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Bullpen Spot Watch: Abner Uribe vs Gus Varland

Steven Ohlrogge



Brewers Video

With 2023 spring training baseball well underway, as we can start to smell the freshly cut grass of American Family Field we are heading towards another phase of Spring cuts. The Milwaukee Brewers just made their first round of assigning some hopeful names back to minor league camp.

Now that the decision making is starting to come down, one big question on this Brewers squad is who will man the final bullpen spots?

Currently for Milwaukee the potential locks are Devin Williams, Matt Bush, Justin Wilson, Pete Strzlecki, and possibly Ethan Small. However, we will be focusing on two intriguing arms that have great upside and one is in a unique situation of his own.

Gus Varland vs Abner Uribe for a bullpen spot.

Both arms have shown signs of potential thus far in the Cactus league.  Varland, whom Milwaukee selected in the MLB portion of this year's Rule 5 draft previously played in the L.A Dodgers organization and needs to make the 26 man roster in order to remain with the Brewers.

In 2022, Varland spent the season in Double A and posted an era of 6.11 he struck out 85 batters in 70 innings. Varland had an impressive 10.89 K/9 and averaged 4.71 BB/9. Varland's average velocity on his fastball is around 98 mph, however we all know that velocity doesn't get you as far as it used to against big leaguers. So far in Spring training, Varland has posted an era of 6.00 and struck out 5 batters in 3 innings. 

Varland seems to have struggled against hitters who are not yet at peak season form this early into camp. Of course, this is a small sample size, but with spring cuts coming these results don't fare to well.  The fact that he needs to be added to the 26 man roster may be his only hope of making the roster if he doesn't turn it around soon.

This next guy has been lighting up the radar gun quite literally and figuratively and has a great chance at cracking the Opening Day roster. Abner Uribe is known for hitting 103 mph and owns a 99 mph sinker and could potentially become the next Emanuel Clase if he can put it all together. Uribe, who missed almost all of 2022 due to a freak knee injury he sustained from stretching has shown his potential in the 2023 Cactus League. 

Uribe has hit 101 mph multiple times and has given up zero runs in three innings while striking out four. For comparison, we will look at his 2021 season where Uribe held an era of 4.01 at single A Carolina. In 33.2 innings, Uribe struck out 52 hitters. He held his opponents to a .195 batting average. With a 13.9 K/9 Uribe arrived in the spotlight of many baseball fans. One concerning factor for Uribe is his BB/9, while he did have an impressive 2021 campaign, Uribe also held a 6.68 BB/9 Uribe walked 25 batters in his 33.2 innings. 

If Uribe can learn to control his pitches he has the potential to one day give the Brewers another dominant back end of the bullpen like they had just a few years ago with Jeremy Jeffress and Josh Hader holding down the later innings.

Between Varland and Uribe, Milwaukee seems to have a nice problem on their hands.  Both pitchers have high upside, but both also still need to battle some major issues in their arsenals.  Of course, its possible they both miss the cut, but we can be sure that whatever happens this Brewers bullpen seems to be on track to returning to its once elite and relied upon form with all of the potential options Milwaukee has.

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Varland needs to stay in the organization, so he will make the team. Uribe could make it, but there are too many good players they would lose if they aren't on the OD roster {Wilson,Payamps,Houser and Guerra}. I would keep Varland who has a much higher upside over Guerra and Payamps. Uribe needs to prove and will prove it. They need to keep their players in the organization as long as possible.

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With young pitchers keeping depth is important because there will be DL stints, so Uribe would have to look like Hader all the way through Spring in my mind to make the OD roster. But he becomes a highly likely injury call-up.

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I suspect Varland has the inside track, given his Rule 5 pickup status. The Brewers will give him every opportunity to make their draft selection worthwhile.

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