On Wednesday it was announced that the Milwaukee Brewers had signed a pair of free agents to minor league contracts. Those contracts include invitations to big league camp at Maryvale come February, officially labeling both new additions as “non-roster invitees” or NRIs.
The two players involved are catcher Matt Pagnozzi, late of the Houston Astros system, and utility infielder Irving Falu, most recently of the Kansas City Royals organization.
Full write ups of their pasts will come during the 2014 edition of “Brewers By the (Jersey) Numbers”, but for now let’s go ahead and give you a little taste.
Matthew Thomas Pagnozzi (hey kids, he’s on Twitter! @MattPagnozzi) is a 31-year-old veteran of 11 seasons in professional baseball. He’s been employed by six different organizations including five in the last three years. Pagnozzi doesn’t hit much but has a solid reputation as a defensive-minded catcher. The Brewers could use a quality receiver to work with the next wave of prospects at Triple-A Nashville. Barring injury, that’s Pagnozzi’s likely destination when camp breaks at the end of March.
Irving Falu (Twitter: @irvingfalu) is a native of Puerto Rico who was first drafted in 2001 by the San Diego Padres and then again in 2003 by the Royals. He is 30 years old and as the polar opposite of Pagnozzi has only known one organization. In a beautiful irony that Brewers fans can appreciate, Falu made his MLB debut in 2012 after injury sidelined Yuniesky Betancourt. Perhaps Falu can permanently replace Betancourt in the Brewers organization going forward. Forever. And ever.
Both of these players will be heavily involved in Spring Training. Pagnozzi as a top MiLB catcher and Falu as a switch-hitting infielder who can back up at second base, third base and shortstop.
The Milwaukee Brewers announced a short while ago that they have acquired 20-year-old left-handed pitching prospect Luis Ortega from the Boston Red Sox. In return, the Red Sox acquired right-handed reliever Burke Badenhop.
Badenhop was 2-3 with a 3.47 ERA and a Save in 63 appearances out of Milwaukee’s bullpen in 2013. It was Badenhop’s lone season as a Brewer, having been acquired on December 1st of last year.
Luís David Ortega, 5’10″ 155 lb, signed as an international free agent with the Boston back in 2011 and has pitched the past two seasons in their system. Originally from the Dominican Republic, Ortega pitched in the Dominican Summer League as a 19-year-old before pitching for Boston’s Gulf Coast League rookie ball affiliate in 2012. In total, he’s appearaed in 25 games as a professional, including 13 starts in 2011 and just one start in 2012 to go along with 11 relief appearances. He’s logged 96.0 innings pitched with a combined ERA of 2.25.
Ortega could begin the 2013 season with Class-A Wisconsin if he has a good spring, but certainly he’ll be stateside. Whether he works as a starter or reliever will be something most likely decided upon soon so off-season workouts can be adjusted as necessary.
Clearly the Brewers have confidence in some of their young middle relief pitchers who debuted last season in order to surrender a Major League veteran. Also a factor is that Badenhop was arbitration eligible. Bottom line, if you can get the same job done for cheaper, it just makes sense to do it that way.
With Badenhop’s depature, the Brewers’ 40-man roster stands at 39.
Today is the deadline to add players to the 40-man roster in order to protect them from the annual Rule V Draft.
That draft takes place at the Winter Meetings and was originally implemented with the idea of getting players an opportunity that they might otherwise not receive. The basics that one needs to know are that if a player is selected by another club, that player must be rostered at the MLB level for the entirety of the next season and be “active” for at least 90 days. Otherwise the player must be offered back to his original organization.
From there, it gets a little more complicated including upfront cost, roster construction, option years, salary differential, etc. The point though is that eligible players who would be of interest to other clubs need to be protected from the draft. The only way to do that is to add the player to the 40-man roster.
Not every minor leaguer is eligible though. To be eligible for the Rule V Draft a player must have played in professional (affiliated) baseball for at least four full seasons if he was signed at age 19 or older, and five full seasons if signed at 18 or younger.
The Brewers have several eligible players this year who warranted consideration for protection, but at most four open roster spots with which to protect. Last year they protected more than that and possibly adding Corey Hart add a free agent would mean someone previously protected may eventually wind up back off the roster the end. Furthermore, the group of eligible players in full could make up their own 40-man roster still have two on the outside looking in.
But those most likely seriously considered include Hunter Morris, Jason Rogers, Brooks Hall, Kyle Heckathorn, Kevin Shackelford, and Tyler Cravy.
Any of those aren’t added today are certainly names to look for on December 15th as teams make selections in the Rule V Draft. Others could be lost as well, especially if they’re able to be taken in the minor league portions of the draft like Eric Farris last year.
I have learned that the Brewers officials have had their discussions and made their arguments as to why each player should be protected. The final decision is, as it should be, now in general manager Doug Melvin’s hands.
We’ll have coverage for you whenever official word comes down. Decisions are due to the league office before the end of the day, or 11pm CST.
***BREAKING: A source informed me that Jason Rogers will be added to the 40-man roster today.***
***BREAKING PART TWO: A source confirmed that Hunter Morris will also be added to the 40-man roster, as widely expected.***
The business of baseball has no off-season.
This was evidenced once again today when the Los Angeles Dodgers made a trade with, of all teams, the Boston Red Sox. Yes, the same Boston Red Sox who are about to take the field for Game 1 of the 2013 World Series.
The Brewers are keeping busy as well, outrighting three players off of the 40-man roster today. As with any outright assignment, the players were first designated for assignment, thereby being exposed to waivers. All three cleared waivers and were assigned outright to the Triple-A Nashville Sounds. It was the first DFA for Manzanillo and Ravin so there was no stickiness with regards to rights of refusal for them, but Jesus Sanchez has been outrighted once before (Phillies, 2010) so he could still declare himself a minor-league free agent.
The three players removed are all right-handed pitchers. Santo Manzanillo was added to the 40-man roster before the 2012 season but missed almost the entire year due to injuries suffered in a car crash in his native Dominican Republic. Jesus Sanchez, a converted catcher, was added to the 40-man before this past season. He pitched well at Nashville in 2013, though not as well as in 2012. Still, he has shown promise. The third player, Josh Ravin, was just acquired by the Brewers off waivers from the Cincinnati Reds organization earlier this month. Ravin was first added to the 40-man roster of the Reds following the 2012 season as well.
It’s basically a paperwork only move as all three pitchers, assuming health, will likely be pitching at Maryvale in Spring Training with the Brewers.
The biggest immediate impact these moves have is clearing space on the Brewers 40-man roster. The roster stands at 35 today with two spots spoken for already and the other three probably already earmarked as well.
Ryan Braun and Rickie Weeks will take two spots when they are respectively reinstated. Miguel De Los Santos might take one if he ever comes off of the restricted list. And, among many others to be considered, the Brewers’ last two Minor League Players of the Year — Hunter Morris and Jason Rogers — both require protection from the Rule V Draft for the first time this off-season.
The Brewers should get two more openings when free agents declare, by way of Michael Gonzalez and Yuniesky Betancourt, but Corey Hart may take a spot if he is resigned. In other words, there is still much flux to be unfluxed before the season begins.
The following tweet hit the Twitterverse yesterday evening.
Taylor Green resigns w brewers. Mlb invite w several opt outs. Hopefully in mlb entire season.Milwaukee is a 1st class organization #brewers
— Joshua Kusnick (@JoshuaKusnick) October 22, 2013
As tweets are limited in length, here’s an explanation of the second sentence.
“Mlb invite” indicates that Green’s deal includes a spring training invitation to big league camp. However the “w several opt outs” part of that tweet indicates that Green will have the option to become a free agent at different times if certain circumstances aren’t met.
Brewers.com beat writer Adam McCalvy got the details of those opt outs directly from Kusnick.
“Kusnick said the deal cannot be terminated before May 22, and includes a pair of opt-outs. If Green is not on the 40-man roster by June 15, the Brewers have 48 hours to contact the 29 other teams to see if one will add Green to its own 40-man. If a team accepts, the Brewers would release Green. Green can also opt-out to take a contract in Asia; the Brewers would get $150,000 (if) Green signs such a deal before Dec. 15 and $300,000 after that date.”
Green was removed from the Brewers’ 40-man roster after being reinstated from the 60-day disabled list. He had hip surgery back in April to repair a torn labrum and missed the entire season. Green breaks a recent, if small, trend of Brewers 40-man roster removals leaving the organization. Both Chris Narveson and Blake Lalli declared their free agency.
In other player news, Joshua Kusnick is the agent for a handful of Brewers minor leaguers as well, including Zach Kroenke, Alan Sharkey and Brandon Diaz.
Speaking of Kroenke, who first joined the Brewers in 2013, Kusnick also told McCalvy that the Brewers and Kroenke were close on a new minor league deal for the 2014 season but also tweeted that:
Kroenke deal is not official yet so I can’t one way or other he’s sleeping on a very fine offer.
— Joshua Kusnick (@JoshuaKusnick) October 22, 2013
Kroenke, 29, went 5-16 in 32 games (19 starts) for Nashville in 2013. He posted a 4.51 ERA along the way.
It’s been just four business days since the Milwaukee Brewers played their final game of the 2013 Major League Baseball regular season. A number of transactions — both at the 40-man roster level and elsewhere in the organization — have happened so far this week, so here’s a full “recappening” to make sure you’re up to speed.
I include my tweets about the bullet items to illustrate that the best way to get this information quickly is to just follow me on Twitter (@BrewerNation).
During the week of September 12-18:
- RHP Arcenio Leon was signed to a 2014 MiLB contract (but it would be announced officially by the team finally on 10/1).
— The Brewer Nation (@BrewerNation) September 21, 2013
Tuesday, October 1
- RHP Austin Blaski (21st round draft pick in 2012) retired from professional baseball. Blaski was a 2013 All-Star for the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers before an arm injury cost him the rest of his season. He had surgery and retired, no doubt, as a result.
- The Brewers announced the minor league resigning of several players to 2014 contracts
- The aforementioned Arcenio Leon.
- C/3B Robinzon Diaz
- SS Hector Gomez
- INF Eugenio Velez
- OF Eric Patterson was released.
#Brewers announced that Eugenio Velez, Robinzon Diaz & Hector Gomez were signed to 2014 contracts today. All receive big league camp invite.
— The Brewer Nation (@BrewerNation) October 1, 2013
Wednesday, October 2
- LHP Chris Narveson elected minor league free agency
- C/1B Blake Lalli (who was DFA’d more than two weeks prior) elected minor league free agency
- RHP Dylan Brock (34th round draft pick in 2013) was suspended 50 games for violating the MiLB drug policy.
Thursday, October 3
- 1B Mat Gamel was lost on waivers to the Chicago Cubs. Gamel was waived to open up a spot on the swollen 40-man roster. (The Brewers have until five days after the World Series to reinstate any players not currently counted against that roster due to 60-day DL designation, suspension, etc.)
- INF Taylor Green was reinstated from the 60-day Disabled List.
- Green, OF Josh Prince, and RHP Nick Bucci were outrighted to Triple-A Nashville.
— The Brewer Nation (@BrewerNation) October 3, 2013
— The Brewer Nation (@BrewerNation) October 3, 2013
Friday, October 4
- (THIS SPACE WILL BE UPDATED WITH ANY TRANSACTIONS SHOULD THEY OCCUR ON FRIDAY)
A couple of notes about the transactions this week:
- The removal of Prince and Bucci from the 40-man roster opens two spots on it. It currently stands at 38.
- The Brewers have at minimum two players to add back in Rickie Weeks and Ryan Braun.
- Two spots should open when Michael Gonzalez and Yuniesky Betancourt declare free agency following the World Series.
- There will be some names requiring protection from the Rule V Draft that will be added as the weeks progress as well.
- Nick Bucci’s removal from the 40-man roster shouldn’t come as a big surprise. He was only added after last season following a breakout campaign. A shoulder injury cost him almost the entirety of 2013 (he got into one game and recorded two outs) and position him for a good amount of work. It’s significant that he was outrighted to Nashville despite never having pitched above High-A. That means that though he will be exposed to the Rule V Draft in December, any team selecting him would need to add him to their MLB roster and keep him there the entire 2014 season. That’s quite frankly unlikely to happen.
During today’s loss to the Chicago Cubs, news broke that the Milwaukee Brewers were awarded a waiver claim on a pitcher who had been designated for assignment a few days ago by the Cincinnati Reds.
His name is Josh Ravin (he’s on Twitter: @FreshSqueezed22) and he’s a 25-year-old right-handed pitcher originally drafted back in 2006 out of Chatsworth High School in California. He’s listed at 6’5″ and 225 pounds and is said to have an electric fastball but it’s one of those where he doesn’t always know where it’s going.
The Brewers minor league pitching coordinators have had a lot of success in “fixing” pitchers with big arms and spotty control. There’s a litany of names along the way that have given the Brewers value to varying degrees over the years, the highest profile and most recent of which might be the since traded John Axford.
In Ravin (pronounced like the bird of a similar spelling), the Brewers look to have another project who still contains potential, but potential which the Reds were no longer willing to wait for the realization of. Hopefully their loss is the Brewers’ gain. Nothing like have a player work out well, even if short term, on a flier. It’s a little sweeter when the team that missed out on positive results is in the division.
One comp that Brewers.com beat writer Adam McCalvy posted on Twitter was Joe Nathan, in that Ravin has been able to hit triple digits with the fastball but with poor results due to lack of control. Ravin has had his share of struggles in the minor leagues, posting a career ERA of 5.30 in eight seasons. He was originally signed as a starting pitcher but was shifted to the bullpen full-time to begin the 2012 season. He has a career 8.1 K/9 ratio but also sports a 6.1 BB/9 ratio which will definitely need to be improved upon to make an impact at the big league level.
The 2013 season gave Ravin his first experience at the Triple-A level, pitching for the Louisville Bats of the Independent League. His numbers were rough in his 10 games, but obviously at least one somebody in the Brewers scouting department saw enough in this fireballer that they think whatever ails him from the control and command facets of the game is correctable.
Time will tell, but this is another move that shows that the Brewers are paying attention, willing to take chances, and refuse to keep the status quo simply for the sake of doing so. It bit Doug Melvin as recently as 2012 when after returning nearly every bullpen piece from the 2011 Division Champion team, they all had poor seasons in confluence.
Welcome to Josh Ravin. I look forward to seeing what the Brewers can help him become. It’s happened here before, and the likelihood of it happening again is high. Furthermore, Ravin is a cost-controlled, team-controlled asset who has two minor league option years remaining after having been first added to a 40-man roster following the 2012 season.
To make room on the Brewers’ 40-man roster, C/1B Blake Lalli was designated for assignment.
Earlier today it was announced that the Milwaukee Brewers were awarded the waiver claim for RHP Jose De La Torre, late of the Boston Red Sox. The Sawx, as I lovingly refer to them, had to open a spot on their 40-man roster for the return of starter Clay Buchholz from the 60-day Disabled List. De La Torre was the player chosen and the Brewers submitted the winning claim.
Let’s learn a little bit about the newest employee of Mark Attanasio.
Jose De La Torre is a 5’10″, right-handed pitcher. Should it ever matter, he bats from the right side as well. De La Torre turns 28 years old next month and is originally from San Juan, Puerto Rico. As you already know if you follow me on Twitter…
Fun fact: De La Torre was originally signed by the #Brewers as an amateur free agent out of Puerto Rico back in 2004.
— The Brewer Nation (@BrewerNation) September 13, 2013
He was 18 years old at the time. He also wasn’t a Brewers farmhand for very long as he was released on April 29th of that same year. He caught on in 2006 with the New York Mets and pitched with them until 2011 when he became a minor league free agent. From there it was a free agent contract with Cleveland and a trade the next season that got him into Boston’s system.
He made his Major League debut finally on May 12, 2013 for Boston and has been up and down a couple of times this year. It’s his first year on a 40-man roster so he does have two minor league option years remaining after this one.
De La Torre throws his fastballs in the low 90s but has been a strikeout pitcher during his time in pro ball to this point. For Boston this year in the majors he struck out 15 in 11.1 IP and in the minors he has piled up 410 strikeouts in 392.0 IP. Only once in a full season of pitching has he finished with a K/9 below 9.0, and that was back in 2007 for the St. Lucie Mets, New York’s High-A affiliate.
Besides reportedly throwing both a four- and two-seam fastball, De La Torre’s arsenal includes a slider and change up. All of his fastball velo was within the 91-92 range. His slider clocks in at just 83 MPH on average with the change up sitting at 85 MPH. (All pitch velocities are courtesy of FanGraphs.)
The Brewers officially optioned De La Torre to their rookie ball affiliate Helena following the successful claim, but a report from Adam McCalvy said…
De La Torre to Helena is just a paper move, I’m told. He won’t pitch there. #Brewers
— Adam McCalvy (@AdamMcCalvy) September 13, 2013
Still, De La Torre is an intriguing option for the 2014 bullpen when at least one job will be up for grabs at Maryvale Baseball Park. As mentioned earlier, he’ll report to Spring Training at age 28 and while he’s hardly a spring chicken by baseball standards, the Brewers have had success with older journeyman type relievers and getting some good use out of their arms. Hopefully history can repeat itself to that end as De La Torre is still pre-arbitration and would be under team control through the 2018 season.
Low risk, potential reward. Can’t faultmoves like that.
…at least not anytime soon.
Per a tweet from Tom Haudricourt, the Brewers have indeed identified the player they will be receiving from the St. Louis Cardinals to complete the trade for veteran reliever John Axford.
RHP Michael Blazek is indeed player to be named for #Brewers in John Axford trade.
— Tom (@Haudricourt) September 1, 2013
So let’s learn a little bit about the newest Brewers relief prospect.
Michael Robert Blazek is a 6’0″, 200 lbs right-handed power relief pitcher who was originally drafted by the Cardinals back in the 35th round of the 2007 First-Year Player Draft. He turned 24 years old earlier this season and made his big league debut on June 22nd of this year.
Blazek struggled early in his minor league career and sports a career 4.13 ERA as a result. Being able to throw in the mid-90s usually gets you some time to develop, especially since he was signed out of high school in Nevada. This year has been a revelation for the player who was ranked as the Cardinals’ 5th-best prospect prior to the trade by MLBPipeline.com.
Here is the write-up on Blazek from MLB.com:
Just two years ago, Blazek was a starter who had reached Triple-A. With a four-pitch mix, it seemed his ceiling was that of a No. 4 or 5 starter. After seven ineffective starts in 2012, however, the Cardinals moved the right-hander into the bullpen, and he posted a 2.59 ERA and .182 batting average against in 33 Double-A outings. Blazek pitched with an average fastball as a starter, but he was up to 95 mph out of the bullpen, and it might be plus more consistently if he stays with shorter stints. He still has three secondary pitches in his curve, slider and changeup that have the chance to be Major League average. It seems like the Cardinals will stick with Blazek as a reliever, giving his stuff a chance to play up and get him to the big leagues faster.
That was written prior the start of the 2013 season. Stay tuned for where he’ll be ranked on the Brewers’ list after the trade is officially completed.
***UPDATE: Blazek was initially slotted into the Brewers Top 20 at #11 but then changed to #10. See it here: http://mlb.mlb.com/mlb/prospects/watch/y2013/#list=mil ***
So far in 2013, Blazek pitched at both Double-A and Triple-A in the Cardinals organization before making his MLB debut. Combined in the minors he threw 45.2 IP over 36 appearances. He compiled nine Saves and a 1.97 ERA. His WHIP was 1.182 as he allowed just 28 hits and 26 walks. And his K/9 and K/BB were 10.2 and 2.0 respectively with his 52 total strikeouts. Those are certainly numbers that are encouraging.
However, once Blazek reached the major leagues his command struggles became more pronounced. He walked 10 in 10.1 IP to go along with 10 hits allowed, including two home runs. He did strikeout 10 as well, so the potential to “miss bats” at the big league level has certainly manifested itself early. But a WHIP near 2.00 as a relief pitcher won’t get it done. Nor will his ERA which sits at a robust 6.97 right now.
Some of that is small sample size fun, and Milwaukee’s pitching coaches will help him refine his mechanics and whatever else needs some help to get him to realize a bit more consistency.
He’s certainly a name that you’ll need to know about heading into next year’s Spring Training…that is, assuming he doesn’t come to Milwaukee for the balance of the 2013 season.
***UPDATE: The Brewers officially announced (about 20 minutes after this first posted) that Blazek will indeed be joining the big league bullpen tomorrow.***