Exactly two months removed from Opening Day on March 29th, the Milwaukee Brewers are in first place in the National League. While the team’s success has been a complete team effort, it is still important to recognize and praise the individual players who have been most valuable and leading the way. Factors that determine these rankings will include Wins Above Replacement (WAR), RBI, ERA, and OPS, among others. The first two players listed are honorable mentions followed by the top 5 most valuable Brewers thus far in the 2018 season.
Honorable Mention #1: SP Jhoulys Chacin
2018 Stats: Record: 3-1, ERA: 3.69, GS: 12, SO: 45, WHIP: 1.326
Chacin’s numbers aren’t extremely eye-popping, however, he qualifies as an honorable mention on this list because of his solid and steady presence in a Brewers rotation that has fallen victim to injury and ineffectiveness at times this season. The Milwaukee Brewers have found success this season while not having a true ace, and Chacin has been a key part of a pitching staff that has slightly overperformed compared to most people’s expectations this season. Perhaps most notably regarding Chacin, he has outperformed some of the hot starting pitching commodities this offseason that other clubs overpaid for, specifically Lance Lynn of the Twins, Yu Darvish of the Cubs and Alex Cobb of the Orioles.
Honorable Mention #2: 1B/OF Ryan Braun
2018 Stats: WAR: 0.1, BA: .245, HR: 5, RBI: 22, OPS: .728
Longtime Brewer Ryan Braun makes this list as an honorable mention largely because of his knack for coming up with big-time clutch hits when the Brewers have needed it most. He is single-handedly responsible for three Brewers victories already this season via walk-off or game-winning hits. Specifically, a game-winning home run in San Diego during the season’ first series, a walk-off blast against the Cardinals shortly after, and then a clutch two-run double against Pittsburgh that proved to be the difference in the game. He recently came off the disabled list for a minor back injury and has looked solid upon returning capped by a three-hit game on May 28th hitting out of the number 5 spot in the order, which is rare for Braun who almost exclusively hits 3rd. Hopefully, Braun is able to find his power stroke again shortly and provide an offensive boost in addition to his obvious clubhouse leadership.
Most Valuable Brewer #5: OF Christian Yelich
2018 Stats: WAR: 1.4, BA: .310, HR: 6, RBI: 24, OPS: .859
Christian Yelich’s value lies primarily in the fact that he is a true 5-tool talent and while he may not excel in one specific stat category, he is absolutely serviceable in all of them. He hits occasional home runs, steals bases, hits for average, and is a Gold Glove outfielder who can play all three outfield positions well. Batting mostly in the 2nd spot in the lineup, Yelich leads the team in batting average at .310 and is second in hits (53) behind Lorenzo Cain (54) despite spending time on the disabled list for an oblique injury in April. Yelich has been as consistently reliable as any Brewers position player thus far in 2018, and he is capable of even more.
Most Valuable Brewer #4: 1B Jesus Aguilar
2018 Stats: WAR: 1.1, BA: .315, HR: 9, RBI: 30, OPS: .957
If this article was discussing the most valuable Brewers during the month of May, the 27-year-old first baseman would most likely occupy the top spot. He has been an absolute stud in Eric Thames’ absence and is making it impossible for manager Craig Counsell to keep his bat out of the lineup. 8 of his 9 home runs this season have come in the month of May. If he had been the everyday starter from Opening Day, he would likely be closing in on his first career all-star game appearance based on the numbers he has been able to put up when starting.
Going into the season, it was tough to determine how many at-bats Aguilar would obtain due to Ryan Braun getting starts at first base in addition to Thames. With that being said, credit David Stearns for not immediately deeming Aguilar irrelevant due to that circumstance. This breakout season for Aguilar does not seem anything like a fluke, and Brewers fans everywhere should be extremely eager to watch him continue to make a name for himself in Major League Baseball.
Most Valuable Brewer #3: CF Lorenzo Cain
2018 Stats: WAR: 2.8, BA: .289, HR: 6, RBI: 16, OPS: .840
The Brewers are absolutely seeing the player they thought they were going to see when they signed Lorenzo Cain to a 5-year, 80 million dollar contract last offseason in January. He has shown tremendous aptitude in getting on base out of the leadoff spot that he has occupied in the majority of the Brewers’ games so far this season. In addition to leading the team in on-base percentage (.396), he also paces the team in Wins Above Replacement, Stolen Bases (11), and runs scored (35). It has been an all-star level season for an all-star level player, and the Crew will benefit from his postseason experience to help them in a potential playoff run that looks more and more likely by the day.
Most Valuable Brewer #2: RP Josh Hader
2018 Stats: Record: 2-0, ERA: 1.15, G: 18, SO: 62, WHIP: 0.574
It’s safe to say that southpaw Josh Hader has been the biggest surprise for the 2018 Milwaukee Brewers and arguably all of baseball with his exceptional ability to get opposing batters to swing and miss on his fastball and make them look foolish in the process.
Manager Craig Counsell has used Hader similarly to how Terry Francona used reliever Andrew Miller during the Indians’ 2016 World Series run, which consists of putting him in usually in the 7th or 8th inning and then letting him go for the save as well if the situation makes sense. Hader was originally thought of as a starter coming up in the Brewers minor league system but has clearly found a home in the bullpen. The reason he is second on this list is that the Brewers are a staggering 18-0 in games where Hader toes the rubber. Even Craig Counsell has been in awe of what Hader has been able to do this season, saying: “Literally, your mouth is kind of wide-open watching it. It was absolutely incredible.” following Josh Hader’s outing in Cincinnati on April 30th. The fact that Hader is just 24 years old should send chills down the spines of NL Central foes for years to come.
Most Valuable Brewer #1: 3B Travis Shaw
2018 Stats: WAR: 2.5, BA: .260, HR: 13, RBI: 36, OPS: .882
Travis Shaw, a.k.a. “The Mayor of Ding-Dong City” has followed up his breakout 2017 season with more of the same elite production and then some. For consecutive seasons now, Shaw has been the Brewers’ best run producer and top home run hitter out of the cleanup spot in the batting order. In addition to the offensive production, Shaw has played a very solid third base so far in his tenure in Milwaukee. Last season, he committed just 9 errors in 144 games, and thus far in 2018 he only has 3. Unbiasedly, Travis Shaw should absolutely represent the Brewers at the All-Star game this July and begin gaining more respect as one of the National League’s elite third basemen.