Image credit: (Photo by Bill Mitchell)
MARYVALE, Ariz.—It’s no secret that the Brewers have scored big in recent years when betting on talented pitchers from the junior college ranks.
Lefthander Aaron Ashby (2018) and righthander Jacob Misiorowski (2022) were each plucked from Crowder (Mo.) JC. Ashby debuted in the big leagues in 2021 and was solid in 2022 before missing all of this past season with injuries.
Misiorowski was a high-upside project from the outset and this past season morphed into arguably the highest-upside pitcher in the entire minor leagues, especially after opening eyes with an eye-popping inning at the Futures Game.
Milwaukee also used sixth-round pick in 2021 on righthander Carlos Rodriguez, out of Florida Southwestern State. His .187 average against was the third-best in the minor leagues, which helped him take home the Double-A Southern League’s Pitcher of the Year honors.
The Brewers’ next JC success story might by Ryan Birchard, a righthander whom Milwaukee selected in the fifth round of the 2023 draft out of Niagara County JC in New York.
In two seasons with the Thunder Wolves, Birchard struck out an eye-popping 171 hitters in 88.1 innings. Put another way, 64.5% of the out Birchard recorded were on strikeouts.
He reinforced his dominance between the close of the college season and the beginning of the draft with nine more innings for Trenton of the MLB Draft League. Birchard struck out 16 hitters in nine innings spread across four outings with the Thunder. He allowed just two hits and a walk in that time.
Birchard, a burly righthander with a high-energy delivery and intimidating mound presence, comes right at hitters with a powerful three-pitch mix. In two innings of the team’s instructional league finale on Oct. 6, Birchard punched out three hitters with a mid-90s fastball, a nasty slider in the mid 80s and a high-spin, top-down curveball in the high 70s.
Birchard, who is just 20 years old, hasn’t made his official pro debut. When he does, it won’t be surprising if he goes right back to bullying hitters and continues Milwaukee’s strong reputation for identifying and selecting talented junior college pitching.