It’s been 76 days away from Opening Day all day today, Tuesday, January 20. Unfortunately, sometimes life gets you backed up and you can’t get your release until late in the day. Innuendo aside, let’s dispense with the typically lengthy open and drop right into my profile of the player who will wear #76 in spring training this year…
Michael Joseph Strong is a 26-year-old left-handed pitcher from Minnesota, by way of Oklahoma State University. He was drafted three times as an amateur in three consecutive years. The Chicago White Sox drafted him in 2009 in the 25th round. The Oakland Athletics chose Strong in the 22nd round in 2010. Finally, the Brewers selected as signed the southpaw as a 10th round selection in 2011.
Strong pitched as a rookie in 2011 and had a rough go of things. In six of this 15 appearances, Strong allowed at least 4 ER, with his worst being an 8 ER outing on August 31st of that year with the rookie ball affiliate Helena Brewers. Strong made 13 starts in those 15 games in 2011 and finished with a combined 6.10 ERA.
The next season would find Strong pitching for the Class-A affiliate Wisconsin Timber Rattlers of the Midwest League. 21 regular season games, zero starts, 2.76 ERA. Strong didn’t get going in 2012 until May, but it was enough to earn himself a ring as the Timber Rattlers won the Midwest League Championship! Perhaps the limited games is partly why he repeated Class-A in 2013. 25 games, eight starts and 87.0 IP for Strong in 2013 earned him an off-season promotion to the Class-A Advanced Brevard County Manatees.
It’s 2014 that really paved the way for the situation Strong finds himself in today. That situation, of course, is having been added to the 40-man roster and attending his first legitimate big league spring training. In 2014, as mentioned, Strong began his season by breaking camp with the Manatees. There he pitched in 30 games including six starts, compiling a 2.50 ERA in 75.2 IP. He would strike out 78 hitters while walking 23 and allowing 56 hits. Strong was used in a variety of roles as has been his M.O. to this point in his career. It was a good season for Strong in the Florida State League.
With an eye on sending him to the Arizona Fall League (a proving ground of sorts for up-and-coming players), the Brewers promoted Strong to Class-AA Huntsville for one appearance. He would pitch 4.0 hitless and scoreless innings in relief, allowing one walk while striking out six. After that, Strong would be ticketed for Arizona where he made 11 more appearances, totaling an additional 13.2 IP. Strong was quite good in the AFL, pitching to a 1.98 ERA (3 ER) while striking out 14 and walking three.
Then it became decision time on the lefty. Was he to a point in his development where it made sense to protect him from Rule 5 exposure? The Brewers lost another left-hander recently in Lucas Luetge when the Seattle Mariners plucked him in a Rule 5 Draft. Strong’s case was solid that he deserved at the very least another season of minor league ball in the Brewers system to see what they really have.
Looking ahead to 2015, Strong has an outside chance to impact the big league bullpen out of camp. After carrying four southpaws in their 2014 bullpen at different times, the Brewers currently only have setup man Will Smith coming back in a similar role. And despite Ron Roenicke saying in previous years that he doesn’t feel it a necessity to have even one lefty, I think he enjoyed being able to play matchups when situations warranted. Strong probably isn’t ready for primetime just yet as it relates to full innings of work for Milwaukee, but as a situational lefty who could pitch his way to more responsibility, there’s opportunity.
Still, all likelihood has Strong starting 2014 with the now-based-in-Biloxi Class-AA affiliate, the Biloxi Shuckers. Give him time there, move him up to Class-AAA Colorado Springs when he’s ready, and just maybe Strong ends up contributing down the stretch in September when the Brewers are hopefully looking to save some innings on Smith’s arm.
Bottom line though, Mike Strong is one to watch in 2015. If the Brewers front office thinks he’s worthy of a 40-man roster spot, he’s worthy of our attention.
(I just did that whole thing without one pun on his name. That’s a strong effort on my part.)
Catch up on the countdown!
Several of the newest jersey numbers for Brewers 40-man rosterees were updated last night.
If you’ve read me for any length of time, you probably know what a number nerd I am by now. After all, these numbers are an impetus behind my annual countdown to Opening Day.
Without further ado, here are the number updates which also will be where you can find these players in said countdown.
Logan Schafer, who gave up his #22 when Matt Garza was signed during last year’s Brewers On Deck fanfest, now had to give up his #1 after the team retired it for outgoing commissioner and former owner Bud Selig. Schafer gets #7 for 2015.
Brooks Hall was listed without a number for a time but returns to the 63 he wore last spring as a new 40-man add.
Similarly, Taylor Jungmann returns to the 78 he’s worn as a past non-roster invitee.
David Goforth will wear #77 when pitchers and catchers report to Maryvale in his first spring on the 40-man.
Number 76 now belongs to lefty Mike Strong as he contends for a specialist role in the big league bullpen.
And now for the guys new to the organization…
Big off-season acquisition and new starting first baseman Adam Lind will wear the 24 used by Lyle Overbay last season.
Catcher Juan Centeno has been assigned #66.
Finally for these updates, shortstop Yadiel Rivera will don #65 in his first big league camp.
(As of this writing, new corner infielder Luis Jimenez and new outfielder Shane Peterson hadn’t been assigned a number…at least not ones that were updated on the Brewers website.)
Today the Brewers announced the additions of three players to the 40-man roster, a move that comes ahead of today’s deadline to protect those players from the Rule 5 Draft. The Rule 5 Draft takes places each December on the last day of baseball’s annual Winter Meetings.
Last year the Brewers protected four players: infielders Hunter Morris and Jason Rogers, and pitchers Kevin Shackelford (since removed) and Brooks Hall.
Morris and Hall were hurt for a stretch of time in 2014, though Hall pitched well making up time in the Arizona Fall League following surgery. Jason Rogers was among Milwaukee’s September call-ups in 2014.
The Brewers had nearly a full 40-man roster of players to consider for protection (38), including 22 who were eligible for the Rule 5 Draft for the first time.
Here are the three prospects who were protected with a little bit more information about each of them.
Taylor Jungmann is a big (6’6″) right-handed pitcher who was the team’s top overall draft pick (12th overall) in the 2011 First-Year Player Draft out of the University of Texas. He split time this season between Double-A Huntsville and, after an earned promotion, Triple-A Nashville. He posted a combined 12-10 record in 27 starts and one appearance out of the bullpen right after his promotion to Triple-A. Jungmann, who turns 25 next month, posted a composite 3.57 ERA in 153.2 innings. He struck out 147 hitters overall, 101 of which came in his 101.2 innings at Nashville.
Mike Strong, who turned 26 three days ago, earned protection after a long and successful 2014. The southpaw pitcher played for three different teams this year, making all but one regular season appearance with High-A Brevard County before a one-game season-ender with Huntsville (where he pitched 4.0 scoreless in relief) and then participating in the Arizona Fall League as a member of the Glendale Desert Dogs. In the Florida State League, Strong was 2-2 with a 2.50 ERA in 75.2 innings pitched across 30 games (six starts). He struck out 78 batters as a Manatee, saved four games, and posted a 1.044 WHIP. In Arizona, his 1.98 ERA in 11 games, two saves, and 14 punchies in 13.2 innings were a cherry on top of his case to make the 40-man roster.
Yadiel Rivera is the third player protected this year and is considered to be nearly ready defensively for the Major Leagues. Before 2014, however, Rivera’s bat was lagging significantly behind. Still just 22 years old, Rivera slashed .258/.309/.374 combined in 2014, with a line of .262/.304/.410 at Double-A following his late-June promotion from High-A. He still needs development at the plate, and Orlando Arcia will be nipping at his heels at shortstop in the system, but with his defensive profile and step forward as a hitter, Rivera deserved protection.
With these three additions, the Brewers 40-man roster currently stands at 39 players.
Of note is that the Brewers are still considering the addition of a fourth player to the 40-man roster in advance of today’s 11pm CT deadline. That report came via a tweet from beat writer Tom Haudricourt who called GM Doug Melvin for comments on Jungmann, Strong, and Rivera.
David Goforth was the surprise to me this morning as having been left off of the 40-man roster, but to hear that the Brewers are still considering him is encouraging.
30 groups of prospects, six teams, ~5.5 weeks. This is the Arizona Fall League.
As a premier showcase for talent on the cusp of breaking through to the upper levels of the minors and ultimately The Show, the Arizona Fall League plays host to some of baseball’s best and brightest of who you’ve likely never heard. This year the AFL runs from October 7 through the league championship game on November 15. The annual All-Star Game, appropriately dubbed the “Fall Stars Game” will be held on November 1.
Brewers prospects will be a part of a different, yet somewhat familiar, team this year. After competing last year as a part of the Saguaros of Surprise, the Brewers will be returning to the monicker under which they played in 2012, that of the Desert Dogs. In 2012, the Desert Dogs were referred to as the Phoenix Desert Dogs. In 2014, however, they’re known as the Glendale Desert Dogs. They play their home games at Camelback Ranch, which is the Spring Training home of the Los Angeles Dodgers and Chicago White Sox.
Farmhands from the Dodgers, White Sox, Baltimore Orioles and Detroit Tigers will work alongside those of the Brewers as members of the Desert Dogs.
The Brewers originally were set to send six players to Surprise in 2013. They were pitchers David Goforth, Taylor Jungmann, and Kevin Shackelford, infielder Jason Rogers, outfielder Mitch Haniger, and catcher Adam Weisenburger. For 2014, Milwaukee will be sending ### players (and pitching coach Chris Hook) to Glendale. By position, here are those players and some supplemental information:
- Brooks Hall – RHP – (Highest Minor League level played at in 2014: Double-A)
Ariel Peña – RHP – (Triple-A)(***9/3 UPDATE*** Peña was announced as no longer participating on September 3.)
- Mike Strong – LHP – Twitter: @Strong_Mike1188 (***9/7 UPDATE*** Strong was announced as a participant.)
- Tyler Wagner – RHP – Twitter: @_TylerWagner_ (Class-A Advanced)
- Wei-Chung Wang – LHP – Twitter: @LeftyWang51 (MLB – As a Rule 5 pick)
- Nick Ramirez – 1B – Twitter: @N_Ramirez33 – (Highest Minor League level played at in 2014: Double-A)
- Hector Gomez – SS – (Triple-A)
Outfielders (Brewers’ Priority Position)
- Tyrone Taylor – Twitter: @Ty_roneTaylor – (Highest Minor League level played at in 2014: Class A-Advanced)
- Taylor is currently ranked by MLBPipeline.com as the Brewers’ Top Prospect
- Shawn Zarraga – (Highest Minor League level played at in 2014: Triple-A)