To say the Milwaukee Brewers bullpen is in a tough position would be quite the understatement. Pitchers have been added to, and removed from, the roster in an attempt to tread water while some of the unit’s main names are temporarily unavailable.
For those who haven’t noticed, we’ve arrived here largely because four of the team’s relievers – Jake Cousins, Hunter Strickland, Jandel Gustave, and most recently, Josh Hader – have all been placed on the Covid IL. That has forced the Brewers to get creative to fill out their relief corps.
Milwaukee’s single-season saves leader, John Axford, was summoned to an MLB mound for the first time since 2018 after a trade with the Blue Jays. He made one appearance, but suffered an injury during the outing that has reportedly ended his season.
Sal Romano was recently acquired from the Yankees while Blaine Hardy was added to the 40-man roster from the Triple-A Nashville roster. Trade deadline acquisitions John Curtiss and Daniel Norris have also been thrown right into the fire, to varying results.
But if the Brewers need to continue finding options to bolster their bullpen, they should look once again to their minor league system. In doing so, the name to call up should be right-handed pitcher Luke Barker.
Based on his numbers as a member of the Brewers organization, Luke Barker deserves a look in the majors.
Barker was signed to Milwaukee’s system prior to the 2017 season after spending one season in Indy ball the prior season post-college. All he has done since then is put up impressive pitching numbers.
Barker has a career 2.23 ERA and 0.914 WHIP as a Brewers minor leaguer. 2019 was his finest season as he put up a combined 1.34 ERA, 0.646 WHIP, held batters to a miniscule .122 average, and had 66 strikeouts compared to just 15 walks over 60 1/3 innings across time at both Double-A Biloxi and then Triple-A San Antonio.
After a lost 2020 season due to Covid, Barker started the season once again in Triple-A, though he got knocked around a bit at the beginning, giving up six earned runs and three homers in just his first three appearances of the season.
It has been smooth sailing since then, though. Barker has given up just seven earned runs over his following 36 1/3 innings, and just two more homers. He now sits with a 2.29 ERA, a 0.661 WHIP, six saves, and a .147 batting average allowed, not to mention a minor league career high 10.3 K/9.
Last fall, we had Barker listed as one of three dark horse candidates to be protected from the Rule 5 Draft. That didn’t end up happening, but of the three players on that list, Barker is by far having the best season in 2021.
At some point, the Brewers’ bullpen situation will return to normal. Until it does, why not see what you have in Luke Barker?