Rewind to the start of the 2019 Brewers season. Manager Craig Counsell had elected to put three young, relatively unproven arms into his starting rotation.
Those players were Brandon Woodruff, Corbin Burnes, and Freddy Peralta. While it is true they experienced success during the 2018 regular season and postseason for the Brewers, it was evident early on that some were not ready to be MLB starters in 2019.
Fast forward to 2020 and all three find themselves right back in the Milwaukee starting rotation. So how is it that a “failed experiment” has the Brewers right back where they started in the 2019 season?
Burnes trying to bounce back from Brewers season to forget
Burnes was the first to leave the starting rotation in 2019. By mid-April Burnes had started just four games and compiled a stat line of: 17.2 IP, 21 ER, 10.70 ERA, and 11 Home Runs Allowed. At this time, Burnes was optioned to AAA San Antonio.
Burnes would return to the Brewers in early May to pitch out of the bullpen. However, his struggles continued and by Mid-July he was again demoted. He returned to the Brewers in September where he made just two appearances towards the end of the season.
With all of his struggles in 2019, Burnes spent some time in the Brewers pitching lab in Arizona to work on his stuff. He came into Spring Training in 2020 looking sharp and getting good results. His success continued into Summer Camp, which has now given many fans hope that he is poised for a bounce back season.
Peralta goes from shaky starter to solid Brewers reliever
Like Burnes, Peralta struggled during his first four starts of 2019. He too worked 17.2 innings but had a slightly less frightening ERA than Burnes at 7.13. After his fourth start, Peralta was placed on the injured list with a SC joint injury.
Peralta returned to the Brewers in early May and in his first start back he allowed 6 earned runs in 4 innings. The next time Peralta’s name was due in the rotation, Counsell used an ‘opener’ for him due to his first inning struggles. Peralta would make his last start in 2019 in mid-June before fully transitioning into the bullpen for the remainder of the season.
Peralta would find some success in the bullpen. He saw an increase in his fastball velocity and was occasionally used in high leverage situations. These flashes of potential earned him a 5 year/15.5 million dollar contract extension heading into the 2020 season.
Woodruff steps up to become Brewers ace
By now, we should all be familiar with the story and success that Woodruff experienced in 2019, but it is easy to forget he too struggled in the beginning as well. His ERA after his first 6 starts was still above 5.00.
Around mid-May something clicked for Woodruff. At that point he would start to get locked in and consistently working into the 6th, 7th, and occasionally the 8th innings of games. Unfortunately an oblique injury sidelined him shortly after the All-Star break and forced him to miss games until mid-September.
Despite missing most of the second half, Counsell gave Woodruff the ball during the wild card game versus the Nationals. Similarly, Woodruff has also been named the 2020 Opening Day starter versus the Cubs.
The Brewers starting trio returns to begin 2020
While Counsell has not officially announced how the starting rotation will look to begin the season, some believe both Burnes and Peralta will be joining Woodruff. At least that’s the way things seem to be lining up.
Should we be excited to see these three young arms in the starting rotation again? Yes.
Brandon Woodruff is now entering his second season as a starter and will likely improve upon his stats from 2019. Corbin Burnes has shown great command, pitch movement, and ability to get MLB players out during summer camp and Freddy Peralta added a slider in the off-season to compliment his fastball and curveball.
We wanted this group to succeed so badly in 2019 and it just didn’t quite work out for two thirds of them. But this season may be when we really start to see what they can all do together.