Game 121, Brewers at Mariners
Wade LeBlanc vs. Brent Suter, 7:10pm
The M’s welcome the Milwaukee Brewers to town tonight, as Harvard product Brent Suter will make his big league debut at Safeco Field.
Suter’s a lefty the Brewers drafted in the 31st round. He moved somewhat slowly up the ladder for a few seasons, showing decent command, but not showing he was much more than organizational depth. He flashed some potential in High A, but a poor end to the season left his stat line unimpressive, especially considering the Florida State League’s reputation as a pitcher’s haven. He took a step forward in 2014, holding his own in AA, and limiting hits; an increase in his walk rate was concerning, however. In 2015, he put it all together, combining a very low walk rate with poor contact, and it added up to a sub-2 ERA in 20 games in AA. A promotion to AAA went well, and thus Suter began 2016 in AAA with a growing reputation.
Milwaukee’s AAA affiliate is in Colorado Springs, one of the most notorious hitters’ parks in the minors. While the humidor has taken the edge off the scoring levels, much as it did down the road in Denver, it’s still played at nearly 6,000′ of elevation, and that impacts how the ball travels. So while Suter’s overall ERA doesn’t scream “prospect” the fact that he allowed just 5 HRs in 110 2/3 IP is pretty remarkable. He’s allowed just 14 walks in that span, too, while registering just 75 strikeouts. His command’s played well at altitude, and despite a fairly over the top delivery, he’s shown the ability to get ground balls when he needs to. He’d been sharp in late July and early August, but had a clunker in his last start in the one park that may rival Colorado Springs for offense, Albuquerque. He gave up 2 of his 5 HRs on the year on August 13th, yielding 7 runs in 5 IP.
Overall, the skillset and lanky 6’5″ body reminds me a lot of a young Doug Fister. Fister bumped along in the minors for a while, not looking like a prospect at all (his stats in AA in 2007-08 are atrocious) but something clicked in 2009, and he rode an extreme pitch-to-contact style to the major leagues (it helps that the M’s were awful, kind of like the 2016 Brewers). Fister eventually adjusted and turned himself into an extremely valuable hurler, but Suter’s move from underpowered lefty to pinpoint control craftsman looks kind of familiar.
The Brewers are terrible at the moment, but their future is fairly bright, thanks to a series of trades executed by new GM David Stearns. Stearns turned over a quite a bit of the roster in the offseason, and with the recent Jonathan Lucroy deal, he’s kept it up during the season as well. Fully half of their organizational top 10 prospects were added to the org within the past year or so, from the sell-high deal of Carlos Gomez (man did THAT work out well for them), the Will Smith deal with San Francisco and the Lucroy trade with Texas. Stearns and Jerry Dipoto hooked up for a minor trade this off-season, too, the epic Luis Sardinas for Ramon Flores deal that changed the course of two divis…sorry. Sardinas’ has been DFA’d while Flores slotted in as the Brewers starting RF, putting up a line of .205/.294/.261 in 289 PAs.
As bad as that slash line is, it hints at an approach that the Brewers seem to target: their club walk rate of 10.2% ranks second in baseball behind the Cubs. They rank *first* in strikeout rate; often times the way to get undervalued, high-walk players is by accepting some Ks, hence Chris Carter, Jonathan Villar and Kirk Niewenhuis are all fixtures in the Brewers’ line-up. Also of note: they steal a lot of bases. Their 133 swipes also rank first in the game…by 24 over 2nd place Cincinnati. They’re not a great hitting team, and they’re no great shakes in the field, but by drawing some walks and adding value on the basepaths, they’re not the disaster that, say, the Reds and Braves are.
1: O’Malley, LF
2: Gutierrez, RF
3: Cano, 2B
4: Cruz, DH
5: Seager, 3B
6: Romero, 1B
7: Iannetta, C
8: Martin, CF
9: Marte, SS
The M’s made a series of roster moves prior to the game, with OF Stefen Romero heading back up to Seattle, replacing struggling 1B Dae-ho Lee. Hmmm. I’ll say this: Romero’s been white-hot in AAA, and has probably earned some kind of shot. Not sure that Lee’s the guy I’d swap out, but Lee told Ryan Divish that his timing had been off, and that it was affecting his confidence.
Steve Cishek’s back, following his rehab stint, with Joe Wieland moving back to Tacoma to accommodate the erstwhile closer.