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Opening Day Countdown: Cesar Jimenez #51

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Just 51 days and this countdown will be over! But more importantly, we'll be watching live baseball! To celebrate we'll take a look at a lefty who wears jersey number 51.

Scott Kane-USA TODAY Sports

Will Smith is the only left-handed pitcher on the 40-man roster. But he's not the only left-handed pitcher that has a chance to play with the Brewers in 2016. I'm not talking about Josh Hader--though I do think it's likely he's on the roster in September. Today at least, I'm talking about Cesar Jimenez.

The Brewers originally acquired Jimenez last season from the Phillies via waiver claim. He spent most of last year with Philadelphia's AAA affiliate. He 41 appearances pitching 57.1 innings with a 3.61 ERA and FIP. Then he tossed a total of 23 innings at the major league level--mostly with the Brewers--accumulating a respectable 3.13 ERA and FIP.

That's pretty solid production all around for the then 30 year old pitcher. But it didn't stop the Brewers from designating him earlier this offseason. But that doesn't necessarily mean he doesn't factor into their plans and in fact they were able to re-sign him to a minor league deal. Sometimes when a team designates a player, it's a calculated risk.

The risk is they lose the player. The upside, if it works, is they get to keep the player in the organization without having to keep him on the 40-man roster. David Stearns has been able to do this successful with a number of players--Jimenez, Hernan Perez, Josmil Pinto. The Brewers figure to active on the trade market this year. And even though the 40-man roster is full right now, space will likely be created at some point. And a guy like Cesar Jimenez probably has a very good chance at filling one of those spots.

I don't think roster optimization is the same in a rebuilding season vs a competitive season. So I don't think the Brewers need to have a second lefty in the bullpen. That's why I doubt Jimenez--or any of the other lefties knocking on the door of the 40-man roster--get a spot for opening day. But given his successful 2015 season and relative age--31 isn't that bad for a reliever--I assume Jimenez is at or near the top of the non-40-man-roster depth chart with respect to the bullpen.

I doubt Jimenez will ever be a guy that builds up trade value--his fastball sits around 88-90 and, right or wrong, teams don't tend to give up much for that kind of velocity. But he could be a nice guy to have during a rebuild. He's shown he can eat innings out of the bullpen--something that has unseen value in that it can save a young and inexperienced bullpen. And the Brewers would maintain team control over Jimenez for a number of years yet. And with the price of relievers these days, that's a nice guy to have.