If you’ve read Disciples of Uecker or subscribed to the podcast over the past year, it’s no secret I have lauded the Brewers’ young core of pitching prospects. Right-hander Mike Fiers grabbed the attention once he found significant success to begin his big league career, but plenty more talent continues to climb the minor-league ladder. Guys like Wily Peralta, Johnny Hellweg, Tyler Thornburg, Mark Rogers, Jimmy Nelson, Hiram Burgos, Taylor Jungmann, and Nick Bucci give the Brewers a level of pitching depth they haven’t possessed in years.
On Twitter yesterday, however, Ben Badler of Baseball America criticized the Brewers’ group of young pitchers.
Not an impressive group RT @dclynch2 What do you think about Brewers young pitching? Peralta, Jungmann, etc.
— Ben Badler (@BenBadler) December 11, 2012
Some Brewers fans immediately reacted negatively to Badler’s terse analysis. He’s correct, though. The stable of pitchers the Brewers’ organization is developing in the upper levels of the minors isn’t impressive in a scouting sense. We are talking about a slew of potential number-four starters and a couple that could eventually become a two or three in the unlikely event that absolutely everything works out perfectly.
Badler is speaking from an impact perspective. For example, the Brewers’ group of young pitchers does not rival what the Pirates have in Gerrit Cole and Jameson Taillon, and it cannot touch what the Blue Jays boast in Aaron Sanchez and Noah Syndergaard. When Ben Badler says the Brewers’ minor-league pitchers are not impressive, he is referencing the lack of elite talent.
That shouldn’t take away from the pitching depth the Brewers have accumulated in their farm system. Such depth should allow the Brewers to avoid bad free-agent contracts, much like we’re seeing this offseason. That is incredibly valuable to a small-market organization. From a national scouting perspective, though, there is no reason to get excited over a bunch of potential back-end starters, even if you can dream on one or two of them.
AROUND THE LEAGUE: CORREIA SIGNS WITH TWINS
In a continuing effort to drastically overhaul their pitching staff, the Minnesota Twins signed right-hander Kevin Correia to a two-year, $10M deal. He posted a 4.21 ERA and 4.43 FIP over 171 innings last season with the Pittsburgh Pirates.
The stereotype surrounding the Twins’ pitching philosophy is a strong preference for pitch-to-contact, ground-ball pitchers who limit walks. In that sense, Kevin Correia is the Twinsiest pitcher the organization could have signed this winter. He only managed a 4.68 K/9 strikeout rate last year, and his 5.7% swinging strike rate ranked second worst in all of baseball amongst qualified starters. Only Toronto’s Henderson Alvarez missed a fewer percentage of bats.
On the bright side, Correia has generated more ground balls over the past few years. He saw his ground ball rate spike to 51.2% with the Pirates last year, and as long as the Twins do not trot out Brian Dozier at starting shortstop once again, he should benefit from a decent defensive infield. Ultimately, though, his overall effectiveness is limited because he does not miss enough bats. That’s illustrated by the fact that he has not posted an above-average ERA since his 2007 season with the San Francisco Giants.
While I understand the Twins’ starting rotation desperately needed help after an AL-worst 5.40 ERA last year, signing a below-average sinkerball pitcher — who is on the wrong side of 30 — to a two-year deal makes little sense for the organization. That is, unless the Twins are looking for nothing more than a veteran arm who can soak up innings at the back-end of the rotation for the next couple seasons while they groom their young pitchers: Kyle Gibson, Trevor May, and Alex Meyer. Then Correia makes a certain amount of sense. It’s just too bad the organization chose to commit $5 million over the next two years to acquire that skill set when it becomes more readily available later in the winter.