It’s likely a make-or-break season for the former Sullivan South High School standout, now 27, who is currently at Milwaukee Brewers spring training in Arizona. In a few weeks, he would love to get the call that all players dream of, but he believes it’s more likely he will be headed back to Triple-A Colorado Springs, where the right-handed pitcher went 7-3 with 65 strikeouts and just 21 walks last season.
“It’s my goal for the year,” Archer said via phone from Arizona. “It’s something that’s probably not realistic for spring training. Hopefully, I will go to Colorado and throw well and get the call to go up.”
Archer, who was picked by the Brewers in the 21st round of the 2013 MLB draft after graduating from Tennessee Tech, moved up to Colorado Springs from Double-A Biloxi last April. He enjoyed his time on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, but even more so enjoyed the road trips back to his home state.
“It’s been cool that I’ve been able to come back to Tennessee and play,” he said. “I was able to play in Chattanooga and against the Smokies in Sevierville. This past year, I was able to play in Nashville, where I have more family, and in front of plenty of my friends from Cookeville. That was awesome being on the road.”
Archer posted a 3.42 earned run average in 2014 with the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers in Class A, in 2015 with the Brevard County Manatees in Advanced A, and in 2016 with the Biloxi Shuckers in Double-A, a statistical oddity.
Over his entire professional career, which started with the rookie league Helena (Montana) Brewers, Archer has compiled a 23-18 overall record with eight saves, 323 strikeouts and a 3.60 earned run average in 375 innings pitched.
He feels like a totally different pitcher than the one who often earned All-Big Nine Conference honors at Sullivan South and was picked in the 38th round of the 2009 draft by the Oakland A’s. He explained the techniques are so much more advanced at the professional level with Hall of Famers like Denny McLain, Tom Seaver and Nolan Ryan having entire books dedicated to the art of pitching.
“My biggest improvement has been learning how to actually pitch instead of just throwing like I did in high school,” he said. “I had a pretty good arm for a high school kid, so I had good velocity for that level. Now I’m on the other end of the spectrum where I have a slow fastball and I’ve had to learn to pitch.”
It’s not necessarily a bad thing for Archer, whose fastball is usually around 88 mph, but has been clocked in the low 90s. He looks to the example of Hall of Famer Greg Maddux. During his 20-year Major League career, Maddux’s fastball was often clocked in the mid-80s, yet he was an eight-time All-Star, a four-time Cy Young winner and ranked among the career leaders in strikeouts.
When Archer has veered away from the fastball, he’s found another pitch to be even more effective.
“Now my best pitch is my slider,” Archer said. “It’s a pitch I’ve learned I can throw about any time I want to whether it’s three balls, no balls or anything. The last couple of years, I’ve really been able to pitch off that one pitch.”