by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)
While there weren’t many notable injuries the first few days of the season, the Brewers did lose starter Junior Guerra to a strained calf (which he injured on a sacrifice bunt) for the next 4-6 weeks (or more). With Matt Garza also on the shelf the Brewers’ rotation depth is going to be tested early. There are two obvious solutions, with one being immediate and one being potentially down the line, with fantasy owners likely thirsting for one over the other:
He took over after Guerra went down and will get the first start, though he’s not a name that’s going to excite many. The owner of a career 6.45 K/9 and 38.8% groundball rate, things could get ugly pitching in Milwaukee. He’s coming off a year where he posted a 1.95 HR/9 while pitching for the Twins, so it’s anyone’s guess as to how many long balls he could give up in ’17 (but the number is going to be ugly).
He has also yielded a career 22.5% line drive rate and 8.4% SwStr%. Sure he has some control, with a 2.27 BB/9, and the strikeout rate could rise slightly pitching in the NL. Regardless he’s not an option anyone is going to want to consider if he’s tabbed as the replacement.
Ranked as the #3 prospect in the Brewers’ system (click here for our full Top 10), it was always thought that Hader would debut in ’17. This injury could simply expedite the process, especially since he’s already on the team’s 40 man roster. He’s an intriguing talent who struggled upon his promotion to Triple-A last year, as we described by saying:
After thriving at Double-A (0.95 ERA over 57.0 IP) Hader stumbled in the Pacific Coast League (5.22 ERA over 69.0 IP). He showed strikeouts at both levels (K/9 of 11.53 and 11.48), though the control ballooned after the promotion (3.00 BB/9 to 4.70). With a minor league career mark of 3.8 BB/9 there’s reason to think it’s a bit of an aberration, especially after a 3.0 mark over 104.0 IP in 2015.
He also struggled with poor luck while at Triple-A, including a .345 BABIP and 63.2% strand rate. We’d like to see a few more groundballs (0.92 GO/AO over his minor league career), especially in Milwaukee, but there’s enough to like with his strikeout rate and solid control. If the control continues to be an issue it’s possible that he’s transitioned to the bullpen, but for now that’s not going to be a consideration.
Pitching at Colorado Springs in the PCL is not ideal for any pitcher, so you have to wonder if the rebuilding franchise would be better served to not subject Hader to the level once again. Of course there also is still a lot for him to work on, including his control and developing a pitch to get right-handed hitters out (he allowed 5 HR to righties at Triple-A last season). Is doing that at the highest level in his best interest?
If Hader is summoned there’s going to be growing pains, and he’ll likely be returned to Triple-A at some point once the rotation starts to get healthy. Is there long-term upside? Absolutely, but in the short-term it’s hard to get excited.
It would appear that there’s no good option coming for fantasy owners. While Hader’s strikeout stuff would make him worth adding, at the end of the day it’s hard to think he’ll be successful initially (outside of maybe a spot start). If you lost Guerra you’d be best served looking elsewhere.
Sources – MLB.com, MILB.com, Fangraphs
Make sure to check out our 2017 Pre-Season Rankings:
|Starting Pitcher||#1-20 |02/27/17|