Three Up, Three Down: Josh Hader Racks Up The Ks
Josh Hader, LHP, Brewers
Hader entered 2017 ranked as the No. 1 lefthanded pitching prospect in the game. He’s never made a single major league start, and yet he’s still living up to that lofty billing. Hader’s ridiculous run of relief dominance reached a crescendo on Monday night, when he recorded eight strikeouts in 2.2 innings of relief to lock down the save in the Brewers 6-5 win over the Reds. He became the first pitcher in MLB history to strike out eight batters in a relief appearance of less than three innings, and all of his strikeouts were swinging. It was a historic performance, and yet not entirely out of character. Hader has struck out 39 of the 62 batters he’s faced this season. In his career, he’s faced 250 batters and struck out 107 of them.
Odubel Herrera, OF, Phillies
Without much fanfare, Herrera is making a strong case for the best Rule 5 draft pick of the decade. The Phillies plucked Herrera from the Rangers as the eighth player taken in the 2014 Rule 5 draft. He’s already been an All-Star for Philadelphia, and now he’s on a 30-game on-base streak that’s helping to accelerate the Phillies’ rebuilding timetable. Herrera has flourished as the Phillies' No. 3 hitter this year, leading the National League in batting average while posting a .905 OPS. He is also playing a jaw-dropping center field, including his latest spectacular catch to rob Freddie Freeman of a home run over the weekend.
Mitch Haniger, OF, Mariners
Haniger led the minors in OPS in 2016 and now he’s showing that it wasn’t a Pacific Coast League–driven fluke. Haniger leads the American League with 10 home runs this season despite playing his home games at Safeco Field, and he has emerged as the primary driver of the Mariners' bid to end the longest playoff drought in all four major North American professional sports. Haniger has now played 157 career games, roughly a season’s worth, and in that time has hit .277/.349/.510 with 31 home runs and 91 RBIs.
Austin Jackson, OF, Giants
Jackson was supposed to be part of the solution to the Giants’ offensive problems. Instead, he’s just furthered them. Jackson is hitting .219 with zero home runs and 28 strikeouts in 78 plate appearances, part of the reason the Giants are getting the worst production from their center fielders in the major leagues. The Giants so far have been able to overcome those struggles with a 15-14 record, but the drag on the lineup from their center fielders isn’t sustainable for the long run.
Devin Williams Breaks Through In New Role
The power-armed Williams returned from Tommy John surgery in 2018, but he didn't really find his groove until moving to the bullpen in 2019.
Antonio Senzatela, RHP, Rockies
After a strong rookie campaign last year, Senzatela is experiencing a pronounced sophomore slump. The three-time Rockies Top 10 prospect failed to make the starting rotation out of camp and has been a disaster in the bullpen, posting a 6.23 ERA with 23 hits allowed in 17.1 innings. The main issue has been Senzatela’s secondary pitches. Per Brooks Baseball, opponents are batting .400 against his slider this year after batting .250 against it last year, and .667 against his curveball after posting a .143 mark last year.
Luke Weaver, RHP, Cardinals
Weaver’s double-plus control has left him, and thus so has his success. The 2016 Top 100 Prospect made his first Opening Day rotation in 2018 and has scuffled with a 5.17 ERA through his first six starts. He’s walked 14 batters in 31.1 innings, nearly twice his rate last year when he walked 17 in 60.1 innings. While opponents still don’t square him up well (.248 opponent average), Weaver’s sudden loss of control—his biggest strength as a young pitching prospect—has put him in a bind and made his spot in the Cardinals' rotation appear increasingly tenuous.