Archive for the ‘ Brewers by the (Jersey) Numbers ’ Category

Brewers By the (Jersey) Numbers ’16 – #58 Ariel Peña

BBtJN Logo

Can you feel the excitement? Today is February, 6, 2016 and we’re just 58 days away from Opening Day on April 4th.

Today we profile a player who saw his stock rise in 2015 much like his jersey number did. After wearing #68 in big league camp last year, this year #58 belongs to…

Ariel Peña.

ArielPenaBBtJN16

 

What a difference a few months can make.

From being considered the third piece in the return when the Brewers traded Zack Greinke to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in Southern California, USA, Peña stands today as the only one left in the organization. First came the minor league free agency of Johnny Hellweg (following a lengthy rehab from Tommy John surgery) in which he decided to sign with the San Diego Padres organization. Then came the trade which sent centerpiece Jean Segura to the Arizona Diamondbacks (along with Tyler Wagner) for three different players.

Hellweg had control and command issues during his entire Brewers run (not to mention most of his professional career overall). Segura’s excellent debut and All-Star Game run looked extremely promising and while his defense continued to be a strength, his offense largely fizzled. So that leaves Peña who has had a history of command and control problems of his own but who took a step in the right direction by slashing his walk rate (in Class-AAA Colorado Springs of all places) to the lowest it had been since the first half of his 2012 Double-A season.

Some numbers still don’t look great but if you look at the improvements over 2014 and factor in the change in environments, there are enough encouraging signs to understand why Peña was called upon to finally make his Major League debut as a September call-up once the Sky Sox season ended.

Peña first appeared in relief but then started the rest of the way eventually appearing in six games and tossing 27.1 innings in the Show. He finished with a 4.28 ERA. He didn’t have a scoreless appearance and his walk rate jumped back up to 4.6. He did maintain a strong strikeout rate though as he K’d 27 batters in those 27.1 IP, putting his MLB number at 8.9 K/9 after he finished his minor league season with 83 K in 82.2 IP.

Out of minor league options, Peña is going to have to show something when camp opens in under two weeks at Maryvale. After all, he is the acquisition of the previous regime and is now 26 years old. Peña will be an inexpensive option to fill out the bullpen for 2016 and seems made for the long-relief/swingman role to begin the year. Then again, I’m very interested to see what new pitching coach Derek Johnson decides to do with Peña though. He could decide that short-relief, higher-leverage situations like 7th inning work make the most sense. There’s a chance that Peña’s command could be harnessed in a bit in shorter stints on the mound.

Regardless of the role, Peña still seems intriguing enough that the Brewers will want to keep him around to begin 2016 and see what they have in him over a long look at the big league level.

Follow Ariel on Twitter: @2Eltrabieso

Catch up on BBtJN ’16:

 

Brewers By the (Jersey) Numbers ’16 – #60 Keon Broxton

BBtJN Logo

Six years ago I decided to embark on a series of blog posts which I felt would be a fun way for me to not only remind myself of what happened the previous season but also to help you wonderful readers and me alike to get to know some things about members of the Milwaukee Brewers’ 40-man roster who were new to franchise.

We began on February 4, 2010 with a look at Todd “Hot” Coffey and his role as a key member of a bullpen with some issues. Coffey wore #60 as a Brewer and Opening Day 2010 (April 5th) was 60 days away. Today, six years later, Opening day is once again 60 days away from February 4th. While Opening Day is April 4th this year, it’s also a leap year which adds in the difference. And though Coffey is no longer sprinting in from the bullpen to the late Ultimate Warrior’s entrance music, someone younger was assigned the same #60 to wear for Spring Training. That someone is…

Keon Broxton.

BroxtonBBtJN

Keon Darell Broxton is a 6’3″ outfielder out of Lakeland, Florida. Listed as 195 lbs, the lanky but strong Broxton was first drafted out of high school by the Philadelphia Phillies in the 29th round of the 2008 First-Year Player Draft but decided to increase his stock by spending a year at Santa Fe Community College in relatively nearby Gainesville.

After leading that team to the JUCO World Series (played in Grand Junction, Colorado), the Arizona Diamondbacks would draft Broxton in the 3rd round in 2009. Broxton signed very quickly and was assigned to rookie ball at Missoula of the Pioneer League.

It’s been a steady, if somewhat slow, rise through the minor leagues for Broxton. He played the full 2010 season at Low-A South Bend and started there again in 2011 for 20 games before finishing the year with High-A Visalia for 110 games. Broxton repeated High-A in 2012, spending the entire season there.

With 240 High-A games under his belt, he finally got the chance to start at Double-A in 2013 which he did in Mobile. After missing the first month of the 2013 season, and finished with just 101 games played, Broxton went to winter ball in the Australian Baseball League for the Sydney Blue Sox.

Following the 2013 season, Broxton had a career minor league batting average of .241 and had seemingly regressed from 2012 to 2013. There was enough doubt about his future that the Diamondbacks sold his rights to the Pittsburgh Pirates. The Pirates would give Broxton a second full season of Double-A development and he would respond with a solid season in 2014 (.275/.369/.484) despite a still somewhat disconcerting strikeout rate (122 K in 407 AB). He also worked 66 walks in 571 plate appearances, demonstrating his patience and mature approach.

After a 45-game Double-A stint to begin 2015 in which Broxton slashed .302/.365/.464, he was finally promoted to Triple-A where he would play 88 games in the final stop before the big leagues. Broxton would get a late September call-up and appear in seven games (no starts) for the Pirates as the season wound down. He only got two at-bats and perhaps fittingly struck out in one of them, but he scored three times and stole a base. Hey, it’s more than many ballplayers ever get to do in the big leagues.

BroxtonHeadshotBroxton was acquired by the Brewers (along with Trey Supak) on December 17, 2015 in exchange for Jason Rogers who was viewed as a valuable piece to the Pirates puzzle entering 2016. For the Brewers it was a chance to get a high-ceiling if volatile arm in Supak and an outfielder who could handle what was more or less still a vacancy in centerfield. Broxton can, after all, play all three outfield spots.

I had the chance to talk to Broxton at Brewers On Deck and asked him to about seizing the centerfield job for himself.

“I have a job everyday that’s just to get better regardless of where I am. That’s all I’m going to do in Spring is just get better, work on every aspect of my game and see whatever happens. If they need me in the outfield or not, either way I still gotta get better so I’ll be ready.”

Finally, while Broxton told me he had a little bit of experience playing in the altitude of Colorado from that previously mentioned JUCO World Series experience (in which he slashed .520/.600/1.320 in 25 at-bats over six games, by the way), he said that playing in Triple-A Colorado Springs “would be a lot of fun too, but that’s not exactly where I want to be — you know?”

Would that maybe be playing in Milwaukee instead? With a warm smile and laugh, “Yeah.”

I think Broxton has a solid chance to break camp with the Brewers, though working against him are his minor league options. He has some and others he’s in direct competition with for a job do not. If everyone performs on par, Broxton is likely to be sent down to maintain depth. Still just 25 years old, Broxton is a valuable asset that Brewers General Manager David Stearns won’t readily risk losing.

It’s going to be one of a couple of fun competitions in the Cactus League for the Brewers. Regardless of whether Broxton comes out on top what can we expect from him as a player in the Brewers organization? In his own words:

“Good speed, a little bit of power, good defense.”

Not bad things to have, to be sure.

Follow Keon on Twitter: @KeonDDBroxton

Catch up on BBtJN ’16:

 

Brewers By the (Jersey) Numbers ’16 – #61 Ramón Flores

BBtJN Logo

Another day, another post. As we arrive Wednesday, February 3 and sit 61 days away from Opening Day, I am forced to remind myself that the milestones along the way to our destination are much closer.

  • Truck Day is in six days.
  • Pitchers & Catchers report in 16.
  • First full squad workout is in 22 days.
  • First Cactus League games (it’s split-squad) are in one month.

But we don’t countdown to those days with “Brewers By the (Jersey) Numbers”, do we?

With that, here is the individual profile of…

Ramon Flores.

ramonflorebbtjn

Back in late November when it was announced that the Milwaukee Brewers had acquired Flores from the Seattle Mariners in exchange for infielder Luis Sardiñas, it was widely assumed that Flores would end up playing the role of reserve outfielder for Craig Counsell’s 25.

That was in part because of Flores’ lack of minor league options but also because of the changes in the makeup of the 40-man roster. Michael Reed and Shane Peterson (since DFA’d) were around to back up Khris Davis, Domingo Santana, and Ryan Braun, but it could be argued that Reed wouldn’t be hurt by some Triple-A time.

Flores brings a solid approach at the plate and a solid defensive profile with him to work every day. Still just 23 (he’ll turn 24 before Opening Day), Flores could continue in his development and offer even more than he currently does, but some talent evaluators maintain that his ceiling is a fourth OF type, and that may be what he already is. Still, Flores remains inexpensive with three full seasons before he would first be arbitration eligible.

Sounds perfect for a rebuilding team — right?

Well the problems for Flores come in that it’s been nearly 11 weeks since the Brewers traded for him and General Manager David Stearns hasn’t exactly been resting on his laurels since then. Stearns has claimed veteran Kirk Nieuwenhuis off of waivers, traded for Keon Broxton and a DFA’d former top prospect Rymer Liriano, and signed Alex Presley and Eric Young Jr. to minor league contracts with invites to big league camp. By the accounts I’ve read, every one of those added players can handle all three defensive positions in the outfield.

ramonfloreheadshotSo, quick math, that’s six added players with only one possible subtraction (we don’t yet know whether Shane Peterson will remain with the organization) along with the incumbent Reed all competing for what will, at this point, be two bench jobs. And even that is assuming the Brewers carry five outfielders which isn’t a guarantee (though I think they will). Yes, Ryan Braun could start the season on the DL if he suffers any setbacks with his recovery from off-season surgery on a herniated disc, but that’s still too many players for too few spots.

I suppose Flores will have somewhat of an advantage due to his lack of the aforementioned options, but that’s hardly a guarantee especially when you consider that neither Nieuwenhuis or Liriano have options remaining either.

Regardless of how it shakes out, Flores should get plenty of opportunities in the spring to show Counsell and his new coaching staff what he can do.

If a trade happens between now and decision day (Jon Morosi of FoxSports.com apparently said on the radio recently that the Chicago White Sox showed interest in Davis for example) then the logjam eases a bit. And if there’s one thing we know already about David Stearns it is that the 60 days between today and Opening Day are a long time for him to continue to manipulate what today seems to be an overcrowded situation.

And you probably thought rebuilds weren’t intriguing.

Follow Ramón on Twitter: @ramonflores16

Catch up on BBtJN ’16:

Brewers By the (Jersey) Numbers ’16 – #62 Garin Cecchini

BBtJN Logo

Two days in a row for the first time this season. Expect that a lot this year on my annual “Brewers By the (Jersey) Numbers” countdown to Opening Day because between now and Scooter Gennett on April 3rd there aren’t a whole lot of consecutive days off. In point of fact there are only four unaccounted for numbers (3, 23, 53, 59) if Spring Training were to begin today. (Okay, five, but 17 just isn’t getting assigned. More on that later.)

But that’s information for another day. Today on Tuesday, February 2, 2016 we sit 62 days away from Opening Day at Miller Park. So enough about the unassigned numbers and other players for today belongs to the player who dons #62 for his time in big league Spring Training…

Garin Cecchini.

CecchiniBBtJN

Once considered a top prospect by most (if not all) respected places that rank such things, Garin Cecchini saw a fall from grace in 2015. A career .298 hitter in four minor league seasons, Cecchini got his first taste of Triple-A in 2014 and held his own reasonably well, slashing .263/.341/.371 in 458 plate appearances. MLB Pipeline had Cecchini ranked as the third-best prospect in the minor system of the Boston Red Sox (who drafted Cecchini in the 4th round of the 2010 draft out of high school in Louisiana), and the 55th-best in all of the minor leagues. His game was predicated on bat-to-ball skills, contact rate, patience, and consistency. Cecchini even earned himself a trip to the big leagues which came on June 1, 2014. His MLB debut was fine if statistically insignificant.

Then 2015 happened.

“I had a tough year last year, but it all happens for a reason, ” Cecchini told me at the annual Brewers On Deck fan fest which took place on January 31. “I think it’s exactly the reason I got to Milwaukee. I honestly think the only way I was expendable [to the Red Sox] was if I had the worst year of my life and I had the worst year of my life.”

Boston’s sacrifice could be resurrected in Milwaukee. The Brewers have long struggled to develop top flight prospects at the hot corner. It’s why they signed Aramis Ramirez, who never had to fear for his job while in town, before the 2012 season. Nobody was within shouting distance of Ramirez for the big league spot. And the cast of characters who filled in for Ramirez on days off and then after he was traded to Pittsburgh in July is either young (Hernan Perez, Yadiel Rivera), or some combination of unimpressive and no longer with the organization (Hector Gomez, Elian Herrera, Luis Jimenez, Jason Rogers, Luis Sardiñas). Suffice it to say that despite a handful of competitors, it’s not like the next primary third baseman is going to have to shoehorn his way into the job.

However the first thing that Cecchini must do is distance himself from 2015’s results and become the player he was before he was deemed “expendable.”

“Honestly, I’m not supposed to hit [.213]. I think I’m a better player than that as the past has shown.” Cecchini reiterated that he thinks 2015 happened for a reason and that with the Brewers is where he’s supposed to be. “I wouldn’t be in Milwaukee if I had hit .300, I guarantee you that.”

Cecchini knows he is going to have to compete in Spring Training and he’s ready to separate himself from the pack.

“Just go out and play the game I know how to play. It’s been like that my whole career. You have to compete for something. You never want to be given anything. I’m more confident than ever. I feel back to what I was in ’10, ’11, ’12, ’13, ’14. I had a tough year last year…but I learned from it and I’m glad to be here.”

So what didn’t work?

“I learned on why I had the worst year of my life. Last year I tried to do some new stuff just on my own with a leg kick, coming forward and that’s not the type of hitter I am.” Asked what he needs to do to be his old self, Cecchini said, “Being simple; overly simple in the box. Just going up there and hitting, staying behind the ball. That’s what I’ve done my whole life. Last year…is not the type of hitter I am. I didn’t work. Learn from it and move on.”

The bottom line for Cecchini as he looks forward to 2016 can be summarized thusly:

CecchiniHeadShot“I’m grateful for this opportunity to go out there and be the Garin Cecchini I’ve been my whole life…until last year.”

All that and he’s still just 24 years old. He’s ready to prove that he can perform at the highest levels of this game. The excitement was evident on his face and in his voice as we chatted for about six minutes on Sunday. And it’s not just about the new team.

One more thing that has Cecchini excited is that he gets to go back to his natural position full time. With a smile on his face he said, “I was told ‘Work strictly at third.'” Cecchini said he’s been working hard on his craft and has been taking ground balls every day thanks to the nice weather at home in Louisiana.

As for being number 62, Cecchini said that if he had his choice of any one to wear “it would have to be 17. I’ve always liked that number. I’ve had family members wear the number.” I informed him that while not official, 17 in Milwaukee is virtually retired as it has yet to be given out since long-time wearer Jim Gantner retired following the 1992 season and 15 years in the number. Understandably, Cecchini replied that “any number would be fine.”

I can’t say that I disagree because getting a number on or after April 4th would mean that he’ll be playing with said number on his back but with a big league logo on his chest.

You can follow Garin on Twitter: @GarinCecchini

Catch up on BBtJN ’16:

Brewers By the (Jersey) Numbers ’16 – #63 Junior Guerra

BBtJN Logo

After an unplanned but ultimately brief hiatus due to slight fatigue after the 2,500 “Brewers By the (Jersey) Numbers” Kickoff Column, a weekend with day job work spillover and the allure of Brewers On Deck, I return after a long Monday work day to deliver the piece devoted to the man who wears the jersey aligning with our current position of nine weeks away from Opening Day…

Junior Guerra.

GuerraBBtJN

Junior J. Guerra is a 31-year-old native of Venezuela who has been in professional baseball since 2001 (though not always with MLB-affliated teams) but who just made his Major League Debut last season, a three-game cup of coffee stretching from June 12th through June 22nd. That debut came with the Chicago White Sox, Guerra’s third MLB organization, and the one who signed him after six years out of affiliated baseball. Here’s that timeline.

Signed by the Braves as an international amateur free agent in ’01 (at just 16 years of age), Guerra came stateside with the Braves in 2003. He was signed as a catcher but converted to the mound after not making much progress at the plate — he hit .223 in 269 at-bats over his first three seasons in rookie ball. He got one season with Atlanta after he first toed the rubber to unspectacular results at best (6.59 ERA in 18 games).

Following a 2007 about which I couldn’t find any records of pro ball participation, Guerra caught on with the New York Mets. Now a full-time pitcher — maybe he spent 2007 at home in Venezuela truly learning how to pitch? — Guerra ended up pitching for four different Mets affiilates working to a 2.12 ERA in 18 games. He seemed to be on the right track and, at still only 23 years old, he could very well have been considered a prospect to some degree. Then a reported PED-related 50-game suspension ended his time with the Mets.

Between 2009 and 2014, Guerra kept his dream alive. He pitched wherever he could with stops in Hawaii, Venezuela, Mexico, and even a pair of runs with the Independent League Wichita Wingnuts. He pitched well enough in the Venezuelan Winter League in 2014 to grab the attention of the White Sox.

Guerra started at Double-A Birmingham but only needed five appearances to make his way to Triple-A Charlotte. After seven games as a Knight, Guerra got the call to The Show for the previously mentioned 11 day call-up. Despite a capable showing over the course of the whole season, the White Sox designated Guerra for assignment to open up a spot on their 40-man roster. The brand new Brewers regime which was only officially turned over to David Stearns two days earlier was awarded a waiver claim on Guerra.

GuerraHeadShotForever the answer to a trivia question, Guerra has a good chance to break camp with the Brewers following the departure of a couple of long-time Brewers relievers (Brandon Kintzler and Rob Wooten) who while never elite were certainly useful over their terms with the Brewers.

According to FanGraphs.com, Guerra works with a three-pitch mix. He throws a four-seam fastball averging 94.1 MPH, an 82.2 MPH slider, and a splitter that clocks in 85.7 MPH. With those pitches he was able to handle Triple-A to the tune of a 3.39 ERA with 79 K in 63.2 IP. That’ll play if it converts well enough to the big league level over a significant sample size (which 2015’s three games certainly aren’t).

All in all, Guerra could prove effective in Craig Counsell’s bullpen under the watching eyes of Derek Johnson and Lee Tunnell. Either way, he adds to the inexpensive options at the skipper’s disposal for 2016.

You can follow Junior Guerra on Twitter: @juni1685

Catch up on BBtJN ’16:

Kickoff Column – #68-#78

Brewers By the (Jersey) Numbers ’16 – Kickoff Article

BBtJN Logo

AND WE’RE BAAAAACK!!! AndWereBack

It’s time, once again, for everybody to come aboard the BBtJN train!

All kitsch aside, I am happy to once again be able to bring to you my way of counting down to Opening Day for the Milwaukee Brewers. I call it “Brewers By the (Jersey) Numbers” and the premise is a relatively simple one. When there are as many days remaining until Brewers Opening Day — this year on April 4th at Miller Park — as the jersey number a player wears on the big league side of Spring Training, I will profile that same player.

If that reads as oddly to you as it felt when I was writing it, allow a couple of examples to illuminate your mind. On February 19th, the day Pitchers & Catchers officially report to big league camp, it will be 45 days away from Opening Day. On that day I will profile Tyler Cravy since his jersey number is 45. Got it? One more just in case. March 30 is five days until Opening Day. Jonathan Villar was assigned jersey number 5. I’ll profile Villar on March 30.

I don’t do every single player as some don’t warrant the work for one subjective reason or another, but I hit the high points to be sure and most of everyone else.

As has now happened for a few years in a row, the Milwaukee Brewers only recently announced their jersey number updates for 2016. There are 10 players this year who have seen their individual dates comes and go. (Yeah, I know they’re not actually waiting for me to write something about them. It’s a turn of phrase.)

As with each of the last two years, this kick-off piece will catch us all up on the ones previously missed. As you can see, the blurbs are not full-length pieces but they deserve mention as we trudge bravely toward Opening Day.

That’s a true shame for some of these gentlemen who I’d love to go on at length about. I suspect I’ll have more years in the future with which to fulfill that desire.

With that…we ride!

#78 – Damien Magnifico

Throwing a baseball at 100 MPH tends to get you noticed around baseball circles. Notice tends to get you drafted. Damien Jack Magnifico could do that while he pitched collegiately for Oklahoma State. It was certainly part of why he was taken by the Brewers in the 5th round of the 2012 MLB Draft. After some consideration of a fast track because of that big fastball, the Brewers instead opted to have Magnifico start games (sometimes also working the second half of starter tandems early on) so he could have more time to develop his secondary pitches and harness his velocity. His results were okay as he moved up the organizational ladder, but with only one season remaining before a roster decision would have to be made on him, the Brewers decided to switch Magnifico back to the bullpen full-time.

The development plan proved to be a success at the very least for 2015 as Magnifico dominated working exclusively in relief for the playoff-bound Double-A affiliate Biloxi Shuckers. Magnifico finished 33 games in his 42 appearances, racking up 20 saves in the process. Magnifico also was generating a strong ground ball rate. Couple that with the Shuckers quality defense and you can an idea of why he was able to post a 1.17 ERA across his 53.2 innings pitched.

The Brewers did reward Magnifico’s fine season with both a trip to the Arizona Fall League as well as a coveted spot on the 40-man roster. That he’ll be wearing number 78 this spring may very well be indicative of the likelihood he’ll begin the regular season in the minors, this is a guy who both the previous and current front office folks seem to like just fine.

#77 – Brett Phillips

Another player on the “don’t let the number fool you” team is the consensus headliner of last July’s trade between the Brewers and the Houston Astros in which both Carlos Gomez and Mike Fiers were sent to help the ‘Stros reach the playoffs for the first time in a while. Brett Maverick Phillips was a 6th round pick (by Houston) in the 2012 draft out of Seminole High School in Florida. All he’s done since is continually outpace his projections by working hard to develop his tool set. Phillips ranks highly on most, if not all, industry rankings of Brewers top prospects and as of publishing date he had already been revealed as the #61 prospect in the game according to Baseball Prospectus and is expected to be there or higher on MLB Pipeline’s rankings which are due out on January 29.

Phillips slashed .321/.372/.463 prior to the trade bringing him to the Biloxi Shuckers and while his numbers slumped a bit thereafter, part of that is attributable to an injury which cost him some time. He was able to return for the playoffs and make a short trip to the Arizona Fall League where he shined before leaving to represent his country by playing for Team USA in the Premier 12 Tournament over in east Asia.

A player often considered as “almost ready” to ascend to the big leagues, he has a job in center field more or less waiting for him when that time comes.

#75 – Zack Jones

Well what do we have here? A Rule 5 draft choice (the first of two in this post) who comes to the Brewers from the Minnesota Twins system, Zachary Jones is a 6’1″, 185 lb right-handed pitcher who was born and raised (and even attended college) in San Diego, California. Jones was first drafted by the Kansas City Royals in the 24th round of the 2009 draft before ultimately going to college to pitch at San Jose State. His development there netted him a 4th round nod by the Twins in 2012.

Jones split time between the Class-A Advanced and Class-AA affiliates of the Twins in 2015, combining to post a 4.18 ERA. It was his very first taste of Double-A and he got 27.0 innings in which he allowed 18 earned runs while walking 18 batters and striking out 30. Most pitchers take time to adjust to new levels in the minors and hopefully Jones is no exception so he’ll fare better in 2016. However…

He won’t exactly be repeating Double-A if everything goes as the Brewers hope. As a Rule 5 pick, Jones has to remain on Milwaukee’s active big league 25-man roster all season or be offered back to Minnesota. Brewers fans will recall, probably not very fondly, the similar situation that Wei-Chung Wang went through in 2014. You can only hide the Rule 5 guy for so long, though the differences in the situations are enough to call out. The Brewers have no designs of contention in 2016 which means that it’s a perfect year to let a pitcher potentially get blown up from time to time so that you can add another talented asset to your system. Also, unlike Wang, Jones has pitched above A-ball including a very successful turn in the Arizona Fall League in 2014. Time will tell whether the Brewers get to send him to Triple-A for 2017, but for now there’s no harm at all in seeing what the 25-year-old can handle.

#74 – Daniel Tillman

Daniel Brett Tillman is a former 2nd round draft pick (2010 – LAA) who has struggled to find consistency in the minor leagues to this point in his professional career. After spending his first four years bouncing up and down the Angels system, Tillman joined the Dodgers organization where he’s pitched for the last two years. Tillman signed with the Brewers as a six-year Minor League free agent no doubt seeing an opportunity with a rebuilding club.

Tillman’s consistency issues have been tied back to his control but he really showed some improvement overall in 2015, enough that he became an intriguing option for David Stearns’ front office. Tillman’s full-season ERA (combined between High-A and Double-A) was a solid 2.76 in 58.2 innings pitched. He lowered his BB/9 to a career-best 2.6 and rebounding his K/9 to 10.4 after 2014’s disappointing 7.0 mark.

The 6’1″ right-hander will be 27 before Opening Day this year and now with his third organization, hopefully everything clicks as Tillman can earn himself a spot with Class-AAA Colorado Springs en route to hopefully a long-time-coming Major League debut one day.

#73 – Colin Walsh

The second of two MLB-portion Rule 5 draft picks by the Brewers back in December at the Winter Meetings, Colin P. Walsh is a second baseman who comes to Milwaukee by way of the Oakland Athletics. Originally drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals in the 13th round back in 2010, Walsh wound up with the A’s after being straight up released by the Cardinals during Spring Training in 2014. He caught on right away with Oakland and worked his way all the way up to Class-AAA Sacramento in 2014 before spending all of 2015 back in Class-AA Midland where he helped lead the Midland RockHounds to a Texas League championship.

Walsh’s major tool on display throughout 2015 was his keen batting eye and patience at the plate. He is on record as saying he’d rather take a borderline call and have the umpire call a third strike he doesn’t agree with than put himself at a disadvantage by swinging at the same. The patience paid off in a big way as evidenced by Walsh’s mammoth .447 on-base percentage (.302 batting average) in 619 plate appearances. Walsh walked 124 times in 2015. For an at times OBP-starved team like Milwaukee, Walsh could be just what the doctor ordered. He does have to stick on the 25-man roster all season, but with the versatility he demonstrated in the minors (he’s played both corner outfield spots as well as a sub-par third base during his minor league career) and his likely affinity for pinch-hitting should allow him to make an impact. Furthermore, Walsh is a switch-hitter (who compiled a .494 OBP vs. LHP through June 18th last year) so if Scooter Gennett once again ends up benefiting from a platoon partner, Walsh could potentially fill that role.

#72 – Orlando Arcia

What can I say about Orlando Arcia in a shortened format like this? To be honest, I could potentially fill two full columns with references and quotes and lauds and accolades for the consensus #1 prospect in the Milwaukee Brewers farm system. He’s a shortstop who was once thought of as defensive-only (though with excellent defense) who would make the majors based on his glove work and probably hit 8th and do his best to clear the pitcher from time to time. He has blossomed into a solid hitter with line drive power from gap to gap. His bat control is getting better and better and with a little bit of time to ply his hitting wares against Triple-A level competition to begin the season, Arcia could debut in Brewers blue pretty soon.

All that said, he’s ticketed to the begin the season in Colorado Springs (barring a confluence of as yet not happened circumstances) which will be a nice test for the still just 21-year-old Venezuelan. Oh, and did I mention he’s a 21-year-old who dominated Double-A after missing an entire year of development in 2012 due to a broken ankle? He obviously won’t debut as a teenager (who does these days anymore?), but if he fulfills his growing potential we might be talking about him as a franchise cornerstone for years.

That’s high praise but scouting and analytical people who are much smarter than I am are the ones heaping it upon him. It’s easier to temper enthusiasm and keep expectations low, but where’s the fun in not dreaming big once in a while?

#71 – Josh Hader

I don’t recall the last guy who raised his profile so much so quickly upon joining a new organization. When Josh Ronald Hader was included in the aforementioned Gomez/Fiers-to-Houston deal, he was routinely mentioned as the third-best player and even as fourth when some pointed to his high likelihood of ending up as a relief pitcher. Hader posted a 3.17 ERA before the trade (17 games, 10 starts) and a 2.79 ERA in seven appearances (all starts) after the trade. That’s well and good, but it was his stint in the Arizona Fall League that really had scouts buzzing. In 16.0 IP across seven games (only two starts to help keep his innings in check), Hader was consistently throwing his fastball in the high-90s and showed increased depth to his secondary offerings, especially his slider. Scouts began touting Hader’s chances to stick as a starting pitcher as better and better. This would be a wonderful thing for the Brewers who haven’t developed a left-handed starting pitcher in quite a little bit.

A season of Triple-A ball should tell Stearns and company plenty about whether or not Hader’s newly projected ceiling will ultimately be realizable. As many tend to mention, however, if Hader does end up as a high-leverage reliever he’s viewed as potentially being quite lethal. I can’t wait for this space next year.

#70 – Jacob Barnes

Speaking of cashing in on stellar Arizona Fall League performances, Jacob Andrew Barnes did just that when he was added to the 40-man roster in late November. Don’t misunderstand. There’s a reason Barnes was sent to the Arizona Fall League. After 75.2 innings pitched in 39 games (only six starts), Barnes finished the regular season in Biloxi with a 3.36 ERA and 10.1 K/9. His walk rate wasn’t ideal and he therefore allowed too many baserunners, but he did enough that the team wanted to see more. That’s where the switch got flipped for real on Barnes helium machine.

In the AFL, Barnes through 11.2 innings and allowed just nine total baserunners for a WHIP of 0.771. He also struck out 17 on his way to allowing exactly zero runs. It was exactly the kind of performance that the 6’2″ right-handed Floridian hurler could leverage into 40-man protection. The projections by experts seem to agree that Barnes doesn’t have a high ceiling but many of the ones I prefer to read agreed that his floor should be as a Major League contributor. Keep in mind how many innings this team has given to marginal relief pitchers over the years — even the contending ones — and realize that Barnes has a pretty good bet to do better than many of them. That would be a nice return on a 14th round draft choice five years ago.

#68 – Adam Weisenburger

Alas, poor Adam Robert Weisenburger. So close to his own column and yet… The now 27-year-old catcher who finished the 2014 season in Triple-A spent the entirety of 2015 with the road-warrior Biloxi Shuckers. Since they were a playoff team, Weisenburger was afforded a better opportunity for continued play by simply remaining in Double-A for the whole year. His defense continues to be his best tool and will be on display again in mid-February as he often is among the final catchers to return to the minor league side of camp.

Weisenburger doesn’t hit all that much (.231/.356/.311) but has a decent set of on-base skills buoyed by his low strikeout total and coordinating K:BB ratio. The former 34th round draft choice could perhaps handle the defensive duties in an emergency situation at the big league level, but the Brewers once again brought in veteran free agents on minor-league contracts to likely handle the Triple-A work and be first in line for a potential call-up due to injury or, the reality is, a trade of Jonathan Lucroy.

You can follow most of the players profiled in this article on Twitter.

Now that we’re caught up, these will begin coming one at a time with more robust write-ups.

Brewers By the (Jersey) Numbers ’15 – #20 Jonathan Lucroy

BBtJN Logo

LUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUU
UUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUU
UUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUU
UUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUU
UUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUU

(so on and so forth)

UUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUC!

Yes, the “ooh” sound in the middle of an athlete’s name means, at least in Wisconsin, that said player will never truly know how the fans feels because it always sounds like ample disdain on the home field. It’s an inevitability. If you’ve ever produced a worthwhile memory, have longevity, and/or are popular for whatever reason, the “oohs” are going to find you. From Brewers favorite Cecil Cooooooooper and the Green Bay Packer John Kuuuuuuuuuuuhn to current Brewer (and today’s profile subject)…

Jonathan Luuuuucroy (er…Lucroy).

JonathanLucroy

The other thing that Jonathan Charles Lucroy couldn’t escape last year was hitting doubles. They were everywhere, it seemed. Truth be told, he hit 53 of them setting a new high-water mark for that statistical category for catchers. Equally as impressive, if not more so, was the Lucroy finished the deed with two months of an ailing hamstring and when the entire rest of the team was seemingly in a simultaneous slump at the plate. Mind you, Lucroy didn’t avoid slumping in 2014, he just happened to have his in July (.207/.271/.414) after a blisteringly hot June (.359/.427/.602) but still managed six doubles in July.

The statistics are there, and in the interest of time I won’t bore you with all of them. Instead allow me to summarize Lucroy’s on- and off-field contributions to the Brewers both in terms of statistics as well as notoriety. Jonathan Lucroy finished fourth in the National League’s Most Valuable Player balloting for 2014, started the All-Star Game at catcher, set those records for doubles, finished with a .301 batting average by getting the two hits he needed on the season’s final day, is the subject of a Star Wars-themed bobblehead in May at Miller Park as well as a fitting “Double Jonathan Lucroy” bobblehead in Appleton at the Brewers Class-A affiliate in April. He was the Brewers representative in MLB Network’s annual “Face of MLB” contest and even attended the President’s State of the Union address in part due to his work with the Honor Flight program. His “nerd power” and eyeglasses celebration was endearing and his frankness and earnestness as a locker room voice for the team is well-noted. His pitch framing is talked about in most every baseball circle that cares. He’s become a complete player with just enough self-deprecating wit to keep away those who would tear down athletes and celebrities deemed to be too popular.

Lucroy truly is a bastion of baseball excellence for the Brewers. He’s listed among the game’s elite at his position and his play is absolutely paramount to the success of the Brewers in 2015. With that in mind, manager Ron Roenicke has made a decision to continue keeping Lucroy’s bat in the lineup while protecting him physically from catching every single day by using Luc as soft platoon partner at first base with newcomer Adam Lind. Lucroy appeared in 18 games at first base for Milwaukee in 2014 — a that number will likely increase in 2015. He handles the pitching staff well and despite not having a great throwing arm it is accurate.

All (okay, most) of the above is why when Lucroy showed up to Spring Training with a recurrence of the hamstring injury that affected him down the stretch last season, so many fans and analysts were worried. Lucroy is reportedly fine now, though still advised against full out “sprinting”. Getting and keeping him healthy throughout 2015 is something that the award winning medical staff of the Brewers is up for, but the body has to cooperate to a degree.

Lucroy’s availability will go a long way in determining how 2015 ends up for himself, his teammates, and Brewers fans alike.

If anybody is up to the task, it’s the man affectionately referred to as “Luuuuc.”

Follow Jonathan on Twitter: @JLucroy20

Catch up on the countdown!

Brewers By the (Jersey) Numbers ’15 – #21 Jeremy Jeffress

BBtJN Logo

Three weeks less a day until this countdown is over. That’s because A) I no longer and never again will preview anyone with one day remaining and B) we’re just three weeks away from Opening Day on April 6 at Miller Park!!!ExclamationPoint!!

The wearer of number 21 gets our focus today, and he is…

Jeremy Jeffress.

MLB: Milwaukee Brewers-Photo Day

It was the 6th day of June in 2006 when the Milwaukee Brewers made Jeremy Ross Jeffress the 16th overall pick in the First-Year Player Draft. He signed a day later and embarked on a journey that would eventually bring him full circle for you see Jeffress has not always been a Brewer.

A high school kid out of South Boston, Virginia, Jeffress was considered a quality pick in the middle of the first round. He would make his MLB debut for Milwaukee just under three weeks before his 23rd birthday as a 2010 September call up. There was seemingly more motivation at the time than merely trying to determine whether he was ready to consistently get out Major League hitters. Jeffress was on the verge of being banned for baseball for life.

As the promising fireballer was working his way through the minor leagues, he had been suspended twice for positive tests “involving a drug of abuse”. Two suspensions (for 50 and 100 games respectively) meant that Jeffress was busted three times. The most recent one began at the tail end of June 2009. He had reportedly undergone rehab following his first suspension in 2007, if I recall correctly, and likely just relapsed after a while.

Jeffress ended up missing the rest of the 2009 season as well as over a month of the 2010 season. He needed to be added to the 40-man roster anyway after 2010 or risk Rule 5 Draft exposure, so the Brewers got him on earlier than necessary and pitched him that September. He walked six in just 10.0 innings of work, but also struck out eight and kept his ERA at 2.70. All small sample size stuff, but the velocity was certainly there for him as well.

To his credit, Jeffress finally gave up his habit and had been getting his life right on and off the field. He credits the birth of his daughter as one of the turning points in his life. He also had an underlying medical issue that he has since gotten under control, that being seizures. With proper medication, he’s physically and mentally in the best place he’s ever been and the results are showing in the box scores.

Jeffress was notably a piece in the off-season trade with the Kansas City Royals that brought Zack Greinke to Milwaukee. Jeffress would pitch in 27 games for the Royals over two seasons without much success. A major source of his problems came from command. He was walking a ton of batters. Suffice it to say that as his walk rate has plummeted over the last few years, his results have gotten better and better.

2011: 6.5 BB/9, 4.70 ERA in 14 games
2012: 8.8 BB/9, 6.75 ERA in 13 games
2013: 4.4 BB/9, 0.87 ERA in 10 games
2014 Milwaukee only: 2.2 BB/9, 1.88 ERA in 29 games with a career-best 3.57 K/BB ratio

Jeffress has also shown the ability to miss bats which definitely helps him escape jams whether they be self-created or inherited. Coupled with less base runners (a career-best 1.186 WHIP for Milwaukee in 2014), his skills are begin to amalgamate into a high-leverage reliever with possible 9th inning duties in the future. Still just 27, Jeffress could pitch for another decade if he continues to refine those skills which have gotten him this far.

As for 2015, Jeffress is currently slotted in a setup role mostly tasked with getting three outs in and around the 7th inning. At times he might be used as a right-handed sub for Jonathan Broxton in the 8th inning if Broxton needs a day off. Other times he might be called upon to get a key out prior to the 7th should the game be on the line early. But paired with the left-handed Will Smith, the two hard throwers will be a tough combination to crack for opposing lineups.

Workign in tandem with Smith could be a great thing for Jeffress because if there’s one other thing on which Jeffress can work to improve, it’s getting out left-handed hitters. His splits were pretty rough in 2014.

vs. RHH – .221/.274/.235 – 68 AB, 15 H, 1 2B, 5 BB, 20 K, .313 BAbip
vs. LHH – .392/.458/.510 – 51 AB, 20 H, 3 2B, 1 HR, 5 BB, 9 K, .452 BAbip

So while some of that is bad luck, there’s enough of a trend that it’s something worth keeping track of, especially if Jeffress is passed over for a particular inning simply because of the handedness of the hitters due up.

All that said, I expect a very strong contribution from Jeffress in 2015 as the Brewers hope to have a lock down bullpen securing the wins that the rest of the team has put them in place to grab.

You can follow Jeremy on Twitter: @JMontana41

Catch up on the countdown!

Brewers By the (Jersey) Numbers ’15 – #26 Kyle Lohse

BBtJN Logo

Late start to writing, no time for a fluffy open. We’re 26 days away so let’s talk…

Kyle Lohse.

KyleLohse

As we enter the third and final year of the contract negotiated between Scott Boras and Mark Attanasio in early 2013 for Kyle Lohse’s services, I could take this time to look back at Lohse’s career as a Milwaukee Brewer to this point. I’ll save the full analysis for Q4 2015, but for now allow me to remind everyone that how well Lohse would perform over these last two years wasn’t much of a question back in ’13 amongst “Brewers Twitter”. Instead, it revolved more around year three and the associated cost of the forfeited draft pick. Suffice it to say that Lohse has so far lived up to the financial outlay. And while the draft pick has largely been forgotten (as happens to draft picks), the upcoming Championship Season will tell the ultimate tale in many fans’ eyes for how the Lohse contract will be remembered.

It happens all the time, of course. A player can have a good or even great couple of years but if the lasting taste in a fan’s mouth is one of disdain, then the early successes will often be ignored. Lohse’s 2014 is under scrutiny here though, and it should be remembered that it was a good season for the veteran right-hander.

Lohse missed a couple of weeks in August after rolling his ankle while batting in an August 13 start against the Chicago Cubs but still managed to make 31 starts as the #2 starter for Ron Roenicke. He pitched 198.1 innings (just one out shy of matching his 2013 total) in one fewer game. Lohse recorded two shutouts on the season which were his only complete games. Lohse compiled the following stats as well: 1.0 HR/9, 3.13 K/BB, 1.150 WHIP and an ERA+ of 107. All that supported his winning 13 games with an ERA of 3.54. Notable was that Lohse struck out the second highest total in his career (141) in posting his best K/9 (6.4) since 2006 when he was a different pitcher in a different role.

2015 could very well be Lohse’s final year in Milwaukee. He’s getting older and though he’s still pitching well enough to continue his career, there comes a time when every athlete faces the decision of retiring. Should his play fall off or he suffer an injury, there’s a chance he may get pushed into things. Regardless, with 2015 being the final year of his now very reasonably priced contract, Lohse could look elsewhere to continue his career. Similarly, the Brewers could decide that someone among their younger crop of starting pitchers is ready to step into the rotation much like how they traded Yovani Gallardo to give a full-time spot to Jimmy Nelson prior to this off-season.

We should be able to expect steady results from Kyle Lohse once again in 2015, with hopefully a bit more health for both his sake and the sake of the Brewers. Topping 200 innings and making 33 starts would be a welcome increase out of the Brewers’ probably Opening Day starter.

As for the end, the final day of the 2015 regular season will be Lohse’s 37th birthday. Let’s hope we get to help him celebrate with confetti and preparations for postseason play returning to Milwaukee.

Follow Kyle on Twitter: @KyleLohse26

Catch up on the countdown!

Brewers By the (Jersey) Numbers ’15 – #27 Carlos Gomez

BBtJN Logo

The number 27 holds a special place in my heart due to some personal reasons. As such, I’ve always paid particular attention — intentionally or not — to who on a given team wears 27. For the Brewers over the years there have been a couple of notable donners, but it was a rough go more often than not. It is the singular reason, for example, that I was willing to keep giving Brady Clark chances to perform.

So imagine my excitement when the Milwaukee Brewers and Minnesota Twins consummated their November 2009 trade that brought today’s profile subject to the Badger State.

But without further ado, let’s get into my look at…

Carlos Gomez.

CarlosGomezGetty

Gomez had quite the 2014 season. In fact, it matched or exceeded his 2013 breakout season in many ways. From identical .284 batting averages and 73 RBIs each year, the similarities are staggering. Here are the two years for the sake of comparison (courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com).

Year Age Tm Lg G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS OPS+ TB GDP HBP SH SF IBB Pos Awards
2013 ★ 27 MIL NL 147 590 536 80 152 27 10 24 73 40 7 37 146 .284 .338 .506 .843 128 271 11 10 1 6 2 *8 AS,MVP-9,GG
2014 ★ 28 MIL NL 148 644 574 95 163 34 4 23 73 34 12 47 141 .284 .356 .477 .833 130 274 10 19 1 3 0 *8/D AS,MVP-16

Statistically, as you can see…

  • Better:
    • Games, Plate Appearances, At-Bats, Runs, Hits, Doubles, Walks, Strikeouts, On-Base, OPS+, Total Bases, GIDP
  • Same:
    • RBI, Extra Base Hits, Batting Average, All-Star
  • Worse:
    • Triples, Home Runs, Stolen Bases, Stolen Base %, Slugging %, OPS

Gomez continues to play like his hair is on fire and ran into too many outs on the bases, and with fewer chances he robbed less home runs at the wall. All that considered, despite some nagging injuries again during the dog days of summer, Gomez performed very well in the second season of his talent realization. He feels he can do better and says over and over how he’ll never be satisfied. His stated goal on social media this year is to be the National League’s Most Valuable Player. No reason not to aim high.

But the key reason I point out all of those statistical similarities is because too often we fans see a breakout year be followed up by a poor one, or at least one marred by the dreaded regression. That Gomez was able to once again produce at the plate in 2014 the way he did in 2013 is incredibly encouraging.

Now it’s all about taking that next step forward. Gomez can be an All-Star again with similar numbers but to reach that brass ring of MVP, he’ll need to continue to hone those incredible physical gifts into cleaner and even more refined baseball skills.

I’m looking forward to the results.

Follow Carlos on Twitter: @C_Gomez27

Catch up on the countdown!

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 29,403 other followers