The Farm Report: Relief Pitchers

Ranking position players has been finished for some time now and with the Packers season over it's time to begin the gradual build towards full-fledged excitement for the Brewers 2010 season. That brings us to our subject for the first Farm Report of 2010, pitching.

Pitching will be done in three parts, first is relief pitchers, those pitchers that have clearly been defined at this point as relievers. The second will be pitchers, these are guys that have seen time as both starters and relievers and its not clear yet what role they will play if they ever make it to the majors. Last will be Starting Pitchers, guys who have set their roles as rotation members (at least for the time being).

Let me also say that I hate rating pitchers. Unlike hitters, where home runs tell power, there is no stat that says how hard a pitcher throws. So I can't speculate on how hard a guy throws or what pitches they throw if I haven't seen them, which means that my rankings rely heavily on what statistics are available and what scouting reports I can find. This will end up hurting the ranking for guys like Eric Arnett who haven't really pitched much.

Let's get to it.

1. Robert Wooten (AA)
2. John Axford (AAA)
3. Casey Baron (AA)
4. Michael Fiers (High A)
5. Omar Aguilar (High A)

We'll start with Omar Aguilar, who made a splash in spring training a year ago. He saw his stock fall so far in 2009 that he was dropped from the 40-man roster. He throws hard, but he lost his control after being injured to start the season. For Huntsville he had an ERA of 7.71, but he seemed to find himself after a demotion to Brevard County where he struckout 37 while walking just nine and posting an ERA of 2.12. He'll get another shot at Double A and could climb the ladder quickly with a big season.

Michael Fiers is an interesting prospect, he really put himself on the map after being drafted in the 22nd round this year. He pitched at three levels -Rookie, Low-A and High A - and showed off impressive command, in 40.2 innings he struck out 59 batters and walked only five. I would expect him to start the season with High A, but he could end the season at Double A or Triple A if he pitches well.

Next on the list we have Casey Baron, a lefty who spent most of the year with Double A Huntsville. He very quietly put up good numbers in 2009, sporting a 2.42 ERA over 52 innings. Baron also showed off good command, striking out 50 against 15 walks. Triple A should be his destination in 2010, it will be interesting to see how he progresses.

Moving on, we have John Axford, a hard throwing righty who flew up the minor league ladder a season ago. Axford pitched so well in the three minor league stops he made that he earned a big league call-up and has managed to stay on the 40-man roster through the winter. He'll have a (very) slim chance at the roster next year.

And last but not least is Robert Wooten, a 13th round pick in 2008. In 53 games between Double-A and High-A he had an ERA of 2.67 and struck out 78 batters while walking only 22. He also served as the closer for both teams. Wooten also pitched in the Arizona Fall League, while he posted a sub-par ERA (5.00) he didn't lose his command; he only walked one batter in eight appearances.

Most of the time relievers are failed starters, but the increased use of relief pitchers in college has changed that in recent years. While it's true, many relievers are converted starters, Wooten, for example, was drafted out of the University of North Carolina where he was a closer.

This group has some live arms and many seem to project Wooten as a future closer, although most accounts say he doesn't throw that hard. With all bullpen spots basically spoken for 2010, guys like Axford or Wooten might be seen this year when the inevitable injury occurs.


  1. A couple of notes of note:

    1) I really think Zach Braddock belongs on this list. I know it's possible he'll be a starter again someday, but I don't see it as likely. He's never pitched more than 71.1 innings as a pro, and he's close to big league ready. Given his injury history and low inning totals, it'd be nearly impossible to stretch him into a major league starter.

    2) I think Fiers is interesting too, but by mentioning him as a 2009 draftee but not mentioning his age, you make him sound like he's pretty young. He'll turn 25 during the season. Realistically, if he's a prospect at that age he should dominate the low levels of the minors and advance quickly. 2010 will tell the real story on him, if he's given an opportunity to compete at the upper levels.

    3) Wooten is a perfect example of why an AFL ERA doesn't mean much for a pitcher. Wooten had eight AFL games, and had five consecutive scoreless outings (6.2 innings) at one point. He had four hitless outings in eight tries. But because he got roughed up in two outings, his ERA got inflated.

  2. I agree on all accounts, and Braddock is the main reason I'm doing a third category of pitchers. It would be a surprise to see him start again, but as long as the club holds out even a shred of hope that he starts I'll put him in the middle group.

    Good point on Fiers, he's clearly an advanced pitcher and the age likely played a big part in the clubs willingness to move him as far as he did. Those strikeout:walk numbers were hard to look past.

  3. Of all the five names on the list, I agree, the Fond du Lac residence, LHP Casey Baron, is interesting. Huntsville Stars Buck Rogers says this crafty lefty carried the club out off the bull pen in 2009. Baron's sring-summer numbers earned him a spot on the 2009 Southern League All Star Game. Stars pitching coach, JC, says that lefty should be assigned out of Spring Training to Nashville and will get the lefties out. Also going around is the new Brewer pitching coach is traveling to Milwaukee and will see the arsenal! This will be interesting to watch!