Mike Fiers, Pitcher, Milwaukee Brewers
2014 season (Minors): 17 G, 17 GS, 102 IP, 2.56 ERA, 0.951 WHIP, 8 W, 129 SO, 17 BB
2014 season (Majors): 14 G, 10 GS, 71.2 IP, 2.13 ERA, 0.879 WHIP, 6 W, 76 SO, 17 BB
Mike Fiers has always been a late bloomer. He was a 22nd round pick in 2009, and was already 24 years old as his college career took some time due to injuries. He never ranked as a top prospect, and has logged 116 games and 483.1 innings in the Minor Leagues, despite making his MLB debut in 2011.
But despite the lack of hype and the doubters, all Fiers has done since being drafted six years ago is pitch, and pitch well. He pitched in just two games in 2011, tossing two scoreless innings, and got a callup in ‘12, which would turn out to be his rookie season. And it was a pretty solid rookie year, as he won nine games with a 3.74 ERA, 1.26 WHIP and 135 strikeouts in 127 2/3 innings. It looked as though Fiers has made it and was ready to become a mainstay in the Brewers rotation. Unfortunately, he took a step back in ‘13.
Dealing with injuries for much of the year, Fiers pitched to a 7.25 ERA in 11 games, and finished the year with just six more appearances, all in the Minors, where he was hit in the arm with a line drive.
Fiers worked his way back last year, and after beginning the year with 17 impressive starts in Triple-A, he rejoined the Brewers. And this time, he made it stick. After four relief appearances, Fiers went on to make 10 starts, eight of them quality starts, and he did not allow more than three earned runs in any of them.
Fiers then was involved in the second scary on-field incident of his career, but this time he wasn’t the one getting hit. On Sept. 11, Fiers hit Marlins slugger Giancarlo Stanton in the face with a pitch, which caused Stanton to miss the rest of the season. That type of incident can be just as difficult for a pitcher to rebound from as it can a hitter. It can make a pitcher change their strategies on the mound and make them reluctant to pitch up and in. Fortunately for Fiers, he bounced right back and finished the year with three solid starts, so there shouldn’t be much concern about how he’ll react to the Stanton incident heading into this season.
Turning 30 in June, Fiers is an interesting pitcher. Despite averaging 89.5 mph on his fastball last season, according to PITCHf/x data, he still had an above average 9.5 SwStr% (swinging strike percentage), with an excellent 2.99 FIP (fielding independent pitching) and 9.54 K/9. He keeps hitters off balance with a great curveball as his secondary pitch, while also mixing in an effective cutter and a changeup, which averaged about seven mph slower than his fastball last season.
While it hasn’t been the smoothest spring as Fiers has dealt with shoulder fatigue and some inconsistencies, the righty slots in at the back end of a good Brewers rotation, which could be one of the deepest in the National League if Fiers pitches to his capabilities.
Rich Arleo is a freelance sports writer and editor who covers Major League Baseball and fantasy sports. You can follow him on Twitter, @Rarleo