Better Know a (Future) Brewer: John Hellweg


Our three-part series continues as we explore the ins and outs of the Zack Greinke deal through the people who join Milwaukee’s farm system.

Next up: Right-handed pitcher John Hellweg, the 23 year-old Michigan native and Florida Community College’s favorite son (citation needed).

The first thing you need to know about John Hellweg is this: the boy is big. I don’t mean Bartolo Colon big or CC Sabathia big, I mean a big ‘ol lanky character – think Mark Fidrych. He’s listed at 6’9″ and 210 pounds of pure, wiry, funky frame.

He uses every inch of that to his advantage in a long delivery that tends to make opposing batters a little uneasy, despite consistent notes about command issues.

Hellweg has five years of professional baseball under his belt since being drafted in the 16th round of the 2008 draft. Since then, the Angels have essentially been looking for a place that fits the young righty. He has spent equal parts of his career coming out of the ‘pen and starting games – though his numbers show him as a much better starter than reliever. He fans a fair amount of batters – 113 last year and 88 so far in 2012 – but his ground out/air out ratio is consistently over one which leaves some people concerned as a red-flag about location problems.

Despite that, though, the Angels had him posted as high as number seven on their top 20 prospect list, as they saw considerable improvement in his pitches and projected him to do well as a starter for the parent club in the near future.

Most of that is thanks to his fastball, which boasts considerable late life on it and taps out in the high 90’s. He also has a change to mix in with the heat that looks good, but still needs improvement. Hellweg is also in the process of ironing out a slider, but scouts say it needs a bit more life on it before it can be useful in the Majors.

In a deal for an elite-level pitcher, it might seem hard to imagine that the Brewers would be willing to take a workshop hurler as part of the deal, but the Milwaukee Brewers seem to agree with the Angels that Hellweg has the potential to be a very good starter at the top of the rotation sooner rather later. Command issues aside, I tend to believe them (and not just because they’re the scouts and a bush-league baseball blogger). He has that raw, outstanding talent and fiery arm that just looks like a pitcher who wants to win.

If he can build on his 2.12 ERA as a starter in 2012, there’s nothing saying that he won’t.