Brewers Add Justin Topa To 60 Man, One Step Closer to His Dream
By Kyle Dangler
Brewers minor league pitcher Justin Topa will have a chance to take advantage of this strange year.
On Tuesday, July 28, RHP Justin Topa was informed the Brewers were adding him to the Taxi Squad team in Appleton.
After Mike Morin’s DFA and subsequent waiver claim by the Marlins, Topa’s addition brings the 60 man roster back up to 58 players.
Who is Justin Topa?
Topa is a Northeast kid, being born in Binghamton, NY. Although these kids are sometimes overlooked due to their conditions being unfriendly to baseball, there has been success with pitchers like Rick Porcello (New York Mets, New Jersey), Josiah Gray (No. 3 Prospect in the Dodgers Organization according to MLB.com, New York), etc.
Topa went to school at LIU Brooklyn college in Brooklyn, NY. Being in a smaller conference, NEC, Topa had to really impress to get scouts attention. Although the stats were not all that great, the raw potential was obvious. With an above average fastball and the strike out pieces being there, Topa was picked in the later rounds of the 2012 MLB Draft by the Cincinnati Reds.
Even with this accomplishment, Topa decided to go back to school. This success propelled him all the way up to the 17th round of the 2013 MLB Draft. The Pirates were impressed by his makeup and took a flyer on a high-upside pick. Topa would end up spending a few years in the Pirates minor league system.
With no other teams knocking on his door, Topa went back to where it all started. He pitched in the Independent Frontier League for his hometown New York Rockland Boulders. The success there turned into a contract with the Texas Rangers.
The success started to come as Topa transitioned more into a reliever. The tools are all there, however reliever is a spot where his game could begin to excel. After a short stint with the Rangers, he signed with the Brewers as a reliever, rather than flip-flopping between the roles.
In 18 games last year at Biloxi he posted a 2.63 ERA as a reliever (his best since being in the Gulf League with the Pirates in 2016). This new role has rejuvenated his game, and the Brewers have rewarded him.
Although I would like to sit here and say Topa’s dream is about to come true, that seems very doubtful given the Brewers having a strong bullpen. With lots of uncertainty this season, it’s certainly not out of the question that Topa could get the call-up at some point.
In videos from his bullpens, his fastball has been consistently sitting 94-97 MPH, with good deception using the same arm slot as his off speed pitches.
Getting back with the organization will help him get coached, see film, have a routine, and face other top prospects. All-Star closer Josh Hader anchors the bullpen, which is one of the best in all of baseball. This suggests that the Brewers just wanted an extra arm in Appleton given the recent news with the Miami Marlins having a Covid-19 outbreak.
Having lost a reliever from the roster in Morin, the Brewers replace him on the 60 man with another reliever.
In the end, we can only speculate. If a few guys get hurt or test positive for Covid-19 in the Brewers bullpen, we will probably see Topa being a middle reliever. However, if everything stays on track Topa will stay at Appleton just for assurance. Being 29 years old, his clock is running out and this may be one of his last opportunities, even though he rejuvenated his career as a reliever.
One thing I can say for certain is that Topa is a baseball kid through and through. He was the batboy for the Binghamton Mets as a young kid, as well as being a pitching instructor during past winters. Topa has the tools, now it is just a matter of if/or when the Brewers give him the call to Milwaukee.