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Wednesday, December 12th 2018
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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.

Brewers Week In Review: 7/19-7/26

Uncertainty and restlessness are just some of the emotions being felt in Brewers country. As the trade deadline approaches and rumors are milling about, fans are left wondering what the Brewers will look like after August 1st. In this week’s “Week In Review,” I will explore some of the rumors as well as look back at the action on the diamond over the past 7 days.

King of the Diamond: Week of 5/8

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

Every Monday 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 Crew fell just a game short of a perfect week, taking two from Boston and sweeping the Mets over the weekend. This impressive homestand puts Milwaukee four games above .500 and just two losses behind the Cardinals for the NL Central lead.

King of the Diamond- Hernan Perez

Image result for hernan perez
ESPN

Hernan Perez picks up Cream City Central’s first ever King of the Diamond award. Perez was a big factor in the Brewers’ series sweep of the Mets, hitting .462 while adding three runs, three RBI’s, a pair of doubles and not striking out once all series. Perez continues to be a versatile slugger that Brewers manager Craig Counsell can place at multiple positions. Perez should continue to be a key member of Cream City’s lineup moving forward.

King of the Diamond- Carlos Martinez, St. Louis Cardinals

Image result for carlos martinez
ESPN

Carlos Martinez wins the first divisional King of the Diamond award after earning a pair of wins this past week over the Marlins and Cubs. In a combined 12.2 innings pitched, Martinez gave up just three earned runs and five hits while striking out seven in each contest. After a shaky 0-3 start to begin the 2017 campaign, Martinez has won three straight starts and the Cardinals (21-15) are thriving atop the division, winning eight out of their last nine games.

Brewing Up the Bucks

For pure entertainment purposes, us here at Cream City Central were thinking, “What if the Bucks threw on the blue and gold and were Brewers?” In this article we will use the 2016-2017 Milwaukee Bucks roster to fill the positions of the Brewers. We will break the roster down by both position and batting order. The Bucks roster is ten players shorter than the Brewers so we will fill the roster as follows: all 8 field positions, five starting pitchers, a closer, and a designated hitter. The players will also be listed in the batting order.

 

SS Gary Payton II:

Peyton’s impact as a guard on the Bucks may be limited, but on the Brewers he’s hitting leadoff. His speed and quickness allows for his quick hands to get through the zone and pepper the field with singles. He’s the type of guy you want hitting leadoff, great average, high on base percentage, and the ability to run on just about any pitcher in the league.

 

LF Rashad Vaughn:

Vaughn gets the nod out in left field. A shifty, quick player who gets good jumps on the ball in the field and can cover ground.  At the plate he doesn’t offer much power, but he’s a solid two hitter. He will hit for a good enough average because of the protection provided by the three hole and is able to provide a tough out before the heart of the order.

3B Jabari Parker:

Jabari screams Aramis Ramirez, great arm, good reactions, and a powerful bat at the plate. With his size and athleticism he has the range to be a gold glover, the only question is will he survive the grind of a 162 game season. He’s got the talent to be an all-star caliber player, but due to injuries hasn’t been able to stay in the lineup. At the plate Jabari is discipline, he has a good eye, but if you make the mistake of leaving a belt high pitch, he’ll go yard on you.

1B John Henson:

Henson hits cleanup for the Crew as a big power hitting first basemen. He has the power to take any pitcher deep, but like any good power hitter, also is susceptible to strikeouts. The big seven foot strike zone might be an issue, but he’s the type of guy who can really smack the ball with his long levers. The reason henson is at first is because of his length. He’ll have the biggest radius to be able to snag throws that other guys simply couldn’t.

CF Giannis Antetokounmpo:

Giannis takes the five spot in the order. I’d consider Giannis a Travis Shaw type player, but with less power. He’d hit around .300, give you a hit or two just about everyday, and field his position at par if not better. He’ll also be your most consistent hitter and work the count never giving in during an at bat. The reason I have Giannis in center is because of his long strides and ability to cover a lot of ground in very few steps. His ability to cross half court and take two steps and get to the rim translates well to center field and tracking down a line shot to the gap. Another reason to have Giannis out in center is because of his leaping ability. Giannis could be a Trout-esque player. The type of guy who could go up the wall and make incredible catches night in and night out.

C Khris Middleton:

I originally had Middleton at a different position, but when it came down to it I thought out of all the guys he’d be the best catcher. As a student of the game in basketball, Middleton has a great basketball I.Q. and I feel like he’d do the same in baseball. This would allow him to call good games behind the plate and put his pitching staff in a position to win games while he’s behind the plate. He also has great lateral quickness which would allow him to slide back and forth and block any balls in the dirt. Middleton hits sixth in the lineup because of his ability to be an average hitter. Not someone who will give you more than 20 home runs on the year because he doesn’t have a ton of pop in the bat, but he’ll hit somewhere between .250 and .275, add in 65-80 RBI’s and have a solid .333-.366 OBP. Middleton is the type of guy you need in your lineup in case 3,4, and 5 just aren’t getting it done (that’s one of the main reasons the Brewers have been so successful this year).

RF Thon Maker:

Thon got the position of right field for a couple of reasons, first, he wouldn’t see too much action. Second, like Giannis, he has good leaping ability and range which would allow him to track down balls. He also would have a high release point of the baseball making it easier to throw the ball on a direct line from right field to the plate, so expect him to shock you with a handful of putouts year in and year out. As the seven hitter, you don’t expect much from Maker, but he’ll have his games here and there. His big strike zone really hurts him and I don’t see Thon as the type of guy who’d be able to pull his hands in and yank one down the line. Expect him to be your average major league hitter at best, but the type of guy who can have a night here or there.

2B Matthew Dellavedova:

Dellavedova’s face says it all. Grit. Effort. Above all, the will to do anything to win. He’s a true second baseman. You’ll always see him in a low squat (just like his three point shot) and if his uniform isn’t dirty by the end of the game, he wasn’t in the lineup. Delly is the type of player that short arms it from second, but still manages to make the routine plays and get guys out. He’d have decent range with his above average lateral quickness and ability to get a good jump on a ball off the bat. Delly actually is hitting nine in my lineup (Pitcher hits 8 in NL matchup), I’m going the Tony La Russa route with this lineup. Delly has surprisingly good speed and can act as a second leadoff hitter. It also allows for three batters (position players) to be ahead of the power hitting 3 hole that is Jabari Parker. That increases the chances of there being guys on base for the three hole and possibly the bases loaded.

 

CL Spencer Hawes:

The sole reason Hawes is the closer for this team? His beard. I can see it now, Hawes jogging in, beard in the wind, some sort of rock song in the background that has fans roaring in the top of the 9th. Hawes is the type of closer to bring the heat. A mid to high 90’s fastball which is complimented by a drop-off-the-table type curve. He’s the type of pitcher that instills fear in hitters and gives them nightmares when they sleep. You don’t want to face this guy.

SP Jason Terry:

Jason Terry is my ace for this team. He may not be as tall as many starting pitchers, but he’s got the pitchers mindset. One of the smartest guys on the field. He pitches each and every batter like a chess match, thinking a couple moves ahead and setting guys up for failure each at bat. He might not be the most physically gifted guy on the mound, but you can bet Terry is the smartest player on the field at all times.

SP Malcolm Brogdon:

The Prez is similar to Terry in the fact that he is very smart on the mound, but not quite as smart as Terry. The only thing that puts Brogdon as the number two guy is the fact that he has a gifted arm. Brogdon is the rare combination of a talented arm and a mind that is well beyond his years. He has incredible potential, but hasn’t fully developed into the ace he might be one day. He’s coming of his first great season, but looks to continue that going forward in his career. The Brewers think he might be the type of guy with a mid two ERA and 100+ strikeouts, and he may very well be on his way to that.

SP Michael Beasley:
Beasley is the loose cannon of the staff. The guy that could be lockdown and give up no runs or the guy that gets shelled for 9 runs in two innings. He’s similar to a guy like Carlos Martinez of the Cardinals, he could get flustered easily and lose a game at any given moment, but as long as he’s calm, he should be able to pitch a good game.

SP Mirza Teletovic:

Teletovic is your traditional fourth pitcher. A guy who will get you somewhere around 10 wins, but probably won’t impress all too much in any given outing. He’s got average stuff, but as a veteran has proven himself already in the league. On the decline of his career Telly probably has a few good years left in him at best until he becomes the Jeff Suppan of your club.

SP Tony Snell

Snell comes in as the fifth guy on the staff, but for most teams would probably be a three or four. He really is a solid pitcher, but has always had guys in front of him who are that much better. You can still expect a lot from snell including a quality start just about every time he takes the mound. His only real issue is that he really doesn’t get a whole ton of run support. He’s a young guy who will definitely get his shot one day whether it’s with the Brewers or another team, but he’s developing into a really solid player and will be a top end starter soon.

DH Greg Monroe:

Monroe gets the nod at DH. He’s a David Ortiz-esque player, the type of guy who doesn’t move well at all, is limited to pretty much only DH or 1B. He’ll either hit it out of the park or he’s settling for a single. Monroe is a good hitter, but probably never a great hitter and wouldn’t crack the lineup on a daily basis for an NL team. On the right team in the AL, he’s probably the everyday DH, but in Milwaukee, the fit hasn’t worked out all as planned. He still has made the most of it and has been able to string together some solid numbers over the past few years in his limited role, but the big power hitter could do even better somewhere else. With that being said though, he’ll give you a solid 15-20 homers off the bench and that’s saying a lot for a guy who doesn’t play everyday.

Brewers Call Up Jacob Nottingham

With the injury to Manny Piña, multiple reports have surfaced that the Milwaukee Brewers will be calling up top prospect and catcher Jacob Nottingham from AAA Colorado Springs. It will be the 23 year old’s first shot at the big league level with the Brewers as he looks to add depth to the catcher position for Craig Counsell’s crew. Nottingham has been playing with the AAA Sky Sox for 8 games this season hitting 8-for-27 at a .296 average, with one home run, four runs batted in, a .345 on base percentage, and .710 on base plus slugging percentage. Last year Nottingham played at the AA level with the Biloxi Shuckers and hit a less than impressive .209 average, adding on nine home runs and 48 RBIs in only 101 games played.

While the numbers last year were down for Nottingham this call up is an excitement for Brewers fans everywhere. Jacob Nottingham was the key trade piece initially when the Oakland Athletics sent Scott Kazmir to the Houston Astros. Nottingham was then traded to the Brewers as the main piece in the Khris Davis deal later that offseason. Since coming to the Brewers organization Nottingham has not found a groove on both sides of the ball, but still has shown glimpses of the raw power that scouts had raved about back in 2015. Nottingham is well known for his aggressive approach at the plate which has lead to pitchers being able to exploit him and a high strikeout rate. 2017 was a much improved season for Nottingham in terms of his approach even though the numbers might not show it. Nottingham also showed big strides behind the plate throwing out 40% of baserunners and showing much improved glove work and blocking in 2017 and spring training.

Nottingham is a talent that many scouts have said is potentially an everyday player at the big league level, but whether he reaches that potential is yet to be seen. With a crowded catcher position when healthy, it is more than likely that Nottingham’s stay will last as long as Piña is unavailable. With that being said, Brewers fans should be excited to get a look at the young catcher over the next series or two.

Making the Postseason: Part I

Some teams need the All-Star break so bad they end up limping to the imaginary halfway finish line. The Brewers weren’t even able to limp anymore. With the first half of the 2018 season in the books, The Crew was forced to crawl all the way to that break where they will unwind, catch their breaths, watch some teammates help an All-Star team, and get ready to explode into the second part of July with some gusto. Losing 7 of their last 8, including a 5 game series sweep at the hands of the measly Pirates doesn’t look good on anyone. It particularly doesn’t look good on a team that lost their first place standing in the NL Central after holding the crown for a dominant chunk of the season so far.  It’s not hard to understand what caused this, as the Chicago Cubs finished strong, winning 7 of their last 10.

In an effort to shed some positive light, we have decided to take the off week from exhibition play to look back at the pieces that have gotten the Brewers this far, and what will continue to propel the clubhouse to a division championship title. As the All-Star game quickly approaches, we take a look at some of the team’s most prolific offensive threats, and landing 2 All-Star spots; the Brewers’ outfield.

During the offseason, additions of Lorenzo Cain (FA) and Christian Yelich via trade bolstered a question mark on the team’s back line into one of the game’s most dominant squads. Tying them both into Milwaukee on long term contracts made an impact statement that the team’s front office was ready to win some ball games at 1 Brewers Way. Following Kansas City’s World Series win in 2015, Cain continued to experience relative individual success, ending 2017 with an exact .300 batting average.

Yelich was the real surprise grab, and came out of left field, as many fans were not expecting a big time trade to rapidly accelerate the team’s rebuilding process. While the combo of Yelich and Cain were impactful moves for the Brewers’ playoff hopes, it is important to look at the unit as a whole and the continued impact the outfield can provide in the field and at the plate to lock down a playoff spot for the first time in 7 years. The primary area for concern is not so much in the field, and a major focus coming out of the All-Star break will need to be the production of the sticks. The starting outfield lineup according to MLB.com as of July 16th is as follows; Yelich (LF, BA of .292), Cain (CF, BA of .293), and Keon Broxton (RF, BA of .179). While batting average has constantly been a topic up for debate in the last 5-10 years because of its validity in terms of production, there is something to be said about an entire outfield hitting sub .300. For the Brewers to come out of the break without some improvement at the plate across the entire lineup would be unfortunate. Where this improvement will come from is uncertain, but why not start in the outfield, which contains two 2018 All-Star players?

The strangest thing about these batting averages is that none of them coincide with the team’s win column, as all three fielders have seen drastic spikes in the last 7 games. While the team lost 6 of those 7, Cain, Yelich, and Broxton all saw a leap over their 2018 totals, even seeing Yelich bat an impressive .344 over that stretch. Where the outfield has seen particularly impressive results has been in their on base percentage (OBP). Lorenzo Cain for instance, has gotten on base almost 40% of his at bats this season! This is fantastic, particularly in the first few spots of the order, allowing cleanup hitters to come to the plate with some ducks on the pond. Even Eric Thames (10-day DL), who has seen some increased playing time in right field following the strong emergence of Jesus Aguilar as the everyday first basemen, is contributing in the lead-off spot with an OBP of .344. While it could be asked why a plate to wall power hitter like Thames is your lead-off man, it is hard to argue with Thames’ ability to get aboard.

One move that could be interesting would be to deal a hopefully healthy Thames in a package trade to gain some needed help in the infield, possibly for assistance at catcher. While this isn’t an extremely likely outcome, it is always fun to toy around with these ideas as the trade deadline approaches.

As far as the Brewers’ outfield defensive play, fans have grown accustomed to Yelich, Cain, Broxton, and Braun making circus catches look elementary. Their ability to continue playing athletically intelligent baseball for the remainder of the season will assist a pitching department that has come back down to earth in the last few weeks. Broxton alone has made an impact in helping the pitching staff since being recalled in late June, robbing two would be home runs from opposing teams since then. Nothing makes a pitcher happier than a teammate well over 300 feet away bailing him out on a pitching mistake. Every member of this Brewers’ team has contributed, and will need to continue to contribute to this team effort of playing lock down defense with a “team first” mentality. While the pitching has been electric, it never hurts to have a rotating array of solid ballers shutting down the green space beyond the baseline.

2018 has seen a major shift, with a Brewers’ outfield discussion able to progress for this long without a sizable piece being about Ryan Braun. While Braun continues to be a valuable veteran asset, players like Broxton have rotated and filled holes nicely during Braun’s injury absences. Having Braun well rested and healthy could prove to be a great option for later this season to help the team push into the playoff race and hopefully deep into those playoffs come October. Domingo Santana’s name on a depth chart is also a nice little insurance piece should any of these starters need some midseason down time.

We start the week with the outfield, not because great work must be done, but because they will continue to be an important piece in the team’s hope to get into the 2018 postseason. We wish Jesus Aguilar the best of luck tonight, and a team wide bode of good luck tomorrow for the All-Star game as the team uses this time to rearm in an attempt to come out of the break swinging (and fielding). We’ll see you tomorrow for Part II of ‘Making the Postseason’.

-All stats via mlb.com

These Brewers Have the “It” Factor

Some teams have “It”, others don’t. That magical spark that kicks in when things look bleak. That loud yet silent mojo which emanates from player to player, leading them from victory to victory. That energy which provides a glimmer of hope for the impossible to happen when you least expect it. A unifying synergy that makes a team greater than the sum of its parts, defying logic and intuition.

Congratulations, Milwaukee. Your Brewers have that ever-important “It” factor.

We’ve seen it all year. Want some evidence? Well, here you go.

On March 30th, at the San Diego Padres, the Brewers trailed 6-3 entering the top of the ninth. It looked like the Brewers would suffer their first loss of the year… until they didn’t. They put up 5 runs capped by a mammoth home run by Ryan Braun with two strikes and two outs to take the lead, resulting in an improbable 8-6 victory by the Crew.

On April 3rd, the Brewers trailed the St. Louis Cardinals 4-3 in Miller Park entering the bottom of the ninth. With two outs, Christian Yelich strode to the plate. Down to his last strike, Yelich launched his first Brewers’ home run to deep right center to tie the game, sending the home crowd into a frenzy. Hardly a minute later, and exactly one pitch later, vintage Ryan Braun made an appearance and absolutely wrecked a Dominic Leone fastball over the Brewers bullpen to walk-off those pesky birds from Missouri.

On April 21st, the Brewers were in yet another late inning battle at home, this time against the Miami Marlins. Tied 5-5 in the bottom of the ninth, Craig Counsell inserted Jesus Aguilar as a pinch hitter. Aguilar quickly fell down 0-2 in the count, until he proceeded to take three balls and foul off seven pitches before hitting a moon shot on the 13th pitch for the walk-off. It was potentially one of the best at bats of the year in the MLB, and it kick-started Aguilar’s breakout 2018 campaign that led to an all-star appearance.

The list of improbable moments and achievements goes on and on. Josh Hader striking out 8 in 2 and 2/3 innings of work on April 30th. Jeremy Jeffress re-emerging as a dominant force out of the ‘pen and earning his first all-star nod. The Brewers’ 3-run comeback in the bottom of the 15th against the Pittsburgh Pirates, with PITCHER JORDAN LYLES DRAWING A KEY WALK AND SCORING THE GAME-WINNING RUN. Christian Yelich’s two cycles in a span of two weeks. Jonathan Schoop’s grand slam against Madison Bumgarner. Taking the division after trailing the Cubs by as many as 6 games near the end of August. This team just doesn’t stop.

All of this wouldn’t be possible without one thing however – the “It” factor. These Brewers have an aura about them that exudes confidence and accomplishment. Every team that does anything special needs it. It breeds success, and leads to improbable outcomes like the many listed above. Could that lead to an NLCS series win and Milwaukee’s first World Series berth since 1982? It’s certainly in the realm of possibility.

Derek Jeter’s world championship Yankee teams had “It”. The 2016 Chicago Cubs had “It”. And I’m willing to go out on a limb and say that the 2018 Milwaukee Brewers truly do have “It”.

Man, how can you not be romantic about baseball. Go Crew.

Brewers Draft Review: Day 1

More than 1/3 of the MLB season is now behind us, the All-Star Game is just about a month away (vote Brewers) and with the NBA Finals having come to an end, it is officially baseball’s time to shine. That began Monday, which brought with it the first day of the 2017 MLB Draft. The second draft for Brewers GM David Stearns began with a heavily offensive minded first day.

Round 1 (9th overall): Keston Hiura, 2B, University of California-Irvine

Slot Value: $4,570,000

Physical Tools: 6’0”, 180 pounds

Pre-Draft Rankings: #22 by MLB.com, #20 by Baseball America, #15 by Minor League Ball

Grade Tools (All by MLBPipeline; based on 20-80 scale): Hit 60  Power 50  Run 50  Arm 45  Field 45 Overall 50

Last Season Stats: .442/.567/.693, 199 AB, 88 H, 24 2B, 1 3B, 8 HR, 42 RBI, 9 SB

Strengths: Contact Hitting, Great discipline at the plate (38 K to 50 BB), Quick/compact swing that finds the ball easily with underrated power

Weaknesses: Fielding/Arm Strength (both 45 graded), possible durability issues (elbow injury that may require Tommy John surgery)

Analysis: After watching film on Hiura, I was very impressed by his swing and hitting ability. Some scouts have rated his hitting as high as 70 on the 20-80 scale and say that his bat is close to Major League ready. The concerns with his elbow may have turned some off to him in the draft, but David Stearns seemingly feels that Hiura can be a strong asset for the Brewers in the future, if not just as a potentially great bat.

Competitive Balance Round A (34th overall): Tristen Lutz, OF, Martin High School (TX)

Slot Value: $1,983,600

Physical Tools: 6’3”, 210 pounds

Pre-Draft Rankings: #34 by MLB.com, #62 by Baseball America, #42 by Minor League Ball

Tool Grades: Hit 50  Power 55  Run 50  Arm 60  Field 55

Stats not found as of writing

Strengths: Good body/physical tools, great arm, versatility (played multiple outfield positions in high school)

Weaknesses: Less of a power hitter than contact hitter, not the best runner for the outfield position

Analysis: A prospect with varying rankings prior to the draft, Lutz will bring a raw power bat and a strong arm to the Brewers system. In a system that is loaded with outfielders, he may need to wait longer than he may like to reach the Major League level, his tool grades provide a reason to believe he can be very successful. A great baseball body along with being just 18 years old out of high school (19 in August), look for Tristen Lutz to potentially make a quick rise up the Brewers minor league ranks.

Round 2 (46th overall): Caden Lemons, RHP, Vestavia Hills High School (AL)

Slot Value: $1,493,500

Physical Tools: 6’6”, 175 pounds

Pre-Draft Rankings: #77 by MLB.com, #57 by Baseball America, #70 by Minor League Ball

Tool Grades: Fastball 65  Slider 50  Curveball 45  Changeup 50  Control 45  Overall 45

Stats not found as of writing

Strengths: Tall at 6’6”, plus fastball which can top out at 97 MPH, great potential if fulfilled

Weaknesses: Lanky frame, inconsistent form, sometimes weak command due to form, average-to-above-average second pitches

Analysis: Lemons’ lanky frame and solid pitch arsenal bring similar comparisons to recent Brewers call-up Josh Hader. If he is able to put some more muscle on his frame and gain a solid amount of weight, he may be able to reach triple digits and make his fastball even more of an asset for him. However, like Hader, he is going to need to improve his command if he is going to be successful. Will he be successful? Well, we can only hope he follows in the footsteps of last year’s #46 pick, Lucas Erceg in that department.

Brewers Week In Review: 8/1-8/6

Two things are true when it comes to this week of Brewers baseball. First, the Brewers scored 15 runs in 6 games (or only 2.5 per game). However, the Crew also managed to pull off a record of 4-2 against the Cardinals and Rays behind solid pitching performances carrying a suddenly anemic looking Milwaukee offense. In addition, the Crew continued to keep pace with the first place Chicago Cubs. Now, with a winnable stretch of games coming up over the next 10 days, the Brewers need to take advantage and make their next move now, or it could be “checkmate” from Chicago before they know it.

With that being said, let’s take a moment to look at the week ahead.

The Week Ahead

 

Upcoming series: @ Minnesota (8/7-8/8), vs. Minnesota (8/9-8/10) and vs. Cincinnati (8/11-8/13)

Pitching matchups @ Minnesota: Brent Suter (2-2, 3.04 ERA) vs. Ervin Santana (12-7, 3.28 ERA); Matt Garza (5-5, 3.68 ERA) vs. Adalberto Mejia (4-5, 4.30 ERA)

Pitching matchups vs. Minnesota: Bartolo Colon (3-9, 7.32 ERA) vs. Brandon Woodruff (1-0, 0.00 ERA); Kyle Gibson (6-9, 6.03 ERA) vs. Zach Davies (13-5, 4.18 ERA)

Pitching matchups vs. Cincinnati: TBD vs. Jimmy Nelson (9-5, 3.24 ERA); TBD vs. TBD; TBD vs. TBD

Weekly Awards

Rollie Fingers Award for First-Team All-Swagger (player that went out “balls to the wall”)

Winner: Orlando Arcia

The main man, at last, makes his return! Once again, Arcia showed off his incredible defensive skills and effort in Milwaukee’s 2-0 win over Tampa Bay on Friday. After Evan Longoria hit a double down the left field line, everyone and their mother likely thought that the runner from first, Corey Dickerson, was going to score fairly comfortably. However, no one told the Brewers that. After a solid throw from Ryan Braun to start the relay, Arcia unleased the cannon, throwing a halfway to home Dickerson out from over 100 feet away with an absolute strike to Manny Pina to end the inning. He followed that up with a first pitch home run in the 8th inning off of Rays reliever Sergio Romo to help seal a big win for Milwaukee. Oh, and did we mention that all of this came on Arcia’s 23rd birthday?

The Robin Yount Award for Pure and Utter Dominance (Most Dominant Player)

Winner: Orlando Arcia

For the first time in the week in review, a player has won two awards in the same week. Looking at the performance of Arcia, it’s hard to argue that he doesn’t deserve it. Not only did he have a fantastic 23rd birthday performance, he also had a solid week. While he didn’t start off very well for the week (0-for-4 against the Cardinals on Tuesday), he used the rest of the week to make up for it. He finished 8-for-21 (.380) with two home runs and 3 RBIs in leading the Brewers to the aforementioned 4-2 record. As far as the fans around social media who say he should me moved up in the order go: if Arcia keeps putting performances like this, he could stay in the bottom of the order for as long as he wants.

The Ben Sheets Award for Best Heat (Best Pitcher)

Winner: Brandon Woodruff

August 4th was a long time coming for Mr. Woodruff. Now, for pro players, everyone looks forward to the day where they can put on that uniform and play in a Major League Baseball game. However, Brandon Woodruff had a different experience than most, because this was, effectively, his second debut. On June 13th, the Brewers were playing the first game of a doubleheader against the St. Louis Cardinals. As a result, they were allowed a 26th roster member, which came in handy on this day. Less than half an hour before he was to begin pitching, Woodruff was scratched with a tight hamstring, replaced by current rotation stronghold Brent Suter. So, on Friday, Woodruff gave fans what they had been waiting on for nearly two months. Over 6.1 innings, Woodruff threw 97 pitches while giving up 7 hits and two walks along with six strikeouts. The most impressive of all? No runs allowed. The Brewers would end up winning the game 2-0, putting the icing on top of a debut to remember for the right-hander.

Prospect Update

AAA: Colorado Springs

Lewis Brinson (Brewers No. 1 Prospect; MLB.com’s #15 overall): .335, 22 2B, 4 3B, 10 HR, 43 RBI, 11 SB (71 games)

Mauricio Dubon (Brewers No. 9 Prospect): .287, 11 2B, 5 HR, 25 RBI, 6 SB (35 games played with CS)

Brett Phillips (Brewers No. 12 Prospect): .310, 19 2B, 9 3B, 17 HR, 69 RBI, 6 SB (85 games with CS)

AA: Biloxi Shuckers

Luis Ortiz (Brewers No. 3 Prospect; MLB.com’s #79 overall): 4-5, 3.57 ERA, 80.2 IP, 72 K, 31 BB, 1.13 WHIP, .207 Opponent AVG (No starts as of publishing)

Corbin Burnes (Brewers No. 7 Prospect): 3-3, 2.12 ERA, 59.1 IP, 61 K, 9 BB, 0.88 WHIP, .199 AVG

 

A: Carolina Mudcats/Wisconsin Timber Rattlers

Corey Ray (Brewers No. 2 Prospect; MLB.com’s #67 overall): .239, 24 2B, 6 HR, 40 RBI, 21 SB at A Adv Carolina

Keston Hiura (Brewers No. 5 Prospect; MLB.com’s #93 overall): .375, 8 2B, 2 3B, 11 RBI, 2 SB at A Wisconsin (18 games)

Lucas Erceg (Brewers No. 10 Prospect): .243, 25 2B, 12 HR, 65 RBI at A Adv Carolina

Trey Supak (Brewers No. 16 Prospect): 3-3, 4.78 ERA, 58.1 IP, 50 K, 21 BB, 1.27 WHIP, .240 AVG at Adv A Carolina

Jake Gatewood (Brewers No. 18 Prospect; No. 19 last week): .269, 36 2B, 11 HR, 53 RBI, 7 SB at A Adv Carolina

Mario Feliciano (Brewers No. 25 Prospect; No. 26 last week): .243, 14 2B, 4 HR, 32 RBI, 8 SB at A Wisconsin