One of the best ways for smaller-market clubs to build a bullpen is to stockpile as many live arms as possible. Sure, quite a few will have control issues — that’s why they’re relievers — but build up a surplus of flamethrowers and odds are you’ll hit on a couple cheap relievers.
In the early days of the offseason, it looks like the Brewers may be using this strategy as they attempt to completely rebuild their bullpen.
Leon struck out 8.2 batters per 9 innings for Double-A Corpus Christi in 2012, walking 4.7 per 9. His K/9 rate was lower than it was in the past two seasons (9.9 in 2011, 9.7 in 2010), but the BB/9 — while still Jose Veras-level ugly — was a big improvement over the past two years. Reports (albeit from 2010) say he sits in the mid-90s with his fastball, with a slider in the mid-to-upper 80s. That’s some serious swing-and-miss potential if Rick Kranitz & Co. can harness it.
Olmsted fits the profile of the big-body type the Brewers have started to target in the amateur draft, standing at 6’6″ (some articles have him closer to 6’7″) and 245 pounds. His story is a bit of an odd one — a 9th round pick of the New York Mets in 2007, he blew out his elbow in instructionals in 2008 and missed all of 2009 recovering from Tommy John surgery. In 2010, he was released by the Mets, wasn’t picked up by anyone else, and had to pitch in the minors in Japan. In 2011, Boston saw enough from him in a tryout in California to give him a minor league deal.
Over the past two years he’s gone from repeating the Rookie League level at age 24, barely cracking 90 mph, to pitching in Double-A at 25 this year and hitting 97 mph on the radar gun. Between High-A and Double-A in 2012, Olmsted appeared in 47 games and put up a 1.52 ERA with a 14.0 K/9 and 2.3 BB/9. If the Red Sox had re-signed him to a minor league deal but didn’t put him on their 40-man roster, there’s a definite possibility he could have been a Rule 5 draft pick for someone. By signing him now and putting him on the 40-man, Doug Melvin gets Olmsted for himself and protects him from the draft.
While these two additions are the most recent, the Brewers have been stockpiling flamethrowers for much of the year. Johnny Hellweg and Ariel Pena were acquired in the Zack Greinke deal. Fautino De Los Santos was acquired from Oakland in the George Kottaras trade, and struck out 17 batters in 13.2 innings with Nashville following the trade. Left-hander Miguel De Los Santos (no relation) was claimed on waivers from Texas in early September after putting up a 10.7 K/9 in Double-A.
Not all of these guys are going to make it out of camp. Some probably won’t even see the big leagues in 2013. But it’s pretty clear what the Brewers’ bullpen-building philsophy is going to be this winter: bring the heat. At the very least, it’ll be fun to see some of the radar readings in Maryvale this spring.