The Milwaukee Brewers bullpen in 2018 was one of the best in baseball, but it could still be improved by adding another left-handed reliever for manager Craig Counsell to use. So does it make sense for the Brewers to pursue free agent Justin Wilson this offseason?
We all know star left-hander Josh Hader can be used in just about any situation. But what the Milwaukee Brewers need to address is finding a reliable left-handed specialist that they can trust in big moments.
What About Dan Jennings or Xavier Cedeno?
Jennings is projected to be due $1.6 million in 2019, nearly doubling his salary from 2018, where he finished with a 3.22 ERA and a 1.383 WHIP in his 64.1 innings pitched. Solid numbers, but they don’t tell the whole story.
Out of the bullpen, especially later in the season, Jennings was very inconsistent and was struggling to get outs on left-handed batters, which was the very reason he was brought in to the game. Then, once the playoffs rolled around, Jennings wasn’t even a part of the roster.
Option two would be to bring back Xavier Cedeno, who is expected to be due $1.5 million in 2019. Cedeno was a great addition in August and pitched very well the rest of September with Milwaukee. In 33.1 innings pitched in 2018, Cedeno recorded a 2.43 ERA and a 1.260 WHIP.
However once the post season began, he struggled mightily. In one total inning during the NLCS, Cedeno gave up three hits, two runs, and a walk.
Finding a solid left-handed arm out of the bullpen can be a tough task and even the free agency pool this offseason is limited, but one player who should be on the Brewers radar is former Chicago Cub, Justin Wilson.
Justin Wilson in 2018
After making his MLB debut in 2012, the 31-year-old Justin Wilson has played for a couple of teams and spent 2018 with the Cubs on a one year deal.
During the season, Wilson appeared in 71 games, covering 54.2 innings. He had a 3.46 ERA and a 1.427 WHIP. What makes Wilson a potentially attractive signing is how well he pitched against left-handed hitters.
Opposing lefties recorded a slash line of .190/.301/.342 with an OPS of .643. This kind of consistency against left-handed batters is something that the Milwaukee Brewers need if they hope to put together a World Series run.
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With the Cubs, Wilson was paid $4.25 million for 2018 and given the limited amount of left-handers available in free agency, he could command more in 2019. Nevertheless, it’s worth the Milwaukee Brewers consideration as it will help a weak part of their pitching staff.
Wilson’s career numbers
What we saw out of Wilson in 2018, was fairly close to what he has done throughout his five-year career, where he has a 3.33 ERA and a 1.268 WHIP. His opponents have posted a slash line of .222/.310/.331 with an OPS of .641.
Over his career, Wilson has made a few postseason appearances as well, totaling 5.1 innings pitched and he has been quite effective. Wilson has given up just three hits, allowed one run and has a 1.69 playoff ERA.
Wilson has been consistent for much of his career and has some good postseason experience to draw from, the Brewers would know the type of guy they are getting and just what he can do for them.
Types of pitches
Wilson has a deep arsenal of pitches that he can throw but relies mostly on his fastball, which he threw 60% of the time in 2018 but will also use a sinker and a cutter.
He is regarded as having a very good arm that generates a lot of velocity with all of this pitches. Wilson’s fastball and sinker can both reach upwards of 96 mph, while his cutter he can reach 91 mph. The great movement that he has on his cutter, coupled with the velocity makes it a very difficult pitch to hit.
With all of his pitches, Wilson does a good job of locating them low in the strike zone which allows him to generate a higher number of ground balls than fly balls. In 2018, Wilson allowed just five home run balls all season.
This is a great attribute for any Milwaukee Brewers pitcher to have with half of the games being played at the hitter friendly Miller Park.
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If the Milwaukee Brewers want to bring in Wilson, they are going to have to make a bigger financial commitment than what they currently are. But for a team lacking left-handed depth in the bullpen, Wilson will be another option at out-getter for Craig Counsell and will be a great addition to the bullpen.