Hiram Burgos was once a budding pitching prospect for the Milwaukee Brewers organization.
The Brewers sixth round selection in 2009 made waves in the organization for his breaking pitches and rapid progression through multiple levels of the Brewers organization which led to a 2013 appearance at Miller Park.
But, after a series of injuries, the 27-year-old has found his way back to Advanced A Brevard County.
The same team he made 24 appearances for in 2011, seven in 2012 and one in 2013 before solidifying his role with the Nashville Sounds in 2013 and 2014.
Burgos’ most prolific season came in 2012 when he accumulated a 10-4 record in three stops through the minor league system, Brevard County, Double A Huntsville and Triple A Nashville.
In his 27 combined games in the three levels, he struck out 153 hitters and walked 49 in 171 innings, and allowed 37 earned runs for a meager 1.95 ERA en route to a Brewers’ 2012 Minor League Pitcher of the Year honor.
However, after enduring an injury while a member of the Milwaukee Brewers in 2013, and rehabilitation stops with Single A Wisconsin, Brevard County and Nashville, he was limited to nine total games.
In his nine games, he compiled a 1-5 record with a 3.93 ERA in 36.2 innings.
Seeking rejuvenation, Burgos returned to his native Puerto Rico, where he played for Indios de Mayaquez for the fourth straight offseason.
The right-hander bounced back in 38.2 innings for Mayaquez, where he allowed just six earned runs on 25 hits. He struck out 35 hitters compared to 12 walks.
Upon his return to the Brewers in 2014, injuries hampered him again, making just four appearances for AAA Nashville last season.
Now, after Burgos was declared a free agent following the season, the Brewers opted to retain him on a minor league contract without an invitation to Spring Training this season.
Burgos has demonstrated some promising signs at the early portion of the Manatees season, picking up two victories, including an April 14 1-0 pitchers duel against the St. Lucie Mets.
He held the Mets to one hit in seven scoreless innings, striking out eight and walking one to pick up his first win almost a year to the day of previous win.
Prior to his initial win of 2015, he picked up an April 17, 2014 win while a member of AAA Nashville against Memphis. He struck out 10 Redbirds, allowed three earned runs on five hits and walked two through five innings of work.
He did not have to wait as long for his next win, notching a six-inning quality start May 7 against the Tampa Yankees, where he struck out seven and held the Yankees to two earned runs on six hits.
Also on the Manatees is last season’s Rule V grab Wei-Chung Wang.
The 23-year-old left-hander was picked from the Pittsburgh Pirates, but league rules indicated he needed to spend a season on the Major League squad, or be given back to Pittsburgh.
Stashed at the bottom of the Brewers’ relief corps last year, he was limited to 17.1 innings due to inexperience beyond the Rookie League.
The Brewers hope was to assign him to the minor league system for further development following the 2014 campaign, where he allowed 21 earned runs, 30 hits, six home runs and eight walks.
After an injury led him to a minor league rehabilitation the remaining four months of the season, he strung together seven solid performances with the Arizona Brewers, Wisconsin Timber Rattlers and Manatees.
Despite favorable rehabilitation appearances, Wang has struggled to find his rhythm with the Manatees this season.
In six starts, spanning 27.1 innings, he has allowed 18 earned runs and 36 hits, and walked 14.
Wang’s sole win came on his initial appearance April 10 against Daytona, where he held the Tortugas scoreless through six innings, allowing five hits and walking two. He also struck out six.
He was pulled in the second inning of his next start at St. Lucie April, allowing eight earned on six hits, and walked five and departed with no strikeouts.
The 23-year-old starter will likely need an additional year of development within the Brewers organization after his season with the Brewers.
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — Brewers pro scouting director Zack Minasian could see the skepticism on his boss’ face when he first suggested selecting a 21-year-old Rookie leaguer in the Rule 5 Draft.
But general manager Doug Melvin let Minasian make his case, and on Thursday the Brewers made the move, nabbing left-hander Wei-Chung Wang with the day’s most creative selection. Wang will compete in Spring Training for a job in the Brewers’ bullpen, but he projects as a starting pitcher.
“Doug always encourages [Dick Groch, a Brewers special assistant] and myself to be creative, and this was one of those situations,” Minasian said. “When Dick and I first saw the name and that he pitched in the Gulf Coast League, we didn’t think there was a chance Doug would be on board with taking him. But he seemed open-minded to it this time when we told him what we saw in the player.”
By rule, Wang must make the Brewers’ 25-man roster for Opening Day and stay there for the entire season, or be offered back to the Pirates for half of the original $50,000 drafting fee. History says the odds are long; the Brewers have not kept a Rule 5 pick since reliever Jeff Bennett in 2004.
“We’re hoping for some upside here, coming off of Tommy John surgery [in 2011],” Melvin said. “It’s a chance to capture what we might consider a high-level prospect.”
Wang, born in Taiwan, was recommended by Brewers amateur scout Charlie Sullivan, the same man who recommended Melvin make a waiver claim for Grant Balfour coming off an injury in 2006. The Brewers wound up trading Balfour the following July, and he has turned into a top reliever.
Wang was not your typical Rule 5 pick. He agreed to a lucrative international deal with the Pirates in 2011, but the deal was scuttled after a physical exam revealed a torn ligament in his pitching elbow that required surgery. Wang re-signed with the Pirates later that year, so by rule he was eligible for the Rule 5 Draft unless protected on Pittsburgh’s 40-man roster. Had he signed with a different team, that would not have been the case. The Brewers had a similar situation with right-hander Cody Scarpetta several years ago and had to protect him.
Wang did not pitch at all in 2012, then went 1-3 with a 3.23 ERA in 12 games, 11 starts, in 2013 for the Rookie Gulf Coast League Pirates. The Brewers loved the fact he throws strikes — 42 strikeouts vs. four walks in 47 1/3 innings while holding opponents to a .209 batting average. His fastball mostly sat at 91-93 mph, Minasian said, touching 95 mph, with a changeup that is Wang’s best pitch and a curveball that is developing but projectable. He throws from a high three-quarters arm slot.
“The one thing with a Taiwanese pitcher is I think they technically pitch professionally, so one of the things that was mentioned in the report we got from Charlie Sullivan on Wang was he was very poised, under control,” Minasian said. “Now, whether he can do that in a big league stadium, we’ll just wait and see. But we’re excited to have the opportunity to see him pitch.”
Left-handed pitching is a big need for the Brewers, who had only one active southpaw on the 40-man roster (Tom Gorzelanny) before acquiring Will Smith from the Royals last week. Another lefty, Miguel de los Santos, remains on the restricted list pending a Major League Baseball investigation into his age and identity, and he may never pitch in the Brewers’ organization.
“I wouldn’t necessarily say we took [Wang] because he is left-handed,” Minasian said. “We liked him because of his upside.”
The Brewers also took two players in the Triple-A phase of the Rule 5 Draft. Center fielder Kevin Mattison (formerly of the Marlins organization) and third baseman Vinnie Catricala of the A’s are likely ticketed for Triple-A Nashville.
Mattison, 28, batted .216 with seven home runs, 31 RBIs and 18 stolen bases for Triple-A New Orleans last season. Catricala, 25, was traded from the Mariners to the A’s in June and hit a combined .235 with seven homers and 47 RBIs in 109 games between Double-A Jackson and Double-A Midland. He was Seattle’s Minor League Player of the Year in 2011.
The Brewers did not lose any players in either the Major League phase or Minor League phases of the Rule 5 Draft.