Lesser Brewers: Johnny Hellweg

Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

Who is the real Johnny Hellweg, anyway?

I think it's probably safe to say the Brewers have already won the Zack Greinke trade.

Jean Segura, the centerpiece of the deal, is coming off his first All Star appearance. He spent much of the year leading the NL in hits, plays spectacular defense and is still only 23 years old. Sometimes we forget, though, that the deal could still get better, as we wait to see what the Brewers will get from Johnny Hellweg and Ariel Pena.

Unfortunately, crafting long-term expectations for Hellweg has turned into quite the puzzle. He was the Pacific Coast League's Pitcher of the Year for Nashville in 2013, posting a 3.15 ERA over 125.2 innings. He also walked 5.8 batters per nine innings, though, and control was an issue that followed him to the majors.

Hellweg was rocked by the Pirates in his MLB debut on June 28, allowing seven runs on six hits over just 1.2 innings. His next start against the Mets was also a disaster (seven R, 3.2 IP), and five days later he had another poor outing against the Reds (four runs, 4.1 IP). He allowed 19 hits and 13 walks in his first 10.2 MLB innings, and was sent all the way back down to Wisconsin.

Hellweg rebounded in the minors, but raised questions about his confidence. Here's something he said in a press conference following his start with the Timber Rattlers (emphasis mine):

"Yeah, I'm just trying to expand my game a bit," Hellweg said. "I learned up there that some of the stuff that I do isn't going to get big league hitters out. So I just tried to work on some things, and throw some different stuff in my repertoire."

After a solid (if unspectacular) finish to the minor league season, Hellweg rejoined the Brewers in September and had a somewhat improved second stint, posting a 4.50 ERA over 20 innings. He still walked 13 batters over that time, though, and hit seven more. Opposing batters hit .296/.446/.437 against him in the month.

So, despite a solid season in the minors, Hellweg will come to camp with a lot to prove in 2014. He has the potential to be a solid major leaguer, but unless he improves his control it's going to be hard to justify using him in any significant role.

Best Game

Hellweg's last start was almost certainly his best one, as he held the Mets to a single run on just two hits and four walks over four innings on September 26. He also set a new career high with three strikeouts in the game.

He also induced the ground ball that led to this diving play from Jeff Bianchi:

Contract Status

Hellweg has 42 days of major league service time, so he's still at least three years away from arbitration eligibility and six years away from potential free agency.

Perhaps more importantly, Hellweg has one option remaining. He can be returned to the minors if he doesn't make the Brewers in the spring.

Previous MVBrewers posts can be seen at the links below:

#1: Carlos Gomez
#2: Jonathan Lucroy
#3: Jean Segura
#4: Kyle Lohse
#5: Norichika Aoki
#6: Jim Henderson
#7: Brandon Kintzler
#8: Yovani Gallardo
#9: Wily Peralta
#10: Scooter Gennett

Honorable mentions: Marco Estrada, Ryan Braun, Khris Davis, Tyler Thornburg, Aramis Ramirez, Tom Gorzelanny, Jeff Bianchi, Caleb Gindl, Logan Schafer, Rob Wooten

Lesser Brewers: Burke Badenhop, Francisco Rodriguez, Jimmy Nelson, Donovan Hand, Sean Halton, Martin Maldonado, Hiram Burgos, Alfredo Figaro, Michael Blazek, Mike Fiers, Juan Francisco, Chris Narveson

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