There are also three pitchers on the roster who have no options remaining. Two of them were members of the rotation this past season. Who are they?
Josh Lindblom came back to MLB from Korea and signed a three year deal with Milwaukee last offseason. In 2020, Lindblom’s numbers weren’t spectacular, but he pitched better than his 5.16 ERA would indicate. His FIP of 3.88 is much different than his ERA. His xFIP of 4.24 also indicated he was unlucky with some of the results he induced.
Lindblom has elite fastball spin, as well as great curveball spin and a solid ability at inducing weak contact, and keeping the ball off the barrel. All of which led to his success in Korea, and will hopefully translate to further success in his second season in Milwaukee.
Lindblom does have an affordable contract, and at this point it seems all but certain he will be a lock on the roster, and a solid contributor to the rotation.
Another pitcher who became a rotation mainstay last season, Adrian Houser is looking to bounce back from a rough 2020 season. After a promising 2019, Houser was one of the numerous players who struggled in 2020.
Just as with Lindblom, Houser had an ERA higher than his FIP, while it was not as dramatic, it still was a sizable difference from his ERA of 5.30, to the FIP of 4.82. His xFIP was even lower, down to 4.10.
Houser is not yet arbitration eligible, making him very affordable. Especially after a strong 2019, and underlying metrics indicating better results than what actually happened, Houser can expect to have a long leash in the rotation, and barring a serious downturn of performance, Houser should remain on the roster all season.
Ray Black is the pitcher who is least likely to have a spot on the roster. Originally acquired in the significant Drew Pomeranz trade, Black only appeared in three games for Milwaukee last season, after spending a good chunk of the season on the 45-day IL.
Black throws fast, his fastball velocity was in the 98th percentile in both 2018 and 2019. However, given the small sample size that Black has with Milwaukee (only 17 total innings), it is difficult to forecast out what that will look like.
With the emergence of Devin Williams, and Justin Topa as bullpen weapons last season, the Brewers have plenty of options to take the mound. Bobby Wahl, another hard thrower, is also back for next season after missing most of 2020 initially recovering from a torn ACL then suffering an arm injury at the Alternate Site.
Ray Black will have to work hard to earn a spot in the bullpen or else face the uncertainty that happens when a player is designated for assignment. Similar to catcher, the bullpen appears to be a place of depth, where a player such as Black faces a disadvantage being on the outside looking in.
David Stearns and Matt Arnold have a lot of work to still do before the season starts. In addition to holes at first base, and third base, figuring out how to balance the options players have remaining is just another factor going into the decision making.
David Stearns has shown an affinity for players who have options remaining, giving him additional flexibility. That tendency may be a ominous indicator for players such as Jacob Nottingham, and Ray Black, but the Front Office has shown that just when you think you know what they will do, they do the exact opposite.