Johnny Hellweg (RHP)
Profile: The Brewers announced on Wednesday the promotion of pitching prospect Johnny Hellweg to Milwaukee. Hellweg will become the tenth different pitcher to start a game for the Brewers this season, taking the rotation spot of Alfredo Figaro who was placed on the disabled list.
Originally selected by the Marlins in the 46th round of the 2007 draft, Hellweg chose a year at Florida CC in Jacksonville instead. There he upped his stock enough to be selected in the 2008 draft by the Angels in the 16th round.
Hellweg showed control issues in his debut 2008 season, walking 38 batters in 22 innings for the Angels affiliate in the Arizona Rookie League. He returned to the AZL in 2009 and fared batter, walking just eight in 24 innings before being promoted to Low-A Cedar Rapids.
The 6’9″ righty spent all of 2010 with Cedar Rapids, going 2-4 with a 4.33 ERA in 41 relief appearances for the Kernels. He recorded 16 saves and struck out 66 batters in 44 innings. His control remained an issue however, as he also walked 45 batters.
In an effort to help Hellweg repeat his delivery and cut down on the control issues, the Angels moved Hellweg in to the starting rotation in 2011. The move helped, and he went 6-4 with a 3.73 ERA. In 89 inning of work for Advanced-A Inland Empire, Hellweg struck out 113 batters, while walking just 59.
Hellweg was promoted to Double-A Arkansas in 2012 and in 21 starts, posted a 3.38 ERA. His strikeout numbers saw a significant drop however, as he fanned just 88 batters in 120 innings. In July, Hellweg was dealt to Milwaukee, along with Jean Segura and Ariel Pena in exchange for Zack Greinke. He finished out the 2012 campaign with the Brewers AA affiliate Huntsville where he went 2-1 with a 2.70 ERA.
Milwaukee advanced Hellweg to Triple-A Nashville in 2013. Through 14 starts he had a 7-4 record with a 2.82 ERA. He had not given up more than one earned run in each of his last five outings and was 3-0 with an 0.45 ERA in the month of June at the time of his call-up.
Strengths: Hellweg’s 6’9″ frame and power arm work to his advantage as his fastball sits in the mid to high 90’s and he has even been clocked at times in the triple digits. He has a good breaking ball (some call it a slider and others a curve) that can be a nasty out pitch when he can locate it. He has been pitching more to contact than early in his career, but still has the stuff to reach back for when a strikeout is needed.
Weaknesses: Control has been an issue for Hellweg throughout his career. Moving to the starting rotation has helped him some, but he still walks too many batters and pitches from behind in the count too often.
The Future: While some think that Hellweg’s control issues may ultimately force him to the bullpen, the Brewers like him as a starter and will give him his first big league test on Friday night in Pittsburgh. He certainly has the stuff to be a key member of the Brewers rotation for years to come. If Hellweg can put it all together and keep the walk numbers down, he could very well prove to be a dynamite addition to Milwaukee’s pitching staff, and make an already great trade, look even better.