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Wednesday, December 11th 2019
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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.

The Return of Ryan Braun

The Brewers have had Ryan Braun’s bat in the lineup for just 30 of the teams 78 games so far this season. That makes the Brewers first place start all that more of a surprise. The naysayers don’t seem to think that the Brewers need Braun or that they’re better off without him. I understand people’s dislike for him, but to think that the Milwaukee Brewers are better without him is absolutely foolish. If Braun is healthy, he’s going to hit at an elite level.

image via Bleacher Report

Since May, Ryan Braun has only played in six games. He did however play in 24 games in April and was off to a very solid start. He hit seven homeruns, drove in 18 runs, and had an OPS of 960. I know it’s hard to believe people truly think that the Brewers don’t need a player that produces like that in the middle of the lineup. You know who doesn’t think that? Eric Thames. Thames had an absolutely historic April hitting .345, with 11 homers, 19 runs knocked in, and an OPS of 1.276. Obviously it wasn’t realistic for him to stay on that pace, but there maybe something to his struggles. Since Ryan Braun got hurt in May, Eric Thames has seen his numbers drop significantly. I’m not taking anything away from what he has done so far because he has been great. Shattering any expectations that the Brewers could have had for him going in the season. In the month of May, Thames only hit three homers with a batting average of only 221 and an OPS of 791. He got his power stroke back this month hitting six homers, giving him 20 on the season. However, so far in June he has only hit 179 with an OPS of 722. Eric Thames is still going to draw walks and hit homers, but the numbers speak for themselves, he’s a better hitter when hitting in front of Ryan Braun.

image via JSonline

The bottom line is if the Brewers want to stay in the division race all season, they are going to need contributions from everybody, including Ryan Braun. Everybody in the Brewers lineup will benefit with him in the lineup. It doesn’t matter if it’s the guys hitting in front of him seeing better pitches or guys in the bottom of the order hitting with him on base, everybody benefits.

A Peek Inside The Brewers 2017-2018 Offseason

Ask Milwaukee Brewers fans what their expectations for the 2017 season were, and most would have said somewhere between 65-75 wins.

The team was supposed to be “rebuilding” and waiting for the talent in their loaded farm system to make it to the big leagues before making a playoff push.

But the big league roster flourished, and the team gelled together better than ever — putting the team in a playoff race with just weeks remaining. And although the team struggled down the stretch and finished with an 86-76 record, a few games short of a playoff run —  hopes are higher than ever around Milwaukee.

Notable Returning Pitchers: Chase Anderson, Jacob Barnes, Zach Davies, Josh Hader, Jeremy Jeffress, Corey Knebel, Brandon Woodruff, Jimmy Nelson.

Notable Returning Position Players: Stephen Vogt, Orlando Arcia, Travis Shaw, Eric Thames, Eric Sogard, Brett Phillips, Domingo Santana, Lewis Brinson.

Notable Losses: Neil Walker, Anthony Swarzak, Matt Garza.

Free Agent Signings: Yovani Gallardo, Jhoulys Chacin, Boone Logan.

Pitching:

The Brewers finally got rid of Matt Garza’s contract this offseason, freeing up even more cap space. But David Stearns continues to stand by his rebuild through the system, rather than bringing in top dollar free agents.

Jake Arrieta, Yu Darvish, and Lance Lynn, all are top dollar starters that could fill the void as the ace of the staff until Jimmy Nelson returns. However, all wanted more than Stearns was willing to spend.

So instead he opted to save the money and bring back former Brewer Yovani Gallardo to compete for a spot in the bullpen, Boone Logan to bring a veteran lefty presence to the bullpen, and Jhoulys Chacin to bring another solid arm with a plus slider to the rotation.

This means the team will lean on Chase Anderson and Zach Davies to anchor the rotation and hope for second year starter Brandon Woodruff to pick up where he left off in 2017. Meanwhile the bullpen will hope Corey Knebel, Jacob Barnes, and Josh Hader can continue to eat up innings in relief.

Offense:

Offensively the Brewers were carried by sluggers Eric Thames and Travis Shaw during the first half of the season, but Thames production dwindled as he hit only eight home runs after the midsummer classic.

Meanwhile, shortstop Orlando Arcia’s bat woke up in 2017 and right fielder Domingo Santana’s ability to hit for average and power became a big asset. Contributions from pesky second baseman Eric Sogard and catchers Many Pina and Stephen Vogt also made many forget about the struggles of Jonathan Villar.

But the biggest question as the team hits spring training is what to do with all of the outfield talent. Ryan Braun, Keon Broxton, Domingo Santana, Brett Phillips, and Lewis Brinson are all battling for time in the big league outfield. Meanwhile, Corey Ray and Monte Harrison aren’t far from the bigs with the Carolina Mudcats.

Where Do They Go From Here?

Does the team think about moving Braun at the deadline? Can Arcia Continue to put up numbers at the plate? Can the rotation hold up without Jimmy Nelson? Do you keep Josh Hader in the bullpen? Can Jonathan Villar bounce back this season? These tough questions linger as Stearns plans for not only 2018, but for the future as well.

Braun has made it clear he will not be traded unless it is to the Dodgers, and that currently isn’t an option. So as long as Brinson and Phillips continue to grow as every day players, I think your best bet is trying Braun in a platoon at first base with Thames despite his early career struggles in the infield.

Arcia was a favorite of many in 2017. The youthful shortstop hit .277 with 15 home runs all while dazzling defensively. The energy he brings to the field every game is something hard to find in the league. Not only does Arcia have a bright future ahead of him defensively, but I also see him continuing to hit for average and more power as he matures.

Jimmy Nelson was one of the biggest surprises of 2018 and could have been key down the stretch had he not gotten hurt. No doubt he will be missed for the first half of 2018 while he rehabs, but the combination of Anderson, Davies, and Woodruff isn’t awful, while Chacin who went 13-10 with the Padres in 2017 may surprise some with his deceptive stuff. Management will have to hope this staff has no issues bridging the gap.

Josh Hader was by far one of the most exciting Brewers to watch in 2017. A 96-99 mph fastball mixed with a devastating slider for lefties is must see TV, which allowed him to sit perfectly in a late inning relief role. Being that as a reliever he could pitch almost every day, I think this is where Hader needs to stay unless he is able to develop a third pitch.

Lastly, If I said Villar was not a disappointment in 2017 I’d be lying. For much of the year he was barely batting over .200 and had his blunders defensively and on the basepaths. I think a lot of these struggles stemmed from the pressure he put on himself after his outstanding 2016. Now i’m not saying he will be able to repeat what he did in 2016, but it’s not out of the question for him to bounce back and hit .260 and swipe 25 bases.

As February lingers and pitchers and catchers get ready to report to Arizona for the spring ahead, hopes should still be high despite very few changes being made personnel-wise. Craig Counsell will once again have depth on his roster and plenty of young talent to choose from. If the Brewers don’t once against find themselves chasing a wild-card spot, I think most around the league would be shocked.

 

Brewers Offseason Recap/Spring Players to Watch

Brewers fans, the time has come! The start of spring training is here, which means that opening day is just that much closer (38 days, 14 hours, 44 minutes and 20 seconds from publishing this to be exact). The Brew Crew open up their games with a traditional exhibition against the UW-Milwaukee Panthers before starting their true spring tilts on Saturday against the Angels.

What It’s Like Being a Milwaukee Sports Fan

The city of Milwaukee is one of if not the most tortured sports cities in America.  If you take away the Packers (who play in Green Bay), the city has 2 teams that have combined for a single championship.  The Bucks won that championship in 1971.  In 1982 the Brewers made the World Series, but lost.  The Cream City has gone 46 years without a league championship.

What’s interesting is despite the drought, Milwaukee fans are among the best in sports.  They are very knowledgeable about the games the teams play, they are incredibly friendly, and they are committed to their teams.  You can get into an hour-long conversation about basketball at a Bucks game.  Even Cubs fans will get invited to a tailgate at Miller Park during the I-94 Rivalry series.  Above all, the love the people of Milwaukee have for their teams is unmatched.

You would expect fans to either not care or switch to more successful teams after decades of losing, but that is not the case in Milwaukee.  Even when the Bucks were the NBA’s punchline the players were showered with affection.  That stays true today with a rising team.  Giannis Antetokounmpo is becoming one of the most loved athletes in Wisconsin.  As for the Brewers, ever since they came into existence they have had great attendance.  Going to a Brewers game is almost a sacred tradition in Milwaukee.  In 2008 and 2011 the entire state was going crazy about the Brewers.  The 2011 Brewers had some of the most lovable and fun players ever.  I can clearly remember one day at school in 2008.  We had over an hour until the final bell, but the teachers decided the learning could wait.  We watched the beginning of the Brewers game vs the Philadelphia Phillies.  The Brewers had been losing for years, but for a few days in the fall of 2008, nothing was more important than cheering on the Crew.  I was so excited when they won a game in that series.  Even though they lost the series, that will always be one of my favorite memories of the Brewers.  My favorite is the Nyjer Morgan walk off that got the Brewers into the NLCS.

Another major part of being a Milwaukee sports fan is realizing that your teams get no coverage in the national media.  If you watch Sportscenter or any other national sports show, you can easily go a couple of weeks without seeing the Bucks or Brewers be discussed on there.  Even now with a very exciting Brewers team and a rising star on the Bucks, very little attention is being paid to Milwaukee’s teams.  Believe it or not, I’m fine with that.  I don’t want a media circus distracting our players.  We saw what happened with Ryan Braun a few years ago.  I don’t want that to ever happen again.

Being a fan of Milwaukee sports is not easy.  We haven’t seen a championship in 46 years.  Our teams get no respect anywhere outside of Wisconsin.  Even with the history of losing that has been synonymous with “Milwaukee sports”, now is a very exciting time to be a fan.  The Bucks are on the rise.  The playoff series against Toronto showed that the Bucks can win, they just need a little more experience.  Once they get that, the NBA better watch out.  The Brewers have promising young players like Orlando Arcia.  They are still rebuilding, but this year they are in 1st place in the NL Central and are looking like more than just a rebuilding team.  In a couple of years, we could see them not just compete for the playoffs, but possibly the division and beyond.  For years now both teams have talked about the future.  It’s clear the future is coming soon, and when it does we could see a new era of Milwaukee sports.  It will be a fun ride, and I’m ready for it.

Brewers Week In Review: 8/14-8/20

Milwaukee entered the middle of August needing some big wins to keep pace with the Cubs near the top of the NL Central, and it’s safe to say they got them. After a 2-game series win over Pittsburgh at Miller Park, the Brewers began their critical 9-game road trip out west with a visit to Colorado and, beneficially, Coors Field. The environment brought some aid to the Crews’ struggling offense, as power hitters shined and players both tenured and new recorded much-needed base hits. With series against San Fran and L.A. on the horizon, will the Brewers’ hot streak continue?

Let’s take a moment to look at the week ahead.

The Week Ahead

 

Upcoming series: @ San Francisco (8/21-8/23) and @ Los Angeles Dodgers (8/25-8/27)

Pitching probables @ San Francisco: Zach Davies (14-6, 4.26 ERA) vs. Chris Stratton (1-2, 4.91 ERA); Jimmy Nelson (9-6, 3.74 ERA) vs. Jeff Samardzija (8-12, 4.79 ERA); Matt Garza (6-7, 4.81 ERA) vs. Matt Moore (4-12, 5.54 ERA)

Pitching probables @ Los Angeles: Chase Anderson (7-2, 2.83 ERA) vs. Kenta Maeda (11-5, 3.88 ERA); Zach Davies (14-6, 4.26 ERA) vs. Alex Wood (14-1, 2.30 ERA); Jimmy Nelson (9-6, 3.74 ERA) vs. TBD

Weekly Awards

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

Winner: Neil Walker

The new guy makes his way into the awards section of the Brewers Week In Review. Since coming to the Crew, Neil Walker has played great, hitting 9-for-20 with 1 home run and 5 RBIs. Also, to be honest, there really wasn’t anyone else that I could think of to put in this spot, as everyone just played solid baseball rather than go “balls to the wall” so to speak. However, that is not to say in the slightest that Neil Walker doesn’t deserve the heck out of this award.

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

Winner: Jesus Aguilar

Until the last two games of the Rockies series, this award may have gone to one Neil Walker. However, I mean, come on. How can you beat two home runs, both of which turned out to be crucial in terms of insurance for the Brewers in their series win, the award has to go to Aguilar this week. Not only was this the best week of the season for Aguilar, it may just have given him the edge over Eric Thames when it comes to the battle of first basemen for the rest of the stretch run.

The Ben Sheets Award for Best Heat (Best Pitcher)

Winner: Chase Anderson

Just like two weeks ago, the Ben Sheets Award goes to a pitcher who waited a long time for his next opportunity to come. This time, it’s Anderson. Making his first appearance following a serious oblique injury in June against Cincinnati, the right-hander impressed. While he was on a limited pitch count (threw just 73 pitches in 5 innings), he was often dominant in shutting down Colorado’s potent offense, giving up just two hits and one run while striking out four and notching his seventh win of the year. While he did struggle with walks and the bullpen did make things a bit… interesting near the end, Anderson did get the job done in his return, one which came just in time for Milwaukee in their pursuit of a playoff push.

Prospect Update

AAA: Colorado Springs

Lewis Brinson (Brewers No. 1 Prospect; MLB.com’s #15 overall): .331, 22 2B, 4 3B, 13 HR, 48 RBI, 11 SB (76 games) Currently out with hamstring injury

Mauricio Dubon (Brewers No. 9 Prospect): .268, 13 2B, 5 HR, 27 RBI, 7 SB (46 games played with CS)

Brett Phillips (Brewers No. 12 Prospect): .316, 23 2B, 10 3B, 19 HR, 76 RBI, 9 SB (98 games with CS)

AA: Biloxi Shuckers

Luis Ortiz (Brewers No. 3 Prospect; MLB.com’s #79 overall): 4-6, 4.00 ERA, 83.1 IP, 75 K, 32 BB, 1.19 WHIP, .220 Opponent AVG

Corbin Burnes (Brewers No. 7 Prospect): 3-3, 2.20 ERA, 69.2 IP, 72 K, 10 BB, 0.95 WHIP, .217 AVG

Jake Gatewood (Brewers No. 18 Prospect): .289, 3 2B, 2 3B, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 1 SB (10 games)

 

A: Carolina Mudcats/Wisconsin Timber Rattlers

Corey Ray (Brewers No. 2 Prospect; MLB.com’s #67 overall): .239, 25 2B, 7 HR, 46 RBI, 23 SB at A Adv Carolina (100 games)

Keston Hiura (Brewers No. 5 Prospect; MLB.com’s #92 overall): .347, 9 2B, 2 3B, 15 RBI, 2 SB at A Wisconsin (24 games) Currently on 7-day DL

Lucas Erceg (Brewers No. 10 Prospect): .246, 29 2B, 13 HR, 70 RBI at A Adv Carolina (118 games)

Trey Supak (Brewers No. 16 Prospect): 3-4, 4.81 ERA, 67.1 IP, 55 K, 26 BB, 1.31 WHIP, .244 AVG at Adv A Carolina

Mario Feliciano (Brewers No. 25 Prospect): .249, 14 2B, 4 HR, 33 RBI, 9 SB at A Wisconsin (94 games)

With the 21st pick in the 2018 MLB Draft, the Milwaukee Brewers select Brice Turang

As the 2018 Brewers team is just starting to get into mid season form, the Brewers front office prepared for the 2018 MLB. I know the MLB draft does not have as much hype as other drafts in sports, but it is still a big deal for a team’s future. The Brewers went into the draft with the 21st pick in the first round looking to add to their already talented farm system.

With that pick the Brewers Selected Brice Turang, a shortstop from Santiago High School in Corona, California. The 6 foot 1, 161 pound, 18 year old was a player the Brewers had their eyes on leading up to this draft, but thought he would go sooner than pick 21. In fact, the Brewers had been scouting him since he was a freshman and, he was on the Brewers Fall team.

Batting left handed, he hit .352 with 5 homers and a .464 on-base percentage in his senior season in high school, and was a member of the USA Baseball team last summer, and is an LSU commit.

Interestingly, the Brewers drafted Brice’s father, Brian in 1987 in the 20th round. The Brewers are hoping to get a better result out of Brice than they did his father, Brian never played in a Brewers uniform because he never signed, he did make it up to the bigs briefly, for the Mariners.

With the selection of a young shortstop, the Brewers are most likely going to try to pair him with last year’s first rounder, Keston Huira who is likely to play second base, for the middle infield of the future.

It will be a long road ahead for Turang, he is a solid defensive shortstop, as well as decent hitter, but he is lacking power. At just 160ish pounds he needs to build some size, but again he is still 18 so he has time to build some muscle. He is not as pure of a hitter as Huira, who is now in AA Biloxi, so I would not expect him to make that much of a leap in his first full year, but I would guess in 5-7 years, we could be seeing Brice Turang in Milwaukee.

Exactly What The Doctor Ordered

It is no secret that second baseman, Jonathan Schoop, has struggled ever since he became a Brewer. However, in last night’s rout against the Cubs, Schoop had the game he desperately needed. Before last night, in 79 ABs, Schoop was batting .215 with 3 HRs, 8 RBIs, and 23 SOs. This is obviously not what Milwaukee acquired him to do. Schoop came in the game as a pinch-hitter in the 8th inning and was thrown into a position where he had to perform.

In his first AB, with runners in scoring position, Schoop hit a deep sac fly to right field that was caught on the warning track. The ball was mere feet away from being a homerun. Schoop stayed in the game defensively and got another chance at the plate. In his second AB, Schoop smoked a 2-run single to left field. In 2 ABs, Schoop had 3 RBIs and displayed power to both sides of the field. Even with a productive night at the plate, Schoop’s best play came as the final out in the 9th inning. With 2 outs and Matt Albers pitching, a ball was smashed in between first and second. Schoop (who was playing second base and shaded up the middle) broke towards the ball and made a spectacular diving stop then threw the batter out from his knees.

For a player who has been struggling as much as Jonathan Schoop, this is exactly the kind of game that can get a player out of a slump.

Analyzing the Brewers’ Return for Keon Broxton

The Brewers made some noise on Saturday amid a relatively quiet offseason for the club by sending Keon Broxton to the New York Mets in exchange for three players. While Broxton appeared to have a breakout year in 2016 when he posted a slash line of .242/.354/.430, he has consistently been plagued by strikeout rates that exceed 30%, leading to underwhelming results in 2017 and 2018. Given the Brewers current outfield depth and Broxton’s lack of remaining minor-league options, he made sense as a trade candidate.

The Brewers received three players in return for Broxton: Bobby Wahl, Adam Hill, and Felix Valerio. Let’s take a look at which each could offer in the future to the Crew.

Bobby Wahl, RHP

Wahl fits the profile of a prototypical power-reliever. He has a fastball that reaches into the upper-90 mph range, paired with a power slider that can generate whiffs. He is a strikeout artist, as he recorded 14.4 K/9 in the minor leagues last year to accompany a 2.20 ERA.

He has some brief major-league experience, throwing 13 innings over the last two seasons with little success. In these appearances, he has a combined 6.92 ERA and a 1.92 WHIP. The one area Wahl struggles with most is his control, and to be effective at the major-league level he will need to reign it in. He also has an injury history, as he missed extensive amounts of time in 2015 and 2017 with a nerve injury in his elbow and thoracic outlet syndrome, respectively.

Wahl will compete for a bullpen spot on the opening day roster, and we are certain to see him in Milwaukee during 2019 barring injury. If he improves his control, he could turn into a high leverage arm.

Adam Hill, RHP

The Mets selected Hill with their fourth-round pick in the 2018 MLB Draft. While he pitched mostly out of relief in his first taste of professional baseball after signing, he is a starting pitching prospect with the potential for a solid three-pitch mix. According to Hill’s MLB.com pre-draft scouting report, his fastball is his best pitch, which tops out at 95 mph. He pairs it with a pair of average pitches in his slider and change-up, each of which flashes potential to be “plus” pitches. Hill fits the profile of being a collage arm lacking polish that the Brewers have had success developing over the past few seasons (e.g. Corbin Burnes, Zack Brown), so hopefully they see some untapped potential here that could turn him into a legitimate prospect. If all goes well, he could be an arm that fits in the middle of the rotation.

Felix Valerio, INF

Valerio is the lottery ticket of this trade. He spent the 2018 season with the Mets’ affiliate in the Dominican Summer League and played well, hitting .319/.409/.433. In the field, he mostly played second base, where he committed four errors over 66 games played. Valerio is a small guy, as he stands 5’7” while weighing in at 165 lbs., so it is fair to say his power projects to be modest as best. However, he has clearly shown a penchant for getting on base given his .400+ on-base percentage. Look for him to spend the 2018 season with one of the Brewers’ stateside rookie affiliate clubs.

Brewers’ Starting Pitching Bounces Back

There’s no other way to say it: the Brewers’ starting pitching was dismal to start the year. They routinely failed to eat innings, and at the end of April they had the 7th worst ERA (5.14) of any starting rotation in baseball.

Some of these struggles were due to the performances of individual players. Corbin Burnes, after being a lock-down reliever during the Brewers’ playoff run in 2018, failed to acclimate back to a starting role, posting a 10.70 ERA in 4 starts and allowing a gargantuan 1.285 OPS to opposing batters. Freddy Peralta and Brandon Woodruff encountered troubles of their own, with Peralta’s first inning problems resurfacing and Woodruff always seeming to be one bad inning away from a good start. Compounding the rotation’s issues was Jhoulys Chacin looking like a completely different pitcher than the one who anchored the Crew’s staff into October, recording a 5.24 ERA in April.

However, the turn of the calendar brought a rotation that has performed a complete 180-degree turn. Since May 1st, the Brewers starters rank 2nd in the league in ERA (2.53) while holding opponents to a .681 OPS and allowing only 8 home runs in just over 84 innings pitched. Limiting the long ball has been a huge factor, as the rotation allowed 1.83 home runs per nine innings (HR/9) in April. Thus far in May, they have dropped that to 0.85 HR/9.

Individually, the Brewers have received some stellar performances to aid this turnaround. Gio Gonzalez has been phenomenal since his acquisition, covering 21 and 1/3 innings while posting a 1.69 ERA. Zach Davies is in a battle for the best ERA in the league, and has only helped his case with a 1.80 ERA in the month of May. Brandon Woodruff has seemingly turned a corner, giving the Crew four solid starts leading to a 1.44 ERA, including an 8-inning, 2-run gem that helped the Brewers take the series finale from the Atlanta Braves on Sunday. Finally, Jhoulys Chacin has started to looked like his 2018 self, recording a 3.38 ERA in three May starts.

While successful personnel adjustments like the insertion of Gio Gonzalez and Chase Anderson into the rotation are part of the reason for this turnaround, a more simple reason may also be contributing their current success: the Brewers aren’t playing the bulk of their games against offensive juggernauts anymore like they were in April. Over the first month of the season (March included), 23 of the Brewers’ 31 games were against teams with top-10 offenses when measured by weighted runs created plus (wRC+). Playing the Dodgers and Cardinals a combined 17 times is expected to be tough on your pitching staff, so it makes sense that they experienced difficulties that could easily have been exacerbated by some start of the season rust.

Going forward, the Brewers’ rotation will be an interesting situation to say the least. The Brewers currently have six healthy starters in Anderson, Chacin, Davies, Gonzalez, Woodruff, and Peralta, with the first five of that sequence having their starting roles locked down. However, Jimmy Nelson is nearing the end of his rehab program, meaning that he could be a potential seventh starting option that the Brewers need to find a place for. Given the rotation’s current success, it is difficult to predict how Craig Counsell and the front office will shuffle the group to make room for Nelson, who when he is “right” is the closest thing the Brewers have to a true ace.

One move that is almost certain to result with a Nelson return would be Freddy Peralta either moving to the bullpen or being optioned to Triple-A San Antonio. He is simply too volatile at the moment to warrant a starting role over the other options available. Triple-A would be a good environment for him to continue to hone his command of his pitches, as he has proven that he can be dominant when he is able to locate his pitches.

As far as Nelson, the Brewers could clear up the logjam by using him in a “piggyback” role with another starter. Counsell rarely allows Chase Anderson or Gio Gonzalez to face a lineup a third time through, which often limits them to starts of under six innings. If Counsell wanted to really eliminate the potential for any damage from either of those starters facing a lineup multiple times through, he could combine four innings of Gonzalez/Anderson with three from Jimmy Nelson, effectively giving them seven innings of rotation-caliber pitching. This would be a way to ease Nelson back into things while also playing on the strengths of the staff.

The other options for Nelson are to simply insert into a starting role at the expense of a current rotation member, convert him to a true bullpen pitcher (as compared to a “piggyback” role), or keep him in the minor leagues as a starter. Of these three options, both the bullpen and the minor leagues seem highly unlikely, as the Brewers have stretched him out to starter-level innings and he is simply too talented to revert to a bullpen role. Insertion into the starting rotation is possible, but once again would require the Brewers to determine a new role for one of their five currently successful starters.

Regardless, things are looking up for the Brewers rotation. Despite an early-season panic regarding their viability as a group, it looks like David Stearns has managed to put together a staff that can keep the Brewers in the pennant race and hopefully lead them to their postseason aspirations.