JOHNNY HELLWEG, RIGHT HANDED PITCHER
|Born: October 29, 1988
Drafted: 16th Round, 499th Overall, 2008 (Angels)
How Acquired: Contract purchased from independent league team
College: Florida College (JC)
Agent: CAA Sports
WTM’S PLAYER PROFILE
|The Angels drafted Hellweg out of junior college knowing he’d be a project due to very inconsistent mechanics. He had a fastball that ran in the mid- to upper-90s, along with an erratic slider. As a pro, he ran true to form. In the lower minors, he had extremely high walk and K rates. He got the walk rate down to where it was just high by easing off with the fastball, but his K rate dropped, too. He reached the majors briefly after a trade to the Brewers, then had Tommy John surgery. He seemed to have trouble coming back from that and ended up in independent ball as a closer. The Pirates signed him to a minor league deal late in 2017. In his stint with the Brewers, his fastball averaged 95 mph and he threw the occasional slider or change.
The Angels sent Hellweg to rookie ball and he had major control problems, walking nearly two batters per inning. He was actually a lot worse than his ERA; over half the runs scored off him were unearned.
The Angels sent Hellweg back to rookie ball and employed him as a closer. He made significant progress with his control and earned a late-season promotion to low A, where the control problems returned in a five-game stint.
Hellweg spent the season mainly as a closer in low A. He missed a lot of bats, but also walked over a batter an inning. Baseball America ranked him as the 23rd best prospect in a chronically weak Angels’ system.
Hellweg started the season in the bullpen in high A, then moved to the rotation for 14 starts. He still walked far too many batters, but his control improved just the same. He was much better as a starter, holding batters to a 218/335/293 line, an especially impressive line in the high-offense California League. BA ranked him fourth among Angels’ prospects after the season and the team added him to their 40-man roster after the season.
Hellweg continued to make progress with his control as a starter with the Angels, but he did so by easing up on his fastball, which caused a sharp drop in his K rate. At the deadline, the Angels sent him to the Brewers in a package for Zack Greinke. The Brewers used him mainly in relief out of concern for his workload. BA ranked him sixth in the Brewers’ system.
Hellweg spent the bulk of the season in the AAA rotation, but the Brewers called him up for a four-outing stint beginning in late June, then brought him back in September. In AAA, he had an impressive W/L record and ERA, but he still walked far too many batters and had a low K rate. Not surprisingly, he struggled badly in the majors. BA still rated him the fourth best prospect, albeit in a weak system, after the season.
Hellweg made four starts in AAA, then injured his elbow and required Tommy John surgery.
Hellweg worked his way back from Tommy John surgery, but the Brewers may not have been satisfied as they outrighted him to the minors after the season. He signed a minor league deal with the Padres.
The Padres tried Hellweg initially as a starter in AA and then in relief in AAA, and he struggled badly at both levels. They released him in June and he caught on with New Jersey in the independent Canadian-American Assocation. He continued to have trouble throwing strikes there.
The Reds signed Hellweg to a minor league deal for 2017, but released him in March. He caught on again with New Jersey and served as the closer, putting up a fairly good walk rate and extremely high K rate. The Pirates purchased his contract in late August and assigned him to Altoona, which was short on relievers due to injuries and promotions. He got into four late-season games with the Curve. Despite the lack of walks, he did struggle to throw strikes, but not to the degree he did in 2016.
Hellweg should have been eligible for free agency after the season, but he wasn’t listed among the minor league free agents in early November and there was no news of him re-signing for 2018. It’s possible that his original deal with the Pirates covered 2018. The Pirates will try him in AAA to start the season.
|2018: Minor league contract|
|Signing Bonus: $150,000
MiLB Debut: 2008
MLB Debut: 6/28/2013
MiLB FA Eligible: 2018
MLB FA Eligible: N/A
Rule 5 Eligible: Eligible
Added to 40-Man: 4/24/2008
Options Remaining: 0 (USED: 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015)
MLB Service Time: 0.042
|June 8, 2007: Drafted in the 46th round, 1357th overall, by the Florida Marlins.
June 6, 2008: Drafted in the 16th round, 499th overall, by the Los Angeles Angels; signed on June 10.
November 18, 2011: Contract purchased by the Los Angeles Angels.
July 27, 2012: Traded by the Los Angeles Angels with Jean Segura and Ariel Pena to the Milwaukee Brewers for Zack Greinke.
November 2, 2015: Outrighted to AAA by the Milwaukee Brewers.
November 6, 2015: Became a free agent.
November 23, 2015: Signed by the San Diego Padres as a minor league free agent.
June 29, 2015: Released by the San Diego Padres.
November 16, 2016: Signed by the Cincinnati Reds as a minor league free agent.
March 16, 2017: Released by the Cincinnati Reds.
August 24, 2017: Contract purchased from the independent New Jersey Jackals by the Pittsburgh Pirates.