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  • Revisiting the State of the Farm – Full Season Relief Pitching

    Harold Hutchison

    The Brewers have long had a tradition of pulling together excellent relief pitching and seeing it pay off in performance on the field, as well as returns in trades. Drew Rasmussen and Bob Wickman are among the relivers who have brough massive returns in the past. Right now, the MLB bullpen looks very solid with Devin Williams, Joel Payamps, Elvis Peguero, Hoby Milner, and Bryce Wilson leading the pack.

    Image courtesy of © Paul Halfacre-USA TODAY Sports

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    In the minors, the same has been true – and much of the Brewers full-season system has seen some outstanding performances from relief pitchers that make it very likely the Brewers could see similar success for years down the road.

    We’ll look at the rookie league bullpens in a separate piece, given the fact that they will have smaller sample sizes.

    Nashville Sounds
    The Milwaukee-Nashville shuttle has been going two ways for a bit this season, and it makes for tough decisions between very good choices. Ethan Small, Clayton Andrews, Peter Strzelecki, J.B. Bukauskas, Trevor Megill, Abner Uribe, Tyson Miller, and Alex Claudio have all spent time in both Brewers and Sounds uniforms. Justin Wilson has yet to make it to Milwaukee, but has pitched well while rehabbing from Tommy John surgery. Uribe looks like he will remain in the Brewers bullpen full-time, and others on the shuttle can certainly make cases for longer stays in Milwaukee as well, notably Andrews, Strzelecki, and Small. Darrell Thompson is also making a case for a 40-man spot, even if he is older than a typical prospect.

    Biloxi Shuckers
    The Shuckers bullpen is in a very different world than it was in March. Back then, it looked like Uribe and James Meeker would be the 1-2 punch in the late innings. Instead, Uribe is in Milwaukee and Meeker is in the starting rotation. Cam Robinson is back in Biloxi after struggling in Nashville, and has had a forgettable season, along with Zach Vennaro, Nick Bennett, and Ryan Middendorf. Harold Chirino had also dominated in Biloxi but has been placed on the 60-day IL as of July 15th. Some of the Shuckers’ best performers out of the pen are in Nashville – or even Milwaukee.

    Wisconsin Timber Rattlers
    Kaleb Bowman has pitched his way to Biloxi, but the Timber Rattlers have seen some excellent performances. Max Lazar is rebounding from injury to become a superb bullpen option, joining Tanner Shears, Luis Amaya, Sam Gardner, Shane Smith, and Brannon Jordan. Karlos Morales, Justin King, and Ryan Brady have also posted some excellent numbers in Appleton. The Brewers will not be lacking for options in the next two to three years.

    Carolina Mudcats
    Shears and Smith have pitched their way to Appleton from Zebulon, but the Mudcats are not short of potential relief prospects. Quinton Low has split time between the rotation and the bullpen while also handling some DH duties. Yerlin Rodriguez has notched four saves as of July 21, while Chase Costello has done well despite not ringing up strikeouts. Jeison Pena and Tyler Wehrle have also contributed out of the bullpen for the Mudcats.

    How deep is relief pitching in the Brewers farm system? The Brewers could deal Devin Williams, Payamps, Peguero, and Milner tomorrow, and they could arguably call up replacements who could take over without missing a beat – at least on paper – from Nashville. It’s a very nice position to be in, but it also causes a problem as minor-league free agency and the 40-man roster only allow so many players to stick around. But considering other problems teams could have, the Brewers may have to accept the relative downside to their vast buffet of good options.

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