by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)
With Francisco Rodriguez traded to Detroit (to learn about Javier Betancourt, the player the Brewers received, click here) we would expect Milwaukee to look within for a ninth inning replacement. They have choices on the current roster, with three players who likely could immediately step into the role, and there’s always the chance that they acquire an additional option. With that in mind, let’s take a look and try to determine who may be the best fit on the current roster:
We anticipated him getting his opportunity in 2015, though Rodriguez stayed with the Brewers through the end of the season. This move, you’d think, should put him at the front of the line. He showed the full gamut of skills we look for from a pitcher last season over 68.0 IP:
- Strikeouts – 8.87 K/9
- Control – 2.91 BB/9
- Groundballs – 58.2%
He predominantly used his four-seam fastball and sinker, throwing them 77.5% of the time, but compliments it with a swing-and-miss curveball (21.36% Whiff%) and a token changeup (which he threw just 1.5% of the time). You have to wonder if he’ll start to incorporate the latter a little bit more, though he may not need to.
Jeffress has long been labeled a potential closer of the future, though it’s been a rocky road getting here including suspensions for positive drug tests. He also had control issues coming up through the minors, including a 4.4 BB/9 over 151.0 IP at Triple-A, though he appears to have overcome it.
With his trio of skills it’s hard not to think that he could thrive in the role, assuming he gets the chance.
Being left-handed could work against him, though he’s now posted back-to-back impressive seasons (ERAs of 3.70 and 2.70) with gaudy strikeout rates (11.79 and 12.93). He also showed the ability to get out both righties and lefties last season:
- vs. RHH – .193/.264/.281
- vs. LHH – .250/.330/.455
He’s armed with a wipeout slider, which yielded a 29.53% Whiff%, and while he hasn’t shown the control or groundballs of Jeffress he is an equally impressive option. Of course the control also improved as the season progressed (3.74 BB/9 in the first half, 3.03 in the second) and he doesn’t need an elite groundball rate to excel.
He could easily run with the job as well, if given the opportunity, it’s just a matter of how the Brewers opt to proceed. While we would anticipate Jeffress getting the first chance, it’s hardly a guarantee.
He is certainly the dark horse, but he posted a 3.22 ERA over 50.1 IP last season courtesy of a 10.37 K/9 and 3.04 BB/9. Considering his 12.4 K/9 and 3.8 BB/9 over 91.2 IP in the minors there is obviously reason to believe in the numbers, though there is also reason to be a bit skeptical.
His SwStr% (9.9%) and O-Swing% (28.6%) don’t backup the strikeout rate and he was also prone to home runs last season (1.43 HR/9). He would appear to be a distant third and there is obvious risk. Monitor him, but don’t expect him to get an opportunity (at least not early on).
Sources – Fangraphs, Baseball Reference, Brooks Baseball