Brewers' lefty prospect puts fastball on display in Futures Game
By Mike Bauman
SAN DIEGO -- U.S. Team pitcher Josh Hader made a brief but impressive appearance in the 2016 SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game, won by the World Team, 11-3, on Sunday at Petco Park.
The performance lasted long enough to show exactly why a recent wave of scouts have suggested the left-hander is on his way to a substantial Major League career.
Hader, the Brewers' No. 4 prospect who currently pitches at Triple-A Colorado Springs, entered the game with two outs in the eighth inning, with the U.S. trailing the World, 4-3. He promptly struck out Josh Naylor, an infielder in the Marlins' organization, with a 96-mph fastball.
Hader's work was done, but the point had been made. This is a pitcher who is knocking on the door of the Major Leagues. At 22, he could very well be a major part of a brighter future for the rebuilding Brewers.
Hader would have liked a longer outing, but he had no complaints.
"I got the opportunity to pitch, to be in the big league stadium in front of all the fans, so it was a lot of fun," Hader said. "This was great. You meet a lot of new guys, you're playing with the best of the best and against the best of the best with the World. This is another memory that I'll have for my journal."
Obtained from the Astros as part of the Carlos Gomez trade in 2015, Hader soared through 11 starts at Double-A Biloxi this year, putting up a 0.95 ERA, a WHIP of 1.00 and striking out 73 in 57 innings.
On June 8, Hader was promoted to Colorado Springs, a pitcher-hostile environment. At altitude, the breaking balls break less. In the thin air, fly balls morph into home runs. And the outfielders are playing so deep that routine fly balls fall in for hits.
Hader's numbers after five starts, three at home, don't resemble his work with Biloxi. But pitching statistics typically are inflated at Colorado Springs, and Hader is not going to give in to negative ballpark effects.
"At first, I didn't want to believe it," Hader said of Colorado Springs' hitter-friendly reputation. "But I experienced the Colorado Springs treatment twice. It's definitely a mental thing. You've got to make sure you're mentally tough, because, obviously, you're going to get hits that fall in and you're going to have hits that go out. It's just moreso executing each pitch. And you don't want to have that mentality going into that game that you're in Colorado Springs and anything can happen.
"I believe that if you can pitch there, you can pitch in the big leagues or anywhere else."
That is the kind of outlook that can turn a very difficult situation into a challenge that can be met.
There is general agreement that Hader, selected by the Orioles in the 19th round of the 2012 Draft, is improving both his overall command and his secondary pitches.
"Coming into this year, my changeup is the best it's ever been and my slider as well," Hader said. "The emphasis from last year to this year was being able to command my slider for strikes and being able to put away guys. That's one of the biggest things that I've been progressing with."
Hader has been traded twice. When you see a left-hander throwing mid-to-high-90s with command, you can shake your head at those developments. But those trades didn't bother Hader.
"When I first got traded from the Orioles to Houston, I wasn't really expecting that," Hader said. "But the second time, it's a new journey. It kind of feels like a fresh, new start. It's nice, you know. You get to meet a lot of new people and you get to play at a lot of different parks."
The big leagues will call. The question is when, not if. But Hader puts first things first.
"It's always in the back of your mind," Hader says. "But you don't want to think about it too much, because you've still got to do your work so when that call comes up, you know you're ready for it."
Mike Bauman is a national columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.