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T-Rat Talk: Brett Wichrowski

Opening Day starter shows off improved arsenal in early work with Rattlers
April 22, 2024

Brett Wichrowski isn't listed on MLB Pipeline's Top 30 Prospect list for the Milwaukee Brewers...yet. That may soon change once the right-handed pitcher from Bryant University in Rhode Island keeps doing what he has been doing with the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers since getting the call as the Opening Night starter

Brett Wichrowski isn't listed on MLB Pipeline's Top 30 Prospect list for the Milwaukee Brewers...yet. That may soon change once the right-handed pitcher from Bryant University in Rhode Island keeps doing what he has been doing with the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers since getting the call as the Opening Night starter for the 2024 season.

Kyle Lobner has the story in this week's T-Rat Talk.

Timber Rattlers pitcher Brett Wichrowski has been one of the biggest surprises in the Brewers organization in the first few weeks of the minor league season. He started for Wisconsin on Opening Night and has logged a 1.64 ERA across three appearances, striking out 14 batters in eleven innings. Wichrowski, however, had to come a long way in the last year to reach this point.

Wichrowski started the 2023 season pitching out of the bullpen for Division 1 mid-major Bryant University in the America East conference, pitching exclusively in relief across the Bulldogs’ first 21 games before moving into a starting role for the first time on April 1. He made a total of just seven starts in his junior season with Bryant but struck out 11.5 batters per nine innings and posted an ERA two runs below the America East average. For his efforts he was named to the All-America East Second Team.

When Bryant’s season ended in May, six weeks before the 2023 MLB Draft, Wichrowski moved to the Cape Cod League’s Wareham Gatemen and made four more appearances. Across his final college season and four appearances on the Cape Wichrowski logged just 61 2/3 innings with a combined ERA near 5. The Brewers saw something, however, and selected him in the 13th round of the draft. Wichrowski has spent nearly all of the nine months since that day at the Brewers’ complex in Arizona.

“I was really just trying to get used to what it’s like in pro ball,” Wichrowski said. “I was out in Arizona the whole entire time, except for I guess a month in the winter break, really just learning and picking information from all the guys, the coaches, all the resources we have out there.”

Wichrowski made his pro debut during the Arizona Complex League Brewers’ postseason run, working a single scoreless inning in their 3-2 win over the ACL Rockies on August 24. During the offseason he also participated in the Brewers’ Instructional League camp, which is where he first met Timber Rattlers pitching coach Josh Spence.

“It’s been great getting to know Brett in Instructional League last year, and we had an early camp where he was invited early in the year. So I’ve been able to spend a couple of months around him. He’s a hard worker, he’s diligent in what he wants to achieve and he’s turned into a really good leader in the clubhouse for the pitching staff, a quiet leader, I’d say. He’s fun to watch, that’s for sure,” Spence said.

The next spring, however, Wichrowski still had yet to pitch in a professional regular season game when he was welcomed onto a much bigger stage: He pitched the eighth inning of an MLB spring training game, retiring the side in order and recording a strikeout in his Cactus League debut.

“That was really exciting,” Wichrowski said. “I had nerves going into it. You know it’s still baseball at the end of the day, so you get to go out there and just have fun and play the game you’ve been playing since you were young, but enjoy it at the same time.”

All three of the batters Wichrowski faced in that game have played at or above the AA level and one of them, White Sox outfielder Gavin Sheets, is a longtime major leaguer. While the batters he faced might have been a forecast for his future, the lineup around him contained several players who would go on to be his teammates this season: 2024 Timber Rattlers infielders Dylan O’Rae, Luke Adams, Jadher Areinamo and Gregory Barrios and outfielder Luis Lara were all in the game when Wichrowski took the mound.

That outing, however, was one of the first public displays of the growth in Wichrowski’s arsenal. He throws both a two and four-seam fastball and while they routinely sat in the low 90’s during his time at Bryant, they’re typically in the upper 90’s now and have peaked above 100. This spring he’s also throwing a sweeping slider with significant horizontal break.

“He has three or four pitches and he executes them at a high rate, and I think that’s a recipe for success right there,” Spence said.

The growth in Wichrowski’s game may have put him in line to follow in the footsteps of another Bryant alum. Only two former Bryant players have appeared in the majors but one of them is Guardians reliever James Karinchak, who was drafted in the ninth round in 2019 and has pitched in the majors in each of the last five seasons.

“I haven’t met him personally yet, but I hear a lot of great things about him, the kind of guy he is, how much he loves what he does and how much he does what he preaches. He goes about every day the same, he’s very disciplined and stays the same,” Wichrowski said.

While Wichrowski said he doesn’t have an individual pitcher he models himself after, he does have some pretty prominent major leaguers that he applies individual elements from.

“There are pitchers where I like how they pitch and what they do and I can take tiny things from each one of them. Like the control that (Diamondbacks pitcher) Zac Gallen has, the electric stuff that somebody like (Phillies starter) Zack Wheeler has and his demeanor on the mound every single time he goes out there,” Wichrowski said.

Wichrowski faces a long path to build up the strength and stamina to join Gallen and Wheeler as a major league starter, however. He pitched about 60 regular season innings in each of the 2022 and 2023 seasons, so it’s going to take some time for him to build up to the level of endurance and durability required to routinely pitch deep into games.

“You have to be patient and trust the pitch counts and the buildup that the higher ups have you going on,” Wichrowski said. “It can be kind of boring in the middle and you think you can go further than they have you at, but really trusting it and going out and pitching until they take you out and giving it your all every single time you go out there.”

While his outings may not be as long as a traditional starting pitcher, Wichrowski recognizes the importance of staying healthy, pitching as often as he can and continuing to make the most of his opportunities.

“A successful season for me is really just being available for my team every single time they call me. So every single week that I don’t miss a start and go out there and give us a chance to win, that’s what I want,” Wichrowski said.

Wichrowski’s path to prospect status may not have been traditional, but the combination of the improvement in his pitches and his results on the mound so far would certainly appear to make him a strong candidate to rise rapidly up the rankings.

“Everyone’s path is different,” Spence said. “He’s definitely caught a lot of people’s eye, especially the uptick in velocity since getting drafted. And again, that’s just kudos to the work ethic that he has. But at the same time, it’s the same goal for everyone. We’re just trying to get them to the next level and you never know how quick that jump’s going to be. But he’s definitely put himself in a position to increase his hat collection this year, for sure.”

Dating back to his amateur days, one of the things Wichrowski has always done well is keeping the ball in the ballpark: He’s given up just six home runs across the 132 1/3 innings of his combined college, summer ball and professional careers. On his way up the ladder, however, he’ll be on the lookout for the people who have taken him deep before.

“I know the people that I’ve given up home runs to. That comes back, and you just want to get them out every single time you face them after that. I remember those names for sure,” Wichrowski said.