If you are a guy like yours truly who is always on the lookout for nicely priced starting pitchers with high upside instead of paying massive freight in there early rounds, the Milwaukee Brewers have some deals for you. While known more for their hitting over the years, the Brew Crew have not one but TWO prime pitching sleepers who carry the immense potential to each reach ace status for the price of an SP 2 or 3 draft cost. We are referring of course to Brandon Woodruff and Corbin Burnes who both have sizable strikeout ability and also advanced rate stats that scream out future number 1 or 2 starter.
Let's start off with Woodruff who figures to come at a higher cost than Burnes due to his linear growth the last few seasons. For one thing, Woodruff has really upped his strikeout ability the last four seasons as he went from an ugly 6.7 rate in 2017 all the way up to 11.1 a year ago. Add in K rates over 10.0 in both 2018 and 2019 and Woodruff has more than proven his high upside ability in the strikeout realm alone. Then when you add in the fact he has logged ERA's of 3.62 and 3.05 the last two seasons and WHIP's of 1.14 and 0.99 in that span and boy is there a lot to like here. What really makes Woodruff stand out even more is that he is a groundball pitcher and has uncanny control for someone who strikes out as many guys as he does. With BB/9 rates of 2.22 and 2.20 the last two seasons, Woodruff pretty much checks all of the boxes in terms of his ability reeking of the ace variety. Yes he is a late bloomer at the age of 28 and the 121.2 innings he tossed in 2019 are an MLB high for him which calls into question whether Woodruff can sustain this level of pitching over a full 162-game season but at least for the first half of 2021, the number could be insanely good. Worst case scenario is that you can also sell high on Woodruff when July comes around as he should tire from that point on but that is a concern for a future date.
In term of Burnes, he is the younger of the two at 26 but also someone who has less of a track record after pitching to a horrid 8.82 ERA in 2019. Burnes pitched mostly out of the bullpen that season however and in the shortened 2020 campaign, he was terrific with a 2.11 ERA and 1.02 WHIP in 59.2 innings pitched. Add in an immense 88 K's in 59.2 innings and boy as Burnes a terrific strikeout artist. Unlike with Woodruff though, Burnes has rough control with 3.67 and 3.62 BB/9 rates the last two seasons but anyone who can punch out as many batters like he can puts him in the sleeper tier for the late middle rounds.
When you look at both guys through a prism, Woodruff is the one who really can reach ace status, while Burnes could be an SP 3 if all breaks right. What you are certain of is receiving a ton of strikeouts between the two of them and the upside to really pay off as upside picks.