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How Is The Rotation Shaping Up For The Brewers?

Updated on December 30, 2015

In the 2015 season, the following pitchers made a start for the Milwaukee Brewers: Jimmy Nelson, Kyle Lohse, Matt Garza, Taylor Jungmann, Mike Fiers, Wily Peralta, Tyler Cravy, Zach Davies, Ariel Pena, Tyler Wagner and Jorge Lopez. This list is not in order of when they appeared. Of that list, Mike Fiers has already been traded and Kyle Lohse is a free agent. There are those who would like Matt Garza to be gone from the Brewers as well. Garza made 25 starts and one relief appearance for the 2015 crew, going 6-14 with an ERA of 5.63. Aside from a pretty bad performance which included 23 homers in 26 outings and an average of only 5.72 innings pitched per appearance, Garza also seemed to develop a bit of a negative attitude. While his teammate Kyle Lohse was cooperative about going to the bullpen and logging innings and trying to eventually reduce his ERA, Garza refused to go to the pen. Garza even mentioned that he talked to his agent and that he would likely be seeing a new GM in action soon. Ultimately, Garza stated that he would leave the team right now if he wasn’t such a good teammate, since he had a wife that was expecting twins. He also said he would not “throw another ball this year.” In the end, Garza did leave the team in September, and I still have not been able to find when the twins were even born.

His Whole Season Can Be Summed Up Like This!
His Whole Season Can Be Summed Up Like This! | Source

Examining Garza

Craig Counsell did assure that everything is ok, stating that he had a talk with Garza and that they are focused on getting him ready for next year. If you are a baseball fan who can read between the lines, you know that the manager is not going to say anything negative that might create a media controversy. As a result, if any MLB team is willing to take on Garza and his contract along with his need for a change of scenery, the Brewers would be open to making that trade. Garza’s contract entails 12.5 million dollars each year for 2016 and 2017, along with an option for 2018. The option for 2018 vests if Garza meets some requirements for starts and innings. Other clauses include the fact that the team could have him back at just $5 Million for 2018 if those previously mentioned stipulations do not work, and even another clause exists where the Crew could have Garza for just $1 Million in 2018 if he logs lots of time on the Disabled List.


The Brewers have already dealt players such as Carlos Gomez and Francisco Rodriguez, who are guys who had some time left on their contract. Many times it is important to realize that rebuilding teams do not ALWAYS deal upcoming free agents. In this case, even though these guys had contract time left, the Brewers still tried to retool for the future. My guess is that if a nice offer is made for Garza, the Crew will pull the trigger on it. As you can see, I have already mentioned that Fiers and Lohse will not be a 2016 Brewer to start the season, and Garza is a maybe. Who else is left?

Wily Peralta is Thirsty for a Breakout Year in 2016.
Wily Peralta is Thirsty for a Breakout Year in 2016. | Source

Near Locks for the Rotation

Jimmy Nelson does not have to prove anything else in the minor leagues. He has spent enough time there. In fact, Jimmy took a big step in the 2015 MLB season when he showed some dominance against opposing teams. He had previously been known as a two pitch pitcher, yet in 2015 he showed some improvement. As of now, he has a sinker at 95, a four seam fastball at 94, and a changeup at 88 and a slider at 84. Adding these pitches to his arsenal has helped cement his status as a promising pitcher for the crew. Jimmy suffer red a weird head injury near the end of the 2015 regular season, but he should be a regular in the 2016 rotation barring other injuries.

Taylor Jungmann started out great for the crew in 2015, going 7-4 with a 2.23 ERA in the bigs as late as August 16th, but he faded down the stretch, and he only got two more wins the rest of the year, along with four losses. His ending ERA of 3.77 may not have been the worst ever for a rookie campaign, but he showed signs of wearing down and not being sharp on his pitches. My hope is he will be better in 2016 after an offseason of conditioning. His time is now. If he fails with the Brewers, he is unlikely to get many looks serious opportunities to start elsewhere due to the fact that he has been in the minors for a while.

Wily Peralta has great potential and stuff. He has shown signs of brilliance. He is capable of producing a nice 8 inning outing. In 2015, Wily had an oblique injury that sidelined him much longer than anyone originally anticipated. On top of the original injury, I had heard that Wily tweaked his oblique on the other side during his rehab. All in all, it was a tough year for Wily, but I know he can get National League hitters out and he can definitely be one of the most underrated pitchers out there. Here is hoping for a healthy and full 2016 for Wily!

The Rest of the Pitchers Who Started a Major League Game in 2015

Nothing seemed to work for Tyler Cravy in 2015. He was with the big league club for a decent portion of 2015, and he made seven starts and seven relief appearances for the Crew, but his result was an 0-8 record with an ERA of 6.33. Truthfully, I have noticed that he has made only 18 appearances ever at the Triple A level. He had one appearance at AAA in 2014 and 17 in 2015. My guess is if Tyler were to go down to AAA in 2016 and work hard and just basically get a full season in at that level without being ping ponged between the majors and the minors, he would do ok. I think he still has potential. Only time will tell, but it is too early to give up on this 26 year old if you ask me.

During the 2015 season the Brewers traded Gerardo Parra to the Orioles to get a pitcher by the name of Zach Davies. Personally, I am not sold on Davies yet. He does seem inconsistent, having a good start one day, and then he seems to get rocked the next time out. At only 22 years old, the Brewers are sure to give him a look, despite my misgivings. Much has been made about how a really good control and finesse pitcher can get a batter out just as well as a high velocity pitcher can. I agree with that statement, but personally, at this point, I am just not sold on Davies. For all of those who I have heard call him another Mike Fiers, I would take Fiers back with the crew any minute since Fiers could at least complete a bit more than an average of 5 and two thirds innings in a start, which is what Davies averaged in 2015 at the big league level.

Ariel Pena made five big league starts for the Brewers in 2015 after doing seven starts and 36 relief appearances for Colorado Springs. Pena was acquired back in the 2012 offseason when the Brewers traded Zack Greinke to the Angels. Pena is 26 and has shown some potential for good things. In the minors in 2015 he was 1-1 with an ERA of 2.37 in his seven AAA starts, but he went 1-1 with an ERA of 5.17 in his five majors starts. He also got one more win in relief for the big league crew. Pena does not figure to crack the starting five in 2016, but he has the potential to do things if given a longer look. He does not need to spend more time at AAA, since he spent a fair portion of 2014 and 2015 there. His next step is to crack a big league roster. He might be better suited for major league relief appearances, but only time will tell how he will be used. As of right now, Pena is on the major league 40 man roster.

Tyler Wagner made his major league debut at Miller Park on May 31st in a game against the Diamondbacks that eventually lasted 17 innings. Before the season was done, Wagner got two more major league starts for the big league crew, but his results showed a need for improvement. His major league ERA in three starts was 7.24 and he did not get a win, averaging just four and two thirds innings per appearance. The 24 year old shows much promise though. He still has not pitched a game in AAA. In AA, he went 11-5 with a 2.25 ERA in 2015. He will definitely be a guy to look forward to watching in the future, but I do not see him participating in much action in 2016 at the major league level. He would be best served by spending a full year down at AAA and continuing to work on getting ready for the challenges of the majors.

Jorge Lopez got two opportunities to start for the major league crew in 2015. Jorge went 1-1 with a 5.40 ERA. In the minors, he went 12-5 with a 2.26 ERA for AA Biloxi. Like Wagner, Lopez has never pitched at AAA. Lopez is 22 and definitely will get every opportunity to prove himself to the major league Brewers. I am not certain how much major league time he will get this year if any, but I do know he should work on his craft at AAA like Wagner. Lopez has the ability to be called up in a flash, as he is already on the 40 man roster.

Zach Davies
Zach Davies | Source
Jorge Lopez
Jorge Lopez | Source

Names of the Past

Tyler Thornburg is a 27 year old who has made 10 starts in the majors for the crew for his career, and 83 in the minor leagues. Tyler has battled some injuries, including one that had many thinking he was headed for Tommy John Surgery. Ultimately though he has been effective when given the ball, and he shows promise. I do not expect the Brewers to give him starts in 2016. He is most likely ticketed for the bullpen as he has been in the past in the major leagues, but he certainly is deserving of a mention. With a career majors ERA of 3.18 and a minors career ERA of 3.80, he has shown he is not getting rocked. Personally I hope he excels in 2016 in the majors for the crew, but who knows; maybe he is thrown in on a trade as the organization decides to move in another direction. Currently though,Thornburg is on the 40 man roster.

Hiram Burgos has always been a Brewer farmhand. He appeared in the majors in 2013 and made 6 starts, but went 1-2 with a 6.44 ERA. Since that major league time, he did suffer a shoulder injury. Ultimately in September of 2014, the Brewers released him, only to sign him back before the 2015 season even started. At age 28 he has promise and potential. His career minors ERA is 3.71, and he has done well in Winter Ball, pitching for Mayaguez in 5 different offseasons, compiling a total ERA of 3.07. Currently Hiram is listed on the AAA roster. Maybe he will get a start at some point. I would like to see what he could do in a sample size of ten games, but will the rebuilding Brewers give him that leash?

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Tyler Thornburg
Tyler Thornburg
Tyler Thornburg | Source

Longer Shots

Josh Roenicke has appeared in 190 major league games but none were starts. The veteran right hander is now 33 years old. In 2015, he appeared in the minors for the crew and made 23 starts and 2 relief appearances for a total of a 7-12 record and an ERA of 6.15 overall. His last major league appearance was in 2013 with the Twins. Josh reminds me of guys like Mitch Stetter, Seth McClung, Claudio Vargas and Tim Dillard who have all pitched in the bigs for a period of time but then seemingly couldn’t seem to land a good major league gig, prompting him to come to the Brewers on a minor league deal trying to recapture some sort of magic or hope he will be called up. I don’t see magic happening with Josh given his age and his lack of recent effectiveness. I would predict a release by June.

Wei-Chung Wang was a man who took up a major league roster spot for all of 2014 because the Brewers were forced to keep him there as a Rule 5 pick. In 2015, he had a Jekyll and Hyde season. He started off by going 3-2 with an ERA of 6.16 in April and May for Brevard County. On June 16th, he was designated for assignment by the Brewers. He was ultimately not claimed off of the waiver wire, and he remained a Brewer farmhand. After his designation, Wang went on to an incredible stretch of 12 starts for Brevard County where he went 4-2 with an ERA of 1.69! After that span of 12 incredible starts, he made two more starts for Brevard County before finishing the season at AAA. His one start for Colorado Springs at home against New Orleans was a six inning shutout victory! At age 23, the left hander is currently listed on the AAA roster, but my guess is he will not be touching the majors in 2016.

Wang | Source

The Farm

As you look throughout history, the Brewers have not really been known as a team strong on cultivating the talent of pitchers. All the way back to the 1980’s when there were Bambi’s Bombers and Harvey’s Wallbangers, and through the 1990’s and 2000’s with guys like Vaughn, Jaha, Burnitz, Sexson and others, it was plain to see that big boppers was the focus and the strength of the organization. Today as I looked over guys who have big league starting pitching time to prepare this analysis, I could not help but be amazed at all the potential talent the Brewers have in their system.

In the system, the Brewers have the following guys who have started and have started somewhat effectively: Jacob Barnes, Drew Gagnon, David Goforth(although he was featured in the Brewers pen most recently), Junior Guerra, Brooks Hall, Josh Hader, Adrian Houser, Hobbs Johnson, Damien Magnifico, Austin Ross, and Brent Suter. While you may not be familiar with all of these 12 names in the Brewers’ farm system, I can assure you that the talent level of the these pitchers is much better than some of the absolute busts I have seen the team trot out there in my many years of being a fan!

Finally I do have to say one thing… While he is still considered a high prospect, I cannot include Jed Bradley on the list of guys who have been somewhat effective at starting in the minors for the crew or any organization. It should be interesting to see what eventually happens to him, but I do know that this rebuilding offseason should be intriguing as the crew in general as it makes decisions for winning in the future!


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