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What to expect from Justin Grimm

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Grimm has performed well in Spring Training and the Blue/Gold World Series

MLB: Milwaukee Brewers-Media Day Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports

Justin Grimm will be a part of the bullpen for the Milwaukee Brewers on Opening Day this week. Grimm came up with the Texas Rangers in 2012 and eventually went to the Chicago Cubs in 2014. He pitch relatively well while in Chicago, with his best season being in 2015. During that season, Grimm posted a 1.99 ERA and had a K/9 of 12.14. While not as good in 2016, he was not awful. He posted a 4.10 ERA and a 11.11 K/9.

Things started coming off the rails in 2017. Grimm’s K/9 went down to 9.60, and his ERA rose to 5.53. In 2017, Grimm went on the DL for a right index finger infection, which may have affected him during that season. After he left Chicago and went to Kansas City and eventually Seattle in 2018, it really got bad. His K/9 was just 5.71, and his ERA was 10.38 over 17.1 IP. Of interest, Grimm went on the DL for shoulder impingement syndrome, which most certainly impacted him. Grimm attributed the injury to his lack of success in Kansas City, especially early in the year.

“The biggest thing was health,” Grimm said of 2018. “I messed up at the beginning of the season and tried to throw through some things I probably shouldn’t have, and things went backwards really fast.”

What Grimm thought was a dead-arm phase in spring training morphed into shoulder inflammation in April and was eventually diagnosed as a shoulder impingement.

For what it is worth, Grimm did come back in September and pitch very well for Seattle over 5 plus innings in 2018.

Unfortunately coming into 2019, no one was willing to give Grimm a major league contract. He pitched for Dodgers’ AAA affiliate, Oklahoma City, and Cincinnati’s AAA affiliate, Louisville, but never saw a big league mound last season. There was reason for that. He was bad, especially in Oklahoma City. In Oklahoma City, pitching to minor league hitters, he posted a 5.66 ERA. He was better in Louisville, but again they were minor league hitters he was pitcher to. He posted a 4.50 ERA in Louisville.

The soon to be 32 year old right-handed pitcher was signed to a minor league deal by Milwaukee for 2020. In Spring Training, Grimm responded with a 1.93 ERA over five outings before things were shutdown. He continued to pitch well once Summer Camp began, making a couple scoreless appearances in the Blue/Gold World Series. In Game 3 of the series, he struck out the side in his one inning of work. In game 5 of the series, he recorded four outs with three of those outs coming via strikeout, including a whiff of Christian Yelich.

While Grimm has looked good, what looked like a promising reliever has morphed into a reclamation project over the past 3-4 years. Milwaukee is the latest team to take a look at Grimm, seeing his potential upside. Kansas City, Seattle, Cleveland, Los Angeles (Dodgers), and Cincinnati have already been here before. Milwaukee is just the latest team.

What might be different this time is the fact that Justin Grimm is actually pitching well. Only in September of 2018 for Seattle did he pitch this well. Other than that, Grimm has had problems. Those problems could be the result of injuries, but he has not been a consistent major league performer since 2016.

I would not be surprised if David Stearns and Company understand something about Justin Grimm that most everyone else just does not. It might be that timing is right for Grimm as the residual effects of shoulder impingement syndrome have dissipated. It might be that the Brewers’ pitching gurus have tinkered and harassed something (i.e. his curveball usage?). It also might be that he is a journeyman reliever that is pitching well for the time being with the hope that Milwaukee can squeeze the most out of him during this hot streak. Whatever it is, Grimm is on the Opening Day roster, because he is pitching well right now.

I would not expect Grimm to return to a 2015 version, although if he did, it would be great. He could prove to be a solid bullpen arm that gets important outs. Whether he remains on the major league team once rosters are cut to 28- and eventually 26-man rosters is an open question. He is probably a “bubble-guy” who will be one of the first to go onto the taxi squad, assuming he can clear waivers and accept an assignment. Nonetheless, that is an important role on a major league team.

With that in mind, I expect the Brewers will get a lot more than what one should expect from Grimm. He will get outs for Milwaukee. He will also be one of the first players to go down to the taxi squad once rosters shrink. He would have to pitch really well for that not to happen. Injuries and illness will occur on this staff. Grimm will fill an important role when that happens. There will also be 3-5 pitchers that go up and down throughout the year. Grimm is probably one of those guys.

Expect a decent reliever that posts an ERA around 4.00 or so. Expect him to cover 10-15 innings in the shortened 2020 season for the Milwaukee Brewers. If the Brewers are lucky, Grimm could strike out more than 10 (maybe 11) per nine innings. If the Brewers get that guy then they are getting something that approaches at least a 2016 version. That is a quality bullpen piece and that means their bullpen depth just got one more arm that can deliver value for this team.

Statistics courtesy of Fangraphs and Baseball America