The 2021 baseball season is officially in full swing with the Brewers now four games deep into spring training. Milwaukee fans finally get the chance to see how the team will look in their quest for a fourth straight postseason berth.
Brewers fans should be feeling good about the team’s pitching this season. The Crew are returning a majority of their pitchers that were on the staff during the 2020 season, which is a plus given that pitching was a strength for this team a season ago.
Unfortunately, with 26-man rosters for 2021 and the likelihood of around thirteen of those spots going to pitchers for Opening Day, plus five of those thirteen pitching spots presumed to be for starters, there are eight bullpen spots that manager Craig Counsell will have to fill.
While spring training games may not mean much for established veterans, it is crucial for fringe active roster players. Given the success of the Brewers bullpens in seasons past, that makes this position battle even more enticing to watch.
Pending any injuries, Josh Hader and Devin Williams are locks in the bullpen. For the purpose of this article and based off their primary roles last season, Freddy Peralta and Brent Suter are going to be locks in the bullpen as well.
This then leaves four bullpen spots up for grabs. More than likely one bullpen spot will go to the odd man left out of the starting rotation between: Adrian Houser, Josh Lindblom, Brett Anderson, Eric Lauer, or non roster invitee Jordan Zimmermann.
More than likely this long reliver bullpen role will go to one of the veterans. Alec Bettinger and Dylan File both were first added to the 40 man roster this off-season, but have all of their minor league options remaining and will surely start there, with File’s start to the season being delayed due to injury. Neither Brown or Small are on the 40 man roster and can safely be placed in the minor leagues to continue their development.
After the addition of a long reliever in the bullpen, there is a plethora of quality pitchers to choose from to makeup the final three bullpen spots. Drew Rasmussen, Eric Yardley, and Justin Topa stick out the most given their performances last season. However, other 40-man roster pitchers like Angel Perdomo, Bobby Wahl, J.P. Feyereisen, Ray Black, and Phil Bickford will all be competing for an opening day nod as well.
From a non-roster invitee standpoint, Brad Boxberger, Blaine Hardy, Hoby Milner, and Quintin Torres-Costa are on top the list. Prospects such as Zack Brown, Ethan Small, and Aaron Ashby could even be considered long shots to make it.
More than likely the veterans from this list in Boxberger, Hardy, and Milner will elect free agency if they do not make the Opening Day roster, but it is possible that they stay on and join the Brewers in their minor league system. Prospects Torres-Costa, Brown, Small, and Ashby can be placed in the minor leagues to continue their development.
There are numerous different ways that the Brewers bullpen could look come Opening Day April 1, 2021. Spring training performances are going to be critical in order for these pitchers to earn a bullpen spot and the competition will be fun to watch unfold as the MLB preseason rolls on.