Now Healthy, Drew Rasmussen Shows Traits Of A Fast-Mover
ZEBULON, N.C. — Drew Rasmussen’s road to pro ball has been anything but linear. He was drafted by the Diamondbacks out of high school, but instead chose to honor his commitment to Oregon State and continue developing himself for three more seasons.
With the Beavers, Rasmussen quickly established himself as one of the sport’s top arms. As a freshman, he threw what still stands as the program’s only perfect game. His sophomore season started strongly as well, racking up 42 strikeouts in his first six starts before his elbow started barking.
He had Tommy John surgery that March, and quickly found himself surrounded by well-wishers from the extremely passionate support group in and around the Oregon State campus in Corvallis.
“There was a lot of motivation, but mostly the people around me,” Rasmussen said, when asked how he kept his spirits from falling after injury and surgery. “The Oregon State community and Beaver Nation is very good at supporting each other and lifting each other up. There was also a lot of support from my fiancee, my family and everyone around me as well as a desire just to get back on the field.
“I didn’t know exactly what capacity that would be in but, like I said, there was a desire to get back out there.”
He returned to the mound in late April of 2017, as the Beavers hit the stretch run of their march toward Omaha and the College World Series. His final appearance that season came in a loss to Louisiana State, which bounced Oregon State from the playoffs in the second round.
He was drafted by the Rays in the supplemental first round, but a post-draft physical revealed complications from the first Tommy John surgery so acute that he required a second elbow reconstruction that kept him out for all of the 2018 season.
“I thought (Tampa Bay) and I thought that was going to be my home,” Rasmussen said, “but God had different plans for me.”
He had the second operation in August of 2017, finished his degree and went through the rehab process again in Corvallis. Even while he was unable to pitch, the fans in Corvallis redoubled their support for a player who’d given so much to their community.
“Corvallis is a small town, and everyone knows who the athletes are, which is a really cool feeling and it’s a cool environment to be a part of,” Rasmussen said. “I got a lot of support by the community and people going out of their way to just make sure everything was all right in my life. I was blessed and extremely grateful for that effort.”
Even with two major operations in his past and only scattered innings since his freshman season, scouts had seen Rasmussen’s potential when he had a clean bill of health. He’d blended three pitches, including a high-90s fastball, into a dominating mix that led him to average 13.5 strikeouts per nine innings over 220 collegiate innings.
The Brewers pulled Rasmussen’s card in the sixth round of the 2018 draft and helped him complete the rehab process before letting him embark this spring on the first stage of his professional career.
Even before camp broke, it was apparent that Rasmussen’s stuff had returned as powerful as ever.
“In spring training I heard about him, and I’ve never seen more guys behind the backstop during a live BP,” said Joe Ayrault, Rasmussen’s manager at high Class A Carolina. “His teammates, just different pitchers, came out to watch him throw live BP and were like ‘Whoa.’”
After his first four outings—one with low Class A Wisconsin and three with Carolina—it seems safe to say that he’s bringing the same stuff under the lights that he showed on the backfields before the season.
In 10.2 innings spread across four starts, Rasmussen has whiffed 16 and walked just one. His fastball consistently sits in the mid 90s and has touched 99 multiple times, according to scouts. He complements the pitch with a changeup and a slider that each settle in the 89-91 mph range. He shows excellent command with all three pitches and can get whiffs in or out of the zone.
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Scouts who’ve seen him this year believe Rasmussen’s arsenal could help him move very quickly, especially if he’s in a bullpen role. Some are so confident, in fact, that they don’t think an appearance in the big leagues is out of the question sometime toward the end of this season.
Before he gets there, though, Rasmussen wants to tighten up his slider, hone his fastball command, and perhaps add another ingredient to his mix.
“I’d like to add a fourth pitch, something a little slower,” he said. “I didn’t see the velos today, but I’m sure my slider and my changeup were upper 80s and my fastball was mid-to-upper 90s, and so I’d like something that would just play a little bit slower than those. … I’d like something to create a little bit more separation.”
The options so far include a curveball or a split-changeup, but nothing is settled yet. To find the ideal complement to his power stuff, Rasmussen and the Brewers have utilized technology that is now commonplace around the sport.
“We’re just using TrackMan and Rapsodo units right now to get a better understanding of the shape and the action as well the velocity to find ways to improve upon our starting point,” Rasmussen said.
A fourth pitch would improve Rasmussen’s chances to remain as a starter, but he’s shown in his first steps as a professional that what he has now is plenty enough to make him a big leaguer.
KEEP AN EYE ON: There are scouts who believe Rays LHP/1B Brendan McKay would be better served by scrapping the offensive part of his game and instead focusing on pitching. If he does that, he could be knocking on the door of Tampa Bay in short order. … Though D-Backs shortstop Geraldo Perdomo isn’t making much noise yet with the bat at low Class A Kane County, evaluators are impressed with his blend of physicality, smooth actions and arm strength he’s shown on defense. He also has more walks (17) than strikeouts (15), which is an excellent sign for a player who will spend all season as a 19-year-old … Similarly, Angels outfielder Jordyn Adams has displayed an intriguing blend of tools despite a lack of stat-line production. Scouts believe his speed and instincts are strong enough to dub him a definite center fielder in the long-term. … Phillies 3B Alec Bohm moved to high Class A Clearwater this week after mashing as expected in the South Atlantic League. Scouts are split on whether his future is at third base or first base, but he has at least average raw power and some evaluators see the potential for 20-25 home runs annually. … Yankees righthander Deivi Garcia made his first Double-A start of 2019 on May 1 and picked up right where he left off in high Class A. The 19-year-old Garcia whiffed 11 hitters in four innings including, as one scout noted, nine on fastballs and two on changeups. A high-spin curveball has long been Garcia’s signature pitch, but the scout thought the changeup, which is thrown in the mid 80s with plenty of fade, was the better of his two offspeed offerings that day.