Brewers By the (Jersey) Numbers ’17 — #26 Taylor Jungmann

We’re in the middle of our longest stretch of consecutive posts as we sit 26 days away from Opening Day.

Today’s profile subject has not always been written about in “Brewers By the (Jersey) Numbers” this close to Opening Day. When he made his Major League debut, the number 26 was on the back of veteran Kyle Lohse. Once Lohse’s tenure in Milwaukee was done, the number was grabbed by the man who also wore it in college as a Longhorn at the University of Texas…

Taylor Jungmann.

Taylor Jungmann’s career wasn’t supposed to be this way.

A first round pick in the 2011 draft (12th overall), Jungmann was the Friday starter for a solid Texas Longhorns team. He was a college junior, a finished product, someone who should rise rapidly through the minor league system and perhaps even be ready to help the back end of the Brewers’ then-current window of competitiveness.

That was a wonderful year for the Brewers who captured their first division crown in a long time, came within two wins of a World Series appearance, and seemed primed for more if a few things fell their way. Jungmann’s drafting was supposed to be a part of those good feelings.

Instead, what fans got was mixed results for the 6'6" native Texan on his way through the system. What’s more, despite his debut coming at age 25 and just four years after being drafted, Jungmann’s arrival still somehow felt long overdue. That MLB debut would finally come on June 9, 2015. It wasn’t met with as much fanfare as his drafting was, probably because Jungmann had put up a ERA north of six in the thin Colorado Springs air over the first two months of the Triple-A season.

Through his first 13 big league starts, Jungmann gave up more than two runs just once…somewhat ironically on the road in Colorado. But for the most part his first season he was good. 21 starts at a 3.77 ERA overall in 119.1 IP. A groundball pitcher, Jungmann’s crossfire delivery helped him also record 107 strikeouts that first year.

In 2016, Jungmann broke camp in the starting rotation. After a Matt Garza injury, Jungmann wound up starting the third game of the year. 5.0 IP, 1 ER. The Brewers would win the game 4–3 but it was the last real success Jungmann would see starting a game for Milwaukee to this point. A horrible start against the Cardinals, rough one against the Pirates, bad one against the Twins, and a terrible one against the Cubs would be all that the Brewers would allow to happen. Jungmann was optioned to Triple-A — still Colorado Springs — and replaced by Junior Guerra, but that’s a story for a different column.

Jungmann would go down to Triple-A and predictably, given his history there and the environment, struggle. His repertoire isn’t good for the thin air up there. In a mere 31.0 innings over eight starts, Jungmann won just once amidst a 9.87 ERA. In case you stumbled in here with little baseball knowledge, and are somehow still reading this far, a 9.00 ERA is when you average giving up one earned run for every three outs you induce. It means that if you pitch a complete 9.0 inning game, you’ve given up nine runs. That’s untenable, and it’s certainly not where someone who is a pitcher the caliber of Jungmann should be. The issues in MLB which got him sent down in the first place — control, command predicated on his mechanics — were only exacerbated by the elevated environs of his home ballpark.

After those eight Triple-A starts, Jungmann was so frustrated that the decision was made to shut him down completely. He was given roughly a month off from baseball. Not “let’s throw some side sessions”, not “don’t pitch but come to the ballpark.” Complete shutdown for a stretch and then a trip to Arizona to ramp back up into baseball playing. Following that, Jungmann was not sent back to the hellish landscape of Security Services Field but instead to the friendly shores of Gulf of Mexico in Biloxi, Mississippi (home of the Brewers’ Class-AA affiliate Shuckers.)

Finally at sea level, Jungmann’s efforts on his mechanics showed some dividends. He would finish up in the minor leagues with 13 starts of 2.51 ERA. He struck out 81 in 75.1 IP and allowed the same 35 walks that he did in Triple-A, though in 44.1 more innings pitched. Opponents hit .312 off Jungmann in Colorado Springs, but just .199 in Biloxi. I could keep going, but the improvement was what you would expect from a big league capable pitcher against Double-A competition.

To acknowledge that improvement and reward him for a long grind of a season, Jungmann was recalled to the big leagues to finish out the year. He would make two relief appearances, both perfect single-inning chances, before being afforded a start against the Reds on September 24.

It was a fine finish to a regular season that began like a nightmare.

Jungmann, still firmly on the 40-man roster, came to camp this season expecting to compete for a job in the overcrowded starting rotation. He told me as much at Brewers On Deck in January. However when we spoke in Arizona last month he had since been told that his opportunity to break camp with the big league club would be as a reliever. Should he not, and the bullpen competition is also fierce and thick, Jungmann was not certain whether he’d start games in the minors.

But regardless of his pitching role, where would Jungmann be assigned? GM David Stearns has said publicly that with some of their pitchers coming through the system, they’ll have to decide whether it makes sense for them to be exposed to Colorado Springs. (Prospect Jorge Lopez is another example of a guy who struggled at elevation last year and rebounded at Double-A.) But if Jungmann is going to relieve, and is forced to do so in the minor leagues, would it make sense, or be necessary, to have him do so in Biloxi?

All those answers are yet to come, and hopefully Jungmann does enough this year in the Cactus League to justify his inclusion in the big league bullpen instead. He could be quite lethal in certain situations given his groundball tendencies when he’s on.

At any rate, keep your eye on Jungmann over the next couple of weeks to see where he ends up. It could make all the difference.

Looking to catch up on this season’s BBtJN? Just click on a name below:

#59 Carlos Torres
#57 Chase Anderson
#56 Ryan Webb
#54 Michael Blazek
#53 Jhan Mariñez
#52 Jimmy Nelson
#51 Damien Magnifico
#50 Jacob Barnes
#47 Jett Bandy
#46 Corey Knebel
#45 Tyler Cravy
#41 Junior Guerra
#38 Wily Peralta
#37 Neftalí Feliz
#35 Brent Suter
#33 Tommy Milone
#29 Yadiel Rivera
#28 Jorge Lopez
#27 Zach Davies

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