The Brewers are planning to call up left-handed pitching prospect Aaron Ashby, reports Jeff Passan of ESPN (Twitter link). The 23-year-old is expected to work out of the bullpen initially, Passan notes. He isn’t on the 40-man roster, so a corresponding move is forthcoming.
Ashby is one of the game’s more exciting pitching prospects. Milwaukee selected him in the fourth round in 2018 out of Crowder Junior College, and his prospect status has steadily improved throughout his time in pro ball. Ashby had a strong couple months at Low-A during his draft year, and that continued the following season. Between Low-A and High-A in 2019, he worked to a 3.50 ERA with a strong 25.5% strikeout rate and an elevated 11.3% walk percentage.
Clearly, Ashby’s control can be an issue at times, but his low minors performance has impressed evaluators. Each of Baseball America, Keith Law of the Athletic and Eric Longenhagen of FanGraphs ranked Ashby among Milwaukee’s top ten prospects entering the season. BA suggested he’d likely settle in as a back-of-the-rotation starter, while Law noted Ashby had mid-rotation raw stuff but needed to develop better control to reach that ceiling. Longenhagen was arguably the most bullish, placing Ashby at #127 in his top overall prospects list, praising his mid-90s fastball and pair of quality breaking pitches and calling the southpaw a potential impact multi-inning reliever.
It’s been more of the same for Ashby in 2021, which he’s spent at Triple-A Nashville. Through 38 innings, he’s managed a 4.50 ERA with a stellar 33.3% strikeout rate but a very high 14.3% walk rate. Milwaukee is clearly comfortable enough with his bat-missing prowess to tolerate some potential control issues, as he’ll be thrust into a tight division race. The Brewers lead the Cubs by four games in the National League Central. Milwaukee dealt a pair of relievers (Drew Rasmussen and J.P. Feyereisen) in the Willy Adames trade last month, likely in anticipation of Ashby contributing at some point this season.
Even if he’s in the majors from here on out, Ashby won’t accrue a full season of MLB service. He’ll be controllable through 2027, and he’s unlikely to be eligible for arbitration until after 2024. Future optional assignments could obviously change that service time outlook.