The business of baseball has no off-season.
This was evidenced once again today when the Los Angeles Dodgers made a trade with, of all teams, the Boston Red Sox. Yes, the same Boston Red Sox who are about to take the field for Game 1 of the 2013 World Series.
The Brewers are keeping busy as well, outrighting three players off of the 40-man roster today. As with any outright assignment, the players were first designated for assignment, thereby being exposed to waivers. All three cleared waivers and were assigned outright to the Triple-A Nashville Sounds. It was the first DFA for Manzanillo and Ravin so there was no stickiness with regards to rights of refusal for them, but Jesus Sanchez has been outrighted once before (Phillies, 2010) so he could still declare himself a minor-league free agent.
The three players removed are all right-handed pitchers. Santo Manzanillo was added to the 40-man roster before the 2012 season but missed almost the entire year due to injuries suffered in a car crash in his native Dominican Republic. Jesus Sanchez, a converted catcher, was added to the 40-man before this past season. He pitched well at Nashville in 2013, though not as well as in 2012. Still, he has shown promise. The third player, Josh Ravin, was just acquired by the Brewers off waivers from the Cincinnati Reds organization earlier this month. Ravin was first added to the 40-man roster of the Reds following the 2012 season as well.
It’s basically a paperwork only move as all three pitchers, assuming health, will likely be pitching at Maryvale in Spring Training with the Brewers.
The biggest immediate impact these moves have is clearing space on the Brewers 40-man roster. The roster stands at 35 today with two spots spoken for already and the other three probably already earmarked as well.
Ryan Braun and Rickie Weeks will take two spots when they are respectively reinstated. Miguel De Los Santos might take one if he ever comes off of the restricted list. And, among many others to be considered, the Brewers’ last two Minor League Players of the Year — Hunter Morris and Jason Rogers — both require protection from the Rule V Draft for the first time this off-season.
The Brewers should get two more openings when free agents declare, by way of Michael Gonzalez and Yuniesky Betancourt, but Corey Hart may take a spot if he is resigned. In other words, there is still much flux to be unfluxed before the season begins.
Can you believe that we’re sitting here on August 1st already? The season is two-thirds gone (wait…weren’t we just entering the “second half” two weeks ago? I keed, I keed.) and despite the Brewers lack of success in posting W’s it still seems to be flying by.
About that light Wins column though, that and plenty of other things have been more than enough to make some of the staunchest Brewers supporters yearn for fake football games to get underway. (Yes, a four-game preseason is second only to the Pro Bowl in pointlessness.)
This post, however, is intended as the start of a series of items about which Brewers fans and baseball-first fans can still anticipate and appreciate.
Today we sit on August 1, exactly one month away from the first topic that brought this series into my mind: September call-ups.
A little explanation for more casual readers first. On any given day (except for scheduled doubleheaders) a team’s Major League or “active” roster can have a maximum of 25 players available on it. They can be any combination of positions or any other way you choose to categorize the members. Now normally those up-to-15 players are assigned to various minor league affiliates of a parent club to play games daily. (I’m not going to get into ways that players don’t count against the 40-man limit or option years in this space.)
However, a codicil kicks in on September 1 whereas any player on the 40-man roster can be active for a Major League game. This period of time, give or take one month calendar month, is utilized in a handful of ways. Contending teams can bring up a couple of specialists to bolster their team. Maybe a pinch-runner or an extra lefty for the bullpen as two examples.
For teams like Milwaukee this season, however, the time is often used to get some players a little exposure to big league life, games, clubhouse, travel, etc and to see how they stack up in games against MLB-quality opponents. Many a player has made his debut in “the show” during September.
So, back to this season. How does this affect the Brewers? Well, plenty of players have already made their MLB debuts for Milwaukee already this season. Any of those could come back up to finish out the season. There are a number of others who haven’t yet debuted and also a couple of players (like the recently added Rob Wooten, and non-debuted Kyle Heckathorn) who the Brewers need to decide whether to protect from the upcoming Rule 5 Draft. They could add someone to the roster for September to help them arrive at a decision.
Here are some names in groups with a little extra commentary…
Healthy players currently in the minors but who have spent time with Milwaukee this season:
Josh Prince, Sean Halton, Johnny Hellweg, Hiram Burgos, Blake Lalli
Healthy players on 40-man who haven’t yet been up this season:
Jesus Sanchez, Michael Olmsted, Ariel Peña, Santo Manzanillo
The Brewers have one spot currently open on the 40-man but could easily open another by moving Mike Fiers to the 60-day DL, for example. The Brewers may also have their hand forced on one spot should Mark Rogers return to health before season’s end.
The point being: Doug Melvin has some room to maneuver and get glimpses. That is something to look forward to. After all, given the results this season it’s all about the future at this point.
A year ago at this relative time I was telling you about a fireballing right-handed relief pitcher who was injured in an off-season car crash. He “sprained his throwing shoulder and also suffered multiple lacerations and contusions,” as I wrote then. It was a bit of a crapshoot as to whether the Dominican native would begin the year healthy let alone how effective he would be, and whether the injuries would be problematic all season.
The results are in, as they say, so let’s open the envelope and see how 2012 was for…
Manzanillo did start the season on an active roster, that of the Brewers Double-A affiliate Huntsville Stars of the Southern League. He made 12 total appearances between the start of the season — his first appearance was on April 8th — and June 22nd. That’s two and a half months of games and only 12 appearances.
Let’s break them down and explain.
Manzanillo pitched in three games out the bullpen and then was shutdown due to lingering shoulder issues. He pitched on April 10th and then not again until May 23rd.
It seemed to work as Manzanillo struggled out the gates because he was physically hindered. When he returned in late May, he strung together six scoreless outings of his next seven. A pair of non-scoreless outings later though, and Manzanillo was shut down again after a 2 ER performance on the aforementioned June 22nd. This would mark the end of his run in Double-A in 2012.
When he came off the disabled list he went on a two-game rehab assignment with the Rookie-level Arizona Brewers club. He then was assigned to the Class-A affiliate Wisconsin Timber Rattlers, presumably to aid them in their quest for a Midwest League Championship, but also in part because he needed innings and the T’Rats were headed to the postseason for certain which meant more available innings. Manzanillo had only one bad outing, in the August finale, before finishing up the Timber Rattlers postseason with three scoreless outings.
It was the need for innings also which perpetuated Manzanillo’s stint in the Arizona Fall League in 2012. His results were lacking in the desert but the work was as important as, if not more so than, the numbers in that offense-heavy environment.
Heading into 2013 Manzanillo is a bit of a question mark. Assuming he comes to camp healthy and presumably in shape, I’d assume he’s likely to repeat the beginning of 2012 by breaking camp with Huntsville. Manzanillo remains on the 40-man roster to which he was added before the 2012 season so 2013 will be his second option year. He is still only 24-years-old (birthday was just over a month ago) and there are plenty of bullpen arms that come along in their mid-20s at their physical peaks. The Brewers don’t have to keep Manzanillo on the 25-man roster until 2015, so there’s time for him to finish his development and prove he’s put his physical issues from 2012 behind him.
You can request to follow Santo Manzanillo on Twitter, but he still hasn’t tweeted anything: @Manzanillo37
Miss anyone along the way? Catch up on the Brewers By the (Jersey) Numbers profiles to this point:
The initial rosters have been announced for the 2012 Arizona Fall League. Prospects from all over baseball are assigned to affiliates to compete as teams for the league championship but also to continue their development. Sometimes players that missed chunks of the regular season are sent so that they get more baseball played, other times top prospects are sent simply to continue their grooming and advancement.
In recent past, the Brewers prospects sent there played for the Peoria Javelinas. Things have been mixed up this year however and this year’s group of Milwaukee Brewers prospects will instead be suiting up for the Phoenix Desert Dogs this fall along with prospects from the systems of the Atlanta Braves, Oakland Athletics, Miami Marlins, and Tampa Bay Rays.
Here is a list of the players assigned from the various Brewer minor-league affiliates:
- Nick Bucci – RHP – Twitter: @nickbooch – (Highest Minor League level played at in 2012: Class A-Advanced)
- Kyle Heckathorn – RHP – Twitter: @KyleHeckathorn – (Double-A)
- Johnny Hellweg – RHP – (Double-A)
- Santo Manzanillo – RHP – Twitter: @Santo_37 (Double-A)
- Jimmy Nelson – RHP – Twitter: @Jimmy_J_Nelson – (Double-A)
Despite starting this year, Heckathorn and Hellweg will pitch in relief for the Desert Dogs. Hellweg is still viewed as a starring pitching prospect by the organization, however Heckathorn will pitch in relief going forward.
- Hunter Morris – 1B/3B – Twitter: @HunterMorris15 – (Double-A)
- Josh Prince – SS – Twitter: @JoshPrince17 – (Double-A)
- Khris Davis – (Triple-A)
- Brock Kjeldgaard – (Double-A)
***Note: Manzanillo and Kjeldgaard are on the team’s “taxi squad” which limits their availability throughout the short season.***
Over the course of the AFL season, I’ll profile each player for you. That will include looking at their 2012 regular season of affiliated ball as well as scouting reports, etc.
The series is back after what will be its longest hiatus. That’s what happens when a pair of top prospects drafted seven months ago get invites to Spring Training and are subsequently assigned jersey numbers in the high seventies.
Today, however, we take a look at the first of a handful of players who were added to the 40-man roster this offseason.
On this Monday, 67 days away from Opening Day on April 6th in Milwaukee, Brewers By the (Jersey) Numbers profiles right-handed pitching prospect Santo Manzanillo.
There are hard throwers all over the minor leagues. Many prospects can hit 95 MPH on the radar gun but not all of them can push it up to 99 like Santo Manzanillo was able to do quite frequently throughout the 2011 season.
Manzanillo has been known for a his velocity for some time but velocity alone doesn’t mean a whole lot in terms of projectable success. Hard and straight will still get crushed more often than not. His control has improved a bit and he does possess a breaking ball that keeps hitters honest.
This past season definitely saw positive strides forward for the Dominican Republic native. This off-season, however, saw both a bit of faith instilled in the righty along with a bit of bad luck befalling the closing prospect.
First the good. In advance of the Rule V Draft, Manzanillo was placed on the Brewers’ 40-man roster, thereby protecting him from exposure in that draft process. With the strides Manzanillo made in 2011, he clearly put himself in the forefront of the decision makers’ plan.
But then potential disaster struck when Manzanillo injured his right shoulder in an automobile accident. Manzanillo was hit by a truck while driving his Hummer on a highway in the Dominican Republic. He sprained the shoulder and also suffered multiple lacerations and contusions.
There is definitely a chance his injuries could impact his availability for at least a significant portion of the 2012 season. It would truly be a shame if Manzanillo’s career is derailed, although that is unlikely.
What would be nice is to see him have a chance to improve upon a season that saw the right-hander post an impressive 1.75 ERA and 62/26 K/BB ratio over 61 2/3 IP (all in relief) between High-A Brevard County and Double-A Huntsville.
High-ceiling pitching prospects that project directly to the back end of the bullpen sometimes fizzle out as they move up the ladder. After all, many bullpen spots are filled by men who can’t sustain success long enough in a given game to start. Manzanillo, however, has been almost exclusively a relief pitcher throughout his minor league career.
More definitely needs to be seen from Manzanillo to really predict where he’ll end up. Part of the problem lies in some of Manzanillo’s supporting statistics.
While he did, for example, amass a 2.21 ERA in 20.1 IP at Double-A Huntsville, it can’t be ignored that he held opponents to a BABIP of .212 all the while, as you might expect, he saw worsening marks in the K/9, BB/9 and HR/9. His FIP checked in at 4.53 as well.
Granted, 20.1 IP isn’t much of a sample size to work with but the numbers are still potentially indicative. This is exactly why seeing more of out Manzanillo was to no doubt be high on Doug Melvin’s wish list.
As with so many things in the game of baseball, however, you simply can’t predict accidents like the one that injured Manzanillo.
At this point we simply must wait for him to be medically cleared to see where he goes from where he finished 2011.