Projecting Brewers’ Prospects: Johnny Hellweg
After what was a disastrous Major League debut for Johnny Hellweg, a lot of the optimism surrounding the tall right hander has disappeared. Despite his mid to upper nineties fastball, his ability to get outs at the Major League level left a lot to be desired. All is not lost with Hellweg, however, as a guy with his stuff will always have upside to dream on.
The 6’9” Hellweg posted a solid season in terms of superficial numbers going 12-5 with a 3.15 ERA with AAA Nashville, however, beneath the surface there were warning signs. He only struckout 6.37 per 9 while walking 5.80 per 9, and that led to a 4.67 FIP. Those issues were magnified against big league hitters. His strikeouts plummeted to an unbelievably dismal 2.64 per 9, and his walks skyrocketed to 7.63 per 9. No, those aren’t typos. His AAA ratios would not play at the Major League level, and his ratios in Milwaukee don’t play anywhere. To add onto the lack of both strikeouts and control, Hellweg has lost his curveball since arriving in the Brewers’ system.
Despite all the negativity up to this point, there’s some hope here. A 6’9” flamethrower will get all the time in the world to figure it out. The mechanics can be tough to get down when the levers are so long, and that can be a major factor in the lack of control. Hellweg has had success in the minors before, so perhaps last year was just a bump in the road, and he’ll return to being a legit prospect again.
Much like my evaluation of Devin Williams, I don’t know what to think of Hellweg either. He has a very wide range of outcomes. Right now I’m concerned as to whether or not Hellweg can play at the Major League level at all. I’m going to take the wait and see approach with him, though. It’s hard to bury a guy who has that height, velo, and has pitched well as recently as 2012. Gun to my head, if I have to pick a career for Hellweg (what an odd thing to threaten someone over, but play along) I’d go with relief pitcher. I’m not overly confident in a 6’9” pitcher who is struggling mightily with his control to get it enough to go 180-200 innings a year, but I won’t bury that idea entirely.
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