The Brewers continue to sign minor-league players to try for big-league jobs, and they added another to the mix this morning. The Brewers officially announced that they have signed J.J. Hoover to a minor-league contract, with an invite to spring training. Hoover will be entering the bullpen mix, hoping to earn a job with a good spring, as other relievers have done in the past few years.
Hoover spent the 2017 season with the Diamondbacks, and his numbers weren’t overly impressive. In 52 relief appearances over 41.1 innings, he recorded a 3.92 ERA and 4.71 FIP. His strikeout rate was strong at 11.76 K/9, but he also had a high walk rate at 5.66 BB/9. He’s also had a problem with allowing home runs, with a rate of 1.52 HR/9 in 2017 and 1.4 HR/9 over his career.
Hoover mainly throws two pitches: a fastball and a slider. His fastball velocity has decreased in the last few years (from an average of 94.2 to 92.6), and he has been throwing it less as a result (57.8% of pitches in 2017). In response, he has been throwing his slider more often (34.9%) and stopped using his curveball as much (6.1%). This did help him recover from a disasterous 2016, but not enough for the Diamondbacks to tender him a contract after the season.
This is a relatively low-risk signing for the Brewers. If he has a bad spring, he won’t cost the Brewers much at all. If he does make the team, his contract is relatively low. Jon Heyman reports that Hoover would make a $1.1 million base salary in 2018 with another $1.65 million in incentives available. In addition, if Hoover has a good 2018, the Brewers would retain his rights for one more year, since he is only at 4.133 years of major league service. Overall, it’s another low-risk, potentially high-reward spring training move for the Brewers.
Statistics courtesy of FanGraphs.