On Wednesday, the Milwaukee Brewers finally completed and announced the signing of Boone Logan that had been first reported some three weeks prior. Logan received a one-year MLB deal with an option for 2019 to serve as a LOOGY in Milwaukee’s bullpen. The 40 man roster was full, though, which meant an accompanying move was required to make space for the new southpaw hurler. Even with that in mind, it came as a bit of a shock to some when it was revealed that Taylor Jungmann would be granted his release in order to pursue opportunities in Japan.
The Brewers selected Jungmann with the 12th overall pick back in 2011, the year they had two first-rounders after Dylan Covey had failed to sign the year before. A Texas native with a big fastball and curveball, Jungmann had just concluded a distinguished collegiate career as the Longhorns’ ace and had posted an 0.95 ERA in his final season in Austin. Baseball America called him “a potential #2 starter” that could rise quickly through the minor leagues and praised his ability to thrive in high-pressure situations and to win without his best stuff. Baseball Prospectus said that “his huge frame and collegiate track record suggest he’ll soon be a workhorse” and noted Jungmann’s polish and mid-rotation upside in their 2012 edition of the Annual. Though BP’s final 2011 mock draft said that Jungmann was a player with few anticipated signing issues, he put pen to paper just moments before the deadline to sign draftees, inking for a $2,525,000 mil bonus. As a result of waiting so long to sign, he didn’t make his professional debut until the following season in 2012 with Class-A Advanced Brevard County.
Once Jungmann got back on the mound, his development didn’t move quite as swiftly as hoped. He put up decent enough results while climbing during his first full season as a pro, logging a 3.53 ERA in 153.0 innings with the Manatees. He induced grounders at a 56 percent clip, but concerns arose about a demonstrated inability to miss bats in a pitcher-friendly league. Jungmann made the jump to AA next season and joined the Huntsville Stars’ rotation, and though his ERA of 4.33 looks palatable at first glance, the season was not a good one for Taylor. His walk rate nearly doubled and he issued 4.7 free passes per nine innings, walking 73 batters on the whole while striking out only 82. His DRA was an unsightly 7.22, and in the BP Annual the following spring it was written “he lacks the control to thread fine needles. The Brewers made a clear choice for polish over ceiling with Jungmann, and it backfired.”
Taylor bounced back in a big way in 2014, beginning with nine strong starts in AA that added up to a 2.77 ERA and 2.25 DRA in 52.0 innings. In summer he received his first bump up to AAA and joined the rotation for the Nashville Sounds, where he continued to build upon his success with the Stars. Jungmann logged another 101.7 innings for Nashville with a 3.98 ERA and a nifty 2.95 DRA. He continued to issue a few too many walks, but that season Jungmann saw a major uptick in his ability to generate swings-and-misses. He fanned 147 batters in 153.7 innings between the two levels, but even those gains didn’t impress the scouts at BP. His Annual comment the following spring stated that Jungmann was “struggling to adjust to his declined stuff” and that his best days were behind him, back in college at Texas.
Milwaukee’s realigned their AAA affiliation the following winter and paired up with Colorado Springs, and in 2015 Jungmann began the year as a member of the Sky Sox rotation. Pitching at altitude had a dastardly effect on his ERA, but he continued to miss a good amount of bats and issue a few too many walks en route to a 2.93 DRA in 59.3 innings. Then, on June 9th, Jungmann finally got the call he and Brewer fans had been for more than four years: he would join the Brewers and make his MLB debut against the Pirates. The club had staggered out of the gates, had fired their manager, and was mired in last place and on the verge of beginning to rebuild. None of that seemed to matter on that day, however, as Jungmann methodically dispatched the Pirates to earn a winning decision in his first big league start. He logged 7.0 innings, firing 61 strikes out of 92 pitches while allowing only one run on three hits, one walk, and five punchouts.
For much of the summer, Jungmann became a feel-good story and provided a shot in the arm to the starting rotation. He threw a complete game three-hitter against the Dodgers in Los Angeles on July 11th, and after his 16th MLB start on September 3rd, he had earned nine victories and was carrying a 2.42 ERA. Jungmann had done an excellent job of limiting the free passes during his first several starts with Milwaukee, but those newfound gains eroded as the summer went on. The righty came crashing back down to Earth during his final five starts of his rookie campaign, as he could muster only a 9.53 ERA over his final 22.7 innings with 21 strikeouts, 13 walks, and eight dingers served up on a silver platter. Ultimately, he concluded the 2015 season with a 3.77 ERA and 4.12 DRA over the course of 119.3 innings. He registered a DRA- of 96 and accrued 1.4 WARP along the way, giving hope that he could still be a controllable, back-end starter type to eat up innings while Milwaukee rebuilt their organization.
A new front office regime took over during the 2015-16 offseason, and even after his struggles down the stretch Jungmann reported to Maryvale the following spring penciled in as the #3 starter in Milwaukee’s rotation. However, it became quite clear very early that Taylor wouldn’t last long in that position. He struggled mightily out of the gates once the regular season began, as he fought with his mechanics and dealt with a fastball that was struggling to scrape 90 MPH after regularly working in the 92-94 MPH range the year prior. After posting an ERA over 9.00 through five starts, new GM David Stearns exiled the lanky right-hander back to Colorado Springs. Trying to get your mechanics on track while going to work at the country’s highest-altitude stadium is no easy task, and it proved to be too much for Jungmann to handle. He lasted only 31.0 innings with the Sky Sox, walking 35 batters while striking out just 24. After putting up a DRA of 19.38 (that’s not a typo), he was sent to extended spring training for a “mental health break” with his confidence more or less destroyed. After the season, he even refused to talk about his time in Colorado Springs with the media and wouldn’t even say the city’s name.
Jungmann was able to right the ship after getting assigned to AA Biloxi upon his return, though pitching to a 91 DRA- as a 26 year old in the Southern League isn’t exactly a notable accomplishment. It was enough for a September call-up back to Milwaukee, at least, and he ended the three nondescript appearances and a cumulative DRA- of 127 in his 26.7 big league innings in 2016. The front office asked him to prepare to enter 2017 as a reliever and he ultimately broke camp with the team, but was demoted after one appearance in which he recorded two outs and gave up a home run.
Besides that one game, Jungmann spent the entirety of the 2017 season in the minor leagues between Biloxi and Colorado Springs. He spent most of the year in the place that was a personal hell for him in 2016, and appeared to have conquered his demons; in 90.3 innings with the Sky Sox, Jungmann contributed a 2.59 ERA and a DRA that was 23 percent better than league average. Still, it became clear throughout the season that he had fallen out of favor with the new front office regime. Several times during the course of the summer he was passed over for spot starting opportunities at the big league level. When the Crew’s starting pitching situation became especially dire in September, the org chose elected to hand the ball in must-win games to reliever Jeremy Jeffress, a pair of rookies in Aaron Wilkerson and Brandon Woodruff, and starters who had previously pitched their way out of rotation roles in Matt Garza and Junior Guerra. Even with expanded rosters, Jungmann wasn’t considered deserving enough for a September call-up. The writing was on the wall for the 28 year old.
In the end, Jungmann wound up contributing 146.7 innings of 4.54 ERA baseball to the Brewers during his six-year tenure with the organization. He’ll ultimately be considered a disappointment by fans, though he does compare favorably with the 60 players drafted in the “first round” of the 2011 draft. Only 38 of those players have stepped foot on a big league field at this point, and according to Baseball-Reference’s calculations only 21 of the 60 players have generated more value in terms of Wins Above Replacement than Jungmann. That draft was a particularly rough one for the Brewers, as neither of their first rounders (Jed Bradley being the other) remain in MLB-affiliated ball. 14th-round pick Jacob Barnes looks like he’s become an important member of the bullpen, and Jorge Lopez remains on the 40 man roster (though his prospect stock has fallen off a cliff by this point). Meanwhile, stalwarts like the late Jose Fernandez, Sonny Gray, and Michael Fulmer were selected after in the first round. Just goes to show how much of a crap-shoot the draft can be.
This isn’t the end of the road for Taylor Jungmann, though, it’s only a new beginning. He’s reportedly close to joining the Yomiuri Giants of Japan’s NPB and there’s reason to believe that he could become quite successful in Japan:
Taylor Jungmann projects as the 12th-best starting pitcher in NPB. Rare to see a pitcher this good make the move from MLB to Japan.
— NEIFI Analytics (@NEIFIco) January 10, 2018
Here’s hoping Taylor Jungmann can follow the trail that Miles Mikolas blazed this winter; after washing out with the Padres and Rangers, Mikolas went over and dominated in Japan for three seasons and turned that into a $15.5 mil guarantee from St. Louis as a free agent. Perhaps when the 2020-21 offseason rolls around, we’ll be talking about Taylor Jungmann in a similar manner. Regardless of what happens, here’s wishing the big Texan with the cross-fire delivery and knee-buckling bender the best of luck in his future endeavors.