News and Notes: Devin Williams, Gallardo and Gomez | Disciples of Uecker

Disciples of Uecker

We'd like to go to the Playoffs, that would be cool.

BREWERS SIGN TOP DRAFT PICK

Few draft experts expected any tension between the Brewers and right-hander Devin Williams on draft day. The prep hurler was portrayed as an easy sign, and over the weekend, Jim Callis of Baseball America reported that the Brewers inked Williams to a $1.35M bonus — which is roughly $300,000 more than his assigned slot bonus. The deal also includes extra compensation for giving up his scholarship to the University of Missouri.

Though some speculation swirled on Day 1 of the ’13 MLB Draft that Williams could go in the first round to the St. Louis Cardinals, the Brewers were fortunate to find him still on the board with their second-round selection. He’s a high-risk, high-ceiling pitcher — so fans should be patient as he develops in the rookie leagues — but 18-year-old pitchers with three potential big-league pitches and a fastball that touches 96 mph don’t necessarily grow on trees.

The organization was willing to go overslot to woo him away from college, but it does leave the Brewers potentially over their draft-pool budget. Baseball America currently has the Brewers roughly $250k over their budget — despite the fact that several of the players who signed in the top 10 rounds should sign for under slot value.

Milwaukee has reportedly agreed to terms with each of their top 11 draft picks. Left-hander Trevor Seidenberger out of TCU is the highest pick who hasn’t inked a contract with the Brewers. As only a college junior, he does have some leverage, though he is also expected to sign.

Many of the Brewers’ recent draftees will play for the Helena Brewers and Arizona Brewers in the organization’s two rookie-league affiliates, who will both begin their short seasons this week. Their respective seasons begin on Thursday, June 20 — and both teams start on the road.

VELOCITY INCREASE FOR GALLARDO

After six shutout innings on Saturday against the Cincinnati Reds, Yovani Gallardo has thrown fourteen-consecutive innings without surrendering a single run. He hasn’t been particularly dominant over those two outings, but he is beginning to look more like the Gallardo from previous seasons.

Most importantly, his velocity has started to return.

(click to enlarge photo)

His fastball hasn’t jumped back to its 2011 and 2012 levels, at least to this point, but the fact that he’s sustained higher velocity in his last two starts is extremely encouraging. He’s even been able to reach back for 93-94 mph, which has been completely absent from his repertoire this season.

Gallardo continues to transform himself into a ground-ball pitcher. His strikeout rate and swinging-strike rates have dropped, and his ground-ball rate is now a career-high at 50.6%. The strikeouts may return if he has rediscovered his velocity, but the change in approach on the mound has seemed to solidify itself. He relies on his fastball and slider, while mixing in his curveball when ahead in counts or simply trying to change the eye-level of hitters. It’s not the bread-and-butter of his arsenal any longer.

For those who are hoping the Brewers make Gallardo available this summer, though, his improved velocity and results is extremely important. And with his next pair of starts scheduled to come against the Houston Astros and Chicago Cubs, he has a very good chance of continuing that improved performance.

GOMEZ CONTINUES TO IMPRESS

One of the statistics that I commonly utilize on DoU is wOBA, which is a very common sabermetric statistic that attempts to contextualize offensive performance. It weighs each of the different aspects of hitting into one metric, placing it on a very similar scale to on-base percentage. Thus, if a player has a .340 OBP and a .350 wOBA, one can safely say that he hits for more than average power — which is obviously important when evaluating impact at the plate.

Carlos Gomez has always been known for his glove, but he’s been spectacular with the bat this season. He currently ranks in the top 10 for wOBA this season, amidst some rather impressive names.

Rank Name Team wOBA
1 Chris Davis Orioles .459
2 Miguel Cabrera Tigers .451
3 Troy Tulowitzki Rockies .441
4 Carlos Gonzalez Rockies .437
5 David Ortiz Red Sox .406
6 Joey Votto Reds .402
7 Carlos Gomez Brewers .398
7 Mike Trout Angels .398
9 Shin-Soo Choo Reds .397
10 Paul Goldschmidt DBacks .394

Even those of us who believed his second-half outburst last season was real and predictive of future performance didn’t project Gomez to be this good. His BABIP will likely regress throughout the remainder of the season — because even a speedster like Gomez cannot reasonably be expected to maintain a .370 BABIP — but it may not regress that much. If he continues to hit more line drives than he has previously in his career, his BABIP could stabilize higher than his career norms. Not to mention he’s gone almost a half-season with a .370 BABIP, so it’s probably too late for a total meltdown in that regard.

I don’t want to trivialize his performance this season with a heavy reliance on BABIP. He’s made significant changes at the plate. His approach has improved. He’s taking the ball to the opposite field more often. He’s starting to take shorter strokes with two strikes. More importantly, though, he’s hitting the baseball in the air more often and better capitalizing on his plus power.

And once we figure in his plus-defense in center field, he’s been one of the best players in all of baseball. His +4.2 WAR is tops in the league, and he’s currently on pace for roughly a nine-win season.

For comparison, Ryan Braun only compiled +7.3 WAR during his MVP campaign in 2011.

FIERS BREAKS FOREARM IN NASHVILLE

The Brewers have struggled to field a competitive starting rotation, and it got a little more difficult over the weekend. Right-hander Mike Fiers broke his right forearm when he was struck with a line drive while pitching for Triple-A Nashville on Saturday evening. He’s expected to be sidelined for at least 9-12 weeks.

That leaves the Brewers with the following options at starting pitcher:

Yovani Gallardo
Kyle Lohse
Wily Peralta
Marco Estrada (DL)
Chris Narveson (DL)
Alfredo Figaro
Hiram Burgos (DL)
Tom Gorzelanny
Mark Rogers (DL)

The organization has a slew of pitchers on the disabled list, to be sure, but none of them project to fundamentally change the rotation. Figaro has been a true surprise, though. It will be interesting to see if the Brewers attempt to keep the right-hander in the starting rotation throughout the season, in an attempt to see if they can rely on him next season. He seems wasted in a long-relief role — especially when the team is 12 games under .500.

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