Through the first 51 games of the 2018 MLB season, the Milwaukee Brewers are leading the NL Central with a record of 31-20. Some might attribute their success to the team’s acquisitions of star outfielders Lorenzo Cain and Christian Yelich during the offseason, but the more surprising reason for this team’s success has to be the bullpen pitching, which is led by second-year sensation Josh Hader.

On July 30, 2015, the Milwaukee Brewers traded Carlos Gomez to the Houston Astros for prospects Brett Phillips, Domingo Santana, Adrian Houser and Josh Hader. Although Phillips and Santana were the focal points in this deal for Milwaukee at that time, it now appears that Hader might have the brightest future out of them all.

Hader was selected in the 19th round of the 2012 MLB Draft by the Baltimore Orioles before finally joining the Brewers three years later. After dominating for the Brewers Double-A affiliate, the Biloxi Shuckers, Hader was sent to Triple-A in June 2016.

With the Colorado Springs Sky Sox, the Brewers Triple-A affiliate, Hader hit a bit of a wall. In 26 appearances, Hader was 4-11 with a 5.28 ERA. However, his struggles did not deter the Brewers front office from calling him up to the majors in the 2017 season. Since then, Hader been arguably the most unhittable relief pitcher in all of baseball.

In just 35 appearances during the 2017 MLB regular season, Hader struck out 68 batters across 47.2 innings and had a ridiculous 2.08 ERA. Hader’s dominance was due to his fastball and slider which baffled hitters all over the league in his rookie season.

Entering the 2018 MLB regular season,  many people may have expected some type of regression from the still young Hader in the upcoming season. The odds of such a young pitcher improving upon a sub-2.10 ERA along with a strikeout per nine innings rate of 12.84 is almost unheard of. However, that is exactly what Hader has done thus far in 2018.

This season, Hader has appeared in 17 games with the Brewers. In those 17 games, Hader has appeared in 29.1 innings in which he has an absurd 58 strikeouts and 1.23 ERA. That translates to a strikeout per nine innings rate of 17.8 which is the best in the MLB out of all pitchers with at least two innings of use.

As for the team’s success, Hader’s impact cannot be understated. In the 17 games that Hader has appeared in this season, the Brewers are 17-0. He is also a huge reason why Milwaukee’s bullpen currently has the lowest ERA in the majors and he will most likely be named to his first MLB All-Star Game later this year.

Although Hader’s rise to stardom may have been strenuous, he is still only 24 years old and his future looks as bright as any prospect in baseball. Expect Hader to be a key piece of Milwaukee’s bullpen for years to come.