Eric Lauer’s return to the Brewers’ rotation was disastrous. Justin Grimm’s attempt to pitch in relief for the Brewers has not worked out to this point. The result was a shake with Lauer going to Appleton and Grimm going on the IL with a blister. One of the pitchers coming to the big league club to take one of the spots vacated will be Drew Rasmussen.
Rasmussen’s story is one about overcoming adversity in the form of two Tommy John surgeries. The first came in March 2016. He recovered and returned to his college team, Oregon State. He pitched well enough to be drafted in the first round at #31 overall in the 2017 draft by the Tampa Bay Rays.
As has been chronicled multiple times, the Rays’ organization found something in that surgically repaired elbow that concerned them. In fact it concerned the staff so much that they decided not to sign the young hurler.
The Rays’ concerns were justified. Based on the results found from the physical the Rays medical staff performed, Rasmussen went under the knife again for a second Tommy John surgery. Unfortunately for him, he sat out his entire senior season at Oregon State. He would not pitch competitively again until the Brewers took a chance and drafted him in 2018 in the sixth round.
Once he came to the Brewers’ organization, he worked out extensively with members of the medical team and as strength and conditioning. The work paid off, because Rasmussen had a very good 2019 across three minor league levels.
Rasmussen so impressive for the Timber Rattlers, he lasted all of one game before going up to Carolina. He stayed a little longer there; four games. His next stop was AA, Biloxi where he did run into some trouble. While there he went through a stretch that saw him give up 15 runs in 12.2 innings.
By his own admission he was fatigued by the All-Star Break. Adjustments made to his workouts and rests led to much better results down the stretch of the 2019 season.
Rasmussen performed well during the Blue/Gold World Series where he struck out five of the six hitters he faced. Coming into the opening of the season, Rasmussen was granted a spot on the 60-man roster and sent to the Brewers’ alternate training site.
Rasmussen stands at 6’1” and 225 lbs. While not imposing, he possesses a solid foundation to drive from the legs. Couple that with very quick arm action, Rasmussen brings elite velocity.
Rasmussen comes straight over the top with his delivery -- think Curt Schilling. Again, once Rasmussen comes to his release point, the ball explodes out of his hand from that top-down delivery. There is whip action that creates that explosiveness.
On occasion, he does have trouble getting on top of that delivery effectively enough to keep the ball down. Sometimes it looks like he over compensates down. That could turn into release point issues for him, and possibly could have caused some of his control problems last year in Biloxi. The Brewers pitching gurus have likely been working to build a consistent wind up and follow through.
With two major surgeries on his elbow, many believe Rasmussen is destined for the bullpen. Right now Milwaukee is developing him like a starter, and it makes sense. Scouts say he has a starter’s delivery. With a four-pitch mix, there is a chance Milwaukee fans do see him in the rotation one day. In 2020, at least, he will likely come out of the bullpen.
Rasmussen threw in the mid- to high-90s with an impressive slider prior to his surgeries. Now he can touch 99-100 mph on the radar gun with a hard slider still rates well. His fastball rides and that allows him to pitch inside effectively, and scouts have rated his four-seamer at a 70 current and future value. He compliments his hard hard stuff with a changeup. The change comes at hitters in the upper 80s and adds a third effective offering. He recently added a new pitch to his repertoire to keep opposing hitters off balanced; a curveball.
To reinforce some of this Brooks Baseball offered the following about Rasmussen's fastball:
His fourseam fastball generates an extremely high number of swings & misses compared to other pitchers’ fourseamers, is blazing fast, results in somewhat more groundballs compared to other pitchers’ fourseamers and has some added backspin.
Rasmussen demonstrated his first round stuff in 2019. He averaged 11.6 K/9 and 3.8 BB/9 while posting a 3.15 ERA through 74.1 innings across three minor league levels last year. His only hiccup was the stretch prior to the All-Star Break in 2019.
Breaking down Rasmussen’s struggles prior to the All-Star Break, June is the month that stands out. The now 25 year-old-hurler posted a 7.07 ERA over 14 innings. During that month he had a 1.86 WHIP. Add in his last few starts in May, you see 20 of the 31 walks he gave up in 2019.
After refining his training and rest, Rasmussen had a dominant July that saw him post a 1.29 ERA and a 0.93 WHIP. He had one bad outing to begin the month of August, but otherwise continued to dominate throughout the rest of the year.
What is really enticing about Rasmussen is his ability to strike out hitters at a high clip while also inducing ground balls when hitters do make contact. At Biloxi last season Rasmussen struck out more than 11 per nine while putting up a 46.5% ground ball percentage.
All reports indicate that he has been impressive at the alternate training site. He certainly impressed during the Blue/Gold World Series. During that series, he faced six hitters, and he struck out five of them.
Statistics courtesy of Fangraphs, Baseball Reference, and Baseball Savant