The Mariners announced a right-handed swap. Justin Topa Acquired from the Brewers in exchange for a minor leaguer Joseph Hernandez.
Topa has pitched in each of the last three MLB seasons, albeit in a limited format of 18 1/3 innings in 17 total games. Thanks to his two particularly dismal outings in 2021, Topa has scored nine earned runs in 1 1/3 frames.
A strained flexor tendon kept Topa out for most of the 2021 season, and flexor tendon surgery put him back on the 60-day injured list last season. Since the start of the 2021 campaign, Topa has pitched only 45 1/3 total innings in the majors and minors (in MLB he has 10 2/3 IPs and in the minors he has 34 2/3 IPs). Unfortunately, Topa’s career story, which began as the Pirates’ 17th round pick in the 2013 draft, was sidelined by injury, as he had two previous Tommy John surgeries.
Even between all the health issues and a temporary dropout from affiliated baseball (Topa played for the Indie Ball team for parts of the 2017 and 2018 seasons), Topa entered his 32-year-old season. He is a difficult player to evaluate. However, when he made his MLB debut in 2020, he quickly rose to prominence as a potential late-blooming gem, posting a 2.35 ERA, 12 strikeouts and no bases in his first seven 2/3 innings. bottom. This performance earned Topa a spot on Milwaukee’s postseason roster, where he pitched two scoreless innings in his only appearance.
A hard thrower who averaged 97.5 mph on his fastball in his debut season, Topa’s speed has fallen to an average of 95.7 mph over the past two seasons. A small sample of his size in his three brief exposures for Topa in his league, but his injury situation explains Bello’s decline. seems to be behind him.
The Mariners were intrigued by Topa, expending him a 40-man roster spot, and Seattle also parted ways with the 22-year-old, who finished his breakout season in single-A. Hernandez said in 2022 he posted a 3.39 ERA in 116 2/3 innings and had an impressive 29.4% strikeout rate, but an impressive 11.1% walk rate. This at least shows that control has improved since early in Hernandez’s career, and the number of swings and misses in his right arm show just how dangerous he can be with improved command. was showing.
Hernandez will start 22 of 24 games in 2022, and the Brewers will no doubt continue to give right-handed opportunities in the starting lineup. If control issues persist, Hernandez’s eventual future (and road to the big leagues) could be relief.