Brewers By the (Jersey) Numbers ’15 – #29 Jim Henderson

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We did it! Another milestone along the way to Opening Day has been reached and passed. We’re officially inside 30 days. Just 29 days remain until April 6 when Miller Park springs back to life. I can almost smell the tailgating.

As we continue to wind our way through “Brewers By the (Jersey) Numbers”, we’ve reached #29 and as such have reached…

Tyler Thornburg Jim Henderson.

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Does that open feel familiar? It should because it’s basically yesterday’s. There’s a reason for it. Jim Henderson and Tyler Thornburg had many similarities in the 2014 seasons — or more accurately how they came to an end — that it made me feel like I could take my Thornburg piece, change a few of the specifics, and have it work for Henderson just as well.

For example, both men started Spring Training with the idea that they would be key contributors to the bullpen in 2014, but Henderson the closer and Thornburg in middle relief. The seasons for both players ended early because of injured throwing arms but Thornburg was elbow and Henderson was shoulder. Both players had medical procedures to aid in healing, but Henderson was a labrum and rotator cuff “clean up” and Thornburg was a PRP injection. Both players started throwing shortly before camp to test their arms and both started camp healthy although possibly limited.

It’s coincidence that they are back-to-back in the countdown, but the similarities are undeniable. Still, there are enough differences to highlight.

As mentioned, Henderson was originally slated to be Ron Roenicke’s closer in 2014. He had taken over the job in 2013 following the early season implosion of John Axford, and had done a fine job converting 28 of 32 save opportunities and pitching to a 2.70 ERA across 60.0 innings in 61 appearances.

Over the years, the Brewers have been wont to stick with a closer as long as he is effective due to the cost associated with any relief pitchers who perform well in that role over a long period of time. The Brewers have been good about finding guys to fill the job for as long as they are physically able and then moving on.

They hope that Henderson isn’t simply a short-term solution that was but the fact remains that he didn’t make his MLB debut until nearly age 30 for a reason. He relies on fastball velocity and off-speed command because if hitters can sit on a slower fastball, he’ll get hammered. That was evident in 2014 as Henderson had bouts with shoulder inflammation in between spurts of having his 95 MPH heater.

Eventually though, Henderson would succumb to the injury. He actually pitched longer than Thornburg did last year, but it came on a pair of failed rehab assignments in the minor leagues where Henderson could never quite get past the weakness caused by the damaged shoulder.

In full, Henderson appeared in 14 big league games last year and posted a 7.15 ERA in 14.1 innings pitched. He allowed three home runs in his limited time though he still managed to strikeout 17 hitters. The rest of his rates stats were terrible though as he wasn’t physically capable of pitching his game.

Reportedly healthy now, Henderson is taking things slowly with a target of being ready by Opening Day. (If he isn’t, that’s fine because the Brewers have options and once Henderson is ready he can come in as a fresh arm booster shot.) In his first Cactus League game this year though…

…so we’ll have to see how things progress.

Luckily for all involved, 29 days is still plenty of time for Henderson to get his work in so that all the decision makers will have enough information eventually.

If the big right-handed Canadian can contribute to the 2015 Brewers, it’ll be a welcome inclusion.

Catch up on the countdown!

Brewers By the (Jersey) Numbers ’15 – #30 Tyler Thornburg

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We did it! Another milestone along the way to Opening Day has been reached and passed. We’re officially inside of a month. Just 30 days remain until April 6 when Miller Park springs back to life. I can almost smell the tailgating.

As we continue to wind our way through “Brewers By the (Jersey) Numbers”, we’ve reached #30 and as such have reached…

Tyler Thornburg.

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Conveniently, Thornburg had his first appearance on the mound in his #30 Brewers uniform in quite some time yesterday. It was a rough finish for Thornburg in 2014 after all. He went down with what was originally called an elbow injury. Thornburg suffered a partially torn ulnar collateral ligament during his freshman year of high school but rehabbed his way through it and hadn’t dealt with issues since. Word eventually came down that Thornburg had inflammation in his right wrist and elbow but would not need Tommy John surgery, the fix for a ruptured UCL. It was later termed as “UCL weakness” and without significant progress on his own, the decision was made for Thornburg to have a platelet-rich plasma injection (or “PRP”) in the elbow. That seemed to do the trick and despite a distinct lack of information over the winter, Thornburg was expected to be ready during Spring Training.

It turned out to be better than that as Thornburg began throwing bullpen sessions in January. He’s on the right track for Opening Day and the decision was even made to stretch him out to increase his stamina and perhaps have him be the long reliever or return to starting games at Triple-A. One of Thornburg’s issues when he first switched to relief was getting his arm to bounce back, and a move back to starting or long relief — which tends to have more down time — could be better for him physically anyway.

After all, Thornburg was having a very good season up until June 6th when his arm failed him and he was lit up in an inning of work against the Pirates. He was one of the best relievers in Ron Roenicke’s bullpen early, carrying a 0.61 ERA at the end of an April that saw him make 14 appearances. May wasn’t great. 11 games and a 6.00 ERA. He had a very good June 3rd appearance that dropped his ERA back under 3.00 but then disaster on the 6th when five earnies pushed his ERA back up to 4.25.

We all know that when Thornburg is right, he’s got electric stuff. He works hard to keep the ball down and his strikeout numbers were up last year before the injury. That said, he did post a 6.4 BB/9 which is frightening, but to be fair four walks came in that final inning of work on June 6 so that skewed the number a bit.

Regardless of his eventual role, a healthy Thornburg will be a major asset to Roenicke and the Brewers either right away as the 2015 season gets underway or at some point if he has cause to start with the new Class-AAA affiliate in Colorado Springs. Either way, expect to see a healthy Thornburg as a key contributor.

Welcome back.

You can (and should) follow Tyler on Twitter: @TylerThornburg

Catch up on the countdown!

Brewers Once Again Offering “Chance 2 Advance”

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The Milwaukee Brewers have announced the return of a unique ticket promotion known as the “Brewers Chance 2 Advance Ticket Plan,” which allows fans the chance to upgrade their seats to the next highest ticket category every time the Brewers win.

Only a limited number of plans will be available, and they go on sale tomorrow, Wednesday, March 4.  Tickets for this promotion sold out in 2013 and 2014 – the first two years of the promotion – so fans will want to act quickly.  Last season, the Brewers won five games during the promotion and fans that purchased this ticket plan advanced to the Loge Infield Box.

Here’s how it works: For just $99, you get tickets to nine select Tuesday games at Miller Park, plus the chance to advance all the way to the Field Diamond Box. You start with seats in Bernie’s Terrace for all nine games, but with each Brewers win, you upgrade your seating area. On Tuesday, May 12, you’ll sit in Bernie’s Terrace for the first game of the plan against the Chicago White Sox.  If the Crew wins, you’ll advance to the next seating tier for the following game in the plan.

Every time the Brewers win, you simply exchange your Bernie’s Terrace ticket for a ticket in the next best seating area for only $2.  You remain in that seat location until the Brewers win the next game in the plan.  If the Brewers don’t win, simply exchange your Bernie’s Terrace ticket at no cost for a seat in the same section where you last advanced – no backsliding.

Ticket Plan Game Dates:
(all Tuesdays at 7:10pm):
May 12 vs. Chicago-AL
May 26 vs. San Francisco
June 16 vs. Kansas City
June 23 vs. New York-NL
July 7 vs. Atlanta
July 21 vs. Cleveland
August 4 vs. San Diego
August 18 vs. Miami
September 1 vs. Pittsburgh   

Order of Seat Upgrades
1.)    Bernie’s Terrace
2.)    Terrace Reserved
3.)    Terrace Box
4.)    Loge Outfield
5.)    Loge Infield
6.)    Club Outfield
7.)    Field Outfield
8.)    Field Infield
9.)    Field Diamond

Ticket upgrades must be done in person at the Miller Park Ticket Office (between Windows 1-12 located behind home plate) anytime between the conclusion of the previous game and the start of the next game in the ticket plan. Box Office hours are Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. – 7 p.m.; Saturdays from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. and Sundays from 11 a.m. – 5 p.m.

Tickets for this plan will be available tomorrow, beginning at 10 a.m.  Tickets can be purchased by calling (414) 902-GAME (4263) or by visiting Brewers.com/advance.  Service fees apply.

Brewers By the (Jersey) Numbers ’15 – #35 Dontrelle Willis

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FIVE WEEKS!

As another Monday rolls around those of us who have them are back to work in our cubicles doing menial tasks for wages that nobody feels are sufficient. But with the dawning of a new week comes the promise that we are one week closer to Opening Day. That’s what comforts us baseball fans and gets us through the long, cold (whether your temperatures are low or not), bitter, lonely winter. That’s why I countdown to Opening Day with this BBtJN series, with that counter over there to the right –>, and with messages on Twitter, Facebook, and the like.

When putting together the schedule for this year’s posts, I was intrigued by March 2 right away. Sure, it’s five weeks away from the home opener at Miller Park, but it also meant that I’d be writing about…

Dontrelle Willis.

 

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If you had told me back when I first launched “Brewers By the (Jersey) Numbers” that I’d ever be filing a thousand words on Dontrelle Wayne Willis, I’d have asked if you were Tolbert*. Quality movie references aside, with the talent, apparent ceiling, and eventual struggles that would push the man known as “D-Train” to independent ball by age 31, I never would have expected him to end up vying for a spot in the bullpen of the Milwaukee Brewers, of all places.

That’s not to say that there wasn’t opportunity in Milwaukee when he first signed his minor league deal and was extended an invitation to big league camp. After all but Will Smith of its multi-headed southpaw hydra left the 25-man roster, the Brewers wanted another lefty in the bullpen if they were able to land one. For a guy like Willis, that’s an oasis in the middle of the Mojave. Opportunity is golden goose and Dontrelle is playing the part of Jack.

Once upon a time (as we bleed the storybook reference) drafted by the Chicago Cubs (8th round, 2000) as the reigning “Mr. Baseball” in California, Willis was traded to the Florida Marlins just prior to the 2002 season as part of a four-for-two deal. He made his Major League debut on May 9, 2003 and helped the Marlins win the World Series to cap off a Rookie of the Year campaign. His best year came two seasons later in 2005 as Willis went 22-10 in 34 starts with a 2.63 ERA, 2.99 FIP in 236.1 innings pitched. That was good for career bests in WAR (7.2), ERA+ (152) and a second-place finish in the National League Cy Young Award balloting. 2006 was an acceptable year for Willis, but 2007 saw him struggle. Just 25 years old at the time, many evaluators targeted different things for Willis to try to get his career turned back around. On December 4, 2007, one of those techniques — the oft invoked “change of scenery” — found Willis as a virtual throw in to a blockbuster trade that sent he and Miguel Cabrera to the Detroit Tigers for six players.

Willis only pitched in eight games for the 2008 Tigers, making seven starts. He compiled a 9.38 ERA. In seven starts in 2009 for Detroit, Willis put together a 7.49 ERA. He was walking a ton of batsmen and didn’t have a pittance of his command nor control that carried him to such heights on South Beach. Willis would be traded (with cash) to the Arizona Diamondbacks in June of 2010. This truly began his whirlwind of employment.

The D’backs got six games (five starts) and a 6.85 ERA out of Willis and released him just over a month after acquiring him. He would sign with the San Francisco Giants roughly a week later, pitch out the year in the minors, and became a free agent at season’s end. He spent 2011 as a Cincinnati Red and would make 13 starts for them. In 75.2 big league innings, he compiled a 5.00 ERA but for the first time in a long time seemed to have his walks somewhat reined in (although a 4.4 BB/9 is still far too high).

The next season, Willis signed with and was released by the Philadelphia Phillies during the same off-season. He agreed to a minor league contract with the Baltimore Orioles four days later though would end up “voluntarily retiring” that July. The O’s released him officially in October. In January 2013, Willis caught on the Cubs but was again released before the season began. He wouldn’t pitch again in affiliated ball until August 2013 when he was signed by the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. He became a free agent that November, signed back with the Giants two months later but was released two weeks into the season after uncorking three wild pitches and a walk in two-thirds of an inning over two games. He pitched in independent ball (which he had done during the summer of 2013 as well) but even there his numbers were rough.

The Brewers, with a track record of giving veteran guys a chance and earning dividends, connected with the well-travelled Willis and came to an accord of their own on January 21, 2015. The move was widely panned with cries of consternation over giving a guy a contract who hadn’t appeared in the big leagues since 2011 and hadn’t pitched well since 2006. I’ll personally never understand those complaints over a no-risk, complete flier of a contract like the Brewers have give out over the years to useful guys like Gabe Kapler and complete busts like Kelvim Escobar. The money is always right. And at least with Willis, there was a fit in that the team desired another left-handed pitcher.

However…

For Willis, 2015 is looking like a case of delayed chance. The Brewers signed veteran southpaw relief pitcher Neal Cotts to a Major League contract and then re-signed Francisco Rodriguez to close games, revealing one of the seemingly open bullpen jobs as the mirage it truly was. Willis might stick in the organization and could very well carve out a nice niche for himself with the new Class-AAA affiliate at Colorado Springs while waiting for another opportunity. If he struggles to a degree where the Brewers believe his employ to be untenable, they won’t have reservations cutting him loose. A player in Willis’ situation understands that side of this game, but the lure of another good summer in the sun will likely keep the D-Train chugging (or perhaps lurching) along the tracks until the wheels actually fall off completely.

The cold-hearted business side shouldn’t cause you to trivialize what Willis has in front of him as Cactus League games finally get underway this week in Arizona. He’s been given another chance, another opportunity to seize the day. Often, that’s all you can ask for. Sometimes, that’s all it takes.

Catch up on the countdown!

Brewers By the (Jersey) Numbers ’15 – #38 Wily Peralta

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As we continue to inch our way toward Opening Day on April 6, we sit 38 days away today on February 27. That’s the bad news. The good news today is that all the players have reported (with one not-quite-official free agent signing as the exception), the first full squad workout has been completed by now, and we’re less than a week away from the Cactus League opener.

As everyone gets better and better each day, shaking the rust off of their throwing shoulders and batting eyes, the anticipation is building toward actual, honest-to-God, on-the-field, competitive baseball where they actually keep score.

But today, we continue my “Brewers By the (Jersey) Numbers” series counting down to Opening Day. As such, let’s review and look ahead on the man who switched to number 38 before the 2014 season…

Wily Peralta.

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The workhorse right-hander from the Dominican Republic with the heavy fastball, Wily Peralta continued 2014 where he left off 2013. That is to say that he took another step forward in his development.

Peralta had a number of problems as a younger pitcher, both in terms of starting seasons slowly from a production standpoint, as well as letting the mental side of the game overwhelm him at times. 2014 was the first season where we saw almost all of that gone from Peralta. He was much more even in his demeanor and when situations arose where he’d think or emote himself out of his game, he was able to calm himself down quickly and get back to it. Probably the only issue I saw in this realm was in August. That’s when the offense was scuffling and both Kyle Lohse and Matt Garza were on the shelf. It felt to me like Peralta pressed that month. His team needed him and he put too much pressure on himself and suffered for it. Once the rotation got back to full strength, he settled back down and finished the season strong.

Now for statistical backing. Let’s throw Peralta’s month-by-month splits from Baseball-Reference.com. You’ll see April and May were strong, August (and July) were rough, and September was very good.

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Ironically, Peralta won just one game in May, won all of his starts in June despite a 4.22 ERA and went 3-1 in five July starts. But as you can clearly see, Peralta got off to a nice start and his finish was even stronger.

Speaking of strong, the 6’1″, 245 pounder certainly has a big fastball that he runs into the high 90s, mixed with a power slider. He generates a ton of ground balls when he’s going right (53.6% in 2014 and a career mark of 52.5%) and mixes in plenty of strikeouts. Peralta can be prone to some BAbip concerns as his worst statistical months carried his highest BAbip figures.

Bottom line for Peralta is how big of a next step he takes. Some decriers will say he’s even due for regression, but conventional thought is that Peralta maintains or improves on most of his overall stats. He may not win 17 games in 2015, but smart fans know that win total isn’t the best way to tell how well a pitcher performs. There’s room for improvement in terms of consistency and within each start. There’s a chance that the nearly 26-year-old hurler will assume the mantle of best pitcher on the staff this year.

He’s capable, but he needs to continue along the same path of improvement he’s been on. He nearly pitched 200 innings, an in-season benchmark of a top-of-the-rotation starter, and with a bit more in the way of positive results, he’ll be right where he and his teammates need him to be.

I’m as interested in watching the continued development of Peralta as I am nearly anything else about this year’s Brewers. I think you should be too.

Catch up on the countdown!

Breaking News: Return of the K-Rod

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Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com broke the news via Twitter, so you know it’s good.

Francisco Rodriguez has agreed to a two-year deal with the Milwaukee Brewers with a team option for a third year. (Perhaps it’s more accurate to say that Scott Boras agreed to a deal with Mark Attanasio, but that’s an argument for a different time.)

Rodriguez closed games for the Brewers last year, stepping in (after stepping on a cactus) for the injured Jim Henderson. He posted 44 saves and pitched mostly effectively, but he was hammered by the long ball at a frightening clip. He was a streaky performer, with his struggles coming in bunches for the most part (confirmation bias alert!), but still can be an effective pitcher. He needs to maintain his fastball command more consistently though to aid him in avoiding posting another career-worst home runs allowed total. For the record, it was 14 last year in just 68.0 innings pitched. That’s a 1.9 HR/9, math majors.

The ISO against his fastball in 2014 was .301. That’s terrifying. Still, Rodriguez did post a career best WHIP at 0.985 and struck out more than a batter an inning en route to a 3.04 ERA across 69 games.

But for this multi-year marriage to work out, the home run ball needs to exit from Rodriguez’s repertoire.

***UPDATE***

Tom Haudricourt tweeted full contract details.

Rumor: Francisco Rodriguez “Agrees to Sign”…Somewhere

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According to Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald, free agent relief pitcher Francisco Rodriguez won’t be a free agent much longer.

Spencer tweeted out the following blurb Thursday morning.

With the word that Rodriguez isn’t headed to Miami, Jon Heyman of CBS Sports checked in on whether the Blue Jays were the team who had successfully wooed the man they call K-Rod.

So combine those reports with what FOXSports.com’s Ken Rosenthal revealed the other day…

…and it certainly seems as though the Brewers could be reconciling with their most recent closer.

Stay tuned.

MLB Network’s Top 100 Players Right Now Entering 2015

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As I did last year, and the year before, and the year before that, I’ll be keeping a running list of the Top 100 Players Right Now as they are revealed on MLB Network, eventually compiling the entire list.

They will have revealed all 100 by the end of Friday, February 27th. I’ll update this same space as they reveal the remaining entries.

As always, I will understandably highlight the Brewers players on the list. The Brewers had six players on the list entering 2012. Rickie Weeks was 83, John Axford was 77, Yovani Gallardo was 72, Aramis Ramirez was 66, Zack Greinke was 64, and Ryan Braun was too low at number 9. Entering 2013, the Brewers only had three players featured on the list (at the time it was revealed). Yovani Gallardo repeated his position at 72, Aramis Ramirez jumped all the way up to 32, and Braun settled in at 6. Kyle Lohse made last year’s list as well. As for 2014, just three players once again. Jean Segura checked in at 60, Carlos Gomez debuted at 44, and Ryan Braun dipped to 24.

The criteria for the list remains the same:

  • Emphasized stats from the last three (3) seasons, weighting 2014
  • Projected 2015 performance
  • Defensive position
  • Accolades
  • Intangibles

Here now are the Top 100-1* Players as listed by MLB Network:

100. Joe Mauer – 1B – Minnesota Twins

99. Albert Pujols – 1B – Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

98. Justin Verlander – SP – Detroit Tigers

97. Prince Fielder – 1B – Texas Rangers

96. Yordano Ventura – RP – Kansas City Royals

95. Pablo Sandoval – 3B – Boston Red Sox

94. Ben Zobrist – 2B – Oakland Athletics

93. Adam Eaton – OF – Chicago White Sox

92. Gerrit Cole – SP – Pittsburgh Pirates

91. Devin Mesoraco – C – Cincinnati Reds

90. Russell Martin – C – Toronto Blue Jays

89. Jake Arrieta – SP – Chicago Cubs

88. Lance Lynn – SP – St. Louis Cardinals

87. Kenley Jansen – CL – Los Angeles Dodgers

86. Jose Reyes – SS – Toronto Blue Jays

85. Andrelton Simmons – SS – Atlanta Braves

84. Nolan Arenado – 3B – Colorado Rockies

83. Chris Carter – 1B – Houston Astros

82. Jeff Samardzija – SP – Chicago White Sox

81. Starling Marte – LF – Pittsburgh Pirates

80. Jose Fernandez – SP – Miami Marlins

79. Christian Yelich – LF – Miami Marlins

78. Julio Teheran – SP – Atlanta Braves

77. Alex Cobb – SP – Tampa Bay Rays

76. Jayson Werth – LF – Washington Nationals

75. J.D. Martinez – RF – Detroit Tigers

74. Todd Frazier – 3B – Cincinnati Reds

73. Neil Walker – 2B – Pittsburgh Pirates

72. Carlos Santana – 1B – Cleveland Indians

71. Salvador Perez – C – Kansas City Royals

70. Sonny Gray – SP – Oakland Athletics

69. Stephen Strasburg – SP – Washington Nationals

68. Doug Fister – SP – Washington Nationals

67. Freddie Freeman – 1B – Atlanta Braves

66. Nelson Cruz – DH – Seattle Mariners

65. Alex Gordon – LF – Kansas City Royals

64. Josh Harrison – 3B – Pittsburgh Pirates

63. Ryan Braun – RF – Milwaukee Brewers

62. Yasiel Puig – CF – Los Angeles Dodgers

61. Aroldis Chapman – CL – Cincinnati Reds

60. Matt Harvey – SP – New York Mets

59. Masahiro Tanaka – SP – New York Yankees

58. Adrian Gonzalez – 1B – Los Angeles Dodgers

57. Kyle Seager – 3B – Seattle Mariners

56. Yan Gomes – C – Cleveland Indians

55. Matt Kemp – RF – San Diego Padres

54. Jacoby Ellsbury – CF – New York Yankees

53. Anthony Rizzo – 1B – Chicago Cubs

52. Dustin Pedroia – 2B – Boston Red Sox

51. Evan Longoria – 3B – Tampa Bay Rays

50. Cole Hamels – SP – Philadelphia Phillies

49. Edwin Encarnacion – 1B – Toronto Blue Jays

48. Hunter Pence – RF – San Francisco Giants

47. Hisashi Iwakuma – SP – Seattle Mariners

46. Matt Holliday – LF – St. Louis Cardinals

45. Yu Darvish – SP – Texas Rangers

44. Jason Heyward – RF – St. Louis Cardinals

43. Jon Lester – SP – Chicago Cubs

42. Carlos Gonzalez – RF – Colorado Rockies

41. Jhonny Peralta – SS – St. Louis Cardinals

40. Greg Holland – CL – Kansas City Royals

39. Wade Davis – RP – Kansas City Royals

38. Carlos Gomez – CF – Milwaukee Brewers

37. Justin Upton – LF – San Diego Padres

36. David Ortiz – DH – Boston Red Sox

35. Jordan Zimmermann – SP – Washington Nationals

34. Craig Kimbrel – CL – Atlanta Braves

33. Victor Martinez – DH – Detroit Tigers

32. Joey Votto – 1B – Cincinnati Reds

31. Anthony Rendon – 3B – Washington Nationals

30. Jose Altuve – 2B – Houston Astros

29. Ian Desmond – SS – Washington Nationals

28. Zack Greinke – SP – Los Angeles Dodgers

27. Hanley Ramirez – LF – Boston Red Sox

26. Madison Bumgarner – SP – San Francisco Giants

25. David Price – SP – Detroit Tigers

24. Bryce Harper – RF – Washington Nationals

23. Jonathan Lucroy – C – Milwaukee Brewers

22. Adam Jones – CF – Baltimore Orioles

21. Michael Brantley – LF – Cleveland Indians

20. Adrian Beltre – 3B – Texas Rangers

19. Yadier Molina – C – St. Louis Cardinals

18. Josh Donaldson – 3B – Toronto Blue Jays

17. Troy Tulowitzki – SS – Colorado Rockies

16. Johnny Cueto – SP – Cincinnati Reds

15. Corey Kluber – SP – Cleveland Indians

14. Adam Wainwright – SP – St. Louis Cardinals

13. Paul Goldschmidt – 1B – Arizona Diamondbacks

12. Jose Bautista – RF – Toronto Blue Jays

11. Max Scherzer – SP – Washington Nationals

10. Robinson Cano – 2B – Seattle Mariners

9. Jose Abreu – 1B – Chicago White Sox

8. Buster Posey – C/1B – San Francisco Giants

7. Miguel Cabrera – 1B – Detroit Tigers

6. Andrew McCutchen – CF – Pittsburgh Pirates

5. Chris Sale – SP – Chicago White Sox

4. Giancarlo Stanton – RF – Miami Marlins

3. Felix Hernandez – SP – Seattle Mariners

2. Mike Trout – CF – Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

1. Clayton Kershaw – SP – Los Angeles Dodgers

Ryan Braun has been revealed as the 63rd best player in Major League Baseball “Right Now” entering 2015. As the criteria for the rankings weights 2014 the most and pretty much only relies on the last three years of stats at all, this is an understandable position for Braun right now. I have a feeling though that at this time next year Braun will have rebounded a bit.

Carlos Gomez moves up six spots from 44 last year to check in at 38. I’d rather have Gomez than Justin Upton at 37.

And due to a Twitter tease, we know (or at least Brewers fans do) that Jonathan Lucroy will be number 23 when they get there.

I’ll update more once I see who is around the Brewers, but that’s the only three I expect to make the list.

Brewers By the (Jersey) Numbers ’15 – #40 Johnny Hellweg

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Back in the saddle again.

After what was ultimately a five day hiatus from “Brewers By the (Jersey) Numbers” as I decided to skip a pair of non-roster invitees (#45 Brent Leach & #41 Pete Orr) around a two retired numbers and a coach, I was able to recharge my batteries. While today begins the disjointed “through the coaches” stretch, where we only have four scheduled pieces over the next 10 days (including today), it might even allow me to work ahead a little bit and be better prepared for the Thornburg to Lind corridor which has a new article every day for a full week.

But enough about the upcoming schedule. We’re here today to talk about…

Johnny Hellweg.

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There’s nothing quite like a season-ending injury in your fourth game of the year to eradicate the good feelings and confidence gained by coming off of a “PCL Pitcher of the Year” performance. Despite poor results in his first taste of the big leagues in 2013, Johnny David Hellweg had a very solid year two seasons ago. He not only was named as the Brewers’ Minor League Organizational Pitcher of the Year, but he won the aforementioned and similarly titled honor from the Pacific Coast League as well.

Last year around this time, I wrote about his future and how he might be contribute at the big league level again in 2014, but during the fourth start of his Triple-A season Hellweg felt a pop in the elbow of his throwing arm. He would leave the April 20th game fearing the worst.

Those fears confirmed, an increasingly common plan was set in motion within days to get Hellweg into surgery and on the comeback trail. Dr. James Andrews performed Hellweg’s surgery on April 29, 2014 so as I type Hellweg is 302 days out of surgery.

There exists good news which is that Hellweg is throwing off of a mound and rehab has gone according to plan. Hellweg remains a viable candidate to pitch competitively in 2015. Nothing is certain until it happens of course, but Hellweg is right on schedule if not a bit ahead.

This is not without bad news though as Hellweg is still a little ways off from being physically ready to contribute to any pitching rotation. As Doug Melvin recently implied, Hellweg’s availability is something they’re counting on. They hope to have it shortly into the season, but the 6’9″ right-hander will still need to build up stamina and strength while avoiding any physical setbacks over these next several weeks.

Depth at starting pitching is a known concern right now for the 2015 Milwaukee Brewers, but that’s why Hellweg’s rehab is important to get right. If something catastrophic happened where you’d need two or three extra starting pitchers in mid-April, the Brewers would be scrambling a bit. Don’t misunderstand though. There are enough bodies to have somebody throw, and it’s not like the new Class-AAA affiliate Colorado Springs is going with a three-man pitching rotation, but suffice it to say that when Hellweg is ready to return, there’ll be an opening for him.

He waits for that full medical clearance at this point, with a target date no doubt already identified by he and the Brewers medical staff. And as he waits, the Brewers have decided to stretch out Tyler Thornburg for possible inclusion as a Triple-A starter if need be.

Once Hellweg returns, if he’s able to build on his solid 2013 season, it’ll be a nice win for the Brewers who could be beginning to wonder about what they actually did get in return when trading away Zack Greinke during the 2012 season. Ariel Peña was recently removed off of the 40-man roster, Jean Segura struggled in the second half of 2013 even before off-the-field mental anguish torpedoed his 2014 season, and Hellweg now carries a question mark albeit a much smaller one than it was years ago. As I said, this surgery, it’s rehab, and the resultant shelf life of pitchers who have had it is becoming a well-read book.

Still, 2015 shouldn’t be a lost season even if 2014 was. Still just 26 years old, Hellweg has plenty of time to take the next step (or three) in his development this year by ironing out his mechanics and becoming more consistent. It’s just that he’ll be a bit behind from the jump.

Catch up on the countdown!

Wily Peralta Bobblehead Revealed

This came out Monday on the Brewers social media channels, but in case you missed it…

image

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