By: Noah Wright
The Brewers have a very strong team. They’re just coming off a season where they were one win away from making the World Series. Even with signs of regression, it’s not like most of these players are going to go from MVP candidates to bad players the next year. Plus, they have one of the best bullpens in baseball.
But it looks like the pen might have to eat some innings this year. The Brew crew are entering the season with a lot of questions in the rotation. It’s the weakest part of their entire team. This team is missing an ace starter, and depth behind him.
Currently, the Crew has Jhoulys Chacin lined-up to the the Opening Day starter. Chacin, on most teams, would be a #4 or #5 starter. Last year, he had a solid 3.50 ERA, and 1.163 WHIP, but he had a 4.03 FIP in 192.2 innings. His opponent BABIP of .250 is likely unsustainable, and will see a rise next year. While I don’t think he’ll be horrible, I think you’re going to see numbers closer to 2017 than 2018 (3.90 ERA, 4.26 FIP, 1.270 WHIP).
Behind Chacin, the Brewers are prepared to line-up a bunch of young, and unproven arms. Corbin Burnes did well in his rookie season last year. His first 38 frames in the bigs showed he could handle MLB batters. He let up just 4 home runs, and 11 walks enroute to a 2.61 ERA, 3.79 FIP, and 1.000 WHIP. However, the 24 year old will be thrown into a starting role, something he did not experience during 2018.
Brandon Woodruff, if you ask me, looks the most promising out of the core of young kids they’re handing rotation spots off to. Last year, Woodruff served as a swingman for the Brewers. He saw 19 total appearances in the bigs, but 4 were starts. In total, Woodruff pitched in 42 and a third innings, gave up only 14 walks, 4 home runs, and struck out 47 batters. He finished the season with a 3.61 ERA, 3.30 FIP, and 1.181 WHIP. Woodruff will be 26 for 2019, and the hard throwing righty looks to lock down the 3rd rotation spot.
Freddy Peralta is a right handed pitcher the Brewers acquired from the Mariners in exchange for Adam Lind during 2015-2016. He made his debut last year, and turned in a solid rookie campaign. Through his first 78 and two thirds innings, Peralta recorded a 4.25 ERA, but a 3.72 FIP, and 1.136 WHIP. He struck out a ton of batters during the course of 2018, as he had a 11.0 K/9 rate. However, he struggled to limit free passes with a 4.6 BB/9 rate. How Peralta will do next year after having a .237 opponent BABIP will be interesting, but he’ll only be 23 this coming season, so there’s plenty of room for improvement.
Rounding out the rotation, the Brewers will give the 5th and final spot to Zach Davies. The former top prospect is coming off a rough 2018. He was injured for part of the year, and under performed when he was healthy. He only pitched in 66 innings, giving up an ERA of 4.77, FIP of 4.39, and WHIP of 1.333. Though between 2016 and 2017, he was a typical back end starter. He had a 3.93 ERA, 4.07 FIP, and 1.305 WHIP between the two seasons. Davies is a control pitcher, and doesn’t have huge strikeout numbers. He has a career 2.6 BB/9 rate, and doesn’t give up a lot of hard hit balls. At just 26 years old, Davies is looking for a bounce back season in 2019.
However, there is some interesting notes about other pitchers with starting experience the team has. Chase Anderson is probably one of the more interesting players to be pushed to the pen. Though Anderson is coming off a season where his FIP was 5.03, his ERA was still below 4 (3.93), and showed tons of potential in 2017. During ‘17, Anderson had a 2.74 ERA, 3.58 FIP, and 1.090 WHIP in 141 and a third innings. His performance led him to receive a 2 year, $11.75 million deal during October of 2017.
How this rotation will hold up throughout the season, I’m not sure. But we all said the same thing at the beginning of last year. Entering the ‘18, this rotation had just as many questions as it does now. Even with the pen they have, they probably don’t want to over-tax it. This team needs one of three things. Either find ace, or near ace pitcher, find a guy who can eat innings, but not pitch horrible in those innings, or further deepen the pen. That way, they don’t have to worry about bullpen fatigue, and potential injuries to key pen pieces like Josh Hader, or Jeremy Jeffress. One of their bullpen stars, Corey Knebel, looks to be suffering that already. He’s been diagnosed with UCL damage, and the season hasn’t even started yet. The team has been linked to closer Craig Kimbrel, which would further deepen this pen. If they were to sign Dallas Keuchel, they could fix the issue of an inning eater who could put up decent numbers in those innings. In conclusion, I personally think that throughout the season, they need to keep a lookout for pitchers who can go deep into games.