May 30: The Brewers announced the selection of Small’s contract. The 40-man roster had a couple of vacancies, meaning no corresponding move was required in that regard. As for the active roster, Mark Mathias was optioned but then designated as the team’s 27th man for today’s doubleheader.
May 29: The Brewers are set to call up left-hander Ethan Small, ESPN.com’s Jeff Passan reports (Twitter link). It is the first big league promotion for Small, the 28th overall pick in the 2019 draft. Small isn’t on the Brewers’ 40-man roster, so multiple other moves will be forthcoming to create a spot for Small before his official call-up.
Now that Aaron Ashby has lost his prospect status, Small is widely considered to be the best pitching prospect in Milwaukee’s farm system — MLB Pipeline ranks Small as the Brewers’ seventh-best minor leaguer overall, while Baseball America ranks him ninth. Both outlets are particularly fond of Small’s changeup, a 60-grade pitch that nicely complements his lower-velocity (low 90s) but high-spin fastball. Beyond these two plus offerings, however, Small doesn’t have a primary third pitch, as his curveball and slider are nothing special and thus not prominent parts of his arsenal.
Between the lack of a third pitch and some control problems, it remains an open question about whether Small can make it as a starting pitcher or if the bullpen is his ultimate destination. That said, Small’s bottom-line results in his brief pro career have been impressive, as he has a 1.78 ERA and 31.95% strikeout rate over 136 2/3 innings in the minors, starting all 33 of his appearances.
This includes a 1.88 ERA over 38 1/3 innings at Triple-A Nashville this year, which was enough to convince the Brew Crew that Small was ready for the majors. With a doubleheader coming up tomorrow against the Cubs, Small might receive just the one spot start before heading back to Nashville, though Brandon Woodruff is dealing with a bad ankle.
If Woodruff has to miss his next outing or has to be placed on the injured list, it could provide Small with a longer opportunity to show that he can do against MLB hitters. Since Freddy Peralta is also going to be missing a big piece of the 2022 campaign, Small might now take over that “sixth starter” depth role, since Ashby has moved into the rotation.