COMMENTARY | We've already established that there isn't much for the Milwaukee Brewers to look forward to this season.
Many have shifted their focus to 2014, and while winning is always fun, fans aren't living and dying with each game. In fact, losing is almost preferred -- the higher the 2014 draft pick, the better chance the Brewers will be getting a future star.
Over the final month of what has been nothing short of a disappointing season, Milwaukee simply needs to search for reasons to be optimistic heading into the offseason. That means improved pitching, breakout performances, and young players proving they belong at the big-league level.
The most recent crop of talent to join the club was a result of roster expansion and the conclusion of the minor league baseball season. To no one's surprise, not a single Milwaukee affiliate reached the postseason, which allowed the Brewers to bring up three players from Triple-A Nashville. Another player also joined the Brewers via trade.
Nine players have already made their big-league debuts this season with Milwaukee. At least one more is coming soon.
Let's meet the newest crop of Brewers and analyze what to expect from each ballplayer:
RHP Michael Blazek
The player to be named later in the John Axford trade, relief pitcher Michael Blazek came over from the St. Louis Cardinals and joined the Brewers bullpen. He's just 24 years of age, but was having a rough go of it in St. Louis this season, allowing 8 ERs in 10 1/3 innings pitched.
It's only Blazek's first season at the big-league level, so he's far from a lost cause. In fact, he pitched a scoreless inning in his debut with Milwaukee on Sept. 2 and is rated the No. 10 prospect in the Brewers' system by MLB.com. As a reliever, Blazek has seen a rise in velocity, although his offspeed pitches are still developing.
He should mainly see innings in middle relief with the Brewers set on having Brandon Kintzler pitch in the eighth and Jim Henderson close. Blazek is intriguing and has the chance to grow into an integral part of Milwaukee's bullpen next season.
1B/OF Sean Halton
Halton bounced up and down between Nashville and Milwaukee this season, and he's finally arrived for good as one of the Brewers' September call-ups. He was one of the better players with the Sounds, but didn't perform well enough to stick with the big-league club.
Now 26 years old, it's possibly now or never for Halton. He'll receive a start here and there, although with Juan Francisco, Yuniesky Betancourt and even Jonathan Lucroy getting reps at first base and five outfielders other than Halton on the roster, playing time won't be easy to come by. That is, unless he's able to catch fire, something a Brewers first baseman has failed to do all season.
RHP Johnny Hellweg
Round two with the big-league club in comparison to round one has been like night and day for Khris Davis and Scooter Gennett. Maybe that will be the case for one of Milwaukee's top prospects, Johnny Hellweg.
The PCL Pitcher of the Year, Hellweg enters the Brewers' rotation for the month of September. But he's coming off a rough August with the Sounds (5.74 ERA) and was lost on the mound with Milwaukee earlier in the season (10.97 ERA).
In other words, there's nothing telling us that Hellweg will succeed with the Brewers this time around. Maybe the diminished pressure is exactly why it will all begin to click for the 24-year-old sinker-baller.
RHP Jimmy Nelson
The much anticipated arrival of Jimmy Nelson was perhaps only superseded by that of first base prospect Hunter Morris, but it came down to a few different factors with Morris -- the Brewers didn't want to maneuver their 40-man roster, and Morris isn't ready for big-league ball. The power is still there, but his slugging took a noticeable hit compared to his Southern League MVP season with Double-A Huntsville in 2012, and Morris managed only a .310 OBP (.247 AVG) with the Sounds.
Nelson is the Brewers' No. 1 prospect via MLB.com, and between Huntsville and Nashville this season, he went 10-10 with a 3.25 ERA. He joins Milwaukee as a September call-up and will pitch out of the bullpen, as the Brewers don't want to push his innings.
The 6-foot-6-inch, 245-pound right-hander will taste the big leagues just three years after being selected in the second round by Milwaukee. Manager Ron Roenicke didn't rule out a potential start for Nelson, but the Brewers already have a six-man rotation in place.
No matter how Nelson performs, his progression from Double-A to the majors was unexpected and impressive, and he'll be in the mix for a rotation spot in 2014.
Dave Radcliffe is a resident of a little known Milwaukee suburb who is an avid follower of Wisconsin sports. He has contributed to JSOnline, as a featured columnist on other sites and publications, and been a guest on multiple sports talk radio shows.
You can get the discussion going and follow Dave on Twitter @DaveRadcliffe_.
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