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Brewers Invite Familiar Names to Big League Spring Training

stevenjewell
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Sep 23, 2015; Chicago, IL, USA; Milwaukee Brewers third baseman Hernan Perez (14) throws out Chicago Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant (not pictured) during the ninth inning at Wrigley Field. Milwaukee won 4-1. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

Yesterday, the Brewers made some minor announcements, formally inviting farmhands INF Hernan Perez and SP Hiram Burgos to the team’s 2016 Big League Spring Training camp. They also extended an invitation to newcomer Rene Garcia, a 25-year-old catcher who spent 2015 in the Phillies system.

Perez was outrighted to the Sky Sox earlier this month, making him a free agent, but re-signed with the team earlier this week. Perez was the Brewers’ primary third baseman after the departure of Aramis Ramirez, brought in from the Tigers via waivers.

With the Crew, Perez slashed .270/.281/.365 while seeing time at each infield position. Prior to the season, Perez was a top 10 prospect in the Tigers system, though that was the result of their barren farm more than his abilities.

Perez owns a .660 career OPS in the minors, and is not a true shortstop, making his ceiling likely that of a utility man. His .731 OPS in AAA means that he could crack it as a starter as a light-hitting, slick-fielding second baseman, but his early returns in the Majors don’t reflect that possibility.

Perez is a fine re-sign, as, while the team currently has a surplus of infielders, none particularly stand out as Big League starters. There is no reason to narrow the field until the team knows who their best option is.

Burgos bypassed minor league free agency to re-sign with the Brewers, a series of events I couldn’t be happier with. The 2012 Brewers Minor League Pitcher of the Year, Burgos missed large chunks of time from 2013-14, and was significantly less effective in that time.

After being cut from the club, Burgos returned for the 2015 season,  ascending from High-A to AAA, pitching well the entire way. Between High-A and AA, where the 28 year old was admittedly older than the average player, Burgos struck out nearly 11 batters per 9 innings in 12 starts. Burgos put up more modest numbers in AAA, posting a 3.35 ERA (4.06 FIP) with a 65:28 K:BB ratio in 80 2/3 innings.

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At his best, Burgos projected as a back of the rotation arm with good command of unspectacular stuff. In his unsuccessful stint in the Bigs in 2013, Burgos featured a four-pitch mix, all of which he could throw for strikes.

His performance as a starter in 2015 implies that he is very capable of making it in the Majors as a middle/long reliever, with his pitches playing up in relief appearances.

His history of eating innings when healthy also makes him a potential swingman, though his days of projecting as a full-time starter are over. Still, Burgos has what amounts to a full season’s work in AAA, with a 3.64 ERA in 34 starts, and has little more to prove in the minors.

Garcia is a glove-first catcher of the same ilk as recently departed Juan Centeno. Neither has shown enough hitting prowess to be considered for a backup job in the Majors and both throw out baserunners proficiently.

I think the Brewers brought in Centeno to serve as their third catcher, and see if the young man had a shot at the Majors. In that way, they are repeating the process with Garica. There is a chance that the Brewers trade away Jonathan Lucroy, but even then, I think they would prefer the free agent market to Garcia for a quick fix.

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