Milwaukee Brewers: Is Junior Guerra primed to bounce back?

PITTSBURGH, PA - JULY 18: Junior Guerra
PITTSBURGH, PA - JULY 18: Junior Guerra /

The Milwaukee Brewers need for pitching is as predictable as Thanksgiving falling on Thursday in November. This off season has seen only minor additions to the staff.

With possibly two spots open in the rotation, the Milwaukee Brewers have a number of in-house options. At the top of that list is Junior Guerra. If Guerra can recapture his 2016 magic, the rotation may become a strength for the organization.

Heading into the 2016 season, Guerra was about as unheralded as any player in Major League Baseball. Claimed off of waivers, Guerra was thought to be nothing more than organizational depth. By the end of May that narrative was quickly changing.

Guerra made his Milwaukee Brewers debut in early May that season, and helped stabilize a struggling rotation. In 121 2/3 innings pitched Guerra was 9-3 with a 2.81 ERA and 100 strikeouts. His 45.3 GB% along with a solid 79.4 LOB% had fans salivating over his potential. However, he regressed in 2017 and was a non-factor for Brewers.

What happened in 2017?

Guerra was named Milwaukee’s Opening Day starter last season. Unfortunately, that’s about the only positive from his 2017 season. Guerra couldn’t even get out of that Opening Day start healthy, and it was all downhill from there.

Guerra struggled with consistency last season for the Brewers. His 5.12 ERA is unsightly, but his BABIP improved from .250 in 2016 to .236 last season. However, his BB/9 ballooned from 3.3 BB/9 in ’16 to a staggering 5.5 BB/9 in 2017.

Guerra was up and down between the Majors and Minors last season, providing very little value to big league club. Between injuries and the inconsistent play, Guerra quickly became an after thought for the Brewers.

Is a bounce back season possible in 2018?

Guerra is barely in the conversation for the Milwaukee Brewers rotation at this point. Baseball is a fickle beast and one year of mediocrity can cause a player to fall out of favor with an organization. However, if Guerra can be even be half as good in ’18 as he was in ’16, Milwaukee may be in better shape than previously thought.

Guerra has the type of pitching repertoire that fits well in Miller Park. He is a splitter throwing, ground ball machine when he’s on his game. The injury last season definitely didn’t help, and he never looked right all season.

If Guerra can limit his walks, he has shown that he can strand runners. The Milwaukee Brewers don’t need Guerra to be an ace, they just need him to eat some quality innings. Until Jimmy Nelson comes back from his injury, the Brewers need all the pitching they can get.

Guerra showed in 2016 that he can be a difference maker on the mound. If he limits his home runs, he will be right back where he was two seasons ago.

Next: How real is the Brewers' interest in Lance Lynn?

Milwaukee doesn’t need to trade for Chris Archer or sign Lance Lynn if Guerra puts it together. He won’t be starting on Opening Day this season, but Guerra will play a significant role in the Milwaukee Brewers success in 2018.