Up to this point, the Milwaukee Brewers 2009 draft has not been very successful.
First round draft pick Eric Arnett has been a well known bust. The more well-known players in the system from this draft--Kentrail Davis, Kyle Heckathorn, Max Walla, D'Vontrey Richardson, Khris Davis, Cameron Garfield, etc.--all have had their struggles. None seem like they are well on their way to the major leagues.
It's not just the notable names. During the 2009 draft, 53 players were drafted by the Brewers. 51 have not yet advanced past AA. Only a very small few seem like they might be worth trying at AAA. Many from that draft are out of baseball, or are playing in the independent leagues. Kind of disappointing from a draft during which, had the Brewers received the Yankees first round compensation for CC Sabathia, they could have drafted Mike Trout.
Just two players that the Brewers drafted in 2009 have advanced past AA. One is Sean Halton. Halton has played 38 games at first base for Nashville this season, hitting .257/.340/.400. He's a non-prospect. The other is 22nd round pick Mike Fiers, and he might be the best hope for the Brewers to get a successful major leaguer out of that draft class.
Drafted out of Nova Southeastern University as a 23-year-old, Fiers moved quickly through the system. The Brewers originally slated him as a reliever. He pitched in 22 games in the three lower rungs of the minor leagues in 2009. He pitched well, too, with a 1.33 ERA, a 0.713 WHIP, and 59 strikeouts in 40 innings. He pitched well enough to gain some recognition, but as a older draftee and a reliever, he wasn't seen as much of a prospect.
Fiers started the 2010 season in high-A Brevard County. There, he began to be used as a starter. In fact, in 17 appearances for the Manatees, he started in 15 of them. Well his 3.47 ERA there was good, but not great, he also had a very good 1.082 WHIP. In addition, he had a 94:23 K/BB in 93.1 innings. He was moved up to AA Huntsville.
In AA, Fiers was used as both a starter and a reliever equally. He made ten appearances overall, with four of them being starts. His ERA and WHIP both went up some. His ERA jumped to 3.69 while his WHIP moved to 1.168. Once again, though, his 36:9 K/BB indicated greater success. Overall, in 2010, Fiers had a 3.53 ERA, a 1.104 WHIP, and a 130:32 K/BB.
After 2010, Fiers moved on to John Sickels top 20 Brewers prospects for 2011 list, coming in at number 19. About Fiers, Sickels said, "Older prospect at 25, fastball is average, but really knows how to pitch" while giving him a C grade.
Fiers would begin the 2011 season in AA. Once more, he would split his time between starting and relieving with 22 appearances and eight starts. He had a great year there, with a 2.64 ERA and 0.913 WHIP. And, yes, another great K/BB ration, this time at 63:14 over 61.1 innings. Once more, he would be moved up a level mid-season.
Fiers' numbers got even better with the move to AAA. There, he would move back to being primarily a starter, as he made 10 starts in 12 appearances. Fiers had a 1.11 ERA while going 8-0 in AAA, with a 0.974 WHIP. And, yes, once again he had a great K/BB ratio. He earned a cup of coffee in the major leagues, where he pitched two scoreless innings, though he gave up three walks and two hits.
Overall, for the 2011 season, Fiers made 34 appearances and 18 starts. He had a 1.86 ERA and 0.944 WHIP with a K/BB of 132:36 over 126 innings. Fiers moved up to #9 on Sickels' list of the top-20 prospects in the Brewers system.
Fiers stayed in AAA going into 2012, staying a full time starter. Thus far, it has been his worst season to date. He has a 4.42 ERA and a 1.218 WHIP. He's allowed at least four runs in four of ten starts. He also has had four starts where he allowed one run or less. Basically, he has been very inconsistent this year. Keep in mind, too, that he is pitching in the PCL, notorious as a hitter-friendly league. However, with Wily Peralta also going through some struggles, Fiers was the Brewers best option to call up with Marco Estrada on the DL. And, really, it's worthwhile. Fiers has nothing left to prove in the minors.
Over his full minor league career, Fiers has started and he has come out of the bullpen. He has a 2.80 ERA and 1.218 WHIP. He's never had any struggles with giving up home runs. He has a career 9.6 K/9 and 4.07 K/BB ratio. He's gone through every level while people have said he's too old and doesn't have good enough stuff. And at every level, he has found success.
Though Fiers' fastball is merely average, he has a fantastic changeup, and decent and improving breaking stuff. And, like John Sickels said, he knows how to pitch. He's almost 27, right-handed, 6 foot 3 inches and 195 pounds. He came out of a little-known D-II school. There isn't much that makes him stand out. For much of his career, he wasn't expected to have much success. And yet, he keeps finding it.
He'll have at least one chance to prove he belongs on a major league stage tonight. With Estrada on the DL, he might get a few more starts after that. If he pitches well enough, he could earn a role on the Brewers major league squad going forward. If he really pitches well enough, he could usurp Estrada's fifth starter role. We'll see what happens. He'll be tested today by the surprising Dodgers and a returning Matt Kemp.
Tonight could be the beginning of Mike Fiers' career as a rotation mainstay for the Brewers. It could also be the beginning of a successful career out of the bullpen. Or, he could get hit hard in these precious few starts and not be considered an option by the Brewers again. But Fiers' has already been making a career out of beating the odds. In any case, sports writers are going to love the guy just for the headlines they can make with his name.
Let's just hope he doesn't tear an ACL jogging to the mound.