Milwaukee Brewers: Tough Decisions Looming With Starting Rotation

MILWAUKEE, WI - SEPTEMBER 01: Jimmy Nelson #52 of the Milwaukee Brewers pitches during the first inning against the Washington Nationals at Miller Park on September 01, 2017 in Milwaukee, WI. (Photo by Mike McGinnis/Getty Images)
MILWAUKEE, WI - SEPTEMBER 01: Jimmy Nelson #52 of the Milwaukee Brewers pitches during the first inning against the Washington Nationals at Miller Park on September 01, 2017 in Milwaukee, WI. (Photo by Mike McGinnis/Getty Images) /

The Milwaukee Brewers are going to have a few tough decisions to make with their starting rotation coming up soon.

Jimmy Nelson has one more rehab start next week before the Milwaukee Brewers would deem him ready to return to the big league rotation. Once he’s ready, someone is going to have to find a spot to slot him in to.

If Nelson were ready in mid-April, this would’ve been a much easier decision for the Brewers to make. But now, things are a bit different in that rotation.

The Rotation’s Turnaround

Over the past few weeks, the Brewers starting rotation has really turned a corner in terms of their production. Zach Davies has pitched well all season, currently sitting on a 1.54 ERA. Brandon Woodruff has allowed only three runs in his last four starts, droppin his ERA from 5.81 down to 3.72. Gio Gonzalez has a 1.69 ERA since arriving back in Milwaukee.

With Davies, Woodruff, Gonzalez, and Jhoulys Chacin as the clear top four pitchers in the rotation right now, that leaves one spot for what’s so far been Chase Anderson, Freddy Peralta, and Corbin Burnes. Burnes still has issues with his fastball command, which is why the bullpen is not where he should be right now. Peralta is still having issues and Anderson is just coming back from a finger laceration and he’s pitched fairly well for the most part this season, posting a 3.20 ERA.

It’s a crowded picture when all three are healthy and pitching well, and the return of Jimmy Nelson will throw another wrench into that.

The Return Of Jimmy Nelson

According to Craig Counsell, Nelson has one more start down in Triple-A before they make the decision to call him up.

In Nelson’s last start, he went 5.2 innings, allowing only three singles, no runs, one walk, and eight strikeouts on 86 pitches.

By the looks of it, Nelson seems ready to rejoin the big league club soon and if this next start goes well, it’ll probably be his last one in Triple-A. With his start scheduled for Thursday, he could be called up to make his return to the bigs as early as May 28th.

Then what?

Who Gets Bounced From The Rotation?

Chacin isn’t going to go anywhere despite his early season struggles. Davies is leading the league in ERA, also not going anywhere. Gonzalez has stabilized this rotation and been a capable innings eater, he won’t get bounced. Woodruff has been their best starter of late, going six innings in each of his last two starts, allowing one run between the two of them.

So that leaves Chase Anderson/Freddy Peralta’s spot. Anderson is likely to get moved back to the bullpen as the long reliever, despite how well he’s pitched this year. But what the Milwaukee Brewers do with Peralta and Burnes will be the real question mark.

Do the Brewers want to continue to keep Peralta and Burnes up in the big leagues as relievers? Or do they want to continue to develop and work them as starters?

When Nelson returns, I think Burnes should go back down to Triple-A amidst his continued struggle with his fastball command. As a matter of fact, I’d like to see him back down in San Antonio’s rotation right now to work on that command. Keeping him in the bullpen isn’t doing him or the team any good.

Peralta is a candidate to stick around in the bullpen given his issues in the first inning. But it’s also possible he could get sent to Triple-A to manage his innings and work out more kinks.

When Nelson returns, I would expect to see a rotation of him, Chacin, Davies, Gonzalez, and Woodruff going forward, with Burnes, Peralta, and Anderson as potential fill ins in case of injury or ineffectiveness.  With most of the five starters pitching well, it’s hard to find a spot to insert a returning starter who has missed the last year and a half of baseball. But they’re going to have to find a way.

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The Milwaukee Brewers rotation will be stronger with Nelson back in the fold. He may have some rust to shake off, but if he can pick up where he left off in 2017, the Brewers are getting a huge addition.