The Brewers are very thin on left-handed arms throughout their system and that’s definitely the case at the big league level where only Will Smith appears to be a lock to make the opening day roster. Picked up from the Kansas City Royals in December of 2013 in exchange for Nori Aoki, Smith led the National League in appearances in 2014, and followed that up with a solid 2015 campaign that saw him go 7-2 with a 2.70 ERA in 63.1 innings as one of Milwaukee’s top set-up men.
Sean Nolin, Chris Capuano and Cesar Jimenez are three other left-handed options in camp with varying odds of cracking the Brewers roster, though Nolin looks to be the most realistic option at this point. The Brewers claimed the 6’4″ 26-year-old off waivers from the Oakland A’s and are giving him a look in the bullpen this season. Jimenez, 31, and Capuano, 37, have history with Milwaukee but neither appear likely to make the 25-man roster at this point.
Milwaukee’s top left-handed pitching prospect is 21-year-old Josh Hader, who they acquired from Houston last July in a six player swap with the Astros. The California League’s pitcher of the year in 2014, Hader struck out 50 batters in 38.1 innings after the trade to Milwaukee and really opened eyes with a dominating stint in the Arizona Fall League following the 2015 season. While some think he’s still destined for the bullpen, it’s looking more and more like Hader has the potential to remain a starter and he should join a stacked rotation in Colorado Springs to start the season.
The Brewers used their first round pick in 2014 to select Hawaiian high-schooler Kodi Medeiros and the 19-year-old held his own after the Brewers challenged him with an aggressive move to Low-A Wisconsin to start last season. A full three years young than the Midwest League average, Medeiros wound up going 4-5 with a 4.44 ERA in 25 games, striking out more than a batter per inning and should be in line for a promotion to Brevard County in 2016.
Milwaukee also grabbed another lefty in the first round of last year’s draft when they selected 22-year-old Nathan Kirby out of the University of Virginia. Kirby saw limited action after signing and was forced to undergo Tommy John surgery which will keep him out for most, if not all, of the 2016 season.
Two other candidates to log some big league innings over the next few seasons are 26-year-old Brent Suter and 24-year-old Hobbs Johnson. Neither has particularly dominating stuff, but they get results on the mound. Suter went 8-4 with a 2.36 ERA between Double-A Biloxi and Triple-A Colorado Springs last season, while Johnson started 25 games for Biloxi, going 7-8 with a 3.84 ERA.
OVERALL: The Brewers are thin on left-handed arms throughout their system, but the ones that they do have are enough to get excited about. Hader and Medeiros could both find their way onto top 100 lists if they can manage similar results this season and if Kirby can return to form in 2017, that gives Milwaukee three top left-handed pitching prospects to look to in the future.