Topa, 31, has power stuff but has been limited to just 17 appearances in three seasons due to a series of injuries that includes a flexor tendon strain in 2021 and elbow issues that put him on the 60-day injured list in 2022. Hernandez, 22, won the California League pitcher of the year award at Low-A Modesto last season after leading the league in ERA, strikeouts and opponent average. He ranked as the Mariners No. 28 prospect in the upcoming 2023 Baseball America Prospect Handbook.
Joseph Hernandez, RHP
Hernandez is an undersized, 5-foot-11 righthander who relies heavily on his above-average, 79-83 mph slider. It’s a tight, horizontal pitch he throws nearly 60% of the time and gets righthanded batters reaching as it runs away from their barrels. It also gets in on lefties with hard, sharp break and keeps them in check. Hernandez’s fastball is a below-average, 90-93 mph pitch that serves more as a change-of-pace offering for his slider. He also has a below-average, mid-80s changeup he’ll occasionally mix in. Hernandez has fringy control and mostly relies on batters chasing his slider out of the zone. That formula worked as a starter against Low-A competition, but he projects to be a slider-heavy reliever at higher levels and will need to land it in the zone more.
2023 Milwaukee Brewers Top 10 Prospects Chat
Ben Badler hosted a chat regarding the Brewers system. You can read the transcript here.
Justin Topa, RHP
Topa features potent stuff with a 95-97 mph sinker and an above-average slider with two-plane depth and lateral break, but he has long struggled to stay healthy. He’s had two Tommy John surgeries—first in college at LIU Brooklyn in 2011 and again as a Pirates minor leaguer in 2015—and missed most of the last two seasons with arm issues. If he can stay healthy, Topa has the stuff to pitch in middle- or high-leverage relief for the Mariners, but that’s a big if. He will be arbitration-eligible for the first time after this season.