What will the Brewers do with Corbin Burnes in 2020?

Corbin Burnes wasn’t able to emerge as the top starter the Milwaukee Brewers thought he would be. Should Burnes start 2020 in the rotation or does a bullpen role make more sense?

The Milwaukee Brewers were expecting to rely on Corbin Burnes as a key piece of their starting rotation in 2019. That…didn’t work out quite as well as the team would have liked. Burnes went from bad to hurt to the Minors and never managed to achieve the success that the team was hoping for.

What should Burnes’ role look like in 2020?

How did Burnes’ 2019 season go?

Not well.

Burnes did manage to strike out 95 batters in 71 1/3 innings with the Brewers and San Antonio Missions in 2019, but that’s about the only positive measurable that he posted. Burnes managed an 8.82 ERA in the Majors, and an 8.46 ERA in Triple-A. Between the Majors and Minors, Burnes walked 29 and was tagged for 19 homers.

The good news is that he didn’t suffer a dip in velocity. He averaged over 95 MPH on his fastball in 2019. That’s virtually identical to the way he lit up radar guns in 2018. The bad news was that it felt like every ball hit in play found a hole, and every fly ball went over the outfield wall. His BABIP against was .414 and his HR/9 was 3.12.

Did Burnes get to end 2019 on a positive note?

Kind of. Burnes was added back to the Major League roster in September, and got to appear in two games before the season ended.

He threw a 1-2-3 inning in his first outing against the Pirates on September 20th. He even picked up a strikeout. However, he appeared again on September 29th, and got tagged for two runs on four hits. He struck out two, but was tagged for a homer.

It was good that the Brewers felt confident enough to allow Burnes to throw in the Majors before the end of the year, but it didn’t go perfectly.

Where should Burnes start the 2020 season?

Whether Burnes starts in the Majors or Minors depends on his Spring. If he’s able to keep the ball inside the park in Arizona, he should be allowed to make the 25-man roster. If he’s still struggling with home runs, it makes more sense for him to work through it in Triple-A.

It’s also hard to see Burnes starting again in 2020, but stranger things have happened. The Brewers have three rotation spots spoken for by Brandon Woodruff, Zach Davies, and one of Adrian Houser, Jimmy Nelson, or Freddy Peralta. They will be adding additional starters to the Major League pitching staff, so a clear path to a starting job isn’t likely to materialize right away.

Next: Is Asdrubal Cabrera a target in free agency?

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It’s far more likely that Burnes starts the year in the bullpen. He looked great as a reliever in 2018, and was a key reason why the Brewers were able to make the playoffs and advance. His work as part of the bridge to the ninth inning was absolutely crucial. If he can return to form and fill that role again, the team could be in line for their third straight playoff appearance.

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