If you’re looking for an almost-daily countdown to Brewers’ Opening Day where a new player profile gets posted when said player’s jersey number matches how many days remain until said day, then you’ve come to the right place.
This is “Brewers By the (Jersey) Numbers” and today we’re 47 days away from Opening Day on March 31st. As such, we’ll be focusing our attention on…
Robert Davis Wooten (nicknamed: “Woot”), made his Major League debut in 2013. He was one of many for Milwaukee to do so last season. Wooten got the call as a belated birthday present, missing his 28th birthday by four days. He would pitch the next day right away after getting called up, covering 2.1 innings in relief against Colorado.
Those seven outs came without allowing a run of his own (he inherited two that first night, one of whom came around to score), and kicked off a streak of 11.0 scoreless innings pitched to begin his MLB career. Along the way, he picked up his first career Win (in appearance three, in relief, against the Chicago Cubs), and really demonstrated the mettle that had him slotted as the closer at Class-AAA Nashville prior to his callup.
Speaking of Nashville, Wooten’s season in Triple-A before his callup was what got him his shot. A 2.94 ERA in 52.0 innings across 40 games got him his shot. A 7.8 K/9, 3.75 K/BB, and 1.000 WHIP in those same 52.0 innings got him his shot. And he certainly made the most of it early on.
Nobody is perfect, of course, and when Wooten came back down to earth it was all at once. Or really all at thrice, but that’s not a thing.
Wooten finished the season with 27 appearances and allowed none of his own runners to score in 22 of them. He finished the season with a 3.90 ERA though because when he gave up runs, he tended to give up a bunch. Wooten allowed single tallies in the first two of his games allowing runs (including his first — and so far only — home run allowed) but then Wooten had outings in which he allowed two, three, and five earned runs respectively. The two- and three-run outings were consecutive (and were preceded by one of his one-run games) but then Wooten responded with seven straight scoreless appearances before the five-run blow which came at the hands of the St. Louis Cardinals. All told, Wooten’s ERA maxed out in 2013 at 4.38 before he tucked it back under 4.00 by finishing the year with three clean innings.
A quick footnote: I made mention of it at the time when Wooten was brought up back in July, but with that one home run he gave up on August 27th, Wooten has allowed a total of 16 home runs in six seasons of professional baseball.
The upcoming season will be Wooten’s seventh since he was a 13th round draft pick in 2008 and signed quickly. In that first year he played both with the short-season rookie affiliate Helena Brewers and the West Virgina Power which was the Class-A affiliate in 2008. Wooten played in both Class-A Advanced Brevard County and Class-AA Huntsville in 2009 and was originally on track to make his big league debut much sooner than 2013.
Unfortunately, Wooten would miss the entirety of the 2010 season following elbow surgery. When he came back to begin 2011, Wooten was a slightly different pitcher. Wooten hadn’t posted a K/9 below 11.2 as a pro. Those days were now gone. Some of that is because of the increased talent level of the hitters he faced as he moved up the organizational ladder, sure, but he repeated both High-A and Double-A in 2011. In his first stints he posted 13.2 and 11.2 K/9 rates. In 2011, he put up 7.6 and 8.6 respectively.
When he began the 2012 season back at Double-A one more time, he was back up to a 9.1 K/9 but he progressively slowed down. And I don’t mean to focus on one stat like it’s the end all, but it’s an illustration of the change in his approach and results.
Still, even with the decrease in strikeouts, Wooten has mostly maintained his K/BB rate throughout his career, only once dipping below 3.00.
But enough about strikeouts.
In so far as Wooten had late-inning success in the minors (78 career MiLB Saves), Wooten projects to be more of an early-middle or multiple-inning relief weapon for Ron Roenicke, especially in this somewhat nostalgic 2014 edition of the Brewer bullpen. Jim Henderson is the closer. Francisco Rodriguez, Brandon Kintzler, and Will Smith all have experience setting up. The open jobs are long-man, which Wooten could do but really isn’t suited for, and maybe one middle reliever depending on the health of Tom Gorzelanny and the decision on Rule V guy Wei-Chung Wang.
Here’s the rub though: When Wooten was promoted to the Brewer’s 40-man roster last July, it was for the first time. He contract was purchased and he wasn’t ever optioned down last year. In other words, he can be bounced back and forth for three more seasons at this point. Wooten does not have a lock on a job. He’ll have to compete in Spring Training with a stable of young, hungry, eager bullpen arms. He’s got more of a track record in the organization which helps him, but they also know that he can be recalled from Nashville and do the job on short notice as well.
And despite rarely ever wanting to rely on Spring Training numbers as a true evaluator, for the 6’1″ right-hander it really could come down to how he performs in Cactus League play.
The Brewers are hoping he’s up the challenge.
Follow Rob Wooten on Twitter: @RobWooten35
Miss anyone along the way? Catch up on the Brewers By the (Jersey) Numbers profiles to this point:
- #49 Yovani Gallardo
- #50 José De La Torre
- #51 Wei-Chung Wang
- #52 Jimmy Nelson
- #53 Brandon Kintzler
- #54 Michael Blazek
- #58 Ariel Peña
- #59 Zach Duke
- #60 Kevin Shackelford
- #61 Jason Rogers
- #63 Brooks Hall
- #64 Mike Fiers
- #65 Irving Falu
- #66 Robinzon Diaz
- BONUS COLUMN: #77 David Goforth, #76 Kevin Mattison, #75 Mitch Haniger, #74 Michael Olmstead, #73 Kentrail Davis, #72 Cameron Garfield, #71 Adam Weisenburger, #70 Dustin Molleken, #67 Eugenio Velez