Could this Brewers prospect be called up soon?

May 23rd, 2023

This story was excerpted from Adam McCalvy’s Brewers Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

MILWAUKEE -- As the Brewers creep closer and closer to the limits of their starting pitching depth, left-handed prospect Robert Gasser may be creeping closer and closer to an opportunity.

Gasser, the 23-year-old acquired from the Padres in the Josh Hader trade, and No. 7 on MLB Pipeline’s list of the Brewers' Top 30 Prospects, is 2-0 with a 4.74 ERA in eight games (seven starts) for Triple-A Nashville following his finest start of the season on Friday, when he allowed two runs on three hits in 6 2/3 innings of a victory at Durham and didn’t allow a run until the seventh.

It was a well-timed performance. With Eric Lauer landing on the injured list Monday, the Brewers are down three members of their Opening Day rotation (Brandon WoodruffWade Miley and Lauer) plus young lefty Aaron Ashby. Woodruff is still just playing catch, so he faces a long ramp-up to be in pitching shape. Miley is out 6-8 weeks, probably on the long end of that timeline. Ashby was only cleared to resume playing catch this week. Lauer’s timeline with an injury to his non-pitching shoulder is to be determined, based on the results of an MRI scan.

“Gasser is throwing the ball really well right now,” Brewers GM Matt Arnold said. “His last start was excellent. It’s a young guy with good stuff who is trying to figure out what the right mix is to get outs. That’s the most important thing for him. But [he’s a] great kid, great worker. Jeremy Accardo, our pitching coach in Triple-A, raves about him.”

Gasser has 47 strikeouts in 38 innings at Nashville, but he’s also issued 25 walks, including at least three walks in each of his last four starts. A pitcher can get away with some free passes in the Minors with swing-and-miss stuff. That’s more difficult to do in the Majors.

“That’s certainly a factor for him, just like every other guy,” Arnold said. “You have to harness the arsenal. I think he has the ability to do that because he’s really smart. He’s smart enough to understand that it’s just about refining. That’s probably the next hurdle for him.”

At the moment, the Brewers are down to four healthy starters: Corbin BurnesFreddy PeraltaAdrian Houser and Colin Rea, who is back in the big leagues after being optioned down, and starting Tuesday night against the Astros. Before he landed on the IL, Lauer was really struggling this season, and the Brewers briefly moved him to the bullpen after restoring him to the rotation out of need. Now, he’s out for a while.

If the team calls up another starter from Triple-A, Gasser is among the candidates with Janson Junk, who already made one Brewers start earlier this season, 29-year-old Thomas Pannone and Wisconsin native Caleb Boushley, also 29. Junk is already on the 40-man roster. Gasser, Pannone and Boushley are not. Junk and Pannone both have big league experience already.

Another factor for Gasser: The Brewers have typically preferred to bring up their top pitching prospects in relief, as was the case with Burnes, Woodruff and Peralta. Ashby’s Major League debut was a memorable start against the Cubs -- we’re not kidding about memorable -- before he eventually found success as more of a swingman.

Would the Brewers buck that trend and bring a prospect like Gasser to take a regular spot in the rotation?

“Yeah, I think we would be open to that,” Arnold said. “It’s really dictated on what our needs are at the big league level and what he’s ready for. I’ll lean on our pitching coaches here with [Chris] Hook and Jim [Henderson] and also with Jeremy and [Triple-A manager] Rick Sweet to see what’s best for him and the organization.

“Sure, we’ve talked about him [for a callup]. It’s just one of those things where you want to be sure when the time is right for him. He’s young and he’s moved fast through the Minor Leagues. We want to be cautious and be sure he’s ready for the next step. It’s a big step. But he has every ingredient to do it.”