During the Doug Melvin era the Brewers weren’t exactly known as a franchise with a strong track record of developing pitching in the minor leagues.
From 2008-2011 the Brewers took five pitchers in the first rounds: Jake Odorizzi, Eric Arnett, Kyle Heckathorn, Taylor Jungmann, and Jed Bradley. Striking out over and over again – leaving the franchise with a revolving door in the rotation.
Enter David Stearns, who has reshaped this franchise in ways most fans couldn’t imagine. The Brewers have now made the postseason in four consecutive seasons, matching the total number of playoff appearances in the franchise’s 46 year history prior to Stearns’ arrival.
This is in large part because of the Brewers success in developing their pitching staff. With the addition of the Brewers pitching lab, pitchers have been able to better analyze their throws and sharpen their stuff through a very forward thinking process. This has helped pitchers identify what works for them and how to better utilize it moving forward.
In recent years the Brewers have produced internal success stories such as Brandon Woodruff, Corbin Burnes, Freddy Peralta, Josh Hader, and Devin Williams.
The Brewers big three at the top of the rotation are all currently rank in the top 5 in ERA among starting pitchers. What makes them unique is that they all followed a similar path to where they are now. Milwaukee was able to identify when their best pitchers were major league ready, and instead of forcing them into a rotation spot, they moved them to the bullpen to help contribute in the majors.
This has allowed the pitchers to adapt to the major league talent difference in a more controlled way. Then after they’ve established themselves, usher them into the rotation on a more permanent basis after they’ve gotten some major league innings under their belt.
The Brewers have found great success in deploying pitchers in this manner and Aaron Ashby is the next in line.
The road to the rotation for Aaron Ashby
Aaron Ashby was a 4th round draft pick in 2018 out of Crowder Junior College. The following season Ashby posted a 3.50 ERA in 126 innings between two levels and earned himself the Brewers minor league pitcher of the year.
Ashby made his major league debut earlier this season and did not go according to plan. In his first start against the Cubs, he gave up 7 runs (4 earned) while only recording two outs, which is not exactly a storybook debut.
Since the, Ashby has a 1.42 ERA / 0.75 WHIP with 28 strikeouts in 25.1 innings. In those outings he’s shown great stuff and an elite ground ball percentage. Simply put, he’s looked better than advertised.
One can’t help but notice that Ashby has been introduced to the majors in a similar fashion to both Brandon Woodruff and Corbin Burnes. Both had made appearances out of the bullpen until ultimately earning their way into the starting rotation. While it may not have been the pitchers preference when they were called up, it’s hard to argue with the results.
In the short term, Ashby has proved to be a real asset in the Brewers bullpen. His stuff has been nasty and he’s able to provide the Brewers multiple innings when they need them. This experience has no doubt been beneficial for the young southpaw, but make no mistake about it his time in the rotation is just around the corner.
Right now the focus is on being the best player he can in the role that’s being asked of him.
Entering 2022 I fully expect Aaron Ashby to join the Brewers already dominant rotation, continuing the club’s track record of developing difference making pitchers.
It may be a crowded group, but Ashby has the stuff to force himself into the rotation and the Brewers have continuously stated they view him as a starter long-term.