Although there are 25 players on a major league roster, these rosters are small. Throughout a season, bullpens get taxed and benches get short. Because of this, significant contributions are needed from every player in order for teams to compete. If someone cannot contribute, teams need to look to make a change. It could be said that so far this season in Milwaukee, the Brewers have been working with a 24 man roster. The 22 year old, Wei-Chung Wang, has been a non-factor in the bullpen and basically has been used in mop up situations. Many have demanded that a move be made to help fortify the bullpen. But if the Brewers look at Johan Santana, one of the greatest rule-five draft picks, they can see that early struggles could lead to big rewards.
When the Twins selected Johan Santana in 2000 they were gambling on a pitcher who had never pitched above the Midwest League during his professional career. In Wang, the Brewers knew even less of what to expect. The 21 year old Wang had returned from injury and saw only limited play in the rookie league. However, both clubs knew that they were dealing with plus arms who could play significant roles in their clubs’.
While there are some standouts, a majority of rule-five picks are not ready for the big stage. But, if a team wants to keep their selection, they must remain on their 25 man roster for the whole season. Johan Santana’s first season shows that he was clearly not ready. He was hammered throughout the park in his appearances. In 30 games, Santana posted a 6.75 ERA while allowing 62 runs. He lacked control and was hampered by the longball. In just 86 innings pitched, he allowed 11 homeruns and walked 54 batters. He looked nowhere near the two-time Cy Young pitcher he would turn out to be.
Similarly, Wang has shown this season with the Brewers that he is not ready for the major leagues. After impressing in spring training, Wang has been torched whenever he has entered a game during the regular season. Throughout the Brewers first 30 games, Wang has appeared in just four games. In this time, Wang has racked up a 15.00 ERA, by allowing ten runs in his first six innings pitched. One pitch shows flashes of greatness and then the next pitch sends him to the dugout. He has almost single-handedly raised the Brewers’ great bullpen ERA. It has seemed the only positive contribution from Wang has been the new addition of Wei-Chung Wang Wednesdays on Twitter.
But just like the Twins saw they had a top-flight arm in Santana, the Brewers believe that Wang can be a star. He not only has potential to be a top arm in the bullpen, but he projects to have talent to be a future starter, too. Had he not been injured, he would be one of the Pirates top pitching prospects. Now the Brewers hope that he can tap into his potential.
When the Twins drafted Santana, they were a club that was not expected to compete for a title. This allowed them to ease Santana into games throughout that season and the next few years. Finally, Santana fully arrived, winning two Cy Young awards and 93 games while a member of the Twins. He worked his way to being the best pitcher in the league.
While the Brewers expected to compete this season, no one expected them to be this good. With Wang, the Brewers lose a roster spot for a vital contributor. There are many whispers around Brewer nation that Wang needs to go, but the success of Santana provides hope that Wang too can live up to his enormous potential. While he has had a trying start to his rookie campaign, Wang is a top Brewers prospect and expected to be a big part of the Brewers future. Keeping him on the roster is a gamble, but a gamble that could provide big rewards in the years to come.
Statistics Provided by Baseball Reference
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