Donnie Hart was claimed off waivers from the Los Angles Dodgers earlier this month. The left hander has a side arm delivery. The Brewers traded their compensatory pick this year to get someone similar in profile, but with a better track record in Alex Claudio. Now Hart is coming to Milwaukee for the foreseeable future.
In 2016, Hart debuted with the Baltimore Orioles where he appeared in 22 games and gave up just one earned run in 18.1 innings. His 2017 was less successful. Pitching across 43.2 innings, he managed a 3.71 ERA and a 4.49 FIP. He followed 2017 with an even worse season in 2018 where he pitched in 19.1 innings earning an ERA of 5.59 and a 5.02 FIP. He gave up 12 runs on 31 hits with an awful 13:12 K/BB ratio. To be fair, his BABIP across those two season was high enough to suggest some bad luck.
What does provide some promise is that 28 year old side armer has been successful at the minor league level. In his time at Triple-A Norfolk (2017-2018), he pitched to a 2.40 ERA. He had a K/9 of 11.74 in 2017 and 9.88 in 2018. His BB/9 in 2017 was 1.17 and 2.20 in 2018. He gets close to 50% ground balls during most years. He has a three-pitch mix including a fastball (threw it 56.5% time in 2018), slider (threw it 32.5% in 2018), and changeup (threw it 11% in 2018). His fastball sits at about 88 mph, so it looks like he relies on keeping the ball down in the zone and inducing weak contact when he is at his best. Again he looks like another version of Alex Claudio, but a version that has yet to put it together at the major league level.
So far in AAA San Antonio, he has made six appearances, covering three innings, and giving up one earned run. Opposing hitters are batting .313 against him, and he has walked two. He is a groundball specialist
He like he will be a classic “LOOGY”, a role that worked for him well in 2016 (slash vs. lefties - .122/.190/.158 and slash vs. righties - .292/.370/.417). Unfortunately he had trouble getting anybody out in 2017 and 2018. With the Dodgers in town with all of their left handed hitting talent, Hart is probably with the big club to contend with them, or at least force the Dodgers to make changes to their lineup. The Cardinals would be next, so he might stick around if an inning sets up where Kolten Wong and Matt Carpenter come up in the same inning or to get one of them out in a big spot.
Honestly, Hart’s MLB track record is not great. He has been good in the minors at least, and his BABIP suggests some bad luck in his results. The Brewers likely think he can be effective in the right spots. Right now, he is in Milwaukee to counter Cody Bellinger, Alex Verdugo, Joc Pederson, Max Muncy, and Corey Seager later in games. If he makes it to St. Louis, he will have to get Carpenter and Wong out. Let’s hope Hart comes to Milwaukee and gets outs. If not, he will be catching that plane back to San Antonio as soon as possible.
Statistics courtesy of Fangraphs