Top Prospect Update: #4- Johnny Hellweg
By John Dinse
Sep 20, 2013; Milwaukee, WI, USA; Milwaukee Brewers pitcher Johnny Hellweg pitches in the first inning against the St. Louis Cardinals at Miller Park. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports
We continue to work down the our Top 20 list at Reviewing the Brew, taking a look this week at our fourth ranked prospect, starting pitcher Johnny Hellweg.
For Hellweg, 2014 has been a season to forget following a 2013 season that saw him make his major league debut and become the Pacific Coast League Pitcher of the Year after going 12-5 with a 3.15 earned run average in Nashville. After such a productive year, Hellweg started his 2014 back in Nashville after failing to make the Brewers opening day roster. Following four starts for the Sounds, Hellweg’s campaign ended when he was diagnosed with a UCL tear and was forced to undergo Tommy John surgery in April.
The 6 foot 9 Hellweg was acquired along with Jean Segura and Ariel Pena on July 27, 2012 from the Angels for Zack Greinke. Prior to the trade Hellweg was well-regarded within the Angels system, entering 2012 as the clubs fourth ranked prospect according to Baseball America. After finishing the 2012 season with the Brewers at Double A Huntsville, Hellweg was able to get some action in Milwaukee in 2013.
The results in Milwaukee were indicative to some of the issues Hellweg had struggled with throughout his career. With his imposing size, Hellweg is able to generate the downward plane to feature a fastball that reaches 98 mph. While he has major league “stuff” he has trouble with commanding it. In eight appearances, seven of those as a starter, Hellweg walked 26 batters in 30.2 innings. His inability to throw strikes in Milwaukee, has been an issue that has haunted him in the past and has led to high hit total as well.
Hellweg’s future is very much in doubt. He will enter 2015, following Tommy John surgery as a 26 year-old with a career total of 30.2 big league innings. Additionally he only has one option remaining, leaving the Brewers with limited options for him if he is not big league ready. While the potential and the “stuff” is there, the role Hellweg fits is unknown. While many project him to eventually fill a bullpen slot, Hellweg has had limited success in that role. Like many taller pitchers, Hellweg struggles to repeat his mechanics and does not command his stuff well enough to have sustained success. As a fan, one can only hope that the Brewers will try to “rebuild” his mechanics during his rehab to get him in position to fill a slot for the Brewers in the future, regardless of what that slot is. One can only hope!