Robert Gasser Is Making the Josh Hader Trade Look Better for the Brewers

Mark Hoffman/Milwaukee Journal Sentinel-USA TODAY NETWORK

Robert Gasser was flying mostly below radar as a prospect when he was first featured here at FanGraphs in July 2022. Pitching in the Midwest League one year after being drafted 71st overall out of the University of Houston, he was putting up solid but by no means eye-catching numbers with San Diego’s High-A affiliate. Earlier in the season he’d been assigned a 40 FV and a no. 14 ranking on our 2022 Padres Top Prospects list.

Shortly after that first piece about Gasser was published, the Padres dealt him to the Brewers as part of the Josh Hader trade, which at the time was widely panned by Milwaukee fans. While the consternation was understandable, the criticism is increasingly abating. Nearly two years later, Gasser is four starts into his MLB career and boasts a 1.98 ERA and a 2.52 FIP over 23 innings. In three of his outings he’s gone at least five frames and surrendered one run or fewer.

How has he gone from a low-profile prospect to a pitcher getting good results at baseball’s highest level? There has been no magic bullet, Gasser said, and he hasn’t made any especially notable adjustments since we first spoke in 2022.

“I’m different in some ways, but in some ways I’m very similar,” said Gasser, who will celebrate his 25th birthday on Friday. “The arsenal hasn’t changed. The velocity hasn’t changed. It’s more so just maturity and understanding what I’m good at, and how I’m able to get guys out.”

Power isn’t his M.O. More crafty lefty than flamethrower, the 6-foot-1, 190-pound Gasser features a heater that averages a modest 93.4 mph, and his 14.1% strikeout rate ranks in just the eighth percentile among his contemporaries. His walk rate is another story. To date, Gasser has faced 92 big league hitters and issued just one free pass.

His pitch mix is well balanced. Per Statcast, Gasser has thrown 32.9% sweepers — “my putout pitch” — 23.3% four-seamers, 23.0% sinkers, 13.0% changeups, and 7.8% cutters. Asked if he sequences differently than he did in the minors, Gasser replied, “Not a ton.”

As for anything that might have changed philosophically when he went from the Padres to the Brewers, his answer came with a caveat.

“With a new organization there are definitely new ideas and ways to approach pitching,” Gasser said. “With San Diego, I felt it was more so first-pitch strikes and strikes in 1-1 counts. That’s still important here, but as I went to the higher levels they placed more emphasis on knowing which pitches are the right pitches to throw at the right time. Obviously, I was at the lower levels with San Diego, and I imagine they have more advanced stuff at the higher levels. But the Brewers pride themselves on their ability to know what’s right based on metrics and data. I’m very trusting in what they’ve told me.”

Being calm, cool, and collected is an attribute that hasn’t required instruction. One thing that’s stood out in the rookie’s initial time in the majors is his composure. By and large, he doesn’t get rattled.

“There are definitely moments where I can have emotion, but I’m at my best when I’m even-keeled and don’t let previous pitches influence how I feel on the next pitch,” Gasser said. “Especially at this level. These guys are really good, and get paid to do what they do, so if I give up a double or a home run and they score three, I’m still the same person with the same arsenal. All that’s different is the situation. As long as I’m able to remember that and stay consistent on every single pitch, I can have success.”

That he’s enjoying a high degree of success against major league hitters a mere two years after he was an unheralded lefty in A-ball is, of course, a big part of Gasser’s story. Looking back, was he underrated as a prospect?

“Rankings are rankings,” said Gasser, who entered this season as Milwaukee’s no. 8 prospect. “That stuff never really bothered me. I didn’t feel that I needed to prove myself to anyone but myself, that I was capable of getting here and succeeding here. All that matters is how I perform.”

David Laurila grew up in Michigan's Upper Peninsula and now writes about baseball from his home in Cambridge, Mass. He authored the Prospectus Q&A series at Baseball Prospectus from December 2006-May 2011 before being claimed off waivers by FanGraphs. He can be followed on Twitter @DavidLaurilaQA.

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John Wickmember
21 days ago

Headline is accurate — the trade looks better with Gasser chucking it well — but they already flipped Ruiz for the best offensive catcher in baseball, they were already well ahead with the deal.