With LaTroy Hawkins heading to the 15-day DL, Doug Melvin made the obvious move, recalling opening day roster member Mitch Stetter to the Brewers. Stetter has a 3.42 ERA in 76.1 innings as a reliever for the Brewers, going back to 2007. Stetter will likely step into the LOOGY (Left handed One Out Guy) role for the Brewers, meaning the Brewers will no longer have to rely on Manny Parra for a tough left hander or Carlos Villanueva‘s changeup if Parra has already been used.
The decision means that budding prospect Zach Braddock will remain at AAA Nashville for the time being. Braddock allowed his first runs of the season in his most recent outing – but he allowed 8 of them, and only recorded two outs. Here’s the game log from that appearance, via MiLB.com
Jamie Hoffmann hit by pitch.
Russ Mitchell out on a sacrifice bunt, pitcher Zach Braddock to first baseman Joe Koshansky. Jamie Hoffmann to 2nd.
Chin-lung Hu singles on a ground ball to second baseman John Raburn. Jamie Hoffmann scores. Throwing error by second baseman John Raburn.
Prentice Redman singles on a ground ball to center fielder Norris Hopper. Chin-lung Hu to 3rd.
Timo Perez singles on a ground ball to first baseman Joe Koshansky. Chin-lung Hu scores. Prentice Redman to 3rd.
Ivan De JesusJr. walks. Timo Perez to 2nd.
Jon Link walks. Prentice Redman scores. Timo Perez to 3rd. Ivan De JesusJr. to 2nd.
Lucas May called out on strikes.
JD Closser singles on a ground ball to third baseman Adam Heether. Timo Perez scores. Ivan De JesusJr. Jon Link to 2nd.
Jamie Hoffmann homers (2) on a fly ball to left field. Jon Link scores. JD Closser scores.
Seeing Braddock walk one, hit one batter, and give up a home run is certainly not what we like to see. However, the other four hits in the inning came off of ground balls – likely a combination of the hitters luckily finding holes and a combination of poor infield defense. The fact that Braddock kept the ball on the ground for 8 batters before suggests to me that he’s just fine.
Even with that outing, Braddock’s statistics are very impressive. He’s posted a 2.91 FIP in his 14+ innings at Nashville and has a 3.51 career minor league FIP. His year-by-year FIPs since joining the Brewers organization in 2006 – 5.83, 2.10, 4.14, 2.18. He struggled his first year as a pro as an 18 year old, but then dominated lo-A as a 19 year old. He saw a minor setback as a 20 year old in hi-A – he struggled with walks – but that problem was gone as a 21 year old between hi-A and AA. Braddock only walked a staggering 7 batters in 42 innings that season, easily his best as a professional.
Certainly, there are players who can post stellar numbers in the minors but don’t project well in the minors due to their stuff – for example, R.J. Swindle last year (who I still think deserves a shot, but that’s neither here nor there). Braddock is not one of those guys. As a starter, his fastball sat in the low 90s and his slider was described as “biting.” It’s likely that his fastball is up a few ticks as a reliever – he certainly has major league quality stuff, and he should be able to get batters from both sides of the plate out.
Mitch Stetter has demonstrated so far that he does not have the ability to get right handed batters out – and it should come as no surprise, given both his arm angle and his 4.04 FIP against right handers in the minor leagues. He’s had exceptional struggles in his major league career against right handers, simply because he can’t avoid contact. In roughly the same amount of innings, Stetter has allowed virtually identical amounts of hits and extra base hits, but he’s allowed 8 more walks to righties has only struck out half as many righties as he has lefties. That has his FIP against righties sitting at a whopping 5.56 against a 3.27 FIP against lefties.
It appears that many people seem to view the LOOGY role, something that Stetter fits into perfectly, as an invaluable part of a team. Manny Parra, for example, couldn’t fill this role – he’s not the typical LOOGY as far as arm slot and stuff is concerned. However, he’s nearly as good against lefties in his career and he has a changeup which he can use to get right handed batters out. Guys like Stetter make a bullpen extremely inflexible – either one of the seven or fewer relievers available must be used for only one batter, or the dice must be rolled as he faces an extremely unfavorable matchup. Guys like Parra and Braddock, on the other hand, are perfectly capable of getting multiple outs in even multiple innings, and that saves the bullpen both on a single-game basis and on a week-to-week basis.
Now, I can certainly understand why Zach Braddock is still in AAA. His service clock would begin ticking, and he projects as a future closer. Closers have been historically very expensive in arbitration, and Melvin and crew likely would want to avoid any chance at making Braddock a Super 2 candidate. Also, there isn’t a 40-man roster spot available for Braddock, and that would be necessary for him to be added to the Major League 25-Man roster as well. Still, as far as simply making this team better, Zach Braddock should be the man for the job, and I expect to see him on the Major League club soon.