While the Milwaukee Brewers likely knew they were launching into a rebuilding process during the summer of 2015, even they probably would not have predicted that they would make 13 trades, an average of one every 16 ½ days, between the deal sending Aramis Ramirez to the Pittsburgh Pirates on July 23 and the move sending Khris Davis to the Oakland Athletics on February 12. As the dust settles from a busy offseason, the organization has work to do to get their recent acquisitions acclimated to a new franchise.
Minor league spring training camp officially opened this week, but at least one of the Brewers' recently acquired prospects got a bit of a head start this winter. Pitcher Trey Supak, who came over from the Pirates in the December trade involving Jason Rogers, left his home in Texas and has been in Arizona since February 13 participating in his new organization's early camp.
"I got to put some faces to names and stuff. It's been awesome," Supak said. "I feel better coming into this spring training than I did in 2014 with the Pirates, so I'm excited to see how the season starts."
Supak won't turn 20 until May and was the Pirates' second round pick (the 73rd overall selection) in the 2014 draft. Since then, however, injuries have limited him to just 16 appearances and 14 starts over two professional seasons in the rookie-level Gulf Coast League and Appalachian League. As such, his early work in the Brewers' winter program was largely focused on strength and conditioning. Given his struggles over the last two seasons, Supak's primary goals for this season revolve around staying healthy and on the field.
"(I want to) finish a full season, stay healthy for a full season and just be out there every five days, throwing," Supak said. "Making your inning limit, getting your inning limit: It's better for them to be slowing you down than having to amp you up at the end of the season or coming to instructs to get more work in. So I think the main goal for this season is stay healthy, stay on the field all year and get innings."
Supak said he hasn't noticed significant differences in the way his current and former organizations go about their business in terms of development.
"Really, with the Pirates and the Brewers I feel like a lot of it's the same, honestly. They do a lot of the same things, they stress a lot of the same methods and stuff: lifting the correct way, keeping on top of your shoulder program, throwing program. The way they go about their business is pretty close to the same. "
Meanwhile, Supak is also spending the spring getting to know his new teammates, a process which seems to be going well.
"The first winter camp my roommate was (2015 10th round pick) Jake Drossner, and we kind of hit it off nice and easy. He's easy to get along with, easy to talk to, very personable. And I've realized a lot of guys in the Brewers organization are like that. They're easy to get along with - you can talk to them about anything, whenever you want. They're not going to stand you up or anything like that. And then my (spring training) roommate is (2015 Timber Rattler) Jon Perrin, we have an apartment in Arizona. So we hit it off and we watch basketball, cook, whatever it is around the house we usually do it together and stuff."
Making new friends quickly is helping ease Supak's transition into his new organization.
"At first I was kind of nervous about coming into a new organization and meeting new people," Supak said. "You miss the guys you were with and you wish them all the best, but it's another opportunity in your career to make new friends and things like that. And I've always been told, 'in baseball, you make your lifelong friends where you're at.' So I was kind of nervous coming in, not knowing anybody, but I think the guys I met first really took me in and accepted me as one of their own."
"Go out there and show them what they've never seen before."
One of Supak's new teammates in the Brewers organization is first baseman David Denson, who spent time with the Timber Rattlers in both 2014 and 2015. He described his offseason as "definitely a lot of hard work."
"I've been doing a lot more weight training, a lot more cardio training, a lot of things I didn't really do before, I would say," Denson said. "I would say that it's definitely different in terms of workouts. It was a lot more…how can I say…all I can think about is it was a lot more hardworking."
Given all of the talent the Brewers have added to their organization in the last few months, it would be understandable if returning players felt some anxiety about increased competition for playing time and roster spots. Denson, however, said he's not feeling pressure related to the team's rebuild.
"I just see it as more motivation," Denson said. "I see it as more giving your all to the game when it comes to working out, working on the field, practicing. It's a game, but at the same time we're all fighting for one thing: to get to the big leagues. And it's going to come down to who wants it the most. So I wouldn't say that gives me any type of nervousness or makes me anxious. It just makes me more motivated. It makes me want to go extra hard because this is a dream of mine."
Fueled by that motivation and with an offseason of hard work behind him, Denson said his goal for 2016 is to "just do my best."
"(I want to) go out there and show them what they've never seen before," Denson said. "Show them a side of myself that I'm really excited to show off. That's all I can think about. I don't have any other obstacles or boundaries in my way, so I'm not going to be out there comparing myself to anybody else. I'm just going out there to be the best me that I can be."