When the Brewers drafted college pitchers Taylor Jungmann and Jed Bradley with their two first round picks in 2011, they were expected to make quick impacts. After two very successful college careers, both pitchers were on the fast track to the big league. But in baseball, every step up the minor league ladder is earned, and both pitchers got off to shaky starts. Instead of cruising through the minor leagues, they toiled through years of struggle. This year things have been different for both pitchers. They are pitching like the pitchers they were expected to be on draft day and are finally working their way up to Milwaukee.
Coming out of Texas, Taylor Jungmann was a highly decorated pitcher. In high school, he was named as the Texas Player of the Year after his senior season. After his unhittable junior season in which he went 13-3 with a 1.60 ERA, Jungmann went on to win the Dick Houser trophy which is given to the nation’s best college player. Although he has never had an overpowering fastball, his sharp-dropping sinker helped to keep the ball on the ground and in the park. He appeared ready to continue his dominance in the major leagues.
His first season in the minor leagues, Jungmann held a respectable 3.53 ERA, but he was not the same pitcher he was in Texas. His end of season strikeout rate was a pedestrian 5.8 strikeouts per nine innings as he went 11-6. Last season was even worse while pitching in AA Huntsville. He struck out just 5.3 batters per nine innings and lost all command of his fastball. His walk rate soared to almost five per nine innings and his ERA was bumped into the mid-4s. After a disastrous first month, a strong finish was not enough to help salvage his troubling season as he remained in AA all year.
This year, Jungmann is a man on a mission. He has fully improved his command by having a career low walk rate and attacking hitters. After posting a 2.77 ERA in nine Huntsville starts, he earned a promotion to AAA Nashville just a step away from the majors. In Nashville, Jungmann has continued to find success. While he was roughed up in one start (giving up six runs to the Memphis Redbirds in 4.2 innings) he has had quality starts in his other appearances. Striking out almost a batter per inning in AAA and he continued to show improved command that he will need to harness in a major league rotation.
Many thought on draft day that Jed Bradley was the best player that the Brewers drafted in 2011, but his minor league numbers have never lived up to these expectations as he completely fell off MLB.com’s Brewers prospect list. Besides having injuries that held him to just 36 starts in his first two seasons, Bradley has also struggled with command. Last year in his second full season at high A Brevard County, he averaged a walk every two innings, and saw his ERA again jump over four.
This year however Bradley, like Jungmann, has appeared to have turned the corner. Showing sharp command in his first ten starts in Brevard County, Bradley boasted a 2.98 ERA and earned a promotion to AA Huntsville. He was not only able to lower his walk rate by three full batters per nine innings, but he was also able to improve his stikeout rate. These numbers allowed him to be a mid-season all-star in the Florida State League.
While his ERA currently stands at five in AA through two starts, his second outing was excellent. Facing Mobile on June 8th, Bradley allowed just one run through five innings while striking out six. He also showed his continued improved command by walking just one. As he continues to climb the ladder, he offers the Brewers a left-handed option in the rotation that the team currently lacks. While the first two years were difficult, this year he has given a glimpse of how good he can be.
Statistics Provided by Baseball Reference and MILB.com