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  • The Offseason State Of The Brewers Farm – Starting Pitching, Part One

    Harold Hutchison

    Brewers fans are fretting about the potential departure of Corbin Burnes and the injury-related absence of Brandon Woodruff. It’s unavoidable, given that they combined with Freddy Peralta to form a dominant 1-2-3 punch. But could significant help be available from the farm?

    Image courtesy of © Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

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    The Brewers are not without starting pitching prospects in the farm system, and there is a pathway for them to not only stay seriously competitive in 2024, but to break in some of their best prospects at the same time. So, let’s look and see who the Brewers have available. We’ll divvy this up into two parts, with this one covering pitchers who were primarily at Triple A, Double A, and Advanced Class A in 2023.

    Janson Junk (Triple-A Nashville)
    7-10, 4.18 ERA, 1.35 WHIP, 145 hits, 44 walks, 94 strikeouts over 140 innings pitched in 27 games (25 starts) with Nashville

    0-1, 4.91 ERA, 1.36 WHIP, 8 hits, 2 walks, 5 strikeouts over 7 1/3 innings pitched in 2 games (one start) with Milwaukee

    Junk was part of the return from the Hunter Renfroe trade, and provided depth for the Brewers. A full offseason with access to the Brewers pitching lab could be beneficial for Junk, who will only be able to be optioned to the minor leagues for one more season.

    Caleb Boushley (Triple-A Nashville)
    9-8, 5.11 ERA, 1.38 WHIP, 136 hits, 51 walks, 110 strikeouts over 135 2/3 innings pitched in 29 games (26 starts) with Nashville

    1-0, 3.86 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, 1 hit, 2 walks, 5 strikeouts over 2 1/3 innings pitched in one game with Milwauke

    Boushley, currently a minor-league free agent, also provided some depth and notched a thrilling late-season win over the Chicago Cubs. Like Junk, he could end up on the Milwaukee-Nashville shuttle and provide some rotation depth in 2024, but that's only if the Crew re-signs him.

    Evan McKendry (Triple-A Durham/Nashville)
    12-6, 4.30 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 125 hits, 46 walks, 130 strikeouts over 142 1/3 innings pitching in 28 games (23 starts) overall

    4-3, 4.93 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, 40 hits, 18 walks, 35 strikeouts over 45 2/3 innings pitched with Nashville (MIL)

    McKendry was acquired by the Crew Aug. 1, in exchange for catcher Alex Jackson. In this case, the Brewers may have picked up a solid depth prospect. McKendry, like Junk, could benefit from an offseason at the Brewers pitching lab. The team did not protect him from the Rule 5 Draft, though, so he could be out of the organization less than a month from now.

    Robert Gasser (Triple-A Nashville)
    9-1, 3.79 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, 123 hits, 50 walks, 166 strikeouts over 135 1/3 innings pitched in 26 games (25 starts)

    Gasser came to the organization in the notorious Josh Hader trade--one that is looking like a long-term win for the Brewers, even before Gasser pitches an inning in the majors. Gasser, though, could be either a key rotation piece from the start or a late-season bullpen addition. Much will depend on the health of Aaron Ashby, and on whether Wade Miley returns.

    Carlos F. Rodriguez (Double-A Biloxi, Triple-A Nashville)
    9-6, 2.88 ERA, 1.12 WHIP, 87 hits, 57 walks, 158 strikeouts over 128 1/3 innings pitched in 26 games (26 starts)

    Rodriguez, a two-time Brewer Fanatic Minor League Pitcher of the Year, is knocking on the door of the majors already, and looks like he could perform very well at the highest level. The big question is whether he's a relatively immediate addition to the rotation, or whether the team elects to have him begin the season in the minor leagues for further refinement of his stuff.

    Brandon Knarr (Double-A Biloxi)
    0-2, 8.25 ERA, 2.17 WHIP, 17 hits, 9 walks, 19 strikeouts over 12 innings pitched in 5 games (3 starts)
    Knarr was an undrafted free agent who broke out in 2022. His 2023 season was a lost one due to injury, and he will be on the comeback trail in 2024. One bright spot: In the little work he got in during 2023, he punched out 14.3 hitters per nine innings.

    Adam Seminaris (Double-A Biloxi, Rookie ACL Brewers, Triple-A Nashville)
    2-6, 5.95 ERA, 1.63 WHIP, 76 hits, 25 walks, 64 strikeouts in 62 innings pitched over 16 games (16 starts)

    Seminaris, also part of the return on the Hunter Renfroe trade, struggled with injuries in 2023. He is currently pitching in the Arizona Fall League, and could earn a spot on the Milwaukee-Nashville shuttle in 2024. He, too, was left exposed to the Rule 5 Draft, with the Brewers gambling that his ugly numbers and spotty health record will scare off teams in search of left-handed relief depth.

    Jacob Misiorowski (Low-A Carolina, High-A Wisconsin, Double-A Biloxi)
    4-2, 3.41 ERA and 1.178 WHIP, 42 hits, 42 walks, 110 strikeouts over 71 1/3 innings pitched in 20 games (20 starts)

    Misiorowski’s electric stuff propelled him to a rise akin to that of Jackson Chourio in 2022. The two big questions Misiorowski will have to answer are whether he can cut down on walks and if he can stretch out to handle a starter’s workload. But as of right now, he could be a right-handed Josh Hader, which is not a bad thing to have at the MLB level.

    Tyler Woessner (High-A Wisconsin)
    6-7, 4.02 ERA, 1.40 WHIP, 115 hits, 54 walks, 112 strikeouts over 121 innings pitched in 24 games (22 starts)

    Woessner was a solid pitcher for the Timber Rattlers. His greatest strength was keeping the ball in the park (giving up one home run every 17.3 innings) in his first full season as a professional. Woessner, a sixth-round pick in 2022, could take things up a notch in his second campaign.

    Cameron Waggoner (High-A Wisconsin)
    6-11, 5.67 ERA, 1.50 WHIP, 112 hits, 38 walks, 87 strikeouts over 100 innings pitched in 24 games (22 starts)

    Waggoner struggled for most of the 2023 season, after not just a solid 2022 Stateside but a strong showing in Brisbane during the 2022-2023 Australian Baseball League season. This year, over his final six appearances, he dominated, going 4-0 with a 1.47 ERA and allowing only 18 hits and 10 walks in 30 2/3 innings. Will he keep that up in 2024, or was it just a strong finish to a backslide of a season?

    Bradley Blalock (Low-A Salem, High-A GreenvilleWisconsin)

    6-1, 2.82 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, 54 hits, 20 walks, 75 strikeouts over 67 inning pitched in 15 games (15 starts) overall
    0-0, 5.27 ERA, 1.46 WHIP, 13 hits, 7 walks, 17 strikeouts over 13 2/3 innings pitched in 4 games (4 starts) for High-A Wisconsin (MIL)

    The Brewers flipped infielder Luis Urias for Blalock in August, and got a potential power arm. Blalock posted some solid numbers, despite missing time with injuries, and could be in the mix as a starter for the Shuckers in 2024.

    Stiven Cruz (High-A Wisconsin)
    7-6, 6.90 ERA, 1.73 WHIP, 102 hits, 54 walks, 74 strikeouts over 90 innings pitched in 24 games (19 starts)

    Cruz struggled through 2023, regressing almost everywhere across the board. He’s still very young (turning 22 on November 14) and could rebound. He posted some better numbers as a reliever this season, but he and Brewers fans will be hoping he has a better 2024.

    Alexander Cornielle (High-A Wisconsin)
    1-3, 4.55 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 77 hits, 34 walks, 92 strikeouts over 89 innings pitched in 20 games (18 starts)

    Cornielle’s season started with an injury, but he still managed to post some solid overall numbers for the Timber Rattlers. He did make strides in reducing his walk rate and in keeping the ball in the park from 2022, and could emerge as another solid option if he builds on that in 2024.

    Joseph Hernandez (Rookie ACL Brewers/High-A Wisconsin)
    3-3, 4.14 ERA, 1.38 WHIP, 40 hits, 35 walks, 41 strikeouts over 54 innings pitched in 15 games (11 starts)

    Hernandez was acquired in an off-season deal for right-handed reliever Justin Topa. He missed a lot of time with injuries in 2023, but will look to rebound in 2024.

    Which names here jump out at you? Do any seem like short- or long-term contributors we might have been overlooking? Throw out your hot takes and high hopes for the upper-level starters in the organization heading into the depths of the offseason.

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    2 hours ago, Jeff Meyer said:

    First I’ve seen if Misorowski as a short man? I thought he was bring groomed as a starter 

    Definitely being developed as a starter, but still questions about if he'll ultimately be able to stick in that role.

    Only ended up at 71.1 IP over his 20 GS in 2023, which all things considered probably went about as good as it possibly could have from a health standpoint with Jacob taking the ball pretty much every six days until getting shut down after his final dominant start with Biloxi mid-August.

    Would imagine the plan for 2024 is to start him back in the rotation at Biloxi and try to build those innings up over 100 this year with maybe some time in Milwaukee later in the season out of the rotation or pen depending on how everything shakes out with his innings totals and the Brewers level of competitiveness.

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    It's hard to craft a 'knocking on the door' list after Gasser, Rodriguez, and Misiorowski. But, if we're going that route I can certainly add a bit of meaningful depth to the list above. 

    Firstly, I do want to say I really liked the growth I saw from both Wagoner and Cornielle in 2023. . They showed quite a bit of endurance and growth and the ability to stay the course and power through struggles. I like where they are at season's end. I can't say the same for Hermandez, Seminaris, Knarr, Cruz, or Junk. To a man, their seasons were either highly erratic throughout, filled with injury or both. Double-A is going to be a huge test for Woessner who has lots to prove in 2024.

    As to adding to the list:

    - RHP TJ Shook - Top 2 in Shuckers rotation by season's end. Full package. Just needs to keep stacking success amd growing into his arsenal.

    - RHP Tobias Myers - led entire system in K's. Showed immense growth and dominance late in the season as a reliever in Nashville

    - RHP Logan Henderson - don't be fooled by his Low-A placement. His stuff is elite. Sky is the limit.

    - RHP Edwin Jimenez - better work at High-A Wisconsin than both Cruz and Hernandez by a good margin. Stuff is more dialed. Knows who he is.

    We have several wild cards in the Low-A level and below but we'll have to see how that washes out to start 2024.

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