Brewers 2023 Bold Prediction #4: Rule 5 pick Gus Varland sticks around, becomes trusted setup man out of the bullpen.
The Brewers haven't had a Rule 5 selection stick around all season long since Wei Chung Wang in 2014 and that was an abject disaster. Of course, Wang was selected out of Rookie ball while Varland has experience at Double-A. Varland seems much more prepared for the jump to the big leagues and I think that's why he'll stick around.
Put simply, he's got the stuff that plays at the big league level. He's struck out half the batters he's faced in the Cactus League, he has an electric fastball and looks every bit the part of a big league reliever. As a Rule 5 selection, he cannot be optioned down during the season but I believe the Brewers won't ever feel the need to as he gets some experience under his belt at the big league level.
While Varland will likely start the year as a middle relief option in low leverage situations as the Brewers get his feet wet at the big league level, as the season goes on, I could see him earning some higher leverage opportunities, potentially working his way into being the 7th inning guy or even the 8th inning guy ahead of Devin Williams. His stuff is that legit.
Bring on the Gus "The Bus" Varland era. I believe.
The Brewers usually don't have a lot of defined roles in their bullpen, and even if they do, they redefine them all the time. Pitchers can come up and earn spots and even if they start in middle relief, they can earn high leverage spots. Look at Peter Strzelecki, look at Hoby Milner. Both started as middle inning, low leverage relief options and now they're in much bigger situations because they've earned them. I think Varland can do the same with his opportunity.