Unlikely heroes? Here are four X-factor candidates for a long Brewers run 

October 7th, 2021

To make a deep postseason run, the Brewers will need contributions from the entire 26-man roster.

While stars like Corbin Burnes, Brandon Woodruff, and Josh Hader are guaranteed to play a big role, the Brewers have several under-the-radar players with the potential to swing a series.

Here are some potential X-factor candidates heading into the postseason.

Aaron Ashby

The Brewers haven’t been shy about deploying rookies in prominent postseason roles. In 2018, the team used a trio of rookie pitchers in Burnes, Woodruff, and Freddy Peralta for key innings out of the bullpen.

Aaron Ashby might be in for a similar treatment this October.

The lefty has flashed brilliance at times this year, including a stretch where he produced a 1.78 ERA and 38 strikeouts over 11 games and 30.1 innings pitched. With his sinking fastball and nasty slider, Ashby has struck out over 29 percent of the batters he’s faced this year.

Ashby also gives the Crew some versatility with his ability to go multiple innings – he pitched two or more frames in nine of his 13 appearances. However, manager Craig Counsell could also decide to use Ashby as a high-leverage weapon with star setup man Devin Williams unavailable.

Either way, look for the Crew to get creative with Ashby this October.

Luis Urías

It might seem odd to list the Brewers leader in games played, hits, plate appearances, and runs as an X-factor candidate. Yet with Rowdy Tellez, Willy Adames, and Eduardo Escobar all healthy and figuring to play big roles, it’s unclear how many games Urías will start, especially against right-handed pitching.

One thing is for certain, though: Urías will get plenty of playing time.

The Mexico native has been one of the biggest sparks for the Crew all season: he ranks third on the team with a .789 OPS and second with both 75 RBI and 23 homers. His numbers look even better since May 22 – he’s since produced an .823 OPS with a .470 slugging in 110 games.

Urías is capable of playing third, second, or shortstop, and should garner starts against left-handed pitching – like Braves starter Max Fried in Game 2.

Expect “Wicho” to get plenty of meaningful at-bats throughout the postseason.

Adrian Houser

Burnes, Woodruff, and Peralta have rightfully earned a lot of attention while headlining the Brewers rotation this season. But Houser’s season has been sparkling in its own right.

The righty produced a career-best 3.22 ERA on the year, holding opponents to a .228 average and .662 OPS in the process.

It’s yet to be announced whether Houser will start games or come out of the bullpen in the NLDS, but his numbers are encouraging either way.

Houser has pitched as a reliever 29 times in his career, mostly to excellent results. He holds a 1.82 ERA out of the bullpen, striking out 49 batters in 54 innings. Houser also excels in generating groundballs with a 60.5 percent ground ball rate this season – a weapon that can help his team out of potential jams.

Whether it’s as a starter or in the bullpen, Houser should play a major role for the Crew in the NLDS.

Tyrone Taylor

Despite playing just 93 games at the Big League level this year, Taylor has been a part of some huge moments for the Crew – like his game-sealing grand slam against the White Sox on July 23.

While he’s taken a back seat to the Crew’s veteran outfield, Taylor has stepped up when Counsell’s called upon him, producing a solid .778 OPS and 12 homers.

Taylor especially feasts on left-handed pitching: he’s slashed .298/.337/.500 against southpaws, good for an .837 OPS and five home runs.

With Christian Yelich, Lorenzo Cain, and Avisaíl García all healthy heading into the postseason, Taylor may not start many, if any, games in October. But don’t be surprised if his name is called for some big at-bats against lefty pitching.