The Next Level: Michael Blazek

On Monday I started a new series profiling some of the Brewers young players who have exhausted their rookie eligibility but should have key roles at the Major League level over the next few years.

We kicked things off with a look at starting pitcher Jimmy Nelson and continue on today by moving to the bullpen where 26-year-old righty Michael Blazek could take on a more prominent role in 2016.

Drafted by St. Louis out of high school in 2007, Blazek worked his way up through the Cardinals system, earning a spot on the Texas League All-Star team in 2012 after finishing second in the league in strikeouts and making his Major League debut a season later, making 11 relief appearances for St. Louis.

The Cardinals traded him to Milwaukee a year later in a rare deal between the two franchises that saw reliever John Axford go to the Cardinals and Blazek join Milwaukee in September as the player to be named later.

Blazek pitched in seven September contests, all in relief after joining Milwaukee in 2013, then spent all of 2014 at Triple-A Nashville. Working as both a starter and reliever for the Sounds, Blazek appeared in 37 games, starting 17, and went 4-4 with one save and a 4.15 earned run average, striking out 87 in 102 innings of work.

Entering spring training last season as more of an afterthought, Blazek put together a strong spring and earned a spot in the Brewers bullpen.

He wound up spending the whole year in Milwaukee, developing into one of their top bullpen arms and going 5-3 with a 2.43 ERA in 45 relief appearances before suffering a broken hand in August that cost him the remainder of the season.

A hard thrower who sits in the mid-to-high-90’s with his fastball, a healthy Blazek could take on a bigger role out of the pen in 2016 following the trade of closer Francisco Rodriguez to Detroit in the offseason.

Looking to build off of his impressive success from a season ago, Blazek seems like a logical choice to slide into a later inning role, setting up the likes of Jeremy Jeffress and Will Smith in the Brewers young bullpen.

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