A Quick Look at Some of Our Minor League Relievers

As I’m sure you’ve all noticed, Doug Melvin likes to spend money on the bullpen. In 2008 he went out and spent large amounts of Mark A's money on names like Eric Gagne, Guillermo Mota, and David Riske. In 2009 it was Trevor Hoffman. This season he brought Trevor Hoffman back and signed LaTroy Hawkins. Other than Hoffman's 2009, none of these free agents have had a lot of success.

As I’m sure you’ve also noticed, our bullpen has been a lot better since some of the veteran relievers were replaced with cheap, minor league relievers such as John Axford, Zach Braddock, and Kameron Loe. At the beginning of the year, these three were known as just a few of the promising relief prospects in the Brewers system, but there are plenty more after them. Here are a few to watch out for.

 

Brandon Kintzler: Originally drafted by the Padres in the 40th round of the 2004 draft, Kintzler found himself in the Indy Leagues by 2007. After two mediocre years for Winnipeg and a pretty good half season in St. Paul, the Brewers were able lure him away from there and assigned him to AA Huntsville. He wasn't turning heads right away, posting a 4.54 ERA, but that’s not the case this year. In 20 games for the Stars this season, Kintzler posted a .40 ERA and was striking out more than a batter per inning. Since his promotion to Nashville, the righty has sparkly 2.70 ERA* and an even sparkly-er 0.750 WHIP. He’s walking only 1.4/9 inning and is striking out over 8 batters/9 innings. He was holding batters to a .167 AVG before landing on the DL.

Mike McClendon: Drafted in the 10th round of 2006, the 25-year-old McClendon started the year off in AA Huntsville. After posting a .61 ERA in seven appearances there, he was bumped up to Nashville were he has continued to be rather impressive. In 21 games in Nashville (5 starts) McClendon has a 2.28 ERA. He’s striking out an even 7 batters/9 innings and is walking only 2.5/9 inn. Those numbers are even slightly inflated because of a few bad starts. If he keeps putting up good numbers like he his, I wouldn't be surprised to see him in the majors in September

Donovan Hand: The righty Hand was drafted in the 14th round of the 2007 draft and bounced back and forth between starting and relieving throughout his career, mostly starting. But this year he has been mainly a reliever and is getting some pretty decent results. He started the year off in Huntsville, but was recently moved up to Nashville. Through 32 games this year (1 start), Hand has a 2.84 ERA with a 1.289 WHIP. While he’s giving up plenty of hits (10.3/9 inn) and not striking out many (6.5 K/9 inn) he pounds the strike zone, giving up only 1.4 BB/9 inn.

Jeremy Jeffress: While we'd all like to imagine Jeffress as a starter, but it's been forecasted for many years that his future will be the bullpen; possibly as a future closer. After returning from a 100-game suspension, Jeffress dominated the Midwest League, not even allowing a hit over 8 innings. Things didn't go as well in Brevard Co., where he had a 5.40 ERA. He was giving up an even 9 H/9 inn. and walking way too many, over 6 batters/9 inn. Apparently his 1.700 WHIP was good enough for a promotion to Hunstville, where he has yet to pitch. There's so much potential there, hopefully Jeffress will be able to learn some control and start getting the results we all yearn for from him.

Andre Lamontagne: Wow, talk about aggressive movement. Last year’s 10th round pick started the year off in Wisconsin and has already been promoted twice this year and is currently in Huntsville‘s bullpen. He actually pitched better in Brevard Co. than he did in Wisconsin. He’s not dominating Huntsville like he was dominating Brevard Co., but he’s still putting up a solid 4.35 ERA, which is actually inflated from one bad outing. He’s got some pretty solid peripherals too. This season he’s allowing only 6.7 H/9 inn., walking about 4.1 batters/9 inn., striking out almost a batter per inning, and is holding opposing batters to a .207 avg.; all of this good for a nice 1.204 WHIP. Lamontagne is already 24 so the aggressive promotions aren't exactly surprising. If he continues to pitch well in Huntsville, he'll probably start next year in Nashville, only a phone call away from the big leagues.

Lucas Luetge: Drafted in the 21st round of the 2008 draft, the 23-year-old Luetge has had pretty decent numbers throughout his career. He spent all of 2009 in Brevard Co. and started there this year as well. His 2.29 ERA for the Manatees earned him a promotion to Huntsville, where he has a still-respectable 4.50 ERA. Right now, Luetge profiles as more of a LOOGY. Left-handed batters are hitting only .160 of Luetge this year, compared to .333 against righties.

Corey Frerichs: Drafted in the 30th round of 2007, Frerichs missed most of last year with recovering from a torn ACL. This year, the 24-year-old righty is trying to get back on the radar, and is doing a pretty good job. In 34 outing this year for the Manatees, Frerichs has a solid 2.91 ERA and opposing batters are only hitting .206 off him. His sparkly 1.077 WHIP is built around his solid peripherals of 6.5 H/9 inn., 3.2 BB/9 inn., and 7.5 K/9 inn. I'd say he's deserving of a promotion to Huntsville sometime this year.

Dan Meadows: For someone drafted in the 49th round in 2008, Meadows is putting up some pretty good numbers. The 22-year-old lefty switched to relief full time this year and is getting some pretty nice results. In 31 appearances this year, Meadows has complied a 2.81 ERA with a 1.158 WHIP. He's striking out almost a better per inning and is limiting his walks to 2.1/9 inn.. Meadows has also not allowed an earned run in his last 8 outings, dating back to July 6th.

Jon Pokorny: Drafted in the 9th round of last year’s draft, Pokorny has been one of the few bright spots in the Wisconsin bullpen. He’s holding opposing batters to a measly .208 avg. and is striking out 13.2/9 inn. He’s also limiting his walks to an even 3/9 inn. and allowing only 6.7 H/9 inn. His .358 BABIP also suggests that he’s even been a little unlucky. The left-handed pitcher has also had just as much success against righties as he has against lefties, holding them to a .220 and .180 avg., respectively

Do any of these minor league relievers have the same potential as Zach Braddock? Probably not. But some of them could be very solid arms that help fill out the future bullpen. And if Doug Melvin is still running the show, these homegrown relief pitchers could go a long way in preventing another unnecessary David Riske or LaTroy Hawkins-ish signing.

 

*All stats as of July 25th.

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