Crew's Hader aces in Fall League victory
Club's No. 14 prospect tosses four shutout frames, allows two hits, strikes out three
Whether he's starting or coming out of the bullpen, Josh Hader is showing that he can dominate in any role in the Arizona Fall League .
The Brewers' No. 14 prospect was brilliant in his first Fall League start Thursday, allowing two hits and one walk over four scoreless innings as Surprise defeated Scottsdale, 3-1, at Scottsdale Stadium.
Hader issued one walk and struck out three batters in the outing, throwing 34 of his 55 pitches for strikes. The 21-year-old left-hander has made three consecutive scoreless appearances for the Saguaros, allowing just three hits with 10 strikeouts over eight innings in that span.
After spending the first half of the Fall League in Surprise's bullpen, Hader didn't miss a beat Thursday in his transition to the rotation.
"Being in the bullpen makes it impossible to get in any long toss before taking the mound, so I just did what I can to keep my arm warm and loose," Hader said. "Today, it was basically back to normal, doing my normal starting routine."
On the season, Hader -- last week's Pitcher of the Week in the AFL -- owns a miniscule 0.64 ERA with 18 strikeouts and five walks in 14 innings. Opposing hitters, meanwhile, are batting a paltry .130 against him.
The stuff Hader has shown in the Fall League supports his impressive numbers. The 6-foot-3 lefty has been consistently hitting 94-98 mph with his fastball -- usually sitting in the 95-96 mph range -- while pitching to both sides of the plate.
On top of that, Hader, a 19th-round Draft pick in 2012 by the Orioles, also has shown impressive feel for his slider.
"My slider is probably my top pitch right now. I've been throwing it back door and back foot when I'm behind in the count. Just having that pitch is making my fastball more effective," Hader said.
"That was one of my main things to work on coming to Arizona, and I'm definitely proud about that. I worked with [then-Double-A Corpus Christi pitching coach Doug Brocail] and actually switched my grip mid-season. Since I've come out here, I've had a great feel for being able to throw it back door and back foot. I'm just trying to stay aggressive with it," he added.
Hader's positioning on the mound only adds to his deception; he creates crossfire in his delivery by setting up toward the first-base side of the rubber, which, in turn, makes it difficult to pick up the ball out of his hand, let alone recognize pitches and discern balls from strikes.
"I used to be on the third-base side of the rubber, but during the middle of the season I moved to where I'm at now. I think that was one of the big things that helped me on my slider as well, being able to stay closed longer and get through that pitch," Hader said.
Hader spent most of the season in Houston's system at Corpus Christi, where he posted a 3.17 ERA with 69 strikeouts in 65 1/3 innings before being dealt to Milwaukee as part of the Carlos Gomez deal at the Trade Deadline.
"When I got traded from Houston, I kind of had an idea about how to go about the situation. Both leagues were good, so it was just about staying competitive and throwing all my pitches for strikes and mixing them well," Hader said.
The southpaw finished his season at Double-A Biloxi, registering a 2.79 ERA with 50 strikeouts in 38 2/3 innings across seven starts. Between both Double-A stops, Hader posted a 3.03 ERA with 119 strikeouts and 35 walks in 104 innings.
His success has now carried over into the Fall League, where he's second among qualified pitchers in ERA, tied for fourth in strikeouts and ranks fifth in WHIP (0.79).
Surprise scored the game's first run in the top of the third inning, when Jurickson Profar's sacrifice fly to left field plated Charlie Tilson, who had singled earlier in the frame. In the seventh, Yadiel Rivera drove in Tilson with a single to extend the Saguaros' lead, while Roman Torres provided an insurance run with an RBI single in the ninth.
Scottsdale scored their lone run in the bottom of the ninth inning as Christian Arroyo's groundout to shortstop plated Red Sox No. 23 prospect Carlos Asujae, who tripled to right fielder earlier in the frame.
Tilson, the Cardinals' No. 7 prospect, finished 2-for-3 with a walk and scored two of Surprise's three runs in the contest, while Yankees' No. 18 prospect Dustin Fowler (.326 average) continued his hot hitting, going 2-for-5 out of the leadoff spot.
After replacing shortstop Tyler Wade in the fifth inning, Rivera, Milwaukee's No. 18 prospect, went 2-for-2 with an RBI to improve his Fall League average to .351.