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Opening Day Countdown: Tyler Cravy #45

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Forty-five days isn't that long right? Speaking of long, Tyler Cravy has a chance to break spring training with the Brewers as their long reliever.

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Tyler Cravy kind of flew under a lot of radars--mine included. When the Brewers passed him up in favor of Ty Wagner for the first spot start last year, it seemed like he might never get his chance. But like a lot of pitching prospects in the Brewers farm system of late, he's had pretty solid minor league numbers. And his chance did indeed come later that year. While the overall results weren't great--5.70 ERA and 4.70 FIP--he might still factor into the major league roster plan. And there at least a couple of things one could find hope in.

Cravy doesn't have one stand out tool, but he does have five pitches and typically has shown good command of the strike zone. He had pretty low walk rates in the minors. From the time he reached A+ in 2012 he never had a walk rate worse than average or higher than 2.93 BB/9 or 7.8 BB%. However in 42.2 innings at the major league level he had a 4.64 BB/9 and 11.4 BB%.

He also had a 1.05 HR/9 in his 40+ innings with the Brewers last year. That's not necessarily high--league average in 2015 was 1.02 HR/9. But in the minors he showed better ability to limit the long ball. For his entire minor league career he only had a 0.60 HR/9. His highest single season rate was 0.89 in 2012 at the A ball level. More recently he had a 0.86 in AA in 2014 and last year at AAA a 0.57 HR/9--impressive considering the reputation Colorado has.

Pitching at the major league level is difficult and it's not uncommon for pitchers to struggle in their first exposure to the elite level. I wonder if perhaps with more innings he can get his walk and home run rates closer to his minor league norms. If he can I think he could be a solid long reliever/swingman.

The fact that he doesn't have a single plus pitch keeps him from having higher than back-end starter ceiling. But we've seen plenty of those guys move to a relief role and see a significant increase in effectiveness. Since he doesn't have a plus tool we can't expect a sudden transformation into a high leverage reliever, but there's just something so compelling about a guy that can throw five pitches in one plate appearance and not let the batter see the same pitch twice. And even coming short of high leverage caliber, a guy that eats innings coming out of the bullpen while keeping a sub-4.00 ERA is a guy that could have a long career.

There will be plenty of competition for bullpen spots this year and so it's possible Cravy may start back in AAA. Though he could have competition for a rotation spot there with the likes of Zach Davies, Jorge Lopez, Josh Hader, and Adrian Houser. Regardless of where he begins the season and in what role, I think there's a good chance we see Cravy pitch with the Brewers again sometime this year.

Statistics courtesy of FanGraphs