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Milwaukee Brewers: What to expect from Brandon Woodruff

The Brewers officially added Woodruff to the Opening Day rotation. What can you expect from the Brewers No. 3 prospect?

MLB: Spring Training-Milwaukee Brewers at Chicago Cubs Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports

Brandon Woodruff has made the Opening Day rotation for the Milwaukee Brewers. Woodruff is one of the young arms the Brewers hope to propel them in the right direction, and it looks like he’ll get his shot right out of the gates.

The skinny:

Woodruff is a 25-year-old right-hander, listed at 6-foot-2 and 225 pounds. He was drafted in the 11th round of the 2014 MLB Draft out of Mississippi State where he was the Friday night starter before shifting to the bullpen. Statistically speaking, Woodruff was uninspiring in his junior season, logging a 6.75 ERA while striking out 29 and walking 25 in 37.1 innings. Still, the Brewers were enamored enough by his stuff to take a chance and it looks like it may pay off.

Woodruff has battled injuries here and there in both college and the minors. His big-league debut may have been earlier but an injury in June put him on the shelf last season.

The stuff:

John Sickels has Woodruff listed as the Brewers’ third-best prospect in his preseason Top 20, No. 109 overall in his Top 175. Here’s what he thinks about his stuff:

… hard sinker gets up to 96-97; working in a slider and change-up; relatively polished but has the occasional “what the hell was that?” bad start; nothing left to learn in the minors, should be a durable inning-eater; this is the same grade he got last year; ETA 2018.

The sinker is his best offering, coming at hitters hard, but his secondary pitches will decide his fate. Despite both his slider and change being average, he attacks hitters and throws with confidence, giving both the upside of being much more. Thanks to that sinker, he has always been an extreme groundball pitcher, posting a 48.0 percent rate in the hitter’s paradise of the Pacific Coast League last season. That’s invaluable.

Take a look at his delivery. Both are from last season, the first in Colorado with the Sky Sox, the second his first MLB batter. It looks like he slowed down in the bigs, which should help him repeat it more consistently, an issue he has had in the past. That should help the crispness of both his slider and change.

Minors:

Majors:

What to expect:

Woodruff has the stuff to be a viable big-league option, it would just be nice to see it from start to finish. His ceiling is probably the No. 3 with back-of-the-rotation innings-eater as his floor.

The 25-year-old has proven he can miss bats leading the minors with 173 strikeouts in 158 innings in his 2016 breakout season. He’s shown he can get in and out of trouble by limiting damage with ground balls. The key is eliminating the “what the hell was that?” outings John referred to as well as consistency in his slider and change. If he can throw that slider at its best 80 to 90 percent of the time instead of 50 percent of the time, Woodruff suddenly has two strikeout options in his arsenal.

Woodruff had a rather ho-hum spring, but he has struck out 15 in 12.2 innings while only walking three, despite being roped at a .327 batting average against. Jimmy Nelson has not even begun throwing off a mound yet. Jhoulys Chacin is, well, Jhoulys Chacin. Woodruff’s spot should be secure early on as he works through the growing pains.