Brewers By the (Jersey) Numbers ’15 – #58 Wei-Chung Wang

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Today is Saturday, February 7 and we sit 58 days away from Opening Day on which the Brewers host the Colorado Rockies at Miller Park, April 6.

It’s also late Saturday afternoon as I sit down to write, so let’s get to it.

Wearing #58 for the Brewers during Spring Training will be…

Wei-Chung Wang.

WeiChungWang

Wang, just 22, came to the Brewers by way of the Rule 5 Draft in December 2013 at the Winter Meetings. Wang was originally signed as an international free agent by the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2011, but an injury caused his original contract to be voided. The new contract that the Pirates signed Wang to caused him to be exposed to the Rule 5 Draft much earlier than he normally would have been.

Wang didn’t pitch well at all at the big league level in 2014, but that wasn’t what he was there to do. He was there to mop up some games and just stay on the roster long enough for the Brewers to retain his services in 2015 and going forward. He did those things somewhat well, and I could give you his numbers at the big league level, but that belies his situation. In no way was he ready to pitch to big league hitters. The Pirates knew it. The Brewers knew it. And if Wang didn’t know it, he figured it out pretty quickly.

The problems surrounding the Wang situation were two-fold in my opinion. First, Wang wasn’t pitching like he would have been had he played a full season at a level of competition commensurate with his stage of development. He missed a lot of innings in 2014, ones that he’ll begin making up in earnest during big league camp this year. Make no mistake, Wang is expected to contribute as a member of the Major League rotation down the road. That’s why he was drafted, kept, and eventually stashed.

More on his 2015 outlook at the end of this piece. First, let’s remind ourselves of the other problem with Wang, this one indirectly attributed to him.

Much of the time when Wang was in the bullpen, Ron Roenicke only had six arms he trusted out there. Coupled with the team’s incredible start through the end of April, that meant a ton of early innings for those trusted arms. We saw down the stretch that Will Smith tired out mid-summer before turning it back around and Tyler Thornburg ended up with a season-ending injury to his elbow. Could some of that use and possibly related injury have been avoided with a seventh reliever to eat up some of that work? We’ll never know for sure, but overuse is often blamed when relief pitchers break down physically. There’s no questioning how many innings were split only six ways in April, but again, some of that is because you use your best bullpen guys in games that you’re winning and the Brewers won a lot that month.

As for 2015? Well, Wang will start games as he did while on a minor league rehab assignment last year. He’s could potentially break camp with the Class-AA Biloxi Shuckers, though he might begin with the Class-A Advanced Brevard County Manatees. It will probably depend on whether there’s room at Biloxi once the rest of the assignments are figured out.

If Wang was ready to contribute to the big league rotation by 2017 — he’d still be just 24 when the 2017 season begins — that would be a quality situation for the Brewers scouting and development team who identified Wang as a target and convinced General Manager Doug Melvin to pull the trigger on him.

Don’t expect to see Wang in a big league box score in 2015, or even a Triple-A one. The world he got to experience for a few months of Major League Baseball will benefit him, but he’s still got a ways to go.

Hopefully he gets back sooner than later so that we can once again experience the excellence that was Wei-Chung Wang Wednesdays.

You can follow Wei-Chung Wang on Twitter: @LeftyWang51

Catch up on the countdown!

21 Comments

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