As the 2017 MLB season winds down, Milwaukee Brewers rookie Brandon Woodruff is a pitcher to watch for September. He’s made four starts in the majors since early August and has performed well: 1.52 ERA in 23.2 innings with a 20/9 K/BB and 17 hits allowed. He was particularly excellent in his last start against the Washington Nationals on September 2nd, giving up one run in seven innings on two hits and a walk while fanning eight. He goes up against the Pittsburgh Pirates this evening.
A college pitcher at Mississippi State University, Woodruff had an undistinguished NCAA career and slipped to the 11th round of the 2014 draft. Pro ball was much more to his liking, particularly in 2016 when he posted a 2.68 ERA between High-A and Double-A. Woodruff ranked seventh on the pre-season Milwaukee Brewers Top 20 prospects for 2017 list, with this comment:
7) Brandon Woodruff, RHP, Grade B: Age 23, 11th round pick in 2014 out of Mississippi State; breakthrough season in 2016 with 14-9, 2.68 ERA in 158 innings between High-A and Double-A, 173/40 K/BB, just 121 hits; huge increase in strikeout rate compared to past seasons; fastball reportedly ticked up from low-90s into mid-90s; command improved as well, mixes in average slider and change-up; often viewed as a reliever in the past but performed well enough to change that reputation in ’16; hasn’t received a lot of attention yet outside Brewers circles but that deserves to change. ETA late 2017.
On the surface 2017 wasn’t as good in the minors. He missed time with a hamstring injury. When on the mound he posted a 4.30 ERA in 75 innings for Triple-A Colorado Springs, however he had a solid 70/25 K/BB and proved he could survive in thin air and extreme pro-hitting conditions. And as noted, he’s been excellent in the majors so far.
Woodruff is listed at 6-4, 215, born February 10th, 1993. He still has the improved velocity from 2016, working at 93-96 MPH. His command has held steady as well, thanks to mechanical changes made in 2016 that he’s maintained this season.
His slider is average to plus and is certainly more consistent than it was when he was drafted, and he’s made enough progress with his change-up for the Brewers to give him a shot as a starter. Makeup and mound presence are additional positives.
Don’t overlook this guy: he can be a workhorse starter with dominant moments.