Prospects Michael Olmstead, Tyler Thornburg and Wily Peralta all have a legitimate shot at the bullpen. Peralta has a good chance of being a member of the rotation so it is unknown exactly which of the six potential starting pitchers will join the bullpen, but it certainly will be one of them. Plus Jim Henderson, Brandon Kintzler and closer John Axford will combine with the other relievers to help the bullpen become great next season.
Milwaukee went from having no left-handed relievers after they let go of Manny Parra to having two lefties in the bullpen. Gonzalez and Gorzelanny are both talented pitchers that can single-handedly improve the Brewers Major League-worst 4.66 bullpen ERA from 2012.
Gonzalez had one of the best statistical seasons of his career with the Washington Nationals last season. He posted a 3.03 earned run average, 39 strikeouts, 2.44 strikeouts per walks, seven holds and held opponents to a .237 batting average in 47 appearances. Gonzalez could pitch in the setup role and his 56 career saves will give him closing duties if Axford gets injured our simply cannot get the job done.
Gorzelanny also pitched for the NL East division champions. He went 4-2 with a 2.88 ERA, 62 strikeouts, one save and nine holds in 45 games, including one start. The 30-year-old former starter has great success against both left and right-handed batters, which means he also could be used to setup the ninth inning.
Henderson and Kintzler both showed great potential with the club last year and are practically locks to be a part of the team in 2013. Henderson proved that he can handle the setup role (15 holds in 2012), which means there will be plenty of competition for the eighth inning job. This is great news for the Brewers as Francisco Rodriguez’s inability to hold games was part of the bullpen’s downfall.
Badenhop posted career-highs across the board last season with his 3.03 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 42 strikeouts, 12 walks, five holds and 3.50 strikeouts per walks in 63 appearances. Badenhop will make a great addition to the bullpen and will use his momentum to build a fresh start with a new team.
Either Axford can regain his confidence from his record-breaking 2011 season or he can continue his horrible stretch of performances. Milwaukee has made it clear they are prepared to go with him as the closer but they certainly have other options if he fumbles the opportunity once again. I personally believe he is ready to dominate the position once again.
The only player that I mentioned that will most likely start the year in the minors is Olmstead. However, I believe the potential for him is limitless as the Brewers got a steal by acquiring him. The 25-year-old posted a 1.52 ERA and 92 strikeouts in 47 appearances between High-A and Double-A last season. In fact, he did not surrender a single earned run in 14 appearances in Double-A. His 14 strikeouts and 2.3 walks per nine innings with the two Boston Red Sox affiliates are also numbers that jump out when looking over his statistics.
GM Doug Melvin did an incredible job rebuilding the bullpen with players that are capable of becoming the best group of relievers in the National League. Now, it will be up to the coaching staff as well as the players to fulfill the master plan.