The Milwaukee Brewers already have their position player group set for Opening Day, but the question we’ve been waiting to have answered for the last several days is how the pitching staff will shake out. It was announced over a week ago that Junior Guerra would start on Opening Day and the club confirmed on Tuesday that Zach Davies would start game 2. Earlier today, the club finally announced who will fill out the starting rotation the final three spots in the rotation:
#Brewers starting rotation is set: RH Junior Guerra, RH Zach Davies, RH Wily Peralta, RH Chase Anderson and RHP Jimmy Nelson.— Milwaukee Brewers (@Brewers) March 30, 2017
Neither Wily Peralta’s nor Jimmy Nelson’s presence in the rotation is altogether surprising. Both were previously organizational top prospects that have shown flashes of their former promise at the big league level, but have underwhelmed to this point in their careers. Nelson’s ERA got off to a strong start in the first half last season before his luck caught up to him and he faded badly down the stretch. He finished with a 4.62 ERA/5.64 DRA in 32 starts covering 179.1 innings while leading the league in walks (86) and hit batsmen (17), likely in due in part to a mechanical issue that caused his release point to waiver wildly during the season. In 12.2 innings this spring, Nelson posted an unsightly 5.68 ERA but boasted a very strong 16:2 K/BB ratio. He’ll be arbitration eligible for the first time after the season, so this will be a big year for the soon to be 28 year old.
Peralta was last year’s Opening Day starter but pitched so badly through his first 13 starts that he was demoted to AAA Colorado Springs. After making some mechanical corrections, Peralta regained the lost zip on his fastball and returned to the big leagues in August. He posted a 2.92 ERA during his final 10 big league starts to close out the year to bring his season-long totals to a 4.86 ERA/4.60 DRA in 127.2 innings pitched with a 93:43 K/BB ratio and 52% ground ball rate. He posted excellent results this spring, making a memorable start for the Dominican Republic in the WBC and authoring an 0.71 ERA in 12.2 innings of Cactus League play. His 7:5 K/BB ratio wasn’t all that great, however. There were some trade rumors regarding Peralta earlier this week, but it appears that those have gone by the wayside as Wily will open the season as Milwaukee’s #3 starter. He’s making $4.275 mil this season through arbitration and has another two years of club control after this one, but if he doesn’t perform well he could find himself as a 28 year old non-tender candidate this coming fall.
It’s a bit of a surprise to see Anderson make the cut for the Opening Day rotation, if only because most of the beat writers and talking heads surmised that he would be destined to start the year as the long reliever. Anderson got off to a rocky start to begin his Brewers’ tenure last season after arriving in a trade with Arizona, but righted the ship nicely in the 2nd half after he essentially dropped his cutter from his arsenal. He finished the season with a 4.39 ERA and 120:53 K/BB ratio in 151.2 innings pitched, though DRA (5.50) saw him as fortunate to prevent as many runs as he did. The 29 year old righty was solid this spring, posting a 3.77 ERA and 9:4 K/BB ratio in 14.1 innings pitched. He also saw a spike in velocity, touching 95 MPH with a fastball a few times according to Brooks Baseball, so whether or not that boost will carry over to the regular season will be something to keep an eye on. Anderson was arbitration eligible for the first time as a Super 2 player this past winter and will earn $2.45 mil this season, and he’ll have another three years of club control after this one.
If you’re wondering what happened to Matt Garza, well:
RHP Matt Garza (strained right groin) will open the season on the 10-day disabled list.— Milwaukee Brewers (@Brewers) March 30, 2017
This will now now be the second consecutive season that Garza will begin the year on the disabled list, which was reduced from 15 days to 10 during in the new Collective Bargaining Agreement that was ratified this past winter. Garza wasn’t terrible when he was healthy enough to be on the mound last season, posting a 4.51 ERA and 70:36 K/BB ratio along with a strong 57% ground ball rate in 101.2 innings pitched. FIP (4.37) supported his results, though DRA (5.22) thought he was a well below-league average performer. Garza struggled this spring while continuing his conversion into an offspeed pitcher, allowing 25 hits and 14 earned runs in 14.2 innings pitched with 8 strikeouts and 7 walks. This (conveniently timed and seemingly out-of-nowhere) injury buys the Brewers some time to evaluate the other options in their rotation without having to make an immediate decision on a roster spot for the high-priced veteran. He is in the final guaranteed year of the 4-year deal he signed prior to the 2014 season and will draw a $12.5 mil salary this year. Garza had a vesting option in his deal that he’s no longer able to achieve but instead will have a $5 mil club option for 2018.
After a winter of 5 a.m. workouts, Matt Garza is devastated to start the season on the DL. Said he felt discomfort in his last start. pic.twitter.com/hma148XBke— Adam McCalvy (@AdamMcCalvy) March 30, 2017
With Garza heading to the disabled list, the Brewers still have 14 pitchers on the active roster and will need to trim down one more before the Saturday deadline to set the Opening Day roster. Tommy Milone failed to make the rotation after posting a 9.69 ERA in 13.0 innings this spring, but it was announced that he has made the Opening Day roster and will begin the season as the lone left-hander in the bullpen. Rob Scahill is not on the 40 man roster and could simply be assigned to the minor leagues, although he pitched very well this spring (0.79 ERA in 11.1 innings). Jacob Barnes was terrific in his debut season last year but struggled mightily in camp (14.63 ERA in 8.0 innings) and could be optioned, as could Tyler Cravy (2.19 ERA in 12.1 spring innings) or Taylor Jungmann (1.26 ERA in 14.1 innings).
Statistics courtesy of Baseball Prospectus and MLB.com