The future of the bullpen is a tricky discussion because relievers can change so swiftly. That being said, there are a few guys in the minors and a few predictions to make. Some, if not all, might be some unpopular opinion.
To me, the farm is full of some guys who potentially fill out a bullpen very well. First is Taylor Williams, who if you remember is a September call-up. He threw for a sub two ERA in his short stint with the Milwaukee Brewers in 2017. The odds are he will find himself back in the minors to start 2018, but he should be able to work back into the bullpen to be a solid and reliable arm.
The other name I want to mention is Drake Owenby. The southpaw is starting right now, but I truly believe he will be better suited in the bullpen going forward. His numbers are pretty solid, but his projection as a starter is not as good as some of the other young arms in the organization.
If there is no disagreement yet, don’t worry, here it comes. As excellent as Corey Knebel is, I think he should be dealt either during or after the 2019 season. He will still have two years of control, giving him value. And yes, I have a plan on who will close games.
The new closer is already in the system, and it is Josh Hader. Look, his history is to not have pinpoint accuracy. It worked for him in 2017 out of the bullpen, and it will work for him as a closer. It will not bode well for him as a starting pitcher for the Milwaukee Brewers. In order to get the most value out of his arm, the team needs to play to his skillset.
Moving Knebel and putting Hader in as the closer is what I see as the best move for the future of the bullpen. It is hard to see a former high ranking pitching prospect as just a closer, but sometimes it happens like that.
Look at Archie Bradley in Arizona, who didn’t get his ERA below five before becoming a reliever. Now he is dominant. The same goes for Shane Greene in Detroit. There are a lot of examples of guys struggling as a starter and thriving as a reliever. Hader is already thriving, so why bring the potential, and what I would say is inevitable, struggle into the equation?