The Brewers farm system was ranked as one of the worst in baseball coming in to the 2014 season. Unfortunately, it's looking like it will take another severe hit.
Johnny Hellweg, the Brewers third-best pitching prospect and eight-best prospect overall coming into 2014 according to John Sickels, appears to have a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his elbow. Such an injury often means that a player will require Tommy John surgery, which would put Hellweg on the shelf for at least a year.
Hellweg, along with Ariel Pena and Jean Segura, was acquired when the Brewers traded Zack Greinke to the Angels in 2012. He reached the majors with the Brewers last year, making eight appearances, seven of which were starts. He did not fare so well, with a 6.75 ERA and 26 walks in 30⅔ innings. He had nine strikeouts over the same period.
Though he struggled in the majors, he at least had success in Triple-A Nashville last season with a 3.14 ERA. That has not been the case so far this year: Hellweg has made four starts for the Sounds and posted a 4.95 ERA and 12:15 K:BB ratio in 20 innings pitched. Walks have, obviously, been a huge source of strife for Hellweg. Over his seven-season minor league career, he has a whopping 6.2 BB/9.
He was in the middle of perhaps his worst start so far this season when he was pulled after 3⅔ innings. Up to that point he had allowed a season-high five walks and two runs. Hellweg reportedly felt a pop in his elbow in the fourth inning and tried to pitch through it before he was taken out of the game.
Hellweg, 25, is expected to visit Dr. James Andrews sometime next week. One of the leading doctors when it comes to Tommy John surgery, Andrews should provide insight into whether a procedure will definitely be necessary.
On the plus side, the severity of Hellweg's injury should allow the Brewers to fairly confidently place him on the 60-day DL right off the bat. That would open up a spot on the 40-man roster and allow for some flexibility from the Brewers moving forward.
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