Yesterday was a busy day for the two top teams in the National League Central, as both the Chicago Cubs and our own Milwaukee Brewers made trades to upgrade their rosters. Granted, the Cubs did go out and get rotational stalwart Jose Quintana for a package of top prospects, making Milwaukee’s minor trade for a rookie left-handed reliever seem like small potatoes in comparison. While we shouldn’t expect the newest Brewer arm, Tyler Webb, to have anywhere close to the anticipated impact of Quintana on the Chicago’s north side, Webb could still wind up being a very useful bullpen piece both down the stretch and for the next several seasons.
Tyler Webb will turn 27 next week and began his career as a 10th-round pick by the Yankees back in 2013. After a successful collegiate career as a closer at South Carolina, Webb became a senior sign for the Yankees who inked for a relatively meager $30,000 bonus, well below-slot value for the 314th pick that season. The southpaw hit the ground running as a professional, reaching Class-AAA for the first time by his second professional season. Statistically speaking, his profile is truly eye-opening.
During his first go-round in the AAA International League with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre back in 2014, Webb tossed 20.0 innings across 17 appearances, yielding a 4.05 ERA. He did register a pretty nifty 26:7 K/BB ratio though, and DRA loved his work quite a bit more than his earned run totals suggested as evidenced by the 1.85 mark that he produced. Webb would spend all of 2015 and 2016 with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre as well as most of 2017, and the results were more of the same. He posted solid ERA totals – a combined 3.31 mark in 144.0 innings across the three seasons – while striking out 28 percent of the batters he faces against just a 6.1 percent walk rate. DRA has been quite a bit more bullish on Webb than even his strong run prevention totals. He registered a 2.02 mark (84 DRA-) across 38.0 innings in 2015 as well as a 2.40 DRA (88 DRA-) in 72.7 frames last season. This year, however, has to this point been the best season of Webb’s career. In 33.3 AAA innings in 2017, Webb has compiled a sterling 1.24 DRA (28 DRA-) thanks in large part to a tremendous 47:3 K/BB ratio.
On the mound, Webb stands at an intimidating 6’5″ and tips the scales at 230 lbs. He comes at hitters from a mostly over-the-top arm slot and features three pitches: a four-seam fastball, slider, and changeup. Fangraphs described his breaking ball as “average” and his change as “above-average” prior to the season, though Baseball America was a bit more bearish in their grades of his secondaries. Their preseason write-up suggests his “sweepy” slider is more of a fringe-average pitch, while the changeup is a below-average offering that “gives him something to toss up against righthanders.” Both outlets note a low-90s fastball with BA adding that it has “enough deception to be effective.” If his CSAA totals from the last three seasons are of any indication, Webb should have above-average to plus command of his arsenal. Webb has historically been very good against fellow lefties, including holding them to just a .558 OPS this season with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. That makes him an ideal candidate to fill a role as a LOOGY going forward at the big league level.
Despite his minor league successes, the Yankees left Webb unprotected in last winter’s Rule 5 Draft. It is worth noting that the Brewers had the opportunity to select him back then, but passed in favor of another left-handed Yankees farmhand in Caleb Smith, who was immediately traded to the Cubs for cash considerations that same day. The Pirates did make Tyler their pick in the draft, though he did not make the team out of spring training and was returned to New York before the season began. Webb wound up making it to the big leagues with New York this season in any case and thus far has worked 6.0 innings in seven appearances, including two games against the Brewers last week. He’s allowed three earned runs with four walks, five punchouts, and a single home run.
Though they may not have been enamored with him last winter, Milwaukee’s front office apparently sees enough future value in Tyler Webb that they were willing to give up an interesting (albeit blocked) first base prospect in Garrett Cooper in order to bring him in. Webb will report to the big league club for their series that begins later tonight at Miller Park, joining the bullpen as a left-handed specialist to complement the right-handed, splitter-wielding, tough-on-lefties Oliver Drake. Having just made his big league debut this year, Webb still has a full six seasons of club control remaining, so if he performs as the club surely hope he could very well become a multi-year fixture in the Brewers’ bullpen going forward.
Photo Credit: Andy Marlin, USAToday Sports Images