Dan in Real Life: Part One
By Benjamin Orr
I actually liked that movie. While it wasn’t one of the more laugh out loud movies I have seen, I think Steve Carell’s performance was decent enough to make me chuckle quite a bit. Anyway, I’m getting off track here. The title is quite obviously not about the movie, but about Brewers’ pitching prospect Dan Merklinger. Now, why is the title labeled ‘part one’? Well, we here at Reviewing the Brew are taking a sort of outside the box approach in that we are all following one player from the minors. So, this is part one about Dan, with more parts to soon follow. Will these guys make the cut for the Brew Crew this year? Hopefully they can because, from what I’ve read about Dan, he sounds like he has some promising stuff.
Born on November 19, 1985, Dan Merklinger comes from South Orange, New Jersey. After graduating from Seton Hall University, he was drafted in the amateur draft in 2007 and began pitching that same year for the A-League Helena Brewers. In 2008 and 2009, Merklinger still pitched in the A-League, but in 2010 he played the majority of the season with the A-Advanced Brevard County Manatees. He would go on to play one Double-A game with the Huntsville Stars and was eventually promoted to Triple-A and played the last week of the season with the Nashville Sounds. So, needless to say, the kid has talent and at the age of 26, I expect his MLB career will be here in the next year or so. In 2011, Merklinger pitched for the Double-A Stars, from the starter role. He went 9-9 (28 games started) in 2011 with a 4.10 ERA and 133 strikeouts.
His numbers in the A-Advanced (or A+) league were actually fairly decent. Merklinger played a total of 33 games (started 25), went 11-7 with a 3.40 ERA and 182 strikeouts in 172 innings pitched. He also had one save in A+, making his career total in saves three. However, Merklinger is not a relief pitcher so saves really mean nothing to him. The thing he needs to work on tremendously is his ERA. In his minor league career, Merklinger has 4.01 ERA alongside a 1.312 WHIP. During his tenure with Brevard (now granted he’s pitched two seasons there) in A+, the numbers he put up were actually his best thus far, and really, it marked the only time his ERA ever dipped below 3.50.
There still is quite a way for Merklinger to go and mature as a pitcher. He’s not a big name guy, he’s not the best of the best in minor league pitching, but what I like about him is that he gets the job done. He has an overall record of 32-28, and I’m giving him the benefit of the doubt on some of the losses because we all know that it can be the offense that loses games sometimes. He’s young and has a long road ahead of him. Do I expect to seem him in Brewer Blue this year? Eh, I wouldn’t rule it out, but he’s going to have to concentrate on finding the strike zone more often. Contrary to what I just said, one thing that really is going for him is that he is a strike out pitcher. In his first three years of being a starter and not just a bullpen guy, he struck out well over his amount of innings pitched. He’s also won the Minor League Baseball.com Organization All-Star award twice, once in 2010 and again last year.
What separates Merklinger from most pitchers (now I said most, not all), is that he is a left-handed pitcher. He also features what he considers to be a very ‘killer’ curveball that shields his below average fastball (which ranges from 86-89 MPH). Sure, he isn’t one of the top prospects in the Brewers’ organization, but to make it to Double-A and Triple-A means he’s got something there. A potential to really show us what he has. Will Brewers’ pitching coach Rick Kranitz get to see Merklinger up in the majors this year? Maybe, maybe not. All we know is if Merklinger can prove his worth in not only Spring Training, but perservere a bit more in the minors, I think the Brewers will have a potential starter in him. Until part two comes in the next few weeks (which will really be an update on his status), I wish Dan Merklinger the best of luck.