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Tuesday, June 18th 2019
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CCC covering the Milwaukee Brewers

Wisconsin Weekly 7/14-7/19

Bucks

Thon Maker
The recently drafted Center was named to the All-NBA Summer League Second Team. Maker averaged 14.2 points and 9.6 rebounds a game, with his transition into summer league play looked relatively smooth, especially his mobility for someone his size.

Miles Plumlee The Center who was a restricted free agent is returning to the Bucks after signing a four-year deal worth $52 million. Plumlee averaged 5.1 points and 3.8 rebounds in 61 games played last season, which was his first full year in Milwaukee. The Bucks have three big men in their rotation including Greg Monroe and John Henson. If all three players are kept, their expected payroll for just their centers for the upcoming season will exceed $40 million dollars.

Brewing Something Special: Brewers Top Prospects #11-15

This week’s group of five prospects all share a common theme: they have sky-high potential. With all of these prospects being from the Doug Melvin era, where he focused on acquiring players with raw talent that could be transformed into major league skills, it makes sense that some have struggled in developing while others have thrived. It is very logical to think that all five of these prospects could be above-average major leaguers, but it is also a likely possibility that they could falter (or in certain cases, keep faltering) in the minor leagues and never make it to Milwaukee. Only time will tell, but I believe that we will soon see at least a couple of these players in Brewers uniforms for years to come. Here are top prospects #11-15:

15. Monte Harrison OF

Monte Harrison was one of three high-risk, high-reward high school prospects (along with unranked prospects Jake Gatewood and Kodi Medeiros) that the Brewers gambled on in the first two rounds of the 2014 MLB draft, as the Crew selected him with the 50th overall pick. Following the Brewers’ disappointing 2013 season in which the big league club struggled, Ryan Braun’s Biogenisis scandal came to fruition, and the minor league system lacked any meaningful talent, general manager Doug Melvin looked to these three high school prospects to kick-start a rejuvenation of youth in the organization. The Brewers signed Harrison for $1.8 million, a hefty over-slot bonus that was necessary to lure Harrison away from his commitment to play both football and baseball at the University of Nebraska. This investment has not been substantiated thus far, as he has struggled to stay healthy and perform to the level expected of him.

Harrison certainly possesses all the peripherals of a major league player. He is a physical specimen, standing at 6’3” and 220 lbs. with an extremely muscular and athletic build, making his teammates look miniature in comparison. He has elite speed and a cannon for an arm, allowing him to be utilized as a defensive weapon. His strength gives him above-average raw power. While he certainly has the look of a big leaguer, his performance has lagged. After a mediocre professional debut in the Arizona Rookie League in 2014, the Brewers aggressively assigned Harrison to the Class-A Wisconsin Timber Rattlers, where he significantly struggled on his way to a .148/.246/.247 batting line while striking out in nearly 42% of his plate appearances in 46 games. After being reassigned to the Helena Brewers of the more appropriate rookie-level Pioneer League, Harrison thrived, hitting .299/.410/.474 with 14 stolen bases in 28 games. However, his breakout was halted by an ankle injury that sidelined him for the rest of the year.

Back at Class-A Wisconsin in 2016, Harrison’s struggles resurfaced, as nagging injuries held him to playing in only 80 games, in which he hit .220/.300/.339. Given his performance, Harrison holds his ranking of #15 solely due to his untapped potential and top-notch tools. If he can put in all together, Harrison has the ceiling of being a capable middle of the order threat, and at this point it is reasonable to expect that the 21-year-old will either be a boom or bust prospect.

14. Cody Ponce P

After being drafted in the second round of the 2015 draft out of California Polytechnic State University, Ponce had an excellent professional debut, pitching his way to a 2.29 ERA and a 1.10 WHIP over 14 games for the Helena Brewers and Class-A Wisconsin Timber Rattlers. Ponce is a menace on the mound, as he stands 6’6” and weighs 240 lbs. Given this size, scouts predict that Ponce will have no trouble remaining a starting pitcher. He boasts four pitches that are all at least average, with his fastball and cutter being his go-to offerings. His fastball generally sits from 92-96 MPH, and it looks even faster to hitters given his size. Ponce still has a way to go in his development, especially with his control, but this should not be a problem given that he is only 22 years of age.

Ponce’s 2016 season was divided between success and struggle. He started off dominantly with Class-A Advanced Brevard County, as over his first nine starts he logged a 2.50 ERA and a 1.08 WHIP to go along with a nearly 5-to-1 K/BB rate. In his most commanding start of the year on July 9th, he struck out 12 hitters in 6 innings while giving up only 3 hits, which was made even more impressive due to the fact that he only threw 73 pitches. However, over his final eight starts, Ponce faltered and finished the season with an inflated 5.25 ERA and .285 batting average against. As we have seen, when Ponce is effective, he can be an elite asset on the mound. He could have simply just worn down as the season progressed, but I think it is more likely that he developed a mechanical issue that needs to be fixed. There really is no other explanation for how his season toppled so quickly. Ponce will likely start 2017 back in Class-A Advanced Brevard County, but I assume he will probably move up to Double-A Biloxi rather quickly given that he can iron out the kinks.

13. Jorge Lopez P

Going into the 2016 season, Jorge Lopez looked like a potential star in the making. He had just come off a dominant 2015 campaign, in which he won the Milwaukee Brewers’ Minor League Pitcher of the Year award after dazzling the Double-A Southern League with a 12-5 record, to go along with a 2.26 ERA and 1.09 WHIP. He was ranked as the #57 prospect in all of baseball by MLB.com following this performance, which was good enough for #3 in the Brewers system at the time behind Orlando Arcia and Brett Phillips. Lopez was considered to be the future ace of the big league rotation. However, his journey to the majors has been derailed momentarily by a disastrous 2016 season in which we saw Lopez need to be demoted from Triple-A back down to Double-A.

In Triple-A this season, the 23 year-old got obliterated by the opposition, pitching to a 6.81 ERA over 17 games. He averaged 4.2 innings per start, and hitters teed off on him, leading to a .312 batting average against and a gaudy 1.97 WHIP. His control was the one area in which Lopez took the most significant step backwards, as he walked over three hitters per appearance. Some tried to attribute his collapse to the thin air in Colorado Springs, where the ball seemingly catapults off the bat as the stadium sits over a mile above sea level. The fact of the matter is, Lopez actually pitched better in Colorado Springs (though still not close to being an accomplishment in any regard), as his 6.16 ERA at home trumped his 7.40 ERA on the road. After his demotion to Double-A, Lopez seemed to somewhat right the ship, as he achieved a 2.67 ERA over his last five starts while striking out 27 batters. Hopefully he carries this finish into 2017.

Lopez certainly has the stuff to be a capable big league starter, as he features a mid 90s fastball that he complements with a well shaped 12-6 curveball, as you can see in the video below. The key to future success will be refining his control, as one can assert that his disconcerting walk rate and batting average against are the main causes for his demise in 2016.

12. Brett Phillips OF

When the Brewers acquired Brett Phillips as part of a four-prospect package from Houston in exchange for outfielder Carlos Gomez and pitcher Mike Fiers, he was touted as the centerpiece of the Brewers substantial return, being noted as a potential 5-tool center fielder that could bolster a big league lineup. Up until the trade, Phillips had enjoyed enormous success in the Astros’ minor league system. Drafted out of high school in the 6th round of the 2012 draft, Phillips experienced a breakout year in 2014, hitting a combined .310/.375/.529 between Class-A and Class-A Advanced. Even more impressive was the distribution of extra base hits he accumulated, as he hit 29 doubles, 14 triples, and 17 home runs. He complemented this display of all around power with 23 stolen bases and exceptional defense, recording 17 outfield assists.

In 2015, Phillips picked up right where he left off, hitting .320/.379/.588 at Class-A Advanced before being promoted by the Astros to their Double-A affiliate. He displayed less power at Double-A, hitting only one home run in 31 games, but he still hit an excellent line of .321/.372/.463. Phillips was then traded to the Brewers, and he seemingly lost his groove over the rest of 2015, hitting only .250 for Double-A Biloxi. His downturn in production was written off as being connected to a nagging thumb injury, and coming into 2016 he was ranked as the #32 prospect in baseball by MLB.com. Phillips enjoyed a surge in popularity during spring training in 2016, when his pterodactyl-esque laugh took over the internet (you can see it in this video).

While he enjoyed this initial “success” off the field in early 2016, Phillips performance on the field was significantly less than expected. Phillips hit for a subpar line of .229/.332/.397, and his strikeout rate rose dramatically, as he whiffed in nearly 30% of his plate appearances. Although many are discouraged about Phillips’ future after his rough 2016 showing, he still has all the tools necessary to turn himself into a starting major league outfielder. If he fulfills his potential, we could see him atop the Brewers batting order as soon as 2018. However, in order to achieve this, he needs to rediscover the level of ability that made him such a threat in 2014 and 2015.

11. Brandon Woodruff P

Brandon Woodruff has come out of nowhere to take the Brewers’ minor league system by storm in 2016. Drafted by the Brewers in the 11th round of the 2014 MLB draft, the Mississippi State product has been the hallmark of consistency since his initial arrival to Rookie-Level Helena in 2014. Woodruff pitched to a 3.28 ERA with Helena, and then finished with a 3.45 ERA in a year-long stint with Class-A Advanced Brevard County in 2015. In 2016, Woodruff elevated his game to a whole new level.

Woodruff started out the season in Class-A Advanced Brevard County. Back for a second time in the Florida State League, the 23-year-old was lights out, pitching to a 4-1 record with a 1.83 ERA in eight starts. This earned Woodruff a promotion to Double-A Biloxi. After initially struggling in his first eight starts, Woodruff turned the corner and excelled, finishing with a 1.67 ERA over his final 12 starts. Even with the hiccup at the start of his stint in Double-A, Woodruff ended the season with a combined 14-9 record and 1.02 WHIP over the two minor league levels at which he pitched. Even more impressively, he led all of minor league baseball with 173 strikeouts.

Woodruff looks to have everything necessary to succeed as a starting pitcher in the future. He has a well-built frame, standing 6’4” and weighing 215 lbs. His fastball sits in the low to mid 90s, and he locates it well. He also offers a slider with good bite and a changeup that moves away from lefties, giving him a solid three pitch mix. Both of his off-speed pitches are about average at this point, but I expect for him to refine at least one of them to an above average level going forward. Woodruff’s greatest strength may be his command. He achieved a 4.33-to-1 K/BB rate, and only walked 2.3 batters per nine innings. His walk rate would place second amongst the Brewers current major league pitching staff, as he would trail only Zach Davies’ 2.2 mark. Woodruff’s excellent command can be seen further in the video below, as he precisely locates his fastball. Woodruff will likely start 2017 in Triple-A, and if he succeeds, it could force the Brewers to insert him into the rotation as soon as July of next year if the opportunity presents itself.

A Checkup on Orlando Arcia

The Brewers are in a really good spot at the moment. It seems as though everyone that is put into the lineup is putting together really good at bats. That includes young shortstop Orlando Arcia. I wrote something before the season started, about what the Brewers needed from the young player. The issues that needed to solve were the amount of strikeouts, not making enough contact, and not taking long at bats. Besides a short slump that began his season, Orlando Arcia is starting to look good at the plate.

https://www.creamcitycentral.com/brewers/what-the-brewers-need-from-orlando-arcia/

(article from the beginning of the season)

The first thing that proved to be a big problem last year, was his strikeouts. At some times in the season, he seemed to be an automatic out in 3 pitches. That has surely changed this year. Last year he posted a 23.8% strikeout percentage, and so far this year he has brought that down to 20.4%.  Sure, it may seem like a small percentage, but that gives him an extra 4% of times that he can be making contact (we will touch on the importance of that later). Right now, according to fangraphs his percentage is right around average. Let’s be honest here, he is your number 8 hitter, for him to be around average is pretty good. Not getting out from the strike out all the time is great, but even better when he is capitalizing his time with getting hits.

Getting hits is the goal of every team on offense, more hits, more runs. Hitting last year for Arcia, at some points, was kind of a foreign subject. This year however, it is a different story. In the article I wrote in the begging of the year, I talked about his contact percentage compared to his BABIP (batting average on balls in play). I found out that last year when he put the ball in play he was a .305 hitter. The problem lied in not making enough contact, last year his contact % was at 72.6%, he simply wasn’t making enough contact to be a consistent hitter. This year so far his BABIP is down, but his contact% is up at 75.3. If you relate that to his strikeout percentage that is down 4%, he is substituting that with making contact. That is great news, and the news keeps getting better when you look at the quality of his at bats.

The quality of at bats that Arcia is having this season is one of his biggest improvements. The numbers really show this one. Last year he was averaging 3.5 pitches per plate appearance, this year he brought that up to 4. To put it into perspective, in 500 at bats last year he would have seen 1,750 pitches, this year, if he stays on track, he will see 2,000. That is a 250 pitch difference, that is huge. That is not the only thing that has significantly improved. Walks. He went from a terrible 4.1% walk rate last year to now 9%.

Something the numbers can’t show, is his comfort level in the box. To me he just looks so much better, and most importantly more comfortable. For someone who was almost painful to watch in the box last year, the comfort he has this year, is by far, his biggest improvement. Now, I do realize that these numbers aren’t “amazing”, however for your 8th hitter, defensive shortstop, can be productive, that could mean all the difference for the Brewers this season.

Brewers to watch at Spring Training

February has come around again, and for followers of the pastime, that means baseball is not far away. Aside from the surprising free agent signing of Eric Thames, the Milwaukee Brewers have been relatively quiet this offseason. After trade speculation surrounded MVP outfielder Ryan Braun for the last season and a half, any and all rumors fell through and Braun remains the Brewers’ franchise player. Reliever Tyler Thornburg was sent to Boston in exchange for infielders Travis Shaw and Mauricio Dubon, and pitcher Josh Pennington. Additionally, long time backstop Martín Maldonado was traded to the Los Angeles Angels for catcher Jett Bandy. Other than those transactions, General Manager David Stearns has been mostly out of the spotlight. With that being said, the Brewers will still enter Spring Training with several players to watch, each with unique storylines.

1B/OF Eric Thames (2016: 40 HR, 118 RBI, .317/.425/.676 in Korean Baseball Organization)

Thames last played in the Majors in 2012 with the Blue Jays and Mariners, where he only appeared in 86 games and compiled an underwhelming slash line of .232/.273/.399. Thames is expected to be the Brewers’ primary first baseman, replacing Chris Carter who led the National League in home runs (41) in 2016. Carter’s contract was not tendered, and he became a free agent this offseason.

What makes Thames so intriguing is the apparent commitment the Brewers are making to him. Thames signed a 3-year contract worth at least $16M after he put up video game-type numbers in South Korea. In his three seasons there, Thames recored 472 hits, 124 home runs, and a batting average of .349. Those kind of numbers are more than enough to draw attention from big league clubs, but is a three year commitment viable? Although Thames was the KBO’s MVP in 2015, the pitching he will face in Major League Baseball is, frankly, much better. Nonetheless, the Brewers liked their chances with Thames’ lefty bat enough to let Carter walk.

SS Orlando Arcia (2016: 4 HR, 17 RBI, .219/.273/.358 with Brewers)

For the first time in his career, Orlando Arica will go to Spring Training knowing one thing is for certain—he will be a Major League starting shortstop afterwards. Arcia’s long awaited debut came last year, and he flashed the brilliance many have said he was capable of. Although he only hit .217 at the plate, Arcia showcased his defensive range and offensive aggressiveness.

Arcia was long regarded as one of the premier defensive players in the minors. In 2015, he broke out as a potential offensive threat as well, and skyrocketed up baseball prospect boards. Since then, Brewers fans longed for the day he would become the team’s next star. And at just 22 years old, he has plenty of time to develop. 2016 will be Arcia’s first full-season test at the big league level. With Jonathan Villar to his left at second base, Milwaukee’s middle infield could evolve into one of the most prolific in baseball.

LHP Josh Hader (2016: 3-8, 3.29 ERA, 126.0 IP, 161 SO in AA and AAA)

According to MLB Pipeline, Josh Hader is the best southpaw prospect. He has recently drawn ambitious comparisons to Chris Sale because of his lanky build and three-quarter delivery. The prize of the Carlos Gomez-Mike Fiers trade in 2015, Hader has been a strikeout machine since his pro debut in 2012 with the Baltimore Orioles’ organization. In 505.0 professional career innings pitched, Hader has struck out 578 batters, all while maintaining an ERA of 2.96 and a WHIP of 1.18. Most baseball pundits and columnists agree that, barring injury, 2017 will be the year Hader gets to toss his electric repertoire against Major Leaguers.

The Brewers have a good problem—too many starting pitchers. In addition to Hader, Taylor Jungmann, Tommy Milone, Wily Peralta, Brent Suter, Chase Anderson, Matt Garza, and Jorge Lopez will all be considered for spots in the rotation (with Jimmy Nelson, Junior Guerra, and Zach Davies being virtual locks). Regardless of Hader’s spring performance, it’s unlikely that he will see substantial playing time in the Majors early in the season, but he could be first name called in the case of an open roster spot during the 2017 campaign.

OF Keon Broxton (2016: 9 HR, 19 RBI, .242/.354/.430 with Brewers)

Keon Broxton was somewhat unknown among fans when the Brewers traded Jason Rogers to the Pittsburgh Pirates for him in 2015. Broxton was drafted in the third round in 2009 by the Arizona Diamondbacks, but took longer than expected to blossom. He played in just seven games with the Pirates in 2015, but he earned the Opening Day start in center field for Milwaukee the following year. Broxton struggled initially, which led to multiple stints in AAA. However, in the latter half of the season and after adjusting his batting mechanics, Broxton became a reliable, consistent player, both offensively and defensively.

The Brewers have stockpiled talented outfielders in recent years, but even with young studs like Corey Ray, Lewis Brinson, and Brett Phillips nearing the Majors, Broxton’s spot on the team should be safe if he performs adequately this spring. Broxton has flashed signs of being a 20-20 player. He crushed nine home runs in just 75 games, and he stole 23 bases. If he’s able to stay consistent enough to stay in the bigs, he could be in for a breakout season in 2017.

2B/UTIL Scooter Gennett (2016: 14 HR, 56 RBI, .263/.317/.412 with Brewers)

With Arica easing in to the full-time shortstop role and Villar moving to second base, Scooter Gennett will have to learn new positions if he wants consistent playing time this season. Manager Craig Counsell told reporters in January that Gennett would be seeing time in the outfield in Spring Training, which is not unheard of. Gennett’s teammate Hernán Pérez, a third baseman by trade, saw extensive time in right field last year, in an effort to keep his solid bat in the lineup.

Having a switch hitter in Villar manning second base all but erases the need for a platoon at the position. If Gennett is able to handle the outfield transition without too many hiccups, it’s reasonable to expect him to share time with Domingo Santana in right field. Otherwise, Gennett could be moved towards the top of Stearns’ trade list.

Brewers Week In Review: 6/13-6/18

6/13-6/15: @ St. Louis Cardinals

Record: 3-1

Results: 6-0 L/8-5 W (doubleheader), 7-6 W, 6-4 W

Star of the Series: Keon Broxton (4-for-11 (.363), 2 HR, 5 RBI)

As a result of the rainout on May 3rd, the Brewers had to play two to open the series against the Cardinals. The first game began on a rather interesting note, as recent call-up Brandon Woodruff was to make a spot start in his major league debut, only to injure his hamstring while warming up. Thankfully, while he was only on 25 minutes notice, Brent Suter was available to pitch as he was the 26th man on the roster for the Crew. While both Suter and the offense would struggle, the second leg of the day, as well as the rest of the series, provided offensive fireworks for Milwaukee. Behind six home runs over the final three games, including two each by Eric Thames and Keon Broxton, the Brewers were able to secure their second series win in St. Louis this season after not having won a single series against them in several seasons.

6/16-6/18: vs. San Diego Padres

Record: 2-1

Results: 6-5 W, 7-5 L, 2-1 W

Star of the Series: Jimmy Nelson (9.0 IP, 6 H, 1 R, 2 BB, 10 K in win Sunday)

The Brew Crew was decked out in blue during this series, as MLB celebrated Father’s Day with uniforms and caps tinged with the color to mark the occasion. The Brewers certainly delivered on this day as Hernan Perez and Manny Pina, both fathers themselves, hit home runs in the same inning to deliver the deciding 2-1 margin. Meanwhile, Jimmy Nelson put together arguably the best game of his Brewers career, throwing his first complete game while striking out 10 Padres, including two batters in a 1-2-3 ninth inning to seal the win.

NL Central Standings Update (as of 6/20/17)

  1. Milwaukee Brewers: 38-34
  2. Chicago Cubs: 35-34 1.5 GB
  3. Pittsburgh Pirates: 32-38 5.0 GB
  4. Louis Cardinals: 31-37 5.0 GB
  5. Cincinnati Reds: 30-39 6.5 GB

Transactions

6/19: Brewers released RHP Neftali Feliz http://www.foxsports.com/wisconsin/story/milwaukee-brewers-neftali-feliz-released-061917

King of the Diamond- Week of 8/14-8/20

If this is your first time checking out King of the Diamond pieces, here’s what you can look forward to seeing:

Every week we will look at which Milwaukee Brewer stood out from a game changing performance, or provided consistent production over the previous week. We will do the same for one other player within the NL Central (Cardinals, Cubs, Reds, Pirates).

The Brewers put together a solid week, sweeping the Pirates in a two-game series and taking two out of three in Colorado. The series win against the Rockies was huge as it showed the Crew could compete on the road with a playoff contender. They now look ahead to a series with the Giants and a pivotal weekend series against the Dodgers before returning home on August 29th.

King of the Diamond- Jesus Aguilar

Image result for jesus aguilar

Jesus Aguilar picks up this week’s Diamond award after crucial, game-changing performances against the Rockies. Despite only playing in three games last week, Aguilar homered three times in two games played against the Rockies, including a go-ahead home run in the ninth inning to seal a 6-3 game two victory. Aguilar wasn’t done yet, as he rounded the bases twice more the following day in an 8-4, series clinching win. He has struggled for quite some time, and it would appear that he has overcame his extended drought at the plate. Aguilar may not be an every day player for the Crew, but he deserves at-bats as the playoff race continues to heat up.

King of the Diamond- Anthony Rizzo, Chicago Cubs

Image result for anthony rizzo

The Cubs split a four-game series with the Reds to begin the week but finished it off with a sweep of the Blue Jays. Anthony Rizzo’s hot bat earns him our divisional Diamond award this week. Playing in every game last week, Rizzo went 12-for-28 with two home runs and 13 RBI’s. The first baseman performed in the clutch and continues to be a vital starter for the Cubs as we move into the latter part of August. The Cubs own a two-game lead over the Brewers and 3.5 games on the Cardinals, who appear to be fading.

 

 

Keston Hiura is a Hitting Machine

When the Brewers selected Keston Hiura with the 9th pick in the 2017 MLB Draft, there were many questions surrounding him as a prospect.

“What position will he play?”

“Is he just a DH?”

“Will he need Tommy John surgery?”

Despite all the noise, there was one thing no one questioned: the legitimacy of his hitting ability. As a college junior, he hit .442/.567/.693 with 8 home runs, 24 doubles, and 42 RBIs for the UC-Irvine Anteaters. With the MLB draft approaching, it was clear that he was a surefire first-round pick. The uncertainty laid in where he ultimately would be selected.

Some had him pegged as a top-5 pick. Others predicted him falling to the 20s, thinking teams would shy away from his injured arm. At #9, the Brewers thought process likely went as such: “We could take a guy with 5-tool potential across the board, or a someone who we are sure has a bat that will get him to the big leagues.” With drafting Hiura, the direction they decided to take is clear. They wanted what was closest to a “sure thing”.

In just under a year of professional baseball, Hiura has already spanned four levels of the minor leagues. He started last year at Rookie-Level Arizona before being promoted to the Class-A Wisconsin Timber Rattlers. In total, he hit .371/.422/.611, cementing his status as being the “real deal”. This year, he started out slowly at Class-A Advanced Carolina before going on a tear in the month of May, leading to his recent promotion to Double-A Biloxi. With Carolina, he hit a slick .320/.382/.529 with 7 home runs on the heels of his .377/.437/.664 May slash line.

Hiura’s hitting prowess is unmatched in the Brewers’ minor league system. The Brewers’ pipeline is filled with hitters that either have low-contact and high-power or vice versa. Two examples of this mismatch are Double-A first baseman Jake Gatewood and Triple-A shortstop Mauricio Dubon (now injured). Both have limited ceilings because of the one-sided nature of their offensive game. Hiura, on the other hand, presents the whole package. He grades out as having an elite hit tool, while possessing at least average power at maturity with the potential for more. In addition, he is expected to further develop his plate discipline which will make him a high-level on base threat. Strikeouts aren’t an issue either – he currently carries a 20.6% rate on the season, which is very palatable in today’s game. He should continue to improve in this area as well as he becomes more accustomed with professional pitching, and could ultimately settle in the 13-15% range.

Now to the two questions everyone wants the answers to – where will he play in the field, and when does he get to Milwaukee? The answer to the first question could take many routes, but the most likely is second base. His arm issues are concerning, but as long as he can keep it in playable condition he will be fine. The worst-case scenario would be recurring pain and/or injury that keeps him out of the line-up, which would likely necessitate a trade eventually to an AL team where he could DH. Some have floated the possibility of him playing left field, but I cannot see that happening with the Brewers’ current outfield plethora, along with some impressive prospects that will be ascending to the big-league club at the same time.

The answer to the second question is much simpler: He will get to Milwaukee when he’s ready. David Stearns and Co. have proven to be adept at determining when a player can take the leap from Triple-A. There is a reason we haven’t seen Corbin Burnes make a start yet, just like there’s a reason Freddy Peralta was sent back down to Triple-A. They require seasoning so that when they do make that leap, they are in the best possible position to succeed and contribute. Accordingly, Hiura is not going to be rushed to the big leagues even though the Brewers’ middle infield has been futile offensively. If Hiura proves to be too advanced for the Double-A level come the end of July, we could see him promoted to Triple-A Colorado Springs for the remainder of the season. However, I believe there is close to a zero-percent chance he makes it to Milwaukee before the end of this year. Even though his bat could potentially have some success currently, he still needs much more development defensively before he is major-league ready.

Hiura could be a big name in Milwaukee for many years – but that ride is not yet ready to begin. When it does, it could be something truly special.

So be patient, Brewers Nation. Keston Hiura – the hitting machine – will soon enough be coming to a ballpark near you.

Christian Yelich’s Success can’t be Summed Up in One Game

Christian Yelich has been one of the hottest hitters in baseball recently. He has been incredible since coming off the All-Star break and has continued it since. On Wednesday night he became the second hitter in the MLB to hit for the cycle this season. As an incredible feat as it is, you can’t sum up Yelich’s hot streak with just that game. This article is going to cover an advanced statistical look of his hot hitting (As of 8/29/18).

Last Month

Over the last month you could look that he is batting .319 with 11 home runs, which is great, but doesn’t cover all the bases. Over the last month he has posted an impressive Hard% at 57.3% (hard contact percentage) which puts him nearly 20% above excellent in the league (according to Fangraphs). Not only has he contributed in just hits but also looking at offensive value. He has put up a .434 wOBA (Weighted on-base average- based off of the fact that all hits are not created equal, similar to OPS, but OBP is worth almost double of SLG) over the last month, putting him up .034 above excellent in the league (according to fangraphs). The last thing to look at is average pitches per at bat. Yelich hits a lot in the early part of an at bat, so his numbers are not as good as somebody else’s would. Besides that, in the last month he is averaging 3.69 pitches per at bat. This is still very important when a hitter is this hot, not only is he driving pitchers crazy by getting hits, he is making them pitch to him for extended at bats. These numbers that Yelich has put up are suburb, but they get even better when you look at the last 10 days.

Last 10 Days

This past 10 days Yelich has been on fire. He posted a 64.7% Hard% which is near double league excellence (according to Fangraphs). Even when he has gotten out he is squaring up the ball, which is incredibly scary for any opposing pitcher. His wOBA sits at .493 which is virtually .100 over league excellence (according to Fangraphs). Again, that sums up his offensive value when it comes to hitting and getting on base. The last 10 days he averaged 3.67 pitches per at bat which is slightly down from his monthly average. To repeat what I said before, he is not only hitting but he is eating at the pitchers pitch count.

Reviewing Wednesday Night

On Wednesday night Yelich hit a triple to complete a cycle as MVP chants began in Great American Ballpark. He had a brilliant game going 6-6 and yes, completed a cycle. He became one of four players since 1920 to do so. Not only did he reach a big milestone, his hits were quite timely. Here’s a recap:

1 AB- 1B, came around and scored, Brewers lead 2-0

2 AB- 1B

3 AB- 2HR, gave Brewers 4-3 lead

4 AB- 2B, Arcia to 3rd set up sac fly, Reds lead 7-6

5 AB- 3B, Cain scores, Brewers tie Reds 10-10

6 AB- 1B

On a night that had to be all hands on deck, Yelich couldn’t have found a better time to hit for the cycle.

Christian Yelich has been huge for the Brewers this season and have given them some big nights. The leftie has impressed all and has helped the Brewers continue to be right in the middle of a pennant race. One can only hope that Yelich continues into the last month of the season and beyond.

Baseball Mockery

As the dreaded off season continues, talks have begun about eliminating the shift thanks to the baseball commissioner Rob Manfred. The reasoning lies in creating more offense so baseball can be more attractive to more people. Yes ladies and gentlemen, a pitching dual where every pitch matters is no longer entertaining enough.

With these discussions, baseball is now leaning towards the play of the offense. That sounds fairly familiar. What other sports favor the offense? That’s it, the NFL. Looks as though Rob Manfred might need to take a meeting with the NFL commissioner Roger Goodell to see how far baseball can go in favoring the offense.

Eliminating the shift is erasing all defensive strategy, so where do they stop. Strategy is the beauty of baseball, it’s chess not whack a mole. So here are additional rule changes to really help the offense get the upper hand.

X marks the spot- I think we need to go back to the roots of every baseball player. MLB needs to get in touch with the little league coach in themselves and create X’s on where each infielder must stand in the field. Even shading so slightly to get a head start is just too much of an advantage.

No sprinting, just jogging- Having fast outfielders like Lorenzo Cain is just too much of a “step up” for the defense. No more sprinting to a ball because outfielders may rob a double that could produce more runs for the offense.

All starting pitchers must go at least 6 innings before using a bullpen pitcher- That’s right, discount what the Brewers did in 2018. Changing the pitcher every couple of innings is too hard for the hitters because they can’t get multiple looks at a pitcher. Dang players can’t adjust!

No bullpen days- Piggybacking off the last rule, bullpen games will not be allowed. Discounting again what the Brewers used to be successful in 2018.

Don’t forget players safety, no pitches over 90 mph- We can’t forget about the gem in players safety. Pitching over 90 mph puts the batter at extreme risk of getting severely injured if they get hit. Any pitch over 90 mph will result in an automatic walk.

Just a couple after thoughts to go along with the new rules of baseball are, shrinking the strike zone, instituting a computerized Ump instead of a human (eliminate the human error).  What about going from 3 outs an inning to 5 outs?

Obviously this is just poking fun of the discussions of limiting the shift. Although it is something that could severely hurt the Brewers. They use so much strategy every game to cover up the fact that they don’t have the money to go out and get nine studs to fill a lineup like the Yankees. As said before, the beauty in baseball is the chess game and taking the chess away to result in more offense may indeed create more offense. However, let’s be honest, will adding a couple more runs a game really increase viewership or would it just take away some of the fun of baseball for hardcore fans?

Are the Brewers Cursed?

It’s that time again of the year where our opening day starters struggles begin to come infuriating. That’s right this trend traces all the way back to 2015 when Kyle Lohse was the Brewers opening day starter. Ever since then we have had Wily Peralta, Junior Guerra, Chase Anderson, and now Jhoulys Chacin nearly crumble after their start. Now this may seem a little ridiculous and maybe just a coincidence. So sure maybe 2 or 3 years in a row, but 5, there seems to be some funny business going on. Let me expand.

It all started when Kyle Lohse was picked to be the opening day starter in 2015. All seemed great and fine the year before (see table below) and it seemed as though Lohse would have a similar year. That could not be farther from the truth.

Year Barrel % BB% wOBA
2014 7.8% 6.5% Around .300
2015 17.5% 10.4 .362

 

Before I get deep into discussing this “curse”, let’s talk about what I am using to evaluate. When it comes to pitching the name of the game is quality pitches. The more quality pitches the better you will be. Barrel%, comes from the percent of batted balls that are hit on the barrel by a combination of exit velocity and launch angle. Then there is BB%, it’s pretty self explanatory, just the percent of walks given up. Then there is wOBA (weighted on base average),  the overall production of a hitter. Just a preposition, when I was finding these stats Lohse’s wOBA was only available for his 2015 season. Therefore, I used the equation from the 2013 season to get a rough estimate.

Now that that’s done, let’s get to business. Every single one of these numbers for Lohse went up dramatically. To put it blatantly, his quality of pitches must have been real bad compared to the season before for those numbers to rise like they did. The barrel% sticks out like a sore thumb, it went up 10%. For every 100 hits he had, there were 10 more than the year before that were barreled up. The drop off happened for one year, things didn’t pan out, no big deal right?

Next up is Wily Peralta, the only questionable one of the group talked about today. This is what his numbers looked like:

Year Barrel% BB% wOBA
2015 5% 7.7% .363
2016 6.7% 7.8% .365

Here’s the deal. The numbers went up, but not at the rate of Kyle Lohse or the pitchers that will follow. Maybe the Brewers got away with this one. However, I did look at his stats for 2017, and they were not as pretty.

Year Barrel% BB% wOBA
2017 8.7% 11.9% .396

 

When you compare the numbers in 2017 you will see the changes that suggest that he wasn’t as sharp as he once was. Looking at the BB%, there is nearly a 4% difference. That is four more hitters walked per 100, that tells me that his pitch quality has dropped. The reason that this one may be more of a stretch, is because it was the year after his start that he dropped. That may be just a classic case of “regression”.

This is where things get real interesting, starting in 2017 with Junior Guerra.

Year Barrel% BB% wOBA
2016 5.8% 8.7% .307
2017 10% 13.7% .371

 

I don’t have to get much into the details with this one considering you can see this plain and simple, his pitching skills seemed to have fallen off a cliff. Where things get interesting is during his start. In what I believe the third inning he was sacrifice bunting. While leaving the box he hurt himself and was out for quite a while. Kinda a little creepy right?

The next victim of this so called curse, is Chase Anderson.

Year Barrel% BB% wOBA
2017 4.4% 7.2% .281
2018 8.8% 8.9% .317

 

You see the stats don’t you, this is the same story line for the 4th year in a row. Another story line that is way too similar, is quite honestly the ugliest slide on planet earth. If you recall, he was running into home, when he practically barrel rolled and plopped onto the plate. I don’t quite remember if he was safe or not, however, he was not injured, but still too much of a close call.

Last but not least, is the most recent storyline, that has been a headline this year, Jhoulys Chacin.

Year Barrel% BB% wOBA
2018 6.5% 8.9% .287
2019 5.5% 11.2% .343

 

Although the barrel% did go down, everything else is too much of a close call, and the same story. This year has been a smaller sample size than pitchers before, since he was put on to the IL the other week.

Since Chacin has been the fifth pitcher to succumb to this so called curse that is lingering, there is reason to believe something weird is going on. Sure, maybe it is a crazy cowinsadince since Guerra and Anderson have both redeemed themselves with the team. However, I think we can all agree that it’s a much better story that they are cursed, and that the Brewers need someone to break up this bizzare cycle.