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MVBrewers Honorable Mention: Rob Wooten

Can this minor league closer get back to normal form in 2014?

Doug Pensinger

Rob Wooten was an 18th round draft pick out of the University of North Carolina in 2008. He made his major league debut on July 26th, after four and a half seasons pitching in the minors (he missed the entire 2010 season due to injury.) He was the closer at AAA Nashville for the entire 2013 season until his promotion and for part of the 2012 season after Jim Henderson was promoted to the Brewers. Despite an extensive track record of minor league closing, he only finished 6 games in the majors this year and had only one save opportunity, which resulted in a blown save.

Wooten put up some great numbers for Nashville this year over 52 innings in 40 games; a 1.000 WHIP, for instance, and 7.8 K/9 and 2.1 BB/9. That's not what he did in his last two months in Milwaukee, where his K/9 dropped to 5.9 and his walk rate increased to 2.6. What happened? From all indications, his BABIP with the Sounds this year was a bit of an outlier at .248; the .299 BABIP with Milwaukee appeared to be more usual. He also let a lot of inherited runners score in the majors; 50% of the runners he was given scored.

According to Pitch f/x data, his primary pitch is a slider. I found this chart to be very interesting. It looks like the Brewers were having Wooten work on his sinker and curve during spring training, but he ended up relying on the slider as his primary pitch.
(In case you're wondering: the 10/09 and 11/09 data is from the Arizona Fall League.)

The bullpen situation for 2014 will be interesting. Wooten will definitely be one of the candidates; most of the likely parties for 2014 have already appeared for the Brewers during the 2013 season and the composition of the bullpen somewhat depends on the composition of the rotation.

Best Game

Wooten's best appearance by WPA was a +0.200 performance against the Giants at AT&T Park on August 6th. He had pitched 2/3 of an inning against the Giants the day before in a Brewers loss and had pitched 2 innings against the Nationals on the 3rd. Wooten entered the 8th inning in relief of Brandon Kintzler, who had given up a double to leadoff batter Brandon Crawford. Wooten faced Hunter Pence, who lined out to right field and advanced Crawford to third. Buster Posey then grounded to short. Wooten was lifted after that in favor of Jim Henderson. This was his first major league hold.

A better appearance by performance if not by WPA (in this case, only 0.015) was in the first game of a doubleheader against the Cubs at Wrigley Field on July 30th. Wooten got his first major league win by pitching a scoreless 6th inning in a 6-5 Brewers victory. The Brewers had been leading 2-0 until the bottom of the 5th when Yovani Gallardo and John Axford completely lost the plot in a 5-run inning. Wooten came in on a triple switch in the bottom of the 6th and struck out Anthony Rizzo and Nate Schierholtz. The Brewers scored 4 runs in the top of the 7th, with Wooten's spot up as the very last batter in that inning. He was pinch-hit for.

Contract Status

Wooten has approximately 1/3 of a season in service time. He'll be eligible for arbitration after the 2016 season and for free agency after the 2019 season.

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