Spring Training is usually a great time for the casual fan to get a look at some prospects who may be a big part of the future of the Milwaukee Brewers. Non-roster invites are often given as rewards to prospects after a strong season in the minors, and though most have little chance to make the team, it still gives players a chance to make an impression on the big league club.
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Some players stick with the big club longer than others throughout the spring, and with minor league camp kicking off this week, the time has come for the Brewers’ first round of roster cuts as they begin to pare down those that are not in the mix for a roster spot. Here are the players the Brewers returned to minor league camp today:
C Cameron Garfield-age 24 season, 2nd round pick in 2009. .229/.268/.304 in 95 games at A+ in 2014.
RHP Brooks Hall-age 25 season, 4th round pick in 2010. 2.77 ERA, 16 K|7 BB in 26 innings at AA in 2014. Outrighted off 40 man to make room for Francisco Rodriguez.
LHP Hobbs Johnson-age 24 season, 2nd round pick in 2013. 2.93 ERA, 105 K|43 BB in 147.1 innings at A+ in 2014.
RHP Taylor Williams-age 24 season, 4th round pick in 2013. 2.72 ERA, 137 K|28 BB in 132.1 innings between A and A+ in 2014.
LHP Wei-Chung Wang-age 23 season, acquired from Pittsburgh in 2013 Rule 5 Draft. Unimpressive in 17.1 MLB innings in 2014, but posted a 2.39 ERA, 22 K|4 BB in 26.1 innings in lower minors on “rehab assignment.” Optioned to A+ (1/3 options used).
RHP Johnny Hellweg-age 26 season, acquired from Angels in 2012. Pitched in 20.0 innings for AAA last season before undergoing Tommy John surgery, still rehabbing from procedure. Optioned to AAA (4/4 options used).
Of particular interest in this group is Johnny Hellweg. After the Brewers acquired Hellweg in the Zack Greinke trade, he shot up the prospect charts during his 2013 Minor League Pitcher of the Year campaign, during which he went 12-5 with a 3.15 in 125.2 innings with 89 strikeouts at AAA. Hellweg made his major league debut in 2013 as well, though he struggled to the tune of a 6.75 ERA with only 9 strikeouts and 26 walks in 30.2 innings pitched. Still, Johnny was was ranked the Brewers #4 prospect after that season by Baseball America.
After losing almost an entire season to Tommy John surgery last year, Hellweg now finds his career at a crossroads of sorts. He has long battled control issues (81 walks, 14 hit batters, 13 wild pitches in AAA in 2013), and as Jim Goulart of Brewerfan.net notes, the Brewers used Hellweg’s fourth and final option.
Unless Hellweg can come back strong from his TJ surgery this year, he could find himself on the outside looking in of the 40 man roster situation for the Brewers. If he is exposed to outright waivers, any major league team would have the right to claim him.
After their round of cuts today, the Brewers have 50 players remaining in Major League camp. The Brewers won their first Cactus League game today, defeating the Red 5-3. The Brewers will face the Giants tomorrow at 3:05 CST, with Matt Garza likely to take the hill against Tim Hudson.