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The Call-Up: Brent Suter

The Situation: After playing a double-header against the Cubs on Tuesday, the Brewers find themselves in need of a starting pitcher to take the ball tonight against Seattle. Their ace Junior Guerra isn’t quite ready to return from his minor elbow soreness just yet (though he’s eligible to come off the DL today) so the club will turn to 26 year old lefty Brent Suter, who will be making his major league debut. It will be the first time that a left-handed pitcher has started a game for the Brewers since Tom Gorzelanny on August 28, 2013.

Background: The Brewers drafted Suter in the 31st round of the 2012 draft out of Harvard, where he studied Environmental Science and Public Policy. Instead of putting his degree to work upon graduation, the Ivy Leaguer has spent the last five years progressing through Milwaukee’s minor league ranks, never posting an ERA higher than 3.96 in any given season. Suter has unarguably been the most productive pitcher on the AAA Sky Sox staff, posting a 3.50 ERA and 3.44 FIP in 110.2 innings pitched this year. That’s even more impressive when one considers how awful of a pitching environment it is in Colorado Springs and the Pacific Coast League as a whole, where the league-average ERA is 4.51 in 2016. Craig Counsell praised Suter’s work in AAA saying that he’s “pitched very well” and “earned the shot” to pitch at the big league level, getting the nod over a more hyped prospects such as Josh Hader and Jorge Lopez, or second-chance former big leaguers like Taylor Jungmann and Wei-Chung Wang.

Scouting Report: Suter is tall and wiry, standing 6’5″ and tipping the scales at a lean 195 lbs. He’s a very quick worker out on the mound, wasting little time in between pitches. Suter throws from a high three-quarters arm slot with a rather simple, repeatable delivery.

As I wrote for BP Milwaukee last month, Suter’s arsenal consists of a upper-80s/low-90s fastball along with a changeup and curveball. The soon-to-be 27 year old relies on location and changing speeds to be effective rather than blowing hitters away, but as we’ve seen with Zach Davies this season that can be a recipe for success as long as one is hitting their spots. Suter has certainly been able to do that in 2016, walking just 3.1 percent of the 453 batters that he’s faced with the Sky Sox. That’s helped him keep runs off the board despite allowing 10.5 H/9 and a .348 BABIP against this year, which aren’t uncommon types of numbers when pitching at the ballpark with the highest elevation in the world. Suter will miss a few bats from time to time, as well, and boasts a career 18.6 percent strikeout rate (though it sits at 16.6 percent this season). He’s generally been adept at generating ground balls, posting a GB rate between 44-51 percent or better in each of his previous minor league seasons, though that number has fallen to 41 percent this year (Colorado Springs might have something to do with that). That hasn’t prevented him from being able to keep the ball in the park this season, however, as Suter has allowed just five home runs (0.4 HR/9) all season long.

Immediate Big League Future: It’s not often that a 31st-round pick makes it to The Show, and in fact Suter will be the first player drafted in his round in 2012 to make it to the big leagues. It’s a testament to Suter’s perseverance and smarts on the mound that he’s made it this far in spite of his underwhelming “stuff,” and his ascension to the MLB level is another victory for the club’s player developement staff as well as the late Bruce Seid’s polarizing tenure as the Brewers’ scouting director. With that said, however, Suter’s outlook at the big league level is probably in a fifth starter/swingman-type of role. He’s never been considered a top prospect and hasn’t even been mentioned in the BP Annual once during his five seasons of professional baseball. That’s not to say that he isn’t valuable as a depth piece going forward, but there’s not much to point to saying that the southpaw will be a major part of the club’s rebuild.

Fantasy Take: To be honest, there probably isn’t a ton of fantasy value here. Suter probably won’t get more than this one spot start for now given the circumstances coming off the doubleheader, but if you’re in a bind and need a pitcher for tonight he is certainly an option. He won’t generate a ton of strikeouts, and his career minor league WHIP stands at 1.285. Even if he does stick with the big league club and gets shifted to a bullpen role, he’s not likely to be pitching in situations where he would rack up saves or holds for your team. Don’t get me wrong, I really like Suter and his story, but he is what he is: organizational depth. For me though, that’s one of the more enjoyable things about a rebuild; we get to see depth guys like Suter (or Hernan Perez, Manny Pina, Keon Broxton, Junior Guerra, Ramon Flores, Jonathan Villar, etc) get an opportunity to carve out a role at the big league level that they may not have received with a “contending” organization.

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