I've spoken with many fans in recent years who always want to know who the prominent left-handed pitchers in the Brewers system are. Until recently the answer was usually: There are none. But then the Brewers selected Wei-Chung Wang in 2014's Rule 5 draft and later that year selected Kodi Medeiros in the Rule 4 draft. The following season would see them draft Nate Kirby and trade for Josh Hader. Today the Brewers announced the acquisition of yet another LHP via Twitter:
You might recognize that name. Sean Nolin was the player Oakland designated to make room for Khris Davis. It's kind of funny that now the Brewers get him via waiver claim. It's kind of made the Davis trade a 3-for-1 deal.
Sean Nolin was originally drafted by the Blue Jays in the 6th round of the 2010 draft. The now 26 year old got his professional career off to a hot start. In his first three seasons he exhibited a prolific strike out ability routinely logging K rates in mid-2o's. However that ability appeared to abandon him in 2014 as he reached the AAA level. Command has been somewhat uneven for him and in recent years it's not been great.
Last offseason he was a part of the trade that sent Josh Donaldson to Toronto. Nolin split time between AAA and MLB with the Athletics. He saw middling success in AAA: 47.1 IP, 18.9 K%, 9.5 BB%, .225 BAA, 1.25 WHIP, 2.66 ERA, 4.82 FIP. At the major league level he struggled something awful: 29.0 IP, 11.2 K%, 9.2 BB%, .287 BAA, 1.62 WHIP, 5.28 ERA, 5.13 FIP.
Injuries have been a problem for Nolin too. In 2014 he missed time with a groin injury. He suffered a sports herniabefore the 2015 season. It's possible those injuries had something to do with the significant drop in K% and overall production the past two seasons. I don't really know.
According to this report by Kiley McDaniel from before last season, Nolin grades out around average across the board in terms of his pitches and command. He has the upside of a 4/5 starting pitcher--which isn't a bad thing. He also notes Nolin sits in the low 90's with his fastball--that can get a little straight--but is able to reach back for as much as 95 mph on occasion. The report is a year old, though, and he had a bad season since. The likelihood he reaches that ceiling is probably significantly lower now.
If he's going to stick with the Brewers this year it will likely have to be as a reliever. He's out of minor league options. There isn't room in the rotation for him--unless two starters are traded which seems about as likely as the Brewers making the postseason this year--and he's out of minor league options. Meaning if he would have to pass through waivers unclaimed to remain with the organization if they decide he's not ready for a 25-man spot.
My best guess right now is they'll try to make room for him in the bullpen. There are quite a lot of options already, but Nolin is worth taking a flier on for a while. Plenty of pitchers that ultimately couldn't hack it in the rotation later went on to become quality relievers and perhaps pitching in shorter bursts will allow Nolin to hover closer to his peak velocity. This is the point in the rebuild where it makes too much sense to run these experiments for the Brewers not to. Add yet another no-risk, all reward player to David Stearns' rebuild plans!