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Pitching prospect Drew Rasmussen is sprinting up the minor league ladder

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He could be helping out in the big league bullpen later this summer.

NCAA Baseball: College World Series-Cal State Fullerton vs Oregon State Bruce Thorson-USA TODAY Sports

When the Milwaukee Brewers selected Drew Rasmussen in the sixth round of last summer’s MLB Draft, they knew that the right-hander would not throw a competitive pitch for them in 2018. Rasmussen underwent Tommy John surgery in the fall of 2017 — his second such procedure while in college at Oregon State — and missed his entire senior season while recovering. After he inked for a below-slot $135K bonus, the Brewers took responsibility for completing Rasmussen’s rehab and getting him prepped for his professional debut in 2019.

Rasmussen’s history of arm troubles presents an extreme amount of risk for a prospect, but scouting director Tod Johnson wouldn’t have rolled the dice unless there was plenty of upside at the end of the rehab tunnel. Only a year before in the 2017 draft, the Rays chose the right-hander with the 31st overall pick before a medical exam on his balky elbow scuttled negotiations. Now fully healthy, Rasmussen is not disappointing.

It began in Spring Training. Rasmussen didn’t have an MLB invite or appear in any Cactus League games, but he did manage to catch the eye of manager Craig Counsell during a live bullpen session at AmFam Fields of Phoenix in Maryvale. The org continued to take things slowly with Rasmussen, waiting until the second week of the minor league season to activate him. As it turned out, he would make his professional debut at Miller Park, pitching for the Class A Wisconsin Timber Rattlers in their annual contest at their parent club’s home stadium on April 12th. He started the contest against Quad Cities and began his professional career with two scoreless innings, allowing one hit while striking out three.

The outing at Miller Park proved to be something of a showcase for local fans of the big league Brewers, as Rasmussen was promoted to Class A-Advanced Carolina before his next start. Working on a strict pitch count, Drew would make four starts of between two and three innings over the next three weeks. Carolina League hitters proved to be little challenge for the 23 year old, as he covered 11.1 innings while yielding only two earned runs. Opponents hit a mere .171 against him, and he struck out 16 batters while walking only two. His stellar work began to catch the eyes of scouts.

Baseball America has described his stuff as “powerful” in a recent profile, saying:

His fastball consistently sits in the mid 90s and has touched 99 multiple times, according to scouts. He complements the pitch with a changeup and a slider that each settle in the 89-91 mph range. He shows excellent command with all three pitches and can get whiffs in or out of the zone.

Brewers Twitter scout Toby Harrmann of Brewerfan.net has suggested that the organization could be fast-tracking Rasmussen to help out in Milwaukee’s MLB bullpen at some point in 2019, and the scouts that BA talked to for their story tend to agree that his arsenal could help him quickly advance to the game’s highest level. Rasmussen has already been bumped up to Double-A Biloxi, making his Southern League debut earlier this week on Wednesday against Montgomery. He worked two innings, allowing three hits and a run while striking out one batter.

Rasmussen wants to dial in his fastball command and tighten up his slider as he continues to climb the minor league ladder, and he has hopes of adding a slower curveball or split-finger to his arsenal to give him something in a slower velocity band than his current slider and changeup. A new offering would give him a better chance to function as a starting pitcher down the road, but given his previous elbow injuries and Milwaukee’s need for relief pitching depth, expect the near-term priority to be on improving Rasmussen’s fastball/slider combo and fast-tracking him to the big leagues.

Armed with a fastball that approaches triple-digits, Drew Rasmussen has posted a 1.76 ERA along with a 20:2 K/BB ratio in 15.1 minor league innings so far this season. The advanced collegiate arm hasn’t missed a beat since returning from his second elbow surgery, and if he keeps going at this pace, it will be only a matter of time until he is in Milwaukee trotting out of the bullpen for our local nine.

Statistics courtesy of Fangraphs