Could things get any worse for the Milwaukee Brewers? After yet another bullpen implosing leading to a loss yesterday, the Brewers now sit at 16-30 and are currently sitting in last place in all of Major League Baseball, a half game worse than the 17-30 Oakland Athletics. The team has already seen four Opening Day starters hit the disabled list this year, and yet another key player was added to the DL yesterday.
Wily Peralta has been one of the better performers in the Brewers starting rotation this season, putting together a 4.00 ERA, ranking as league average with a 100 ERA+. Five of his nine starts qualified as “quality starts,” and Peralta‘s xFIP and SIERA both support his 4.00 ERA as a reflection of his true performance. While I had hoped Wily would take another step and build off a strong season last year, he has struggled with the long ball this season (1.3 HR/9) and has failed to strike out many batters (just a 15.2% K-rate) despite throwing a fastball that reaches the upper 90s. Peralta left his last start after just four innings complaining of tightness in his side, and reportedly told Adam McCalvy that he could miss somewhere between four and six weeks.
The Brewers had been counting on Peralta to be a workhorse for them after pitching 382.0 innings from 2013-14, but now their starting rotation depth will be tested. While the Brewers called up reliever David Goforth to the major league bullpen yesterday, Craig Counsell said yesterday that Peralta’s replacement in the rotation has yet to be determined. Wily’s first missed turn in the rotation comes up tomorrow, and it appears as though the Brewers will need to cover somewhere between five and eight starts in Peralta’s absence.
The Brewers do have a few options to insert into the starting rotation. Milwaukee doesn’t feature a ton of high upside arms in the upper levels of the farm system, but they do have three viable candidates that are looking to step up for a starting rotation that could be in flux with Kyle Lohse and Matt Garza reportedly on the trading block:
The 26 year old Thornburg was the Brewers top prospect once upon a time, but he has been shuffled back and forth between the starting rotation and the bullpen for the past four seasons. After struggling out of the pen to begin the season, Tyler was sent down to the minors and inserted into AAA Colorado Spring’s starting rotation. Thornburg has been inconsistent so far since returning to the minors with a 4.45 ERA, though pitching in an environment like Colorado Springs certainly hasn’t helped, as the team boasts the worst ERA in the league. Thornburg has been more successful in the big leagues as a starter (2.37 ERA, 3.95 FIP, 10.9% K:BB rate) than he has as a reliever (3.93 ERA, 4.45 FIP, 6.9% K:BB rate), and after losing the spot in the rotation that he should have earned for 2014 to free agent signee Matt Garza, the time might finally have come to give Thornburg an extended look as a big league starting pitcher.
Blazek is the only one of the three currently on the Brewers major league roster, and he has performed well as a long-reliever this season. In 18 appearances covering 22.1 innings, the 26 year old right hander has given up just four earned runs, including zero home runs, striking out 21 batters while walking 10. His sterling 1.59 ERA is supported by a 2.61 FIP, and he is inducing grounders at an excellent 58.7% rate. Blazek pitched mostly in relief prior to being acquired from the Cardinals in 2013, but has thrived after transitioning into the starting rotation in AAA last season. Mixing things up with a solid fastball/slider/curveball combo, Blazek certainly has the repertoire to be a starter and has experienced the most success of the three this season. He might need a couple starts to get stretched out, but Blazek has certainly earned the opportunity to prove himself as a big league starter.
The youngest of the trio at 25 years old, Jungmann is also the only one without any big league experience and has performed the poorest of the group. In 45.2 innings pitched for the Sky Sox, Jungmann has struggled mightly, giving up 35 earned runs with a 1.620 WHIP and a 42:22 strikeout-to-walk ratio. The ground ball specialist has been hurt by an exceptionally high .386 BABIP, however, and with just one home run given up this season, his 3.78 FIP is a more accurate reflection of how Jungmann has performed in 2015. Taylor was the Brewers’ first round draft pick in 2011 and looked like he had finally turned the corner with a strong season between AA and AAA last season, and is considered the team’s most MLB-ready prospect. But has Jungmann done enough to earn the call?
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With a rebuild coming for the Brewers, it will be beneficial for the long-term outlook of the team if they can start getting better looks at who could be a part of their future. While none of Thornburg, Blazek, or Jungmann figure to be future aces, all have shown enough to be at least considered as possible mid-rotation starters for the next few seasons. I’ve long been a fan of Tyler Thornburg and think the Brewers have stunted his development by not committing to him as a starting pitcher, and he would be my first choice to get the call to fill-in for the injured Wily Peralta.
The Brewers will continue their series against the San Francisco Giants (26-20) tonight, with Matt Garza (2-6, 5.71 ERA) scheduled to face the Giants’ ace, Madison Bumgarner (5-2, 2.84 ERA). With tomorrow’s starter still TBD, expect a decision about who Brewers’ manager Craig Counsell will insert into the starting rotation sooner rather than later.