There are a lot of things to like about spring training, but one thing that has always annoyed me a bit is deciding bullpen spots based on spring training results. It’s already nearly impossible to predict the success or failure of relief pitchers from year-to-year. If you’re making major roster decisions based on the results you see in five to 10 spring innings, you’re likely setting yourself up for failure.
This comes up now because it looks like Zach Braddock may be pitching his way off the 25-man roster, at least if you go by some of the things being said by Ron Roenicke lately. From Adam McCalvy’s late-night story about the Brewers’ win over Seattle: “He’s working on some things, no doubt, but he still needs to pitch and get people out.”
Stuff like this is why relief pitchers can rarely win when it comes to their spring outings. They get one inning — two, if they’re lucky — to get a feel for pitches and get their control up to par. But God help them if they struggle. Suddenly their spot on the roster is in jeopardy.
We know that Zach Braddock is among the most talented relievers in the Brewers bullpen. He fared well in the majors last season. He put up ridiculously dominant numbers out of the bullpen in the minors. We should have absolutely zero doubt that he can get people out. His stuff is so good that if it weren’t for injury concerns, he’d likely be a starter.
McCalvy has noted multiple times this spring (and more frequently lately) that Braddock’s velocity is down. If I’m management, I stop worrying about his poor numbers (and assuming he’s just “working on things”) and start worrying about the possibility of another injury.