Following the 2012 season, the Brewers cleaned a lot of house when it came to relief pitching. That’s been well-documented here at the blog in a number of posts.
Among the casualties was the affable Tim Dillard who gave us moments like this one when he imitated ESPN’s Tim Kurkjian:
Well, a great thing happened not too long ago. Tim Dillard joined Twitter (finally!) under the handle of @DimTillard. He changes his avatar daily during week what with the Movie Quote Mondays, Tim Kurkjian Tuesdays, the newly christened George W Wednesdays, and of course Harry Caray Fridays. Dillard is funny, and personable.
And now he’s back in the Brewers organization.
Earlier today, he retweeted a congratulatory tweet from his former roommate. No context was given but I wondered if maybe the not-currently-in-baseball Dillard had found a job somewhere.
Then later in the day, Brewers.com beat writer Adam McCalvy let the cat out of the bag. He reported that when pitcher Chris Jakubauskas was injured at Triple-A Nashville, Dillard’s phone rang to see if he wanted back in. He accepted and will report to Nashville soon.
Welcome back to the side-arming specialist!
Now we just have to hope he stays active on Twitter.
The Winter Meetings aren’t officially underway just yet as I sit down to give my keyboard a workout this evening, but the Opryland Hotel in Nashville, Tennessee is set and baseball executives from across North America have checked into their rooms and have no doubt begun to follow up on things begun prior to departing for Music City.
Doug Melvin is there (along with his entourage) and has had plenty to say about what he expects out of the 2012 Winter Meetings. With appreciation to the Milwaukee Journal/Sentinel for the quotes themselves, I’ll be laying out some things Melvin said and analyzing what I think they mean for the Brewers heading through the rest of the off-season.
Before I do that, let’s recap the basics about what educated fans know already about the Brewers and their needs.
The bullpen was bad in 2012. In fact, it underperformed so incredibly that it alone could be labeled as a singular reason that the team failed to reach the postseason. Just a handful of losses flipped to wins and the Brewers would have had that opportunity to face the Braves in the first-ever National League Wild Card Game.
As a result of their collective struggles, the bullpen has been basically gutted. Gone are multi-year Brewers like Kameron Loe, Francisco Rodriguez, Tim Dillard, Mike McClendon, and Manny Parra. Along with them, first-year tryouts for Jose Veras and Livan Hernandez ended in free agency. Even short-term fixes like Vinnie Chulk came and went. The only guys left who pitched in the big league bullpen to end the regular season and are still a part of this organization are likely closer John Axford, likely setup man Jim Henderson, and the finally healthy Brandon Kintzler.
As we all know, the Brewers did announce a trade acquisition on Saturday when they dealt a minor-league outfielder for established relief pitcher Burke Badenhop. That addition still leaves three jobs to be filled. FoxSports.com’s Jon Morosi already tweeted earlier this evening about one of those open roles:
#Brewers are prioritizing a lefty reliever. Among the available free agents: Burnett, Choate, M. Gonzalez, Howell, Gorzelanny.
— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) December 2, 2012
Just some names to know.
A return of all five starting pitchers from the 2011 NLCS team was seen as a rarity, not to mention that the Brewers only used six starting pitchers all that season. Now? Randy Wolf was released, Shaun Marcum is a free agent, Zack Greinke was traded, and Chris Narveson is coming off of shoulder surgery.
That’s the stuff of how question marks are made.
Yovani Gallardo is set to return atop the rotation but after that hasn’t yet been decided. As it stands right now, the Brewers have probably six arms vying for the open four spots in the rotation. Mike Fiers, Marco Estrada, Chris Narveson, Wily Peralta, Mark Rogers and, to a lesser extent in my opinion, Tyler Thornburg.
Doug Melvin has mentioned a couple of free agent starters by name this off-season already (Edwin Jackson and Ryan Dempster, for the record) but had some commentary on that front as well.
Will Jean Segura begin the season as the starting everyday shortstop in Milwaukee or in the aforementioned city of Nashville as he gets a bit more seasoning in Triple-A? Who will take over as the backup infielders after the Brewers burned through a number of MLB veterans during 2012? Travis Ishikawa is gone, Alex Gonzalez is a free agent after being hurt most of the season, Mat Gamel should be healthy but missed a ton of at-bats and doesn’t really have a job at this point…and that’s just the infield.
In the outfield, Nyjer Morgan was released and Logan Schafer seems incredibly obvious to become the fourth outfielder with Milwaukee. After that, though, will they carry a fifth outfielder? If so, who will it be?
About the only spot on the field where there isn’t a question is behind the plate. Jonathan Lucroy and Martin Maldonado are healthy and coming off of strong seasons.
Excuse whilst I knock on some wood.
Okay. With that, let’s get to those quotes from Melvin.
The big quote is one about payroll. After setting a franchise record in 2012 with a payroll north of $100 million, the Brewers finished in the red, meaning that they actually lost money this year. (Part of that is because the fans didn’t show up quite as well as they had budgeted for, but wins bring attendance.)
Melvin said, “(The payroll is) coming down. We’ll probably look at (an opening payroll) of $80 million or thereabouts. We want to keep flexibility in case players become available.”
In other words, despite a large chunk of money coming off the books there should be no expectation of a dollar-for-dollar reassignment. That could limit how much the Brewers can do in free agency but it will almost certainly limit the magnitude of what the Brewers can do.
That assumes that Melvin sticks to his initial words, but more on that in a bit.
Melvin was clear in that the Brewers don’t plan to get involved on high-end (in terms of years or dollars) relief pitchers.
“We’re not looking at those kinds of guys. We’d probably be reluctant to go three years with anybody. We might have to do two. David Riske was our last three-year deal for a reliever. That didn’t work out,” said Melvin.
Would left-handed reliever Sean Burnett be a pipe-dream then? Burnett had to debunk a rumor that he was seeking a four-year deal but that doesn’t mean he isn’t looking for three.
The starting rotation was mentioned earlier and was brought up to Melvin as well. He stated that with how the contracts worked out with Jeff Suppan and Randy Wolf that the Brewers “wouldn’t go three years with a starter. You look at those contracts and they don’t usually work out. Look at all the free-agent players who have been traded the last few years. Free agency gets people excited, but it’s not as effective as people would like to think.”
Does that mean that following a report which I linked to on Twitter the other day that the Brewers are taking themselves out of the market for the aforementioned Jackson and Dempster, both of whom are believed to be seeking deals of a minimum three years? Perhaps.
Melvin stated that the Brewers will probably go with some of their younger players in the rotation but that he understands the dangers of trusting a small sample size.
As for the offense, Melvin admitted (as reported in this space) that contact was made between him and Josh Hamilton’s agent Michael Moye, but Melvin also said that, “I don’t see (a big-ticket signing) happening. If it does, we’d have to be creative with something.”
Melvin added, “You never know how those things work out. I never thought we’d be able to get Aramis Ramirez last year (for what they signed him for). Things change. If major things happen, you have to be prepared to act quickly.”
In other words, Melvin is reminding everyone that you simply can’t use definitives when discussing transactions in Major Leage Baseball. Or, to go the cliched route…Never say never.
Finally, for the bench, Melvin said that they’re in the market “mostly for depth.” He stated that they “may have to go with some of our younger guys” but that “it’s always nice to have an experienced bat on the bench.”
And since a lot of you have reached out via social media as to why I haven’t pass along many rumors in the last few days, Melvin confirmed that he has made no offers to any free agents yet and, as of the time he said so out loud, he didn’t have any serious trade talks going either.
Then again, he’s in Nashville now at the Winter Meetings. It’s made for just those kinds of things.
Stay tuned all week for reaction and analysis to anything and everything that I hear or read related to the Brewers. I’ll pass it along just as soon as I can.
My suggestion? If you aren’t on Twitter or you are and don’t follow me @BrewerNation…now’s one of the best times of the year to take the plunge. I can’t always blog right away but tweeting is much easier to do on the fly.
The Brewers are acutely aware that the next nine games have major implications to not only the remainder the 2012 regular season but also potential impact on the direction of the franchise to a degree.
Decision Day is rapidly approaching as I laid out several days ago.
To this end, the team is taking this stretch of games very seriously.
First, despite Thursday of this week being the final day of the All-Star break the Brewers organized a full-squad workout instead. They are making the most of the opportunity to no doubt review the fundamental aspects of the game which at times seem to be forgotten in the heat of the moment. From not remembering the count at the plate to not remembering how many outs there are when playing defense, from breaking from second on a ground ball hit in front of you to not hitting the cut-off man on a throw home, from not picking up your coaches while running the bases to missing a sign and being caught unaware.
Therefore, it is great news because it shows that the org recognizes how important a strong second half start is. If you go even 5-4 over the next nine games, you may as well sell. Even going 6-3 probably relies on the other teams in front of the Brewers losing more than three in the same span.
Making a push is easier when you have better players (or at least players more capable of contributing) on your roster making that push.
We already knew back on Sunday that Taylor Green had been optioned to Triple-A Nashville in order to get some playing time and restart his bat but we didn’t know who would be coming up other than that manager Ron Roenicke had said it would be a bat. I guessed Eric Farris because I figured they’d want a right-handed hitter for the infield and Farris was already a member of the 40-man roster.
I was right about the right-handedness and the infielder parts, but wrong about who was coming.
Jeff Bianchi, a shortstop hitting .305 for the Sounds at the time of his promotion, had his contract selected instead. It makes sense that they would take a chance on Bianchi (said “be-YAIN-key”) because if he can contribute at the big league level he could solidify the position for next year.
Bianchi is a former top prospect in the Kansas City Royals’ system but his career was waylaid by some significant injuries. It will be interesting to see if he’s got what it takes.
But, Bianchi’s promotion required a opening be made on the 40-man roster. That was accomplished when Tim Dillard was outrighted to Nashville. Dillard, who has been outrighted off of a 40-man roster before, has the right to refuse the assignment and become a free agent. That decision is Dillard’s alone to make and no word has been released to that end yet.
Outrighting Dillard opened a spot on the 40-man but it also opened another spot on the 25-man roster and in the bullpen.
Taking that spot? Well that would be none other than Tyler Thornburg who has been recalled from Nashville following a sore wrist and one start (a Win) at that level.
Whew! Doug Melvin certainly knows how to keep things busy during the two of the slowest days in the sports calendar all year. Last year it was the post-All-Star Game acquisition of Francisco Rodriguez. This year a trio of interconnected moves to help the Brewers make one final mini-push before decisions simply MUST be made.
Will this year work like last year? Only time will tell.
But instead of waiting until September to find out we’ve only got but nine games in 10 days to wonder.
Wondering who wore a certain uniform number all-time for the Milwaukee Brewers?
The Brewer Nation has got you covered. If you found this list on its own, head back here for the full repository after checking out this one.
Wayne Twitchell (’70)
Jim Colborn (’72-’76)
Mike Caldwell (’77-’84)
Tim Leary (’85)
Bryan Clutterbuck (’86, ’88-’89)
Ray Burris (’87)
Tom Edens (’90)
Julio Machado (’90-’91)
Carlos Maldonado (’93)
Joe Slusarski (’95)
Marshall Boze (’96)
Mark Davis (’97)
Brad Woodall (’98)
Steve Falteisek (’99)
Horacio Estrada (’00)
Mike DeJean (’01-’03)
Mike Crudale (’03)
Ben Ford (’04)
Pedro Liriano (’04)
Julio Santana (’05)
Jorge De La Rosa (’06)
Francisco Cordero (’06-’07)
Tim Dillard (’08-’09, ’11-’12)
Donovan Hand (’13)
Neal Cotts (’15)
The Brewers hit the road following their brief three-game season-opening homestand. They headed south on Interstate 94 to Chicago to take on the Cubs in a four game series which, because it’s Chicago, meant two evening games and two day afternoon games.
The Crew took the first three games in the series and looked good heading into an opportunity for their first ever four-game sweep of the Cubs at Wrigley Field. They fell painfully short of that goal, but more on that later.
The fact is that in a venue where the 96-win 2011 Brewers only won two games all year, leaving town with three notches on the bedpost is certainly an acceptable outcome.
For more on each game’s individual happenings, read on!
Game 1 – Monday – Brewers (1-2): 7, Cubs (1-2): 5
Winning Pitcher: Shaun Marcum (1-0, 4.50) Losing Pitcher: Shawn Camp (0-1, 7.36)
Save: John Axford (1)
In the opening tilt of the series, the Brewers not only scored early (RBI sac fly by Aramis Ramirez, plating Nyjer Morgan), but often (scoring runs in six of their nine frames).
In a nice blend of small ball and…big ball, I guess…the Brewers got a solo home run from Rickie Weeks in the third and RBI extra-base hits from Mat Gamel (triple) in the sixth inning and Ramirez (double) in the Brewers’ next frame. Milwaukee also picked up RBIs by way of both a safety and suicide squeeze, and a pair of sacrifice flies.
The only real point of concern came in the bottom of the ninth when, sporting a 7-3 lead and with closer John Axford having just thrown 27 pitches the night before, manager Ron Roenicke called on Manny Parra to finish out the game.
Parra allowed a leadoff double and was lifted for Tim Dillard once the left-handed hitters were done. Dillard walked Geovany Soto which forced Roenicke’s hand.
Axford entered the game and allowed his first batter faced to single home a run on Parra’s linescore. With men at second and third and only one out, Axford struck out David DeJesus but then walked Darwin Barney to load the bases.
In a beautifully-called and executed sequence, Axford then struck out Starlin Castro on three pitches to end the game.
Game 2 – Tuesday – Brewers (2-2): 7, Cubs (1-3): 4
Winning Pitcher: Chris Narveson (1-0, 3.60) Losing Pitcher: Paul Maholm (0-1, 13.50)
Save: Francisco Rodriguez (1)
A cold night in the Windy City saw a team of (mostly) hooded men residing in the first base dugout.
The hoods designed to keep a player’s head and neck warm could also be pulled up to cover the face while running the bases, and the sight of so many of the Brewers wearing them caused many fans to invoke a “ninja” theme to the evening’s events.
It was a mostly fitting description for the early part of the game as the Brewers struck blows to the Cubs starting pitcher repeatedly. The loudest blow of the night for Milwaukee came from the first hitter in the batting order to plays sans shroud, Alex Gonzalez. He made plenty of noise by blasting a three-run home run into the left-center field bleachers, capping the scoring at five for the frame.
The ninja thing might have been a perfect description if not for the fact that Corey Hart and Mat Gamel were both hit by pitches in the first inning. After all, ninjas are supposed to be incredibly stealthy and therefore shouldn’t be able to be plunked.
The Cubs were never really in this game, though they did cut the lead to three runs in the third inning.
There was more ninth inning drama as well. The Brewers once again put a four-run lead up against the Cubs final three outs and put a non-closer on the bump to begin the ninth.
After Kameron Loe had pitched two mostly brilliant innings of scoreless relief, Jose Veras was given the first chance to slam the door but hung a curveball to Geovany Soto which was blasted into the stands for a home run. After striking out the scuffling Marlon Byrd, Veras walked the pinch-hitting Bryan LaHair.
The situation now being a three-run lead with the tying run in the on-deck circle made it a Save opportunity. With John Axford having thrown over 50 pitches over the previous two days, manager Ron Roenicke had decided prior to the game that the Ax Man was off limits tonight. Roenicke walked to the mound and signaled for a right-hander to enter the game.
Francisco Rodriguez jogged to the mound looking to record his first Save as a member of the Milwaukee Brewers.
K-Rod needed just seven pitches to get through the final two hitters. He secured Chris Narveson’s first Win of the year by striking out David DeJesus and inducing Darwin Barney to ground out to Alex Gonzalez.
The Brewers had just guaranteed themselves no worse than a series split, but had eyes for more.
Game 3 – Wednesday – Brewers (3-2): 2, Cubs (1-4): 1
Winning Pitcher: Yovani Gallardo (1-1, 5.91) Losing Pitcher: Ryan Dempster (0-1, 1.88)
Save: John Axford (2)
Yovani Gallardo’s start on Opening Day was brutal. (You can click here for that recap.) A lot of people were questioning the staff ace and his abilities, which is ridiculous but they were, and were looking for a bounce-back start against the Cubs.
Going seven strong innings, only allowing one run (earned) while scattering five hits and two walks, he struck out six Cubs hitters on the day. He shaved nearly nine runs off of his ERA (early season small sample sizes are fun!), nearly a point and a half off of his WHIP, and thousands of doubters off his back about his admittedly rough start five days earlier.
Nearly exceeding his performance, however, was Cub starter Ryan Dempster. He too pitched on Opening Day for Chicago, but with much better personal results than Gallardo achieved. Dempster made it to the seventh scoreless, but allowed a one-out, two-run home run to George Kottaras which proved to be the difference in the game.
Gallardo was set to be pinch-hit for had Kottaras not come through, but instead he came back out in the bottom of the seventh and worked himself into and out of the only substantial Cub threat of the afternoon.
The eighth and ninth were by design after that, with both Francisco Rodriguez and John Axford striking out the side around two walks and one double, respectively.
Having hoisted the L flag atop Wrigley for the third consecutive game, the Brewers looked to do what they had never done before…
Sweep a four-game set from the Cubs at Wrigley Field.
Game 4 – Thursday – Brewers (4-2): 0, Cubs (1-5): 8
Winning Pitcher: Matt Garza (1-0, 1.23) Losing Pitcher: Zack Greinke (1-1, 6.75)
When you head into the final game of a series with a chance to sweep that series, and you have one of the best pitchers on your staff starting, you feel pretty good about your chances that day. So, too, did the Brewers with Zack Greinke toeing the rubber on Thursday afternoon.
In a confluence of recent and unfortunate trends, however, Greinke pitched during the day and on the road. While coincidental at best, neither of those situations was particularly friendly to Greinke last season. (For the record: Greinke’s Win-Loss record was good during the day last year, but we all know how much that actually reflects his performance.)
Regardless of the circumstances, Greinke seemed out of sorts the entire day. He barely touched speeds with his fastball that he usually sits comfortably at. He normally sits 94-95, touches 97, but on Thursday he was sitting 91-92 and his high watermark only rounded up to 95. PitchFX information had Greinke topping out at 94.9 MPH, while averaging 92.64. (Those figures were quoted to me by mutual Twitter follow Jaymes Langrehr of the Disciples of Uecker blog. You can follow him on Twitter: @JaymesL.)
The second half of the Brewers pair of aces could only muster 3.2 innings pitched on Thursday afternoon, and he was charged with eight earned runs before it was all said and done. That was a far cry from his seven shutout innings against the St. Louis Cardinals five days prior.
The highlights of the game for the Brewers would be that two relief pitchers, who had been previously roughed up a couple of times, posted multiple, scoreless innings in relief of Greinke. Manny Parra took over in the fourth inning and pitched through the sixth, striking out four along the way while walking none. Tim Dillard then covered the seventh and eighth, also walking no one. Each relief pitcher allowed two hits while working.
Otherwise, Matt Garza simply had his way with every Brewer hitter not named Nyjer Morgan (two hits in four trips to the plate) or Jonathan Lucroy (one hit, one walk in three PAs). Garza only allowed three hits through 8.2 innings pitched, while striking out nine and walking only two.
His only hiccup, if you can even call it one, was when Garza induced a ground ball back to himself off of the bat of pinch-hitter Norichika Aoki but then threw the ball way over and past first baseman Bryan LaHair, allowing Aoki to reach.
With Garza then at 119 pitches, Cubs manager Dale Sveum marched to the mound and lifted his starter in favor of Monday’s starter Shawn Camp. Camp got George Kottaras to ground out on four pitches to finalize things.
Like I said at the top, taking three out of four games at Wrigley Field is never a bad thing, regardless of whether you lost the final game with arguably your best pitcher on the bump.
Games against the very much so rebuilding Cubs are just as important, if not more so, as games against other opponents in the division. You must beat the teams which you are supposed to beat if you hope to approach last season’s franchise-best win total.
I really liked seeing solid starts from Shaun Marcum and Chris Narveson in their first turns, and was greatly encouraged by the fact that heavy use early didn’t affect John Axford and Francisco Rodriguez as they were both very good as usual.
The bats need to wake up a bit still. Look no further than notoriously slow starter Aramis Ramirez (2-for-22 to begin the campaign) as evidence of that, but there is plenty of time to turn things around.
After beginning 2011 with a 0-4 record and not winning for the third time on the road until their ninth try, being 4-2 after six with three victories away from Miller Park isn’t a bad place to be.
The Brewers are in Atlanta tonight for the first of a three-game series. Tonight is the Braves’ home opener. That game will be contested by Randy Wolf and Jair Jurrjens with the first pitch being scheduled for 6:35 Central Daylight Time.
***EDIT: Sorry for the lateness of this article. I wrote it nice and early this morning but apparently saved it as a draft instead of publishing it.***
Pitchers and Catchers report today for the Milwaukee Brewers. It’s a symbolic moment for the team and for the coming end of winter, and although this winter has been remarkably mild in Wisconsin, the norm is a long and cold winter up in these parts. Therefore once P&C Day arrives, it makes you feel like there will be spring eventually again in the northern midwest.
Officially reporting today is a man who was drafted at a position (catcher) which would have reported today anyway had he stayed there but he was converted to a pitcher along the way and reports today anyway. That man is the owner of an fantastic Harry Carrey impression along with a sidearm delivery from the right side. Of course, I can only be talking about:
Timothy Charles Dillard is a 6’4″, 225 lb right-handed pitcher who hails from Sarasota, Florida. He was originally selected in the 34th round of the 2002 First-Year Player Draft. (He and I actually share a birthday as well, for the record, though I am three years his elder.)
Dillard, once he was converted to a pitcher, used to have a standard over-the-top delivery. He experienced decent enough success that he earned a trip to the majors in 2008 but was knocked around a bit, and more so in his short pretty heavily. Eventually he was sent down and didn’t appear to have a path back to Milwaukee. He then modified his approach and became a sidearm pitcher. It was a way to make him stand out from the pack and help him find his niche.
It worked, and Dillard rejoined the big league club in 2011.
He’s never been a shutdown pitcher and honestly shouldn’t face a left-handed hitter…ever…but he is a useful piece as a long-relief man and situational right-hander.
On a “first division” team, Dillard doesn’t have a true home. He is a tremendous individual (I had the pleasure of chatting with him for a few minutes at a charity event last season), but this organization has better pitchers available as options when everyone is healthy.
Despite that, I decided to profile Dillard for a couple of reasons. First, he’s spent time with the Brewers so people know him, but more so than that is the fact that he’s out of options and, barring injury to one of his colleagues, he’s unlikely to break camp with the club.
That’s significant because to get Dillard back to the minor leagues where he can stay ready to contribute should the injury bug plague the bullpen, he’d have to be exposed to waivers. Dillard has successfully passed through them before, but nothing is guaranteed.
The best chance to Dillard to make the club out of the Spring Training would be if Doug Melvin and Ron Roenicke decide that keeping depth is more important that keeping a better arm. Having said that though, some would argue and Frankie De La Cruz has a better arm and he is also out of options.
In my 25-man roster projection which I’ll be stating on the podcast I plan to record later today, I have only one open bullpen slot to be contested between Dillard, FDLC, Zach Braddock and Brandon Kintzler. Kintzler and Braddock both have options remaining so they could begin the year at Triple-A if the Brewers want to keep that extra depth.
Regardless, Dillard stands to get enough work this spring in order to gauge where he’s at in comparison to the other options for the last spot in the ‘pen. If he doesn’t make the cut but does sneak back through to the minor leagues, Dillard is absolutely an option to be called up when his special type of services are required.
For a baseball team that hasn’t had the greatest track record of cultivating minor league pitching talent to the point of reaching the Major Leagues, being named as its number one pitching prospect could be a designation accepted with lukewarm enthusiasm at best.
After all, plenty of other “top” prospects for the Milwaukee Brewers have flamed out or faded away throughout the years, especially in recent history.
Mark Rogers can’t stay healthy. Eric Arnett has struggled in Low A. Dylan Covey was diagnosed with diabetes and chose to attend college while learning how to deal with his disease. Several other high draft picks have been released.
It’s been a rough road.
In fact, looking back at the past decade of just First-Year Player drafts for the Brewers (so including 2002 to 2011), they’ve drafted a pitcher in the top five rounds 26 times, including five times as their first draft choice of a given year. (Yes, this includes 2010 because even if you want to exclude Dylan Covey because he didn’t sign, their second pick, Jimmy Nelson, was also a pitcher.)
Yes, Yovani Gallardo was drafted and developed by the Brewers. Gallardo has been a tremendous success, especially when compared to his fellow draftees to this point, but he’s clearly and glaringly the exception to an otherwise fairly firm rule.
(To impress your friends with a piece of trivia, did you know that the longest-tenured pitcher of the Brewers organization who was drafted by the Brewers organization wasn’t even drafted as a pitcher? Sidewinding righty Tim Dillard was chosen in the 34th round of the 2002 draft as a catcher.)
So far, however, the label has done nothing to stunt the growth of #60 on our profiling countdown to Opening Day:
Wily Peralta was acquired in alternative fashion when he signed with Milwaukee on November 26, 2005 as a free agent from the Dominican Republic for a bonus in the amount of $450,000. He was only a 16-year-old at the time, a necessary age range to scout in Latin America.
Peralta was recently named as the #1 prospect in the Milwaukee Brewers organization, and #49 overall in baseball, by MLB.com. With the next closest fellow Brewers prospect checking it #97 overall (Jed Bradley), it pretty easily christens Peralta with the “top organizational pitching prospect” title belt.
Still just 22, Peralta stands at 6’2” and is listed as weighing 240 pounds. He comes at hitters with a mid-90s fastball (having touched 98) and a mid-80s slider. At times last year he flashed a developing changeup as well. A third pitch will be necessary if Peralta is to fill the role of a starting pitcher at the Major League level.
Peralta does have a Tommy John surgery in his rearview mirror but is far removed from the surgery as it cost him the 2007 season while rehabilitating.
2009 was really when those outside the organization began to take notice of Peralta. That season he posted a 3.47 ERA, supported by a 118/46 K/BB ratio, while allowing 91 hits in 104 innings pitched for the Low-A affiliate Wisconsin Timber Rattlers. 2010 was spent in both High-A Brevard County (3.86 ERA, 75/40 K/BB, 102 hits in 105 innings pitched) and Double-A Huntsville (3.61 ERA, 29/24 K/BB, 43 hits in 42 innings).
Peralta began 2011 at Huntsville and pitched his way not only to Triple-A Nashville during the season but into discussions for a possible September call-up to Milwaukee. At Huntsville, Peralta compiled a 9-7 record, 3.46 ERA with a 117/48 K/BB ratio, 106 hits allowed in 119.2 innings over 21 starts. After his promotion to Nashville, Peralta responded in five starts with a 2.03 ERA, 40/11 K/BB, 21 hits allowed in 31 innings pitched, good for a 1.03 WHIP.
Scouts see a lot of things to like in Peralta. He’s considered physically strong, but at a listed 240 pounds on a 6’2” frame, scouts do believe he’ll have to closely monitor his conditioning. As for the pitching itself, his delivery is consistent and repeatable, and he generates easy heat with it as evidenced by the speeds I listed earlier. His slider is above average and shows late sweep, and he’s improved his changeup considerably. Again, if his improvements hold into the 2012 season, he’ll have shown enough of an arsenal to stay as a starter. Last year, Peralta finished with a 1.39 ground out to air out ratio as well, which, if you’ve got a competent defense working behind you, isn’t a bad thing.
The main problem for Peralta during his minor league career has been spotty command, but he reduced his walk rate this year and once again increased his strikeouts.
If he maintains the progress with his command, he currently projects as probably a solid number three starter who gives you plenty of quality innings.
And if he reaches that projection he’ll have certainly come a long way to join Gallardo as a welcomed exception.