While the Milwaukee Brewers got some discouraging news on one of their top-pitching prospects, Taylor Williams they got some good news on pitcher Johnny Hellweg today. Coming off of last season’s Tommy John Surgery, Hellweg is set to start his comeback, as Adam McCalvy reported that he is going to begin pitching at Brevard County this week. Though I no longer view Hellweg as top of the rotation starter, he is still an arm that can bring value to future Brewers’ rosters.
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At one point, the former organizational pitcher of the year looked like he had the stuff to possibly be a top of the rotation stater in Milwaukee. During the 2013 season, he dominated the Pacific Coast League, going 13-5 in the 3.15 ERA in 24 minor league starts (one in the Midwest League).
But then the wheels fell off during his promotion to Milwaukee. Hellweg went 1-4 with a 6.70 ERA as he struggled mightily to find the plate. In just over 30 innings of work, he walked 26 hitters, an average of 7.6 walks per nine innings. These control issues greatly hampered his ability to eat innings and pitch deep into any games.
In his time in the minor leagues, control has been his biggest issue as well. While he has been shuffled around from a starter and reliever he has consistently been inconsistent in the strike zone. In seven combined seasons of pitching in the minors, he has a strikeout to walk ratio of just 1.35 and an average of 6.2 walks per nine innings. To be an effective pitcher in the MLB he will need these numbers to vastly improve.
Once a number top-prospect in the organization, Hellweg’s status has fallen drastically since his injury. Currently he is ranked as the 16th best prospect on the team by MLB.com. Though he was once viewed as a pitcher that could be a star in the rotation, I feel his biggest impact with the team will be as a reliever with a ceiling as a future setup man. With a 6’7” frame and a power fastball, he could be an imposing piece to slot into the backend of a bullpen. It is great to see him returning from injury, and he certainly will be a player to watch for the rest of the season.
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