Another week has passed and more starting pitchers have been snagged up by teams that are not the Milwaukee Brewers.
Jason Vargas, who posted a 4.16 ERA, winning 18 games and earning an All-Star nod, signed a two year $16 million with the New York Mets. Meanwhile on the trade market, the Minnesota Twins absolutely robbed the Tampa Bay Rays in a trade for Jake Odorizzi.
It appears Odorizzi’s terrible ground ball rate which has fluctuated between 26.9 percent and 36.6 percent was not appealing to the Crew, who play in the home run friendly confides of Miller Park. The Brewers remain rumored to be interested in Rays pitcher Chris Archer however.
While ground ball percentage is not an end-all-be-all stat for pitching, a pitcher who has a higher ground ball percentage tends to not allow a lot of extra base hits. And the current lot of pitchers the Brewers have in the majors show the front office value ground balls and limiting extra base hits.
But again, just as last week, I am here to calm your fears. Last week I showed how the current arms at the major league level could be more than capable of holding down the pitching fort. This week, we look to the minor league pitchers.
At 23 years old and never pitching at a level higher than Double A, Corbin Burnes has become the marquee pitching prospect. Over 145.2 innings between Single and Double A, the right handed pitcher tossed out a 1.85 ERA.
What is more promising is his ground ball percentage and homerun to fly ball ratio.
Burnes got ground balls at a clip of about 52 percent last season and his homerun to flyball ratio was a minuscule 2.7 percent. By no means does any of this mean he is ready to touch the majors yet. If he can prove to keep the ball on the ground in Colorado Springs this summer, however, he could be a mid-season call up, but pushing him up too early could diminish his trade value and as a starting pitcher.
Much like Burnes, the 21 year old Peralta has a good ground ball percentage and a low homerun percentage. He also put out an ERA of 2.63 last season, actually improving as he rose up to Double A, posting an 2.26 ERA over 63.2 innings pitched.
Ortiz, the only prize left from the Jonathan Lucroy trade, did not shine in 2017. His ground ball percentage dipped 10 percent to 35.7 percent and his ERA hovered at about four. Posting those stats over 94.1 innings at Double A show nothing to the fact he could improve in Triple A where the thin air of Colorado will only expose the low ground ball percentage.
Neither of Peralta or Ortiz will sniff the majors this season barring major injuries.
Going one step further; Peralta, Ortiz and even Burnes could only hope to be as good as Archer already is. Obviously the Brewers would have to give up more than just one of these pitchers. The package for Archer would need to include Domingo Santana, Brett Phillips, Burnes and probably another top prospect.
But are the Brewers ready to call up prospects who may not be ready?
One pitcher who could come out of the minors and surprise everyone including Brewer fans is Adrian Houser.
The last season in which the 25 year old really got any substantial time was in 2016 logging 70.1 innings at the Double A level. His ERA of 5.25 in 2016 is not pretty. The fact he had to miss all of last season because of Tommy John, is not pretty.
His ground ball percentage, which was 61 percent in 2016 and is now closer to 70 percent during his rehab assignments, is pretty. His 2.82 walks and 0.64 homeruns per nine innings in 2016 is more than just pretty, it is stunning.
If Zach Davies, Chase Anderson and Jhoulys Chacín are any indication, general manager David Stearns and the Brewer’s font office love ground ball pitchers who get through innings fast. Adrian Houser could see a number of innings at the major league level if he can stay healthy this season.
Other than Houser and maybe a mid-season appearance by Burnes, the Brewers would be better off sticking with what they have at the major league level (Johnny Wholestaff) rather than forcing up pitchers who have either not proven themselves or who are young and subject to inconsistency.