Brewers By the (Jersey) Numbers ’14 – #51 Wei-Chung Wang
Welcome back in to “Brewers By the (Jersey) Numbers”, my annual countdown to Brewers’ Opening Day by way of profiling players who wear the number on their back that equals the numbers of days remaining until the should-be National holiday.
Today is Saturday, February 8th. Pitchers and Catchers officially report to Maryvale Baseball Park in just one week…hold on, I’m going to go tweet that. (Follow me: @BrewerNation)
We are 51 days away from Opening Day today and while I don’t get to profile Trevor Hoffman, I also don’t have to profile Michael Gonzalez, so that kind of evens out.
Instead, we go from those veterans to the opposite end of the age spectrum as we take a closer look at…
Wang, who will still be just 21 years old on Opening Day, was selected by the Brewers in 2013’s Rule V Draft from the Pittsburgh Pirates system and is just about the youngest Rule V pick that you’ll ever see. The reason for that is after he was signed as an international free agent out of Taiwan in 2011, his original contract was voided after his physical revealed a torn elbow ligament. That required Tommy John surgery and a new contract which, coupled with his age, resulted in exposure to the Rule V Draft.
Here’s the situation Wang and Brewers are in. Wang must not only be on the 25-man roster in 51 days (Opening Day, remember) but must also stay on it for the entire season. If he can’t, he must be offered back to the Pirates. The Pirates can pay $25,000.00 to reacquire Wang, which they likely would. Wang is eligible to spend time on the disabled list if need be, but only so much before needing to be offered back as well.
Brewers GM Doug Melvin was quoted shortly after the Rule V Draft in saying that, “We’re hoping for some upside here, coming off of Tommy John surgery. It’s a chance to capture what we might consider a high-level prospect.”
And this choice is exactly that first part: a pure upside move. There’s little risk if Wang doesn’t work out and if he can stick for a year as a reliever then the Brewers are free to option him back down to the minors for the 2015 season and begin to build him back into the starting pitcher and so many have projected him capable of becoming.
So how will he stick?
Wang’s fastball sits 91-93 and hits 95 MPH out of a high three-quarters delivery and he’s reportedly developing two secondary pitches (a curveball and a changeup) which are projecting to be plus with the change already considered his best pitch. If that change of pace is ready to go by the end of Spring Training, Wang could certainly make the 25-man as a full-inning relief pitcher or fall into a specialist role with both Will Smith and Tom Gorzelanny projected to be in Ron Roenicke’s bullpen by the end of April if not sooner (which depends on Gorzelanny’s health following off-season surgery than anything).
What piqued the Brewers interest in Wang is not only his stuff as it would play in the bullpen, but also the projectability into a future member of the starting rotation.
Wang is helped by the fact that pitchers are the most commonly kept players out of Rule V drafts. The Brewers lost a lefty reliever of their own just a couple of years ago when Lucas Luetge was selected by Jack Zduriencik and the Seattle Mariners. Luetge stuck in 2012 and was then was optioned as needed in 2013.
Going the other way though, the Brewers haven’t kept a Rule V selection since 2004. That was flat-brimmed hat sporting reliever Jeff Bennett who was coincidentally also taken from the Pirates’ minor-league system.
But enough about those other guys.
As for Wang’s results on the mound, there isn’t a ton to look at. That’s because he didn’t pitch in 2012 at all while recovering from that aforementioned Tommy John surgery and then only appeared in 12 games with Pittsburgh’s rookie ball affiliate in 2013. In those 12 games though, 11 of which were starts, Wang posted a 3.23 ERA supported by a 2.29 FIP and a 2.89 SIERA. His WHIP in his 47.1 innings was under 1.00 at 0.866 and he struck out 42 while walking just four.
Perhaps that’s what you should expect out of someone with Wang’s pedigree, but the 6’1″ lefty still had to go out and do it following the career-saving surgery. Now the Brewers are hoping that he can do it again, at least well enough to justify his spot in Milwaukee this season.
Do that in the present, and the Brewers may have picked up a key piece for the future.
Miss anyone along the way? Catch up on the Brewers By the (Jersey) Numbers profiles to this point:
- #52 Jimmy Nelson
- #53 Brandon Kintzler
- #54 Michael Blazek
- #58 Ariel Peña
- #59 Zach Duke
- #60 Kevin Shackelford
- #61 Jason Rogers
- #63 Brooks Hall
- #64 Mike Fiers
- #65 Irving Falu
- #66 Robinzon Diaz
- BONUS COLUMN: #77 David Goforth, #76 Kevin Mattison, #75 Mitch Haniger, #74 Michael Olmstead, #73 Kentrail Davis, #72 Cameron Garfield, #71 Adam Weisenburger, #70 Dustin Molleken, #67 Eugenio Velez