If you're a regular reader of the site, you should know this is a big day for me. Since the Slingin' David Stearns claimed Junior Guerra off of waivers from the White Sox, it's been my personal mission to drum up excitement about the 31 year old "prospect." I've received plenty of flack for my fixation on the relatively unknown hurler, so allow me to gloat for just a minute as the Brewers announced today that Guerra will be joining the big league starting rotation on beginning on Tuesday against the Angels.
RHP Junior Guerra will get the start for the #Brewers on Tuesday vs. LA of Anaheim.— Milwaukee Brewers (@Brewers) May 1, 2016
Guerra's baseball career can definitely be described as an odyssey, one that began back in 2001 when the Braves signed him as a 16 year old catcher out of Venezuela. He eventually transitioned to pitching failed but to gain a footing with the Braves and was eventually released in 2007. He caught on with the Mets and made 18 appearances in the lower minors in 2008 before getting suspended for PEDs and subsequently released.
Juni G continued to persevere, however, pitching in unaffiliated leagues all over the world from 2009-2014. He spent time in independent leagues in the US, the Mexican League, and happened to be pitching in Italy when the White Sox signed him to a minor league contract prior to the 2015 season.
Back in affiliated ball for the first time in six years, Guerra began the 2015 season with AA Birmingham and posted a 2.29 ERA and 2.90 FIP in 19.2 innings. He struck out 26 of the 74 batters he faced before getting bumped up to AAA, where he spent a majority of the 2015 season. In 63.2 innings for Charlotte, Guerra worked to a 3.39 ERA and 3.11 FIP with a 79:28 K/BB ratio. He even got the opportunity to make his big league debut with the White Sox, fourteen years after his professional career began, pitching four innings in relief while allowing three earned runs.
The Sox placed Guerra on waivers shortly after the end of the regular season and on October 7th, he was claimed by Milwaukee in Stearns' first official transaction as General Manager. Guerra began the year in AAA Colorado Springs, where made four starts and posted a 4.63 ERA and 4.03 FIP across 23.1 innings. He struck out 23 batters while walking nine.
I published a report on Guerra shortly after the Brewers claimed him, which you can read here. Guerra is a three-pitch starter with a fastball that has been in the 92-95 MPH range during his time with the Sky Sox this season and has even touched 99 MPH. He also throws a slider in the 81-83 MPH range but his best pitch is a devastating split-finger changeup that serves as his strikeout pitch. He usually throws it in the 86-88 MPH zone and it just absolutely falls off the table as it gets to the plate.
Guerra strikes out plenty of batters and typically generates an above-average rate of ground balls, but he'll battle his command from time to time and will walk his share of hitters.
At 31 years old it's rather unlikely Junior Guerra will be any sort of long-term piece, but I'm still quite excited to see what he can do at the big league level after finally earning the opportunity to get an extended look in the starting rotation. In my "Bold Predictions" article prior to the season, I forecasted 114.2 innings with a 3.18 ERA and I'm sticking to it!
Junior Guerra may not experience that much success, of course, but he has in front of him what will likely be the best opportunity of his career to carve out a role in the major leagues with the rebuilding Milwaukee Brewers. Whether he sticks around remains to be seen, but I don't think there's anyone more excited than I am to see how this turns out. He'll take the mound for Milwaukee at 7:10 PM CST on Tuesday night and as it so happens, I have tickets to the game so it's more than likely I'll be live tweeting Juni G's Brewers' debut.
Long live the #2016BrewersAce!
Statistics courtesy of Fangraphs