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Drafted by the Brewers in the 22nd round in 2009, Mike Fiers has enjoyed success in the minors and at the big league level. Unfortunately he's also had other stretches of time where he has struggled with health and with impressing the brass since his stuff doesn't jump off the page at anyone. Left in the minors for the majority of the 2014 season, he's dominated at Triple-A. With his domination last Thursday, six innings of no run ball with 14 punchouts, he's staking a claim to a rotation spot with the Brewers. Who is this righty with the forearm tattoo? Let's find out.
2009: Drafted out of college (he went to three schools) after overcoming a car accident that resulted in four fractures in his back, a fractured hip and a dislocated leg, the 24 year old made his big league debut pitching in 22 games at Rookie, Low A and High-A ball. In those 40.2 innings, all in relief, he posted a dominating 1.33 ERA, 0.72 WHIP and 13.1 K/9. He also walked a mere five batters leading to what would be his hallmark moving forward – an impressive K/BB ratio.
2010: Made 19 starts out of 27 appearances with a 3.53 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, 4.06 K/BB ratio with 30 punchouts in 125 innings. He appeared at High-A ball and Double-A.
2011: Went 13-3 with a 1.86 ERA and 0.94 WHIP over 126 innings at Double and Triple-A. Walked 36 total batters leading to a 3.67 K/BB ratio.
2012: Ten starts at Triple-A produced his worst numbers as a minor leaguer. Over 10 starts he had a pedestrian 4.42 ERA, a 1.22 WHIP an a mere, for him, 2.72 K/BB ratio.
2013: Six outings led to a 2.86 ERA, 1.21 WIHP and 38 Ks in 34.2 innings. Broke his arm on a line drive from Kevin Kouzmanoff ending his year.
2014: Filthy all year, he's made 17 starts at Triple-A going 8-5 with a 2.55 ERA, 0.95 WHIP, 11.3 K/9 and sick 7.59 K/BB ratio over 102.1 innings.
TOTALS: 30-22, 2.75 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, 10.0 K/9, 4.48 K.BB ratio over 483.2 innings
2011: Two outings covering two innings. Walked three and struck out two.
2012: Made 22 starts (23 appearances) going 9-10 with a 3.74 ERA, 1.26 WHIP and 135 strikeouts over 127.2 innings.
2013: Disaster. In 11 outings, three starts, he went 1-4 with a 7.25 ERA, 1.52 WHIP and a mere 6.04 K/9 ratio.
2014: Six outings, two starts, and boy has it been something. Fiers has gone 2-1 with a 1.29 ERA, 0.81 WHIP, 10.29 K/9 ratio and 4.80 K/BB mark.
TOTALS: Wrapping it up and putting that bow on top, here are his carer numbers through 173 innings: 3.85 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 9.16 K/9, 3.52 K/BB. The closest match to those numbers this season? A guy like Ian Kennedy is close (3.54 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 9.63 ERA, 3.13 K/BB).
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The numbers on the radar gun simply don't do justice to this arm. Fiers usually sits in the 88-89 mph range with his fastball, and he's not afraid to deploy any of his three secondary pitches at any point (he throws his fastball 55 percent of the time, his curve ball 21 percent, his cutter 13.5 percent and his changeup 10.5 percent of the time. Those are his career levels by the way). That's a good thing because Fiers needs to “pitch” to have success – his stuff isn't going to blow away big league hitters.
Mike may not have elite level cheese, but what do I always say with pitchers? (1) I want strikeouts. (2) I want a lack of walks. (3) I want grounders. Well, two out of three is a nice start.
As I noted in the Minor League section above, the guy has been a dominating punchout arm in the minors with 10 strikeouts per nine innings. In 173 big league innings he's failed to match that mark, but 9.16 punchouts per nine still gets the blood going. Oh, and you have to love his 14 punchout effort in his last outing that has everyone excited. By the by... Fiers became the 8th pitcher in baseball history to have 14 strikeouts in six or fewer innings. Fiers also joined Clayton Kershaw, Felix Hernandez, Jon Lester, Jose Fernandez and Max Scherzer as the only hurlers with 14 strikeouts in a game this season. "I knew he was striking out a lot of guys [in Triple-A], but I didn't know he had those kinds of numbers," said manager Ron Roenicke. "That's impressive." Good to know the manager is keeping up with the players in his organization.
Fiers has walked an average of 2.2 batters per nine in his minor career and he's been even better this year at Triple-A with a 1.5 mark. His number in the bigs is 2.60. The league average this year is 2.94 by the way.
Add up the strikeouts and the walks and you get a 3.52 K/BB in the big leagues for Fiers. The league average this year is 2.63. Fiers is impressive in these two measures, no way around that fact. Me like.
Unfortunately he doesn't get a a lot of grounders. In fact, his 33.6 percent career mark is pretty much smack dab on the league average (it's a wee bit low, a percentage or two). Ditto his 11.5 percent HR/F ratio that is slightly elevated (a percent or two). This guy is no Marco Estrada, but he does give up flies and homers – not at an alarming level but it's still an issue to file away in the back of your mind.
PLAYING TIME CONSIDERATIONS
The Brewers rotation, when healthy, includes Yovani Gallardo, Kyle Lohse, Matt Garza and Wily Peralta as the top-4. The 5th spot is currently being held down by phenom Jimmy Nelson and all he has done is throw 5-straight quality starts. That likely leaves Fiers out in the cold. However, Lohse has a less than 100 percent ankle and Garza is on the DL with an oblique injury, so it's possible that Fiers will be left in the rotation for a while at least, though whether or not he's still starting in September is an open question.
You might have noticed above that Fiers had a really good rookie season in 2012. He lost some crispness on his pitches early in 2013, and the Brewers pretty much immediately gave up on him (very strange). As you've read he doesn't possess elite stuff, but with all his minor league success, and a solid body of work in 173 big league innings, you would have to think the Brewers would try to find a long-term role for the 29 year old righty, right?
10 team lg: It's really hard to trust him in this format given that there's no way to know if he will be in the rotation in two weeks. Can ride him as long as the Brewers do.
12 team lg: Add. Totally worth taking a shot on to see if he can maintain the groove that he's had, well, all year.
15 team lg: Add. Totally worth taking a shot on to see if he can maintain the groove that he's had, well, all year.
NL-only: Could be huge down the stretch. He may or may not have been drafted, but whoever has him now has to just hope that he is able to stay in the rotation. If he does, he could be the player that puts you over the top.