Milwaukee Brewers 2023 Bullpen: Middle Relief
The Milwaukee Brewers middle relief bullpen spots are the hardest to predict, assuming a six man rotation like Craig Counsell normally prefers to employ, consisting of Corbin Burnes, Brandon Woodruff, Freddy Peralta, Eric Lauer, Wade Miley and Adrian Houser. Assuming Devin Williams, Matt Bush, Hoby Milner and Ethan Small make it for late innings and long relief, that leaves three spots to be filled by eight players.
One of those eight players, Peter Strzelecki, in my opinion is locked in for the Opening Day bullpen. Strzelecki has been near criminally underrated about after pitching very well in 2022, albeit in limited innings. In 2022 Strzelecki pitched in 30 games and finished the season with a 2.83 ERA, 141 ERA+ and .220 batting average against. Featuring a good fastball and slider combo, Strzelecki struck out 27.0 percent of batters he faced.
Now narrowed down to two final spots to be occupied by these players: Joel Payamps, Elvis Peguero, Tyson Miller, Alex Claudio, Gus Varland, Janson Junk and Javy Guerra.
Potentially a hot take, I believe Alex Claudio gets an Opening Day roster spot, Hoby Milner and Ethan Small are the only two left handed pitchers so far making the opening day bullpen and Claudio is the only left handed pitcher of the seven to pick from. Claudio pitched decently for the Brewers in his first stint with the team in 2019 and 2020 and could give the Brewers some much needed left handed depth and experience, even if just for the first half of the season until Justin Wilson is recovered from his Tommy John surgery.
Justin Wilson, despite being 35, is a potentially very underrated signing by Brewers GM Matt Arnold. Wilson has a 3.41 career ERA and pitched well in his short time with the Cincinnati Reds before his injury. Arnold did say that he expects Wilson to be a factor in the second half of the season.
Elvis Peguero, Tyson Miller, Jake Cousins and Janson Junk are likely to start the year in AAA. That leaves one spot between Joel Payamps, Gus Varland and Javy Guerra, These three pitchers are out of minor league options and whoever misses the roster is subject to potentially being scooped up by another team.
My pick of the three is Javy Guerra, he's got the best velocity of the three and a nice looking cutter, a pitch very familiar to Brewers fans as it's Corbin Burnes best pitch. If the Brewers pitching coaches could help Guerra work his cutter even remotely as effectively as Burnes does, Guerra could be a pitcher to watch in 2023.
My 2023 Brewers Opening Day bullpen prediction is: Devin Williams, Matt Bush, Hoby Milner, Ethan Small, Peter Strzelecki, Alex Claudio and Javy Guerra.
It may not be as dominant or as deep as in year's past, but it's a start.