On a team full of feel-good stories, Mike Fiers fit right in with the 2012 Brewers.
Despite not making his professional debut until age 24, this former 2009 22nd round pick reached the big leagues as a September callup in 2011 and seemed to earn a full-time opportunity in the majors with a hot stretch in 2012, posting a 1.80 ERA in his first 12 major league starts. He did all of this despite a fastball that averaged just 88.2 mph. A year ago we listed him as the tenth most valuable Brewer.
All of that success was quickly forgotten in 2013, however. Fiers opened his season with a rough start in the Brewers' fifth game, was bumped from the rotation after just one appearance and demoted to the minors by mid-April. Fiers made three solid starts for AAA Nashville before being transferred to Brevard County to be closer to his ailing mother, and was eventually recalled to the Brewers on May 12.
Unfortunately, Fiers' second stint in the majors was also short lived. He pitched a few solid bullpen appearances before returning to the rotation on May 25 and allowing eleven runs over 5.2 innings in a pair of starts. After a disastrous outing on June 2, the Brewers returned Fiers to Nashville again. Things went from bad to worse in his second stint at AAA.
On June 15 Fiers was pitching for Nashville when he was hit by a line drive and suffered a broken forearm, ending his season. Adding insult to injury, in August his mother passed away following a long battle with lupus.
Given all of Fiers struggles, it's easy to forget that he's still the same pitcher who has a career 2.81 ERA over five minor league seasons. He's also still a member of the 40-man roster, so he'll be invited to Maryvale in the spring for a chance to rejuvenate his major league career. He may be a long shot to make the roster, but Fiers has already beaten the odds more than once.
In between a pair of rough starts, on May 28 Fiers had what might have been the best relief appearance by a Brewer all season. The Brewers had come from behind in the bottom of the ninth to tie the Twins, and the score was 5-5 in the top of the eleventh when the Brewers turned to Fiers, the seventh pitcher they'd used in the game.
Fiers retired the side in order in the eleventh, worked around a pair of walks to pitch a scoreless 12th and picked up a pair of strikeouts while recording a 1-2-3 13th. Baseball Reference estimates the outing was worth .391 win percentage added, making it the most valuable relief outing by a Brewer in 2013.
We have no highlights from Fiers' performance, though, so you'll just have to take my word for it.
Fiers has slightly more than a year of MLB service time, so if he sticks in the big leagues next spring and stays there for good he'll be arbitration-eligible in 2016 and a free agent following the 2018 season. He also has one option remaining, so the Brewers can send him to the minors if he doesn't make the roster next 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