just 126.0 innings of work last season between AA and AAA. Hader’s middling control leads to high pitch counts and more walks than one would like, and his changeup still needs refinement in order to be a useful pitch against big leaguers. Those issues, combined with a small frame and low arm slot, may eventually land Hader in the bullpen. If everything goes as hoped, however, Hader has the upside of a #3 starter or perhaps more. He’ll get the Opening Day start for the Sky Sox tonight.

RHP Brandon Woodruff
MLB Pipeline Rank: 8
2017 Age: 24

A former 11th round pick, Woodruff made huge strides last year between high-A and AA. He lead the minor leagues in strikeouts with 173 and posted a 2.68 ERA in 158.0 combined innings en route to winning Milwaukee’s Minor League Pitcher of the Year award. Woodruff’s fastball velocity ticked up to the 93-95 MPH range last season, and he also mixes in an above-average slider and solid changeup. The arsenal plays up because of Woodruff’s strong command, which improved after changing his delivery from college. If Woodruff can continue down the path he started last season, he should be a mid-rotation option in the big leagues before too long. He’ll start the year with Hader in AAA.

RHP Jorge Lopez
MLB Pipeline Rank: 14
2017 Age: 24

At this time last year it looked like Lopez was primed for his chance at the big league level, but a disastrous 2016 season has knocked him down a few pegs on the organizational depth chart. Lopez’s command took a huge step backwards as he walked 55 batters in 79.1 innings at Colorado Springs before getting demoted to Biloxi. He did right the ship a bit after being relegated to AA, at least, and he had an outstanding showing in winter ball. Lopez can still miss bats with his plus fastball and excellent curve, but unless he can greatly improve his consistency with his command, Lopez may ultimately be bound for the bullpen. He’ll start the year in AA Biloxi, hoping to avoid the same calamity that befell him with the Sky Sox last season.

LHP Brent Suter
MLB Pipeline Rank: n/a
2017 Age: 27

Suter made his big league debut last season and tossed a solid 21.2 innings with Milwaukee during August and September, posting a 3.32 ERA and 15:5 K/BB ratio. The definition of a soft-tosser, the Harvard grad and former 31st-round pick tops out in the mid-80s with his fastball but also mixes in a sinker, slider, changeup, and curveball while working at a brisk pace to keep hitters off balance. He narrowly missed making the Opening Day roster, but Suter was the first man summoned to The Show to fill the void when Junior Guerra went down with injury. He’s been a swing-man throughout his minor league career and figures to fill a similar role with the Brewers going forward, though he’s posted better results as a reliever.

LHP Andrew Barbosa
MLB Pipeline Rank: n/a
2017 Age: 29

Signed as a minor league free agent over the winter, Barbosa posted dominant numbers with the Mets’ organization last year. In 16 appearances covering 71.2 innings, Barbosa authored a 1.51 ERA, 0.907 WHIP, and 71:19 K/BB ratio. He brandished an upper-80s fastball along with a slider and changeup this spring and could get an opportunity to carve out a niche as a left-handed reliever in the MLB this season. He’ll start the year in AAA.

RHP Paolo Espino
MLB Pipeline Rank: n/a
2017 Age: 30

A long-time farmhand of the Indians and Nationals, Espino signed a minor league deal with Milwaukee this past offseason. He showed well in spring, wielding a five-pitch arsenal of an 88-92 MPH fastball, sinker, slider, changeup, and a curveball, his best offering. He commands all of his pitches well. Espino posted a 3.30 ERA and 133:29 K/BB ratio in AAA last season and has quietly been one of the most dominant pitchers in the upper minors for the last several seasons. He’ll be hoping this is finally the year he gets a chance to prove himself in the MLB and will start the season with AAA Colorado Springs.

RHP Stephen Kohlscheen
MLB Pipeline Rank: n/a
2017 Age: 28

This will be Kohlscheen’s second year with the Brewers’ organization after he posted a 2.54 ERA and 67:17 K/BB ratio in 49.1 innings with AA Biloxi last season, including saving 23 games as the Shuckers’ closer. His fastball sat 92-94 MPH this spring along with a hard slider in the 85-88 MPH range. He’s always missed bats during his 7 year minor league career, but if the command continues to stay consistent this might be the year he gets a chance to work out of the big league bullpen. He’ll start the year in AAA.

RHP Damien Magnifico
MLB Pipeline Rank: n/a
2017 Age: 26

Magnifico debuted briefly with Milwaukee in 2017, spending over a month on the big league roster but working in only 3 games. The righty throws hard and has touched 100 MPH with his fastball in the past, and was sitting 96-98 MPH this spring along with an 83-86 MPH slider. Magnifico has lackluster control and last season at AAA was the first time he’s every really missed bats at an acceptable rate (8.9 K/9 in 2016, 7.0 K/9 career average). Even though he throws gas, Magnifico’s upside might be more of an up-and-down arm or middle reliever because of those issues. He’ll start the year with Colorado Springs.

RHP Jon Perrin
MLB Pipeline Rank: n/a
2017 Age: 24

Perrin has already exceeded the lowly expectations of being a 28th-round pick in 2015 after completing his senior year of college. He made it all the way to AA last season, posting a 3.06 ERA and 144:23 K/BB ratio in 150.0 innings across three minor league levels. He throws a low-90s fastball along with a quality slider and changeup, has displayed tremendous command, and has the body type to become a durable innings-eater at the back of a big league rotation. He’ll start the year in AA but could reach the MLB soon if he continues the success he’s experienced since signing his first pro contract.

RHP Forrest Snow
MLB Pipeline Rank: n/a
2017 Age: 28

A longtime farmhand of the Mariners, Snow signed a minor league deal with the Brewers during the past offseason. He’s been both a starter and reliever during his career and last season posted a 2.83 ERA and 61:15 K/BB ratio in 54.0 innings with three starts and 25 relief appearances. Snow utilized a 90-93 MPH fastball this spring along with a 77-80 MPH splitter, also mixing in a curve and slider more sparingly. He’ll be in AA to start the year.

RHP Aaron Wilkerson
MLB Pipeline Rank: n/a
2017 Age: 28

Wilkerson arrived to Milwaukee last summer as a part of the return from Boston for Aaron Hill. The righty went undrafted out of college and used the independent leagues as a springboard to pro ball. He posted a combined 3.73 ERA and 159:41 K/BB ratio in 147.0 innings last season between AA and AAA, utilizing a low-90s fastball along with a slider, changeup, and curveball. He’ll start the year back in AA and will get the Shuckers’ Opening Day start tonight.

RHP Taylor Williams
MLB Pipeline Rank: n/a
2017 Age: 25

Williams was once considered one of Milwaukee’s best pitching prospects, but he missed the last two full seasons while recovering from Tommy John surgery. His velocity is reportedly back in the upper-90s, and before the surgery his slider and command were both considered to be above-average. Williams is a bit of a wild card coming back from such a long lay-off, but the Brewers obviously liked his potential enough to place him on the 40 man roster last winter and give him an aggressive assignment to AA Biloxi to start the 2017 season. If Williams can show he’s all the way back from his surgery, it wouldn’t be a big surprise to see him in Milwaukee’s bullpen later on in the year.

Statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference and Brooks Baseball