The Milwaukee Brewers continued to fortify their minor league depth with veteran players today, confirming the previously reported signing of Hiram Burgos as well as announcing the signings of left-hander Andy Oliver and utilityman Eric Sogard to minor league contracts. All three players will receive invitations to spring training.
Oliver, who just recently turned 29, was originally a 2nd-round draft pick by the Detroit Tigers back in 2009. He was a well-regarded prospect coming up, including being ranked in the top-100 by both Baseball America and Baseball Prospectus prior to the 2011 season. His stuff has long been considered top-notch, including a mid-90s fastball along with a slider and changeup, but serious command issues have been his undoing to this point. Despite his prospect pedigree, Oliver has spent just 34 days in the major leagues, all with the Tigers in 2011-12. He owns a 7.11 ERA in 31.2 MLB innings with 23 strikeouts, 21 walks, and 6 home runs allowed.
Oliver’s bounced around plenty since then, including: being dealt from Detroit to Pittsburgh, getting selected by the Phillies in the 2014 Rule 5 Draft only to be released the following April, signing and being released by the Rays, and signing three separate minor league deals with the Orioles. Oliver has extensive experience in AAA ball, pitching in 209 games (92 starts) and working 650.0 innings over parts of the last seven seasons at the highest level of the minors. He’s shown an ability to miss bats (9.4 K/9) and has put up decent run prevention numbers (4.03 ERA), but has averaged an unsightly 5.9 free passes per nine innings. Last season for AAA Norfolk, Oliver worked to a 3.43 ERA across 28 appearances (14 starts), averaging 8.7 K/9 and a more manageable 3.7 BB/9 across 86.2 innings. The Brewers are short on lefties with big league experience and Oliver figures to battle for a spot in the bullpen next spring.
Sogard, who turns 31 next spring, has a much more extensive resume in the major leagues. Originally a 2nd-round pick by the Padres back in 2007, Sogard was dealt to the Athletics in 2010 and spent parts of each of the 2011-2015 seasons in the major leagues. The left-handed bat never been much of an offensive threat at the MLB level - he owns a career .239/.295/.313 slash (72 OPS+) with 8 home runs and 29 steals in 1,331 plate appearances - but he’s a versatile defender who has accrued +20 DRS in his career while appearing at second base, third base, and shortstop. He missed all of the 2016 season while recovering from knee surgery and was non-tendered by the Athletics earlier this winter. Sogard should compete for a spot on the bench next spring, and his versatility could give him a leg up on Scooter Gennett, who has been pushed out of the starting second base role already this winter.
If Sogard does make the team, however, he may have to watch his back whenever Matt Garza is around.
Statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference