…that I’m aware of, anyway.
Wednesday, January 30th finds us 61 days removed from Opening Day of the 2013 regular season. The Brewers open at home this year against the Colorado Rockies on April 1st.
Being 61 days away find us focused on a pitcher who will be wearing #61 on the Major League field at Maryvale…
Darren W. Byrd is a 25-year-old right-handed relief pitcher from Pensacola, Florida. Originally drafted by the Philadelphia Phillies in the 18th round of the 2005 First-Year Player Draft, Byrd signed right away and got to work as an 18-year-old. He was released by the Phillies in 2009 and pitched in independent ball to begin 2010. It was as a Fargo-Moorhead Redhawk that Byrd impressed a scout of the Milwaukee Brewers. He was signed and made his debut with the Brewer’ Class-A Advanced affiliate on July 2, 2010 as a Brevard County Manatee.
Now the veteran of parts of eight minor league seasons, Byrd is knocking on the door of The Show thanks to a full-time move to the bullpen in 2011. He pitched out the ‘pen with the Class-AA affiliate Huntsville Stars the last two years, totalling 91 appearances (50 in 2012). The change was definitely for the better as Byrd’s stuff plays up better when he doesn’t have to worry as much about managing in-game fatigue.
With respective ERAs of 2.95 and 2.59 in each of the last two seasons, Byrd has pitched his way onto the radar screen of the big wigs in Milwaukee who wanted a chance to see what he could offer in big league camp this March.
Since last season was Byrd’s best as a pro, let’s review it a bit more closely. First, his stat line:
3-5, 2.59 ERA, 3.17 FIP, 50 G, 6 SV, 73.0 IP, 58 H, 36 BB, (1.288 WHIP), 27 R, 21 ER, 2 HR, 71 K, .211 BAA
Those numbers work out to these ratios:
7.2 H/9, 4.44 BB/9, 0.25 HR/9, 8.75 K/9, 1.97 K/BB
First thing that jumps out at me is that the walk rate needs to come down but otherwise these are very encouraging numbers and it’s easy to see why Ron Roenicke and his coaching staff want a closer look at what Byrd has to offer. Byrd allowed multiple runs in an inning only six times all year and compiled 35 scoreless appearances overall. He wasn’t a match-ups guy either as Byrd recorded more than three outs in just over half (26 of 50) of his outings.
About the only disconcerting thing as I delved deeper into Byrd’s splits is that he was much better at home (1.69 ERA) than he was away from “The Joe” (4.29 ERA). Some of that was due to an increased BABIP on the road, but really his walk rate spiked, he struck out far fewer, and the dangerous duo of an increase in line drive percentage and decrease in ground ball rate hurt. I don’t have the time to compare road vs. home splits by opponent and their effectiveness, so I’m not sure if any significant impact is there though I’d suspect not.
Looking forward to 2013, chances are very good that Byrd will break camp with Class-AAA Nashville and be one of the players counted on should injury befall the rebuilt bullpen. Results with Nashville will help paint a more complete picture of where Byrd stands on the prospect watch list. As I’ve said more than once already in this series, many a relief pitcher has blossomed late so his age is starting to get up there a bit but certainly isn’t cause for concern yet.
Back when he was drafted, Byrd stood 6’3″ and weighed only 170 pounds and was said to have a fastball that sat “mostly 86-87 w/ occasional plus, hard, sinking action. Loose arm action, good extension front and back. Will challenge hitters. Right rotating on CB when he’s on top. Good projection.” He’s still stands 6’3″ but during his career has added 30 pounds to now be listed at 200 even.
That added weight is no doubt helping Byrd’s fastball which now averages 93 MPH and reached as high as 96 MPH. Byrd also tells me that he’s still throwing that curveball (78-83 MPH range now) and throws an 84-89 MPH slider as well.
As for the immediate future, expect Byrd to see some action late in games during Spring Training, especially while both John Axford and Jim Henderson are with Team Canada in the World Baseball Classic.
Again, the odds of a plane ticket to Milwaukee at the end of camp are virtually nil, though stranger things have happened. Regardless, keep tabs on how Byrd does as he could certainly be called on by the parent club at some point in 2013. Getting his name firmly on the short list of options officially begins in just under two weeks.
You can follow Darren Byrd on Twitter: @D_byrd26
Miss anyone along the way? Catch up on the Brewers By the (Jersey) Numbers profiles to this point:
- #63 Tyler Thornburg
- #64 Mike Fiers
- #65 Miguel De Los Santos
- #67 Santo Manzanillo
- #68 Jesus Sanchez
- #70 Nick Bucci
- #71 Johnny Hellweg
- #73 Ariel Peña
- #74 Michael Olmsted
- #75 Travis Webb
- #77 Jed Bradley
- #78 Taylor Jungmann
- BONUS ARTICLE: #91-94 Adam Weisenberger, Hunter Morris, Kentrail Davis, Rafael Neda