Drafted in the 22nd round in 2009, Mike Fiers overcame some major odds just to make to the big league, let alone find himself among the most valuable Brewers in 2014. Yet he added some major mid-season punch to a depleted pitching corp and by September had proven himself one of team's most reliable rotation arms.
After a promising 2012 campaign, Fiers disappointed in 2013 with a 7.25 ERA in 11 appearances with the Brewers, and was merely mentioned in our "Lesser Brewers" column last year. He was sent back to Nashville where he almost immediately broke his forearm, ending his season. Entering 2014, Fiers was not even a serious candidate for a roster spot. He absolutely destroyed opposing batters at Nashville though, making 11 starts with a 2.53 ERA.
Fiers was called up in June as a bullpen arm, and again in August to fill in for the injured Matt Garza. In his first start on August 9, Fiers was dominant, out-dueling former Brewers ace Zack Greinke for his first win since May 2013. Over 10 games started for the Brewers in 2014, Fiers went at least six innings eight times, and he allowed just 15 earned runs (2.09 ERA). Despite a straight fastball that sits right around 88-89 MPH, Fiers managed to strike out just over a batter per inning, relying primarily on deception in his delivery, excellent command, and complementary offspeed offerings. Fiers displayed more fly ball tendencies than I'd be comfortable with at Miller Park, yet allowed just six HR over about 65 innings.
At 29 years old, it's too much to expect that Fiers will develop into a #1-type pitcher, but he'll definitely be in the mix for a back-of-rotation spot next spring, with a lot of upside. The hope is obviously that Fiers comes close to approximating over a full season what he did during his abbreviated stint in 2014.
Win Probability Added says Fiers' best game was his first start on August 9 (8 IP, 1 ER, 5 K). But let's use another measure, and let's say that other measure is degree of embarrassment imposed upon division rivals.* Using that measure, there was no better game pitched than August 14, when Fiers, in just his second start of the season, fanned 14 Cubs over six innings at Wrigley - almost all of them on rising fastballs:
*Fiers start against the Cardinals on September 5 (6.2 IP, 2 ER, 5 K) - more valuable by WPA standards - also qualifies.
Fiers is in his final year of pre-arbitration and will likely earn somewhere around $500,000. He will be arbitration eligible for the first time in 2016, and becomes a free agent in 2019.
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