The news of Jimmy Nelson’s absence to begin the new season left the Milwaukee Brewers with a giant question mark in the rotation.
Even without Nelson, the Milwaukee Brewers rotation is not in awful shape. Chase Anderson, Zach Davies, and Jhoulys Chacin appear to be locks to hold down a spot. That leaves two open spots with plenty of talent left to fill them.
So who are the options?
To me, Brandon Woodruff needs to hold down one of these spots. He dazzled in his first few starts in 2017 before giving up 10 earned runs in his last two. Through his other six starts, he gave up 13 runs, leaving him at just over two runs a start.
He put his upside on display. Spring Training will be very telling for Woodruff. If the 24 year old can find his groove again, he will be an asset to the Milwaukee Brewers rotation, especially during Nelson’s absence.
Here is my other personal favorite to make the rotation. It is not necessarily because he posses the most talent of any candidate either, though his sub four ERA in 80 innings says he might. What Brent Suter brings to the table is not only the ability to compete, but to bring a lefty into the rotation.
It is not like the Milwaukee Brewers would be throwing away a rotation spot just to get a lefty in there. Suter posted a 3.45 ERA as a starter in 2017. Especially coming from a guy who would fill out the bottom of the rotation, that is strong.
Yes, Josh Hader will probably end up in the Milwaukee Brewers starting rotation eventually. And yes, that topic will be frequently debated. But the fact remains, he is not ready to join the rotation yet. That isn’t to say he wont be soon.
Hader was brilliant out of the bullpen in 2017. Odds are he will continue to be that good based on his K/9 over 12 and his BABIP at a stunning .233. However, his walk rate will not hold up in a starting role. So, unless he found pinpoint accuracy this offseason, he is not yet meant for the rotation. But one day he will be, and it will be magical to see.
The return of the former ace. This is just a heartwarming redemption story waiting to happen. And why not? Yovani Gallardo was brilliant during his first stint with the Milwaukee Brewers. After leaving, he fell off in a big way. But being back in Miller Park might resurrect the former perennial Opening Day starter.
The fastball velocity saw a drop off, but is back up as of 2017. So, if Gallardo get comfortable again he could be. to an extent, back. His highers ERA for the Brewers was a 4.18. But bear in mind he was younger then. The now almost 32 year old was 21 in his first season with the Crew, 28 in his last. A comeback would do wonders for the rotation, and he would certainly be deserving of a spot.
Aaron Wilkerson busts on the scene after his seven inning, two hit, bid against the Cardinals in game 162 of 2017. Though both teams had been eliminated from contention, the righty made a huge case for rotation consideration.
If that kind of effectiveness continues into Spring Training, Wilkerson will have a shot at a rotation spot. If not, he might have made the case to stay on the Milwaukee Brewers roster in terms of long relief.
In reality, Junior Guerra can essentially be thrown out of this conversation. Frankly, even though he struggled with injuries, he pitched his way out of it in 2017. But he was the Opening Day starter, so that might give him a look from the coaching staff.
To me, Guerra is more of a relief option going forward that anything. He pitched very admirably in that role last September, and would probably have a chance of making it that way. But his starting career may be done.
The former first rounder has seen his struggles in the MLB. However, he seems to have figured something out. Through 17 games in Triple A, 15 starts, he threw for a 2.59 ERA. At 28, he could start coming into his own and being the talent the Milwaukee Brewers hoped they were drafting in Taylor Jungmann.
This will be a dark horse for a rotation spot. A good spring might go a long way. It still is more than likely a long shot, but all it takes is a chance. And with a high degree of confidence, I can say Jungmann will get his chance.
Based solely on 2017, without the benefit of Spring Training, the rotation is still pretty solid. There are a lot of potential guys to fill it out. My rotation would read Anderson, Davies, Chacin, Woodruff, Suter. That leaves Hader in the bullpen along with either Gallardo or Wilkerson. But remember, it is in Gallardo’s contract that he will get MiLB money if he does not make the roster.
No doubt, there are a lot of moving parts. But that can be a good thing is Craig Counsell can get all the pieces together. The difficult part is that not all the pieces are set yet. The Milwaukee Brewers might add another arm to the mix. The offseason is still young.
GM David Stearns has a vision. This team is coming together in order to compete. Though it might not be obvious yet, this kind of flexibility to fill out a spot is imperative to the plan. Spring Training will be very telling.