Johnny D. Hellweg
- Born: 10/29/1988
- Hometown: Ann Arbor, MI
- Height: 6'9"
- Weight: 210 lbs
- College: Florida CC
- Selected by the Angels in the 16th round (499th overall) of the 2008 Amateur Draft; acquired by the Brewers via trade July of 2012 in exchange for RHP Zack Greinke.
- Finished last year with: AA Huntsville Stars
- Bats/Throws: R/R
Hailing from the Wolverine State, Hellweg first attracted the attention of major league eyes when he was attending high school in O'Fallon, Missouri. The big right-hander was drafted in the 46th round of the 2007 MLB Draft by the Florida Marlins, but did not sign; he decided instead to go to Florida Community College for a year to up his draft stock. He was then drafted again the following year, this time in the 16th round by the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. After topping out at 91 mph with his fastball as senior in high school, Hellweg's velocity has grown by leaps and bounds, and has carried his prospect status with him. Hellweg was recorded throwing 93 mph in Rookie ball, but most recently has been clocked hitting triple-digits.
In addition to his big arm, Hellweg's success as a starter over the past two seasons has also helped increase his stock quite a bit. He threw a career high 119 innings over 29 games (23 starts) last year in AA, compiling a 3.29 ERA and striking out 105 in the process. The Brewers obviously took notice of Hellweg's development, as they asked for him to be included as one of three players in a trade package for pitcher Zack Greinke this past summer. Hellweg finished out 2012 pitching in the Arizona Fall League, posting a 2.08 ERA over 9 appearances.
Hellweg has the kind of profile that teams dream of – tall, durable, throws hard – but unfortunately doesn't have the command needed at this point to fully utilize those attributes. Simply put: Hellweg walks too many batters. When a pitcher is as long as he is, he needs to control a lot more movement with his body than the average guy. This was an issue for Randy Johnson as well, who averaged over a 5.5 BB/9 during his first 4 full seasons in the majors.
That's not saying that anyone should expect Hellweg to be another Johnson; only that their large builds bred similar issues. Aside from body size, though, the other attribute Hellweg shares with Big Unit is a plus-plus fastball – a pitch that Hellweg will occasionally hit 100 mph with. With an above-average curveball as well to keep hitters off balance, the stuff is certainly there for Hellweg to play some sort of impact role at the major league level. The only questions lies in where that spot will be.