The Brewers have certainly made Tuesday night’s upcoming tilt against the Blue Jays a touch more exciting. Tyler Thornburg, the fourth-best prospect in the Brewers system according to both Baseballs America and Prospectus, has officially received the call after extended rumblings Monday night. Brooks Conrad has been designated for assignment to make space for Thornburg.
Thornburg opened eyes with his early performance with Low-A Wisconsin last season, notching a 1.57 ERA behind tremendous peripherals: 76 strikeouts against 25 walks in 68.2 innings, just three home runs allowed. He earned a trip to the Futures Game as part of All-Star weekend and a promotion to High-A Brevard County.
The Florida State League proved a bit more challenging, but Thornburg still showed enough — 3.57 ERA, 85 more strikeouts in 68 innings, just 45 hits allowed — to earn a preseason promotion to Double-A Huntsville. He’s remained solid there, reining in the walks (29 in 75 innings after 44 in 68 High-A innings) and posting an ERA of 3.00 in his first 13 starts.
Thornburg owns a typical starter repertoire — fastball, curveball, changeup. The fastball sits between 90 and 94 with the changeup as his best secondary option; Kevin Goldstein called the curveball “flat and slurvy” coming into the year.
It will be a difficult test for Thornburg, as the Blue Jays lineup is solid 1-through-8, with big-time power hitters like Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion leading the way. Considering Thornburg hasn’t even faced a Triple-A lineup in his career, much less an MLB one, struggles would not be surprising and certainly not alarming.
Conrad is a distant footnote in this story, unable to translate his absurd success at Triple-A Nashville (.408/.482/.905, 10 HR) into major league success, notching just three hits (although two home runs) in 44 plate appearances. He could end up back at Nashville, and it seems unlikely that he will be claimed off waivers, as it would cost a team a spot on both the 40 and 25-man rosters.