The Brewers have promoted top pitching prospect Josh Hader, FanRag Sports’ Robert Murray reports. Hader will begin his MLB career as a relief pitcher. Right-hander Paolo Espino was optioned to Triple-A Colorado Springs in a corresponding move, the team announced.
[Updated Brewers depth chart at Roster Resource]
Hader, 23, was originally a 19th-round pick for the Orioles in the 2012 draft, and he has already been part of two notable deadline trades in this career — the 2013 swap that sent Bud Norris from Baltimore to Houston, and the 2015 deal that sent Carlos Gomez and Mike Fiers to the Astros. That latter deal has already paid big dividends for Milwaukee in the form of Domingo Santana, and could continue to pay off with top prospects Brett Phillips and now Hader both making their MLB debuts this season.
From his humble draft slot and multiple organizational changes, Hader has emerged as a highly-regarded young arm. Baseball Prospectus ranked the southpaw as the 19th-best prospect in the entire sport prior to the season, with Baseball America (#33), MLB.com (#38), and ESPN’s Keith Law (#71) also touting Hader as a minor leaguer to watch. Hader has a 3.26 ERA, 10.1 K/9 and 2.56 K/BB rate over 541 career IP in the minors, with 95 of his 127 games coming as a starting pitcher.
That impressive strikeout rate has come at the cost of some control (4.0 BB/9), and the 2017 Baseball America Prospect Handbook cited Hader’s control and inconsistent changeup as possible impediments to his potential. On the plus side, Hader has a unique delivery that makes it difficult for hitters to see his tough slider and a fastball that clocks in the 92-97mph range.
It’s worth noting that Hader hasn’t performed very well at the Triple-A level both this season and last, with a 5.28 ERA over 121 frames, though that could be due to Colorado Springs’ elevation and the generally hitter-friendly nature of the Pacific Coast League. Bringing him up as a reliever will allow the Brewers to ease Hader into a big league environment, while also giving the team some much-needed left-handed balance in the pen; Hader is now the only southpaw on the Brew Crew’s entire 25-man roster.
Should Hader spent the rest of the year on the Major League roster, he’ll clock only 115 days of service time and likely fall short of Super Two eligibility (given the Super Two cutoff points of recent years). This would extend Milwaukee’s control over Hader an extra year, so the lefty wouldn’t be arbitration-eligible until after the 2020 season and couldn’t become a free agent until after the 2023 season. Given the lack of left-handed options on the Brewers’ roster, there certainly appears to be opportunity for Hader to stick in the bigs if he performs well.