As things currently sit, the 2016 Milwaukee Brewers will open the season with a starting rotation that features five right-handed arms as Wily Peralta, Jimmy Nelson, Taylor Jungmann, Chase Anderson and Matt Garza are penciled in as the Brewers five starters. Peralta, 26, is coming off of a disappointing 2015 season in which he went just 5-10 in 20 starts, but his stuff is among the best in the Brewers rotation and they’ll be looking for a bounceback season from the 6’1″ Dominican. Nelson and Jungmann are a pair of players who were very highly thought of as prospects and should be staples of Milwaukee’s staff through the rebuild. Anderson, acquired from Arizona in the Jean Segura trade, looks to slot in to the back end of the rotation while Matt Garza will continue to get starts until the Brewers can find another team to take on his contract.
The bullpen features even more right-handers, including the likes of Jeremy Jeffress, Corey Knebel, Michael Blazek and David Goforth. Jeffress put together perhaps his best season in 2015, going 5-0 with a 2.65 ERA in 72 relief appearances and will be given the chance to close some games for the Brewers this year. Knebel, Blazek and Goforth are all hard-throwing righties who should see action in the later innings of ballgames at Miller Park this season.
The cream of the Brewers pitching crop is 23-year-old Jorge Lopez who exploded onto the scene with an outstanding 2015 season at Double-A Biloxi which saw him go 12-5 with a 2.26 ERA on his way to being named Milwaukee’s minor league pitcher of the year. After getting a taste of the big leagues in September he should move to Triple-A Colorado Springs this season, but it’s doubtful the team will want to keep him there any longer than they have.
Like Lopez, several other young arms made their Brewers debut last season, including Zach Davies, Adrian Houser, Ariel Pena and Yhonathan Barrios. Barrios would appear to have the best chance at cracking the Brewers roster this spring, while Pena is out of options and would need to either make the 25-man roster or risk passing through waivers. Davies and Houser, both acquired in trades last July, should join Lopez in the Colorado Springs starting rotation, though a move to the bullpen may eventually be in the works for Houser.
The Brewers have some other options in the bullpen as well with players like Jacob Barnes, Zack Jones, Damien Magnifico and Taylor Williams. Jones is a Rule 5 pick who will need to stick in the big leagues or be returned to Minnesota. Barnes and Magnifico both represented Milwaukee in the Arizona Fall League last season and are a pair of relief arms who could help out as soon as this season. Williams is rehabbing from Tommy John surgery, but when healthy he was impressive and looks to be an option down the road as well.
Two of Milwaukee’s top young pitchers saw action at Single-A Wisconsin last season in 21-year-olds Devin Williams and Cody Ponce. Williams, a second round pick out of high school in 2013, struck out a batter per inning in 22 appearances for the Timber Rattlers last season, posting a 3.44 ERA, while Ponce, whom Milwaukee selected in the second round of last year’s draft, went 2-1 with a 2.93 ERA after joining the Rattlers in early July.
Joining Williams and Ponce at the lower levels are a handful of talented pitchers such as Marcos Diplan, Jorge Ortega, Angel Ventura, David Burkhalter and Miguel Diaz. Diplan, acquired from Texas as part of the Yovani Gallardo trade, was a Pioneer League All-Star last season and should move to Wisconsin in 2016, while Ortega turned in a dominant season, tossing six complete games and posting a 2.41 ERA at High-A Brevard County. Ventura, Burkhalter and Diaz are all hard-throwing righties at the lower levels with the potential to blossom in 2016.
Milwaukee strengthened the pitching throughout their system even further this past off season when they picked up Trey Supak in a trade with the Pittsburgh Pirates and acquired a trio of righties – Daniel Missaki, Freddy Peralta and Carlos Herrera – from the Seattle Mariners in exchange for first baseman Adam Lind. Supak was a second round pick of the Pirates in 2014 out of high school and should join the Timber Rattlers staff this season. Of the three Latin American pitchers coming back from the Mariners, none are close to major league ready, but all three are high upside arms who have he potential to breakout this season.
Some other names worth keeping a lookout for as we enter the 2016 season include Brooks Hall, Kaleb Earls, Brandon Woodruff, Jordan Yamamoto, Karsen Lindell, Gentry Fortuno, Carlos Luna and Nelson Hernandez.
OVERALL: When it comes to pitching, the Brewers have a lot more depth, especially from the right-hand side, than they did just a few short years ago, but what they lack is a true top of the rotation ace. That being said, with some development and continued success, some of Milwaukee’s options at the lower levels could start jumping up prospect lists in the near future if they start to put it all together in 2016. If a handful of the Brewers pitching prospects can make the leap that Lopez made last season, a position that was once a glaring weakness could turn into a strength of the organization in rather short order.