We already knew that the Milwaukee Brewers were going with a youth movement in the starting rotation to begin the 2019 regular season. Manager Craig Counsell announced on Thursday that Brandon Woodruff, Corbin Burnes, Freddy Peralta, and Zach Davies would all begin the year among the starting five in some order behind Opening Day starter Jhoulys Chacin, though without specifying any sort of order beyond Davies getting the ball in game five on the road in Cincinnati. Earlier this morning, the club finally announced how the rotation would stack up for games one through five:
#Brewers officially announce starting rotation to open the season!@Jhoulys45: #OpeningDay @FreddyPeraltaRD @B_Woody24 @Burnes16 @ZDavies3 #ThisIsMyCrew pic.twitter.com/GAhGiYtrap— Milwaukee Brewers (@Brewers) March 23, 2019
It will be the youngest of the quintet, 22 year old Freddy Peralta, who will get the ball in game two against St. Louis. ‘Fastball Freddy’ has shown the greatest strikeout potential of the group and whiffed 11.0 batters per nine innings last season while posting a 4.25 ERA across 78.1 innings covering 16 appearances (14 starts). This spring he has shown improved velocity at times while striking out 12 batters and issuing only three walks across 7.1 innings (three appearances), though he’s also yielded four hits and five runs.
The Brewers finally seem ready to commit to 26 year old Brandon Woodruff as a rotation piece after bouncing him back and forth between starting and relieving last season. The right-hander has compiled a 4.22 ERA in 85.1 innings over 27 appearances (12 starts) since debuting in 2017, and there seems to be increasing optimism regarding his future after he allowed only three runs in 12.1 playoff innings last fall, punching out 20 batters against only three free passes. His stellar run has continued so far into the spring, as Woodruff has thrown 14.1 innings with a 1.84 ERA and 20:5 K/BB ratio during four Cactus League starts.
The most-hyped hurler among Milwaukee’s young pitching trio, 24 year old Corbin Burnes, will make his first career start in game four. The righty was electrifying in his MLB debut as a reliever last season, logging a 2.61 ERA across 30 appearances and 38.0 innings after getting called up for the first time in July. Burnes boasts elite spin rates on all of his offerings and his 8.3 K/9 last season perhaps understates his ability to miss bats, as he generated a 15.2% swinging-strike rate last season (for reference, Peralta’s was 10.8% and the league average was 10.7%). The bottom-line numbers haven’t been pretty for Burnes this spring with a 5.79 ERA across 18.2 innings, though he’s dealt with an abnormally high BABIP and his 21:4 K/BB ratio is much more encouraging.
Jhoulys Chacin, the so-called known quantity in the group after leading the rotation in 2018, has put together a strong 2.57 ERA across 14.0 innings in Cactus League play. Davies hasn’t been quite so productive, yielding a 7.17 ERA in 21.1 innings pitched after struggling with shoulder and back issues during a lost 2018 season. He does own a sturdy 4.04 ERA in 454.2 MLB innings, though.
Besides Chacin, the Opening Day rotation for our Menomonee Valley Nine will feature four pitchers, all age-26 or younger, who all have made their big league debuts with the organization since the start of the rebuild in 2015. For a franchise that has historically struggled to successfully develop homegrown pitching, the strides that have been made since the later years of the Melvin era and the beginning of the Stearns era have to be encouraging.
Brewers really about to ride or die with these young cats. That's actually kind of thrilling.— Kyle L. (@brewerfan28) March 21, 2019
Zach Davies (26), Brandon Woodruff (26), Corbin Burnes (24), and Freddy Peralta (22) are all homegrown guys who made their MLB debuts in MKE.
Has an MKE rotation ever looked like that?
Statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference