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Pitchers and Catchers Report: Milwaukee Brewers Spring Training Non-Roster Invitees

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Can any of these guys make the team?

MLB Draft 2017
Keston Hiura
Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Jayne Kamin-Oncea

The Milwaukee Brewers entered the 2017-18 off season having decided that the 2018 season would not be the next step in their rebuild, but an opportunity to go for a postseason berth. As such, there are fewer spots up for grabs on the opening day roster than in previous seasons. Last season the Brewers had 17 NRIs (Non-Roster Invitees); this year it is down to 10. Last season, five of the NRIs saw time with the major league club. The most likely place for one of the NRIs to land would seem to be the bullpen.

PITCHERS

  • Corbin Burnes (r)
  • Ernesto Frieri (r)
  • J.J. Hoover (r)
  • Luis Ortiz (r)
  • Jon Perrin (r)

The three arms with the most potential on the list for future major league success (Burnes, Ortiz, and Perrin) are probably the least likely to make the squad. Burnes, last season’s org MiLB pitcher of the year, looks to get another season in the minors, especially if the Brewers make a move for another starting pitcher. Ortiz has still never thrown 100 innings in a season, and has mostly been used as a starter. He might have very good potential as a reliever, but it seems likely that he will begin in the minors (hopefully not at Colorado Springs). How will we fill a roster of pitchers at Colorado Springs?

Well, the Brewers can probably fill the Sky Sox roster with guys like Frieri and Hoover. Frieri was good early in his career but has been bad for the last four seasons, posting a 5.05 ERA over that period. He missed the 2016 season, so the Brewers are hoping that they can help him rediscover his original self. Hoover was lit up for a WHIP of 1.766 last year for Arizona, but posted an OK ERA of 3.92. His FIP was 4.71, xFIP was 4.48...not horrible, but he will need to impress in spring training to not be in the Sky Sox bullpen come April. At least he’ll have Tim Dillard as a teammate.

That leaves me with my dark horse candidate, Jon Perrin. Perrin was a 27th round pick in the amateur draft in 2015, and will be 25 in May. He pitched last season at AA Biloxi, and started 12 games, and relieved in 11. Over 105.1 innings he walked just 1.8 per nine innings. He even had a save. He worked to an ERA of 2.91, FIP of 3.21, and xFIP of 3.13. His main competition for a long man role in the pen could very well come from Brandon Woodruff and Aaron Wilkerson, if the Brewers add another starting pitcher. We could very well get to see what Perrin can do in the Springs.

My guess is that none of the non-roster arms will be on the opening day roster.

CATCHERS

Christian Bethancourt

Of course, Bethancourt is also a pitcher. He has actually worked 5.1 innings in the majors with the Padres, with the most notable stat being 11 walks, leaving him with a WHIP of 3.375. Ooof. In 489 major league plate appearances (with the Braves and Padres) he has an OPS of .567. Ooof.

So Christian is most likely spring training and minor league catching depth. Oh, he has also played some outfield. Yeah, no. There might be a few guys ahead of him there.

FIRST BASE

Ji-Man Choi

The Brewers needed a first baseman for Colorado Springs, and Choi is likely to be the guy. He won’t have much chance of unseating Eric Thames as the left-handed hitting option at first for the big club, and with Jesus Aguilar, Hernan Perez, and even Ryan Braun on the roster to play some first ahead of him it looks like a longshot. But Choi hit in the minors last season in AAA for the Yankees, with a slash of .288/.373/.538, OPS of .911, with 15 dingers in 285 at bats. He even hit two homers in fifteen at bats for the major league club. I guess he replaces Garrett Cooper, who went from Milwaukee to the Yankees last season. (In case you missed it, Cooper is now on the Marlins. They might be all ex-Brewers soon.)

But if somebody were to want Thames, and deal for him, Choi might just make the team.

SECOND BASE

Nate Orf

Nate took advantage of playing in Colorado Springs to post his best offensive season in his five year minor league career. His slash of .320/.397/.507, OPS of .904, would play well at a position of need for the Brewers, but the 28 year old Orf has never really been considered a prospect. If the Brewers weren’t heavy in versatile infielders (Eric Sogard, Jonathan Villar, and Hernan Perez), he might have a shot. If he hits well this spring somebody might want to give him a chance, but he seems destined for one more year at AAA. Depth - if one of the three suffers a significant injury we could just see Nate on the big league team.

Keston Hiura

My dream is that Hiura is capable in the field and hits over .500 this spring, forcing the Brewers to bring him along as their starting second baseman. I expect he will be a Carolina Mud Cat, though. Soon, soon...

OUTFIELD

Kyle Wren

Another courtesy call. Wren will be 27 in April, and faces a full slate of major league outfielders (not to mention a prospect in Maverick Phillips) ahead of him. Still not showing much power (a .401 slugging percentage at Colorado Springs), but he got on base at a .364 clip and swiped 26 bases last year in AAA.

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Ten guys fighting an uphill battle to either continue their dream, rejuvenate their dream, or get that one last shot. Stranger things have happened.

Statistics courtesy of Fangraphs