3 Brewers Who Won’t Make Opening Day Roster But Will Contribute in ’21
By Leo Koenig
162 games is a long season. Just because Brewers fans won’t see every player in the organization suiting up for the big league club on April 1st, doesn’t mean they won’t still make contributions at some point in 2021.
Pitchers and hitters alike will need to re-adjust to the physical demands of the marathon season, and injuries, rest, Covid-19 and other factors will cause the Brewers organization to get creative and call up players from the minors as they see fit.
With that said, here are three Brewers players to keep an eye on throughout the season, even if they miss the Opening Day roster.
1. LHP Aaron Ashby
22-year-old lefty Aaron Ashby has been impressive for Milwaukee in Spring Training in 2021. He is currently the No. 7 prospect in Milwaukee’s system according to MLB Pipeline, and was the organization’s Minor League Pitcher of the Year in 2019, one year after the Brewers drafted him in the fourth round.
There figures to be opportunities for spot starts in this 2021 season, with Craig Counsell likely wanting to play it safe with his pitching staff and make sure they are at full strength heading into the all-important final stretch of the season. This is where Ashby could see a role this season, even though he won’t make the Opening Day roster.
Brewers fans should be excited about Ashby’s potential as a future member of the rotation. His arsenal of pitches is deep, but he is especially known for his fastball and slider. Also, Ashby likes to get creative and throw batters’ timing and rhythm off by tweaking his delivery every now and then– making his appearances entertaining to watch.
2. LHP Ethan Small
Ethan Small, another young left-hander, may very well contribute at some point in the 2021 season, even though he was drafted so recently, selected as Milwaukee’s first-round pick back in 2019.
Like Ashby, it is possible that Small makes appearances as a spot starter this season, but it is also plausible that he would follow in the footsteps of other homegrown Brewers pitchers Brandon Woodruff and Corbin Burnes, and make his debut as a reliever, before transitioning back into a starter’s role.
Currently the No. 4 prospect in Milwaukee’s system, Small is known for his fastball and changeup command. His relatively low velocity could be beneficial out of the bullpen, complimenting the flamethrowers the Brewers have like Josh Hader and Woodruff.
Small was a college star at Mississippi State, and the experience he got playing there has prepared him well for his shot in the big leagues.
3. OF Tyrone Taylor
Tyrone Taylor broke through with the Brewers at the big league level in 2020 after registering just 12 plate appearances as a September call-up in 2019. He was certainly serviceable last season in another small sample size with a .793 OPS and 2 home runs.
Taylor’s chances of making the Opening Day roster were hindered significantly when the Crew signed Jackie Bradley Jr. to add to an outfield that already featured three everyday players in Christian Yelich, Lorenzo Cain, and Avisail Garcia.
That being said, Taylor has an advantage as opposed to other fringe roster candidates in the outfield. Unlike fellow outfielders Billy McKinney and Derek Fisher, Taylor still has a minor league option remaining.
So although it is unlikely that the Brewers would choose to carry five outfielders on Opening Day, Taylor has the inside track at being the first guy called up to the show if or when one of the starting outfielders has to miss time. Whether or not he is able to capitalize on those potential opportunities will be crucial to his career as a whole.
These are just a few of the players currently in camp who probably won’t be around on Opening Day but could make appearances later in the season. Of all those players, these three are the ones Brewers fans will have the best chances of seeing in The Show later in 2021.