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  • Brewer Fanatic 2022 Full Season Relief Pitcher of the Year: Cam Robinson


    'Ro Mueller

    Selecting the Relief Pitcher award winner was a no brainer. Cam Robinson – the guy who led the entire minor leagues in saves, often of the multi-inning variety. Stat of the Year: Wisconsin won 25 of the 28 games in which Mr. Robinson pitched!

    Image courtesy of Bobby McDuffie

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    Sometimes, the more traditional stats matter*. Through August 19th, RHP Cam Robinson’s 25 saves led all of Minor League Baseball. And even with zero save opportunities over the final 40 days of the season, Robinson still ended the season atop the MiLB Saves Leaderboard.

    High-A/AA Stats (41 G): 3-1 record, 1.38 ERA, 0.98 WHIP, 68 K, 22 BB, 52 IP, 25 Saves
    AAA Stats (11 G): Not quite as pretty. To be improved in 2023!


    A 23rd-round draft pick out of Orlando’s University High School in 2017, Robinson started to blossom at Low-A Carolina in 2021 and reached an impressive level of dominance at High-A Wisconsin and AA Biloxi in 2022, forcing the Brewers into a tough decision of whether to add him to the 40-man MLB roster by November 20th or risk losing him in the Rule 5 draft on December 8th.

    As the Timber Rattlers’ offense struggled to get runs across in the early months of the season, Robinson was lockdown in the ‘pen, earning 19 saves and 3 wins in 28 games at Wisconsin. In fact, the Timber Rattlers won a whopping 25 of the 28 games in which Mr. Robinson pitched!

    Of those 28 High-A outings, 11 covered more than one inning of work, including nine games in which he covered two full innings.  Enjoy the mastery:

    Promoted to AA Biloxi on July 4, Robinson didn’t miss a beat, posting a 1.23 ERA and 0.89 WHIP while grabbing another 6 saves in 14 2/3 innings of work:

    Intrigued by that level of dominance, the Brewers promoted Robinson to AAA Nashville on August 23rd, where he understandably struggled in 13 innings (6.92 ERA, 1.85 WHIP), presenting him with a new challenge for next year.

    Having just turned 23 years old, once Robinson is able to replicate his amazing ground-out to air-out ratio (3.14 at Wisconsin, 2.57 at Biloxi) in baseball’s higher echelons, he should have a long, successful major league career.

    Runner-Up: James Meeker, RHP
    High-A/AA (44 G): 4-4 record, 2.38 ERA, 1.06 WHIP, 57 K, 17 BB, 64 1/3 IP, 17 Saves

    There aren’t many players who get their first opportunity in affiliated baseball at age 26; fewer still the number who thrive. James Meeker, signed by the Brewers in August 2021, has been a terrific find, producing a minuscule 0.50 ERA at Low-A Carolina in 18 innings last year and continuing his excellence at High-A Wisconsin this year.

    With Robinson racking up the majority of the early season save chances, 27-year old Meeker didn’t move into a consistent closer role until July 30th, from which point he notched 12 saves (in 13 opportunities) over his next 16 games, producing a 0.44 ERA over this period and ultimately earning a promotion to AA Biloxi on September 13th. In all, James’ 17 saves this season placed him seventh in the whole of Minor League Baseball.

    Second Runner-Up: Peter Strzelecki, RHP
    AAA Stats (27 G): 3-0 record, 2.84 ERA, 0.88 WHIP, 50 K, 10 BB, 31 2/3 IP, 3 Saves

    Given his excellent work in the majors (3.06 ERA with 38 Ks in 32 1/3 IP), it’s easy to forget that Strzelecki didn’t make his Major League debut until June 2nd this year. Taking it back a little, he hadn’t even played AA ball until May 5, 2021. Yes, it’s been a rapid rise for the man who originally went undrafted out of the University of South Florida in 2018.

    Early this season, 27-year old Strzelecki underpinned the fabulous Nashville Sounds’ bullpen, producing the top WHIP in the 20-team International League before earning his deserved promotion to Milwaukee, whilst delivering a whopping 14.2 K/9 rate and earning four victories and three saves in the process. Hopefully, this will also be the year that Peter makes his MLB playoff debut.

    Third Runner-Up: Trevor Kelley, RHP
    AAA Stats (34 G): 3-3 record, 2.36 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 42 K, 10 BB, 34 1/3 IP, 9 Saves

    Kelley has been another dependable anchor in the Nashville bullpen, while also shuttling back-and-forth to the Brewers on five occasions. The 29-year-old joined the organization on a minor league contract in November 2021 and delivered immediate results in AAA, giving up just one run over his first 23 appearances.

    Fourth Runner-Up: Hobie Harris, RHP
    AAA Stats (53 G): 4-3 record, 2.04 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, 56 K, 28 BB, 53 IP, 8 Saves

    Equally deserving of a call-up to The Show but not as fortunate as his peers in that regard, Harris kept his focus on the task-at-hand in leading Sounds’ pitchers in games played (53), relief innings pitched, and ranked second on the team in saves. Hitting minor league free agency for the first time in November 2021, Harris opted to sign with the Brewers. After being a vital part of Nashville’s 91-win season and hopefully winning a postseason title in Las Vegas, the 29-year-old Harris will undoubtedly be looking to sign a major league contract this offseason.

    Honorable Mentions:

    Luis Contreras, RHP (AA): 3-2 record, 3.00 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 59 K, 21 BB, 42 IP, 1 Save

    Born in Venezuela but listed as a Florida native, Contreras went undrafted and started his professional career in independent ball in 2019 before signing with the Brewers in June 2019. After Covid wiped out the 2020 season and he was injured for most of 2021, it was impressive to see the 26-year old register success in a leap to AA ball in 2022, striking out 12.6 batters per nine innings.

    Michele Vassalotti, RHP (Low-A): 9-2 record, 2.64 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, 56 K, 24 BB, 47 2/3 IP, 7 Saves
    An international signing as a 16-year-old in 2017, Italian-Venezuelan Vassalotti fell off the prospect map a bit with tough seasons in 2019 and 2021, but reinvigorated his career in a shift to bullpen work this year. Through his first 35 2/3 innings pitched this season, the 22-year-old had struck out 46 batters against only nine walks, but apparently tired down the stretch (15 walks in his final 12 innings). Give the man some deserved rest and let’s see how he fares at higher levels in 2023.

    Pablo Garabitos, LHP (Low-A): 6-1 record, 1.61 ERA, 0.96 WHIP, 61 K, 16 BB, 56 IP
    The first and only left-handed reliever on this list, Garabitos was a 2018 international signing from the Dominican Republic as an outfielder, before shifting to pitching in 2019. Now 22 years old, Pablo produced the 5th-best WHIP in the 12-team Carolina League and was the youngest pitcher in the league with a WHIP below 1.09. Although he didn’t make any starts, he averaged 2.33 innings per outing, covering as much as five innings on occasion and even throwing 87 pitches in one late-season victory. Will Mr. Garabitos shift into a starting role in 2023?

    * Of course, Saves did not become an official MLB statistic until 1969, but it’s fair to say they qualify as a traditional stat that was held in higher esteem before the sabermetric revolution.

    Which of the Brewers’ contingent of terrific minor league relief pitchers do you expect to become solid major leaguers one day? Would you have ranked these players differently? Your comments are welcome!

     

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    Robinson is the right choice, but I would be very tempted to put Garabitos second. I don’t know how he matches up with the others prospect-wise, but I am not sure any reliever was more valuable to their pitching staff than he was down the stretch, giving the team long, quality outings after Carolina’s most consistent starters all got promoted to Wisconsin.

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    Damuelle, I know he's had a forgettable season, but do you know what the organization is saying about Taylor Floyd these days? He's turned in some really impressive work before 2022. I wonder if there are any doubts about him b/c he's a sidearmer?

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    damuelle
  • Brewer Fanatic Contributor
  • Posted

    12 hours ago, Jim French Stepstool said:

    Damuelle, I know he's had a forgettable season, but do you know what the organization is saying about Taylor Floyd these days? He's turned in some really impressive work before 2022. I wonder if there are any doubts about him b/c he's a sidearmer?

    Timber Rattler Director of Bullpen Operations Pat McGuff had some comments in Chris Mehring’s September 14 SoundCloud interview, talking about how they helped Floyd with a mentality shift, as he was stressed out over poor results and things outside of his control. The positivity shift helped him return to being more aggressive and confident, without really making serious adjustments on the “pitch side”.

    Floyd was a guy that many of us expected to continue rocketing up the system (2.89 ERA in 2021 with a 13.5 K/9 rate?!?). But instead, he basically ended up in a group with Alec Bettinger and Ashton McGee – respectable prospects who put up inexplicably woeful numbers out of the gate in 2022, with Bettinger and Floyd initially given some leeway due to starting their seasons late (May 4th for Floyd).

    Through 25 games in 2022, Floyd’s ERA was 9.20 and he’d struck out 29 batters in 612 pitches (21.1 pitches/K ratio vs. 10.8 in 2021), before he re-discovered his skills: 1.33 ERA over final 16 games with 38 Ks in 469 pitches (12.3 pitches/K ratio). That level of deviation can’t be explained simply as a function of level (largely AA vs. High-A in this case), so it’s great to hear they helped him get out of that funk. I’m sure they’ll give him another turn at AA Biloxi to start next season and it should go far better this time around.

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    4 hours ago, damuelle said:

    Timber Rattler Director of Bullpen Operations Pat McGuff had some comments in Chris Mehring’s September 14 SoundCloud interview, talking about how they helped Floyd with a mentality shift, as he was stressed out over poor results and things outside of his control. The positivity shift helped him return to being more aggressive and confident, without really making serious adjustments on the “pitch side”.

    Floyd was a guy that many of us expected to continue rocketing up the system (2.89 ERA in 2021 with a 13.5 K/9 rate?!?). But instead, he basically ended up in a group with Alec Bettinger and Ashton McGee – respectable prospects who put up inexplicably woeful numbers out of the gate in 2022, with Bettinger and Floyd initially given some leeway due to starting their seasons late (May 4th for Floyd).

    Through 25 games in 2022, Floyd’s ERA was 9.20 and he’d struck out 29 batters in 612 pitches (21.1 pitches/K ratio vs. 10.8 in 2021), before he re-discovered his skills: 1.33 ERA over final 16 games with 38 Ks in 469 pitches (12.3 pitches/K ratio). That level of deviation can’t be explained simply as a function of level (largely AA vs. High-A in this case), so it’s great to hear they helped him get out of that funk. I’m sure they’ll give him another turn at AA Biloxi to start next season and it should go far better this time around.

    Great insight on Floyd. Thanks!!!!

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