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Brewers Infield Has Strength in Numbers

It’s no secret the Milwaukee Brewers boast a star-studded outfield. There’s a former MVP. (Perhaps) a future MVP. And a World Series champion who was MVP of the ALCS leading up to the World Series. While there’s certainly talent in the infield, that unit goes about things in a slightly different way.

Let’s just get this out of the way: Jesus Aguilar was an All-Star this season. It would be a surprise to exactly zero Brewer fans if Travis Shaw (or Orlando Arcia, for that matter) made All-Star games before their careers were over. That’s nothing to sneeze at

But whereas the outfield is a monsoon of talent, the Brewers infield is more of a pounding rain that just keeps coming … and coming.

Jesus Aguilar and Eric Thames bring a one-two, righty-lefty power bunch few teams can have. Why? Because most teams don’t have the versatility elsewhere to carry two players who can really only play first. (Though, to be fair, it wouldn’t be shocking if we didn’t see any Thames over the course of the postseason.) Shaw’s ability to move back and forth from third to first fills in that void should Thames (continue) to be left off the postseason roster.

That could mean more Mike Moustakas in the lineup, too. He also brings the same type of championship pedigree that Cain brings from Kansas City (and a player who’s a two-time All-Star in his own right). Moustakas has never been a big batting average guy, nor a huge power bat in the traditional sense. But he doesn’t strikeout much and puts pressure on the defense by putting the ball in play.

Utility man Hernan Perez allows all the other wheels to move. Knowing there’s a player that can virtually play all nine positions (remember, he’s pitched before, too!) in your back pocket allows Craig Counsell to take chances and be aggressive in seeking mismatches elsewhere. If it doesn’t work, sub in Perez. He might not bring the star power of other players on the roster, but he’s a gritty player that doesn’t do anything harmful to the Brewers’ chances of winning.

Jonathan Schoop (an All-Star in 2017) can be plugged in wherever needed. Though mainly thought of as second baseman, he was brought to Milwaukee at a time when they were searching for answers at shortstop. He was kind of an outside-the-box solution to the problem.

Now that Orlando Arcia has settled back in as an everyday shortstop, Schoop has proven to be a really sneaky good pickup. He might not get a ton of action going forward, but that’s exactly the point here: he’s overqualified for his role on the Brewers. As long as he’s cool with it and willing to sacrifice in the name of winning, Schoop is exactly what makes the infield an unrelenting downpour for opposing pitchers.

If an opposing team can avoid giving up the longball to Aguilar, likes their lefty/lefty matchups against Shaw and Moustakas, and can get Arcia to chase pitches out of the zone (as he’s prone to do), Counsell can turn to Schoop. Sure, his production has dropped his coming over from Baltimore, but you really think pitchers want to tempt fate by treating Schoop as an easy out?

That brings us to Orlando Arcia. It’s tempting to say Arcia’s season has been a roller coaster. But that’s not necessarily true. Roller coasters have ups and downs. Arcia’s season has been mostly down. Milwaukee gave him every opportunity to cement his name on the lineup card at short. He’s always been an elite-level defensive player. And should have a couple of Gold Gloves in his future. But he struggled at the plate for most of this pro career, especially for much of this season.

It was his bat that led to a midseason demotion to triple-A. But from Sept. 1st to Oct. 1st, he held a .329 batting average with a crazy .803 OPS. He’s never been much of a home run hitter, and likely never will be, but if he maintains good contact and hit some balls into the gaps he can use his legs to turn singles into doubles, doubles into the occasional triple. Essentially, his speed on the base paths translates into the equivalent of a player who’s raw power numbers are well beyond Arcia’s abilities at the plate.

Add it all up, and the Brewers have a title wave of talent up and down the lineup.

Milwaukee Brewers Retrospective: A Look Back on some of David Stearns’ Best and Worst Trades as Brewers GM

 

     Being a small market franchise, the Milwaukee Brewers have historically had to rely heavily on trades to acquire major talent to help them compete at the highest level possible. We saw this in December of 2010 when former GM Doug Melvin made a splash in trading for CY Young award winner Zack Greinke from the Kansas City Royals for a slew of prospects, along with other similar deals.

    Shifting to David Stearns’ tenure as the Brewers’ general manager, the young Harvard graduate has already pulled off a number of large-scale trades that have accelerated the Brewers’ post -2014 rebuild. Starting on a positive note, let’s highlight some of those deals and how they have worked out for the Brewers. Some are easier to judge than others, but for the most part, the sample size is large enough to determine a winner and a loser of the deals.

 

2016-17 offseason- Brewers receive Travis Shaw, Mauricio Dubon, and Josh Pennington from Red Sox  in exchange for Tyler Thornburg

 

    As we speak, this deal has been 100% one-sided because Tyler Thornburg has yet to throw a pitch in a Red Sox uniform due to injury woes. With that being said though, it is still fair to say that the Brewers are the clear winners of the trade because of the amount of production they have gotten from Travis Shaw since he arrived in the Cream City. Last season, Shaw was the Brewers’ best player and boasted all-star caliber numbers to the tune of 31 home runs and 101 RBIs while playing a solid third base. Thus far in the 2018 season, Shaw has again been arguably the Brewers’ best hitter. In addition to the great production that Shaw has provided, infield prospect Mauricio Dubon was swinging an extremely hot bat and seemed to be on the verge of a call-up to the major league club before just recently tearing his ACL. This trade is already lopsided, and if Dubon is able to reach his potential, the gap will continue to grow. Another win for the Brewers here.

 

 

  • 2016-17 offseason: Brewers receive Jett Bandy from the Angels in exchange for Martin Maldonado

 

    This swap of catchers that the Brewers and Angels pulled off prior to the start of the 2017 season has proved to be the antithesis of other David Stearns trades. When this deal was made, the goal for Milwaukee was to be able to have more offense coming from the catcher position with Jonathan Lucroy out of town. That hasn’t been the case whatsoever because aside from a few good moments, Bandy has been ineffective at the plate. Last year, he batted just .207 and managed only 18 RBIs and was eventually demoted to Triple-A Colorado Springs. And this season has been unfortunately more of the same for the 28-year-old backstop.

     As for Martin Maldonado, he has blossomed with his change of scenery and capped off a very strong 2017 season by winning an American League Gold Glove Award with the Angels of Anaheim. It is good to see Maldonado playing at a very high level, and the sting of this trade is balanced out by the fact that Manny Pina has been a stud both offensively and defensively as Milwaukee’s regular catcher, and has come up with some huge clutch hits for the team, most recently being a 9th inning game-tying home run off of Wade Davis in Colorado on the Brewers’ last road trip to cap off a 6-run comeback by the Crew.

 

  • January 25th, 2018: Brewers trade Lewis Brinson, Monte Harrison, Isan Diaz, and Jordan Yamamoto to Marlins in exchange for Christian Yelich

    This trade is a perfect example of what David Stearns values most in terms of player acquisition: Team-friendly contracts and versatility. Even though he has only played 29 games as a Brewer, outfielder Christian Yelich has quickly acclimated himself to the style of play that the Brewers are trying to adopt; being active on the bases and cutting down on strikeouts. Again an early sample size, but Yelich has definitely been the player the Brewers thought they were getting when they pulled off the trade for him.

      As for the major piece that the Brewers let go of in the Yelich deal, center fielder Lewis Brinson has struggled mightily out of the gates for Miami. One has to assume that Brinson will improve offensively with consistent at-bats, but the jury is still out on him as a potential franchise cornerstone.

     While not every deal that Stearns has made in his relatively brief tenure as the general manager of the Milwaukee Brewers has been entirely perfect, the larger scale ones have been the ones that have worked out which is all you can ask for from a young GM. And let’s be honest, the Travis Shaw trade is already one of the best made by any team in recent memory. All things considered, the David Stearns era is off to a fantastic start and a potential 2018 postseason run will only help him and his assembled ballclub gain respect and notoriety among the Major League Baseball community.

Suter Hits the DL: What Does His Future Hold?

The injury skid continued for the Brewers on Monday as they lost starting pitcher Brent Suter for the rest of the year. Suter tore the UCL in his throwing arm during his most recent start on Sunday and will undergo Tommy John surgery. Tommy John typically requires 12-14 months for full recovery, meaning that there is a chance we will not see Suter for the rest of this season and all of next year as well.

As big of a blow as this is for the Brewers, it’s even larger for Suter on a personal level. Suter overcame the odds of being a 31st round draft choice to make it to the majors. Throw in the fact that he is one of the lightest throwing starters in the league, and his story to success becomes even more fascinating.

What will become of Suter now that he is on the DL? Well, the Brewers have two options: to renew his contract in the off-season (he is not yet arbitration eligible), or let him go. They are much more likely to renew his contract, but let’s explore each option and their ramifications.

Should the Brewers choose to retain Suter (which I believe is very likely), they would renew his contract at the league minimum or very close to it, as is custom for players that are not yet arbitration eligible. In doing so, they would need to carry him on the 40-man roster for the entirety of the offseason. They would then place him on the 60-day DL at the outset of the season, which would free up his 40-man roster spot and allow the Brewers to add another player. Suter would rehab with the club’s training staff and compete for a spot on the pitching staff once healthy.

The second option would be for the Brewers to not renew his contract, which would make him a free agent. I believe this to be unlikely due to Suter proving his capability as an MLB-level pitcher, but the Brewers will likely face a roster crunch this offseason as prospects in their system gain Rule-5 eligibility. It may be difficult for David Stearns to fill a 40-man spot with a player that likely will not contribute for an entire season, but that will be necessary if the Brewers want to retain him for the future.

Suter is not a true difference-maker on the mound – he is more so an innings eater. That could make him expendable in the eyes of some decision makers. However, effective pitching is tough to come by, and Suter has proven that he can produce at an adequate level. In addition, the Brewers have a true clubhouse leader in Suter. Hopefully that, and the potential for future success, provides enough value to justify a 40-man roster spot this offseason.

King of the Diamond- Week of 7/16-7/23

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 had arguably their worst week all season, which subsequently squandered their six game division lead. The bats were quiet all week until Sunday, when the Crew squeaked out a 9-8 victory.

King of the Diamond- Ryan Braun

Image result for ryan braun

Brauny picks up his first King of the Diamond award this season after having a consistent week which saw his average jump from .259 to .270. He was a huge part of the offensive spark (3-4, HR, 2B, 4 RBI’s) that eventually led to a 9-8 win over the Phillies to snap a six-game losing streak. Brewers’ manager Craig Counsell has deemed the veteran “day-to-day” for the remainder of the season but the Brewers are going to need his offensive presence down the road if they hope to hold off the Cubs for the division lead.

King of the Diamond- Jose Quintana, Chicago Cubs

Image result for jose quintana cubs

The newest member of the NL Central division hands down earned this week’s divisional King of the Diamond award. Since being acquired from the White Sox, Quintana picked up a pair of wins, the first which sparked the Cubs hot streak that got the Cubs back in the mix for the NL Central race. Quintana fanned 12 Orioles and seven Cardinals while allowing just eight hits in a combined 13 innings pitched. A change of scenery (despite staying in the same city) has revitalized Quintana’s season after starting just 2-8.

 

Brewers Minor League Review: July

Note: Stats reflect July performances unless otherwise noted. 

Colorado Springs Sky Sox (AAA)

Record: 64-43, 15-12 in July

MVP: Mauricio Dubon (.304/.354/.511, 17 RBI, 6 SB)

Summary:

July has been a turbulent month for the Sky Sox. They have permanently lost two of their top hitters to trades (Garrett Cooper and Ryan Cordell), while top prospects Lewis Brinson and Brett Phillips have bounced back and forth between Colorado and Milwaukee. In addition, the Sky Sox gained Keon Broxton from the Crew, as he had been sent down to work through his offensive struggles, but he now finds himself back in Milwaukee to resume his duties as their starting centerfielder.

The Sky Sox offense continued to be elite in July. Besides Mauricio Dubon, this lineup boasts numerous potent contributors. Utility infielder Ivan De Jesus hit .361/.407/.494; organizational depth outfielder Kyle Wren hit .337/.414/.459 with 11 stolen bases; and, despite the merry-go-round of call-ups they have experienced in July, outfielders Brett Phillips (.364/.438/.691, 4 HR, 13 RBI in 14 games) and Lewis Brinson (.414/.468/.671) have been incredible when in the line-up. Brinson currently resides with Milwaukee, but could see himself back in Colorado if he struggles.

The pitching staff has remained steady throughout the month; they will benefit greatly from the return of top-100 prospect Brandon Woodruff after his DL stint. Former first-rounder Taylor Jungmann faced some trouble after a good month of July, pitching to a 5.40 ERA in five starts. Bubba Derby has been solid since being called up from Double-A Biloxi, achieving a 1.12 WHIP and holding hitters to a .211 batting average, both indicating his performance has been better than the 3.81 ERA he sported for the month. Additionally, Angel Ventura proved solid in four July starts, going 3-2 with a 4.15 ERA. Wei Chung Wang (1.69 ERA) anchored the bullpen and now finds himself in Milwaukee after a call-up.

This team continues to be the cream of Milwaukee’s minor league crop in terms of success. They should challenge for a Pacific Coast League title come September; however, it will be interesting to see if they can handle the stresses of an ever-changing lineup that has lost two huge contributors.

Biloxi Shuckers (AA)

Record: 53-54, 12-17 in July

MVP: Aaron Wilkerson (3-1, 2.25 ERA, 0.81 WHIP, 31 K in 32 IP)

Summary:

The Shuckers offense, already thin on production, lost arguably their two biggest contributors in shortstop Mauricio Dubon (promoted to Triple-A) and outfielder Michael Choice (sold to the KBO League). Accordingly, they do not have much left. One bright spot was speedy outfielder Johnny Davis, who hit .322/.361/.426 with 10 stolen bases. He lacks the power to be anything more than an on base guy, but he boasts elite speed that could help him find a spot on an MLB roster in the future. The struggles continued for former first-round pick Clint Coulter (.204/.257/.387) and top catching prospect Jacob Nottingham took a nose dive after a successful month of June, hitting .152/.278/.303. The Shuckers should benefit from the recent promotion of outfield prospect Troy Stokes Jr. to their roster, a power-speed threat who hit .289/.387/.500 in 24 games with Class-A Advanced Carolina in the month of July. Outfielder Tyrone Taylor, a former top prospect in the organization, also returned from the DL near the end of the month and should soften the blow of losing Michael Choice.

The pitching staff turned in several quality performances during July. Starters Corbin Burnes, Aaron Wilkerson, Luis Ortiz, and Freddy Peralta form the crux of a rotation that dares to be matched by any other in the Southern League. Ortiz dazzled in his final two starts of the month, allowing 5 hits, 1 run, and striking out 13 batters over 13 innings pitched. Aaron Wilkerson dominated in a complete game two-hitter on July 23rd. Freddy Peralta continued to rack up the strikeouts, punching out 41 batters in 31 and 2/3 innings while pitching to a 2.56 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, and .179 batting average against. And finally, breakout pitcher Corbin Burnes ran into some trouble in his final two starts of the month, but still finished with a 3.24 ERA and 1.12 WHIP in five starts. In Ortiz, Peralta, and Burnes, this Shuckers team has three starters that the organization is very high on, and we could see those three in the big leagues in some capacity as soon as later next year, whether it be in the bullpen or the rotation. Nick Ramirez continued to be the jewel of the bullpen, as the lefty pitched to a 0.54 ERA and 0.66 WHIP in 16.2 innings of relief, holding opposing batters to a .155 batting average.

Carolina Mudcats (Class-A Advanced)

Record: 55-52, 14-15 in July

MVP: Trey Supak (2-1, 2.83 ERA, 0.94 WHIP, .210 batting average against)

Summary:

Despite being stocked with top prospects, especially on the offensive side, the Mudcats continued to struggle to play to their potential in July. Outfielder Trent Clark led the offense with his patient eye at the plate (.240/.360/.423, 10 SB). Outfielder Monte Harrison adjusted well after his promotion from Class-A Wisconsin, hitting .238/.315/.438 with four home runs. Infielder Isan Diaz improved from his horrendous June, hitting .266/.405/.383. However, three prospects were shadows of themselves: Jake Gatewood, Lucas Erceg, and Corey Ray. After a resurgent June, Erceg slid back down to a .230 average for the month, but still managed a .452 slugging percentage. He will need to improve his plate discipline, as he garnered only five walks in 113 at-bats. Gatewood, while not wholly unimpressive, hit .255/.311/.382, a far cry from the vast improvement he displayed at the plate over the first two months of the year. Finally, Corey Ray has been absolutely lost lately, hitting .193/.265/.307 for the month. For the fifth pick in last year’s MLB Draft, that line is extremely concerning, especially given that this is Ray’s second taste of Class-A Advanced. These three need to improve, especially Erceg and Ray who are considered to be part of the future core.

The picture looks a bit brighter for the club’s top pitching prospects. Kodi Mederios showed marked improvement. A .183 batting average against and a 0.98 WHIP accompanied his 4.04 ERA, offering hope that he is finally getting back on track and just running into a bit of bad luck. Trey Supak seems to have adjusted to Class-A Advanced after a second month at the level, going 2-1 with a 2.83 ERA in six games (four starts). Nate Griep has continued to shut down the ninth inning, giving up no runs in eight appearances and accumulating four saves. On the contrary to these success stories, Marcos Diplan went 2-2 with a 5.16 ERA and a 1.65 WHIP. As one of 2016’s breakout performers, Diplan’s showing this year has been disappointing to say the least.

This team still has time to live up to their potential, but it is concerning how pronounced and prolonged the struggles of some of their top prospects have been. Hopefully it all comes together soon.

Wisconsin Timber Rattlers (Class-A)

Record: 43-63, 12-15 in July

MVP: Thomas Jankins (3-0, 0.86 ERA, 0.76 WHIP, .164 batting average against)

Summary:

This team is starting to turn it around. Aided by the addition of 2017 first-rounder Keston Hiura (.408/.420/.592), this is starting to look like a dangerous lineup. Weston Wilson has anchored the middle of the order, hitting .305/.365/.524 with 4 HR and 22 RBI. Tucker Neuhaus (.288/.338/.485) is starting to show the promise that made him a 2nd Round draft pick. The offense also will be aided by the promotion of outfielder Zach Clark, who hit .263/.370/.432 at Rookie-Level Helena before his recent call-up. Contrary to all this success, catcher Mario Feliciano has taken a huge step back, hitting .192/.263/.288 over the month. The long season seems to be wearing down the 18-year-old catcher, which everyone knew was a strong possibility going into the year. In addition, shortstop Devin Hairston, this year’s sixth round draft choice, has labored to a .163/.281/.225 in his introduction to professional baseball.

The arms have fallen into line as well. Zack Brown carried over his standout performance from June, going 2-2 with a 2.10 ERA and 36 strikeouts in six games. Thomas Jankins was the most impressive of the bunch, absolutely tearing apart the Midwest League. 19-year-old Carlos Herrera (2-0, 2.21 ERA, .136 batting average against) pitched extraordinarily well given that this is his first action above rookie-level ball. Josh Pennington (4.26 ERA) is showing well in his first action this season after coming off the disabled list. While this team’s staff does not have the hype of some of the other Brewers’ affiliates, they are quietly making quite a statement with their success.

Rookie-Level Players to Watch

KJ Harrison, Catcher (.327/.462/.442)

Dallas Carroll, Third Baseman (.336/.418/.525)

Nic Pierre, Outfielder (.346/.386/.474)

Payton Henry, Catcher (.248/.378/.505)

Tristen Lutz, Outfielder (.297/.366/.594)

Joaquin De La Cruz, Pitcher (3-0, 2.53 ERA, 37 K)

Je’Von Ward, Outfielder (.265/.294/.306)

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)

The Brewers Won the Christian Yelich Trade Before the Season Started

The name of the game for small market teams like Milwaukee and Miami, is to build a team with young controllable talent. The Brewers have had success with that strategy with guys like Orlando Arcia, Corbin Burnes, and Josh Hader.

They also found it with a small trade you might of heard of, The trade for then Miami outfielder Christian Yelich in January. This isn’t going to be an article saying “We all saw this MVP year coming.” Truth is no one saw a season like this coming. When you look at his stat progression over the years however, the Marlins blundered in a HUGE way!

My first confusion with this trade is from the Marlins side. Why didn’t they build the team around Yelich? Like I said before, small market teams are built around young controllable talent. Yelich, at the time, was a 26 year old up and coming outfielder who was controllable for many years, on a team friendly contract. WHY DIDN’T THEY BUILD THEIR TEAM AROUND HIM?

I really don’t understand the thought process. From trades of Giancarlo Stanton and Marcell Ozuna, they received a boatload of talented prospects with bright futures. The idea of using Yelich as a backbone, with players like that progressing in the minors, is a scary thought. Think of how the Brewers used Braun as a backbone as they progressed through a rebuild. That one kind of worked out for the Brewers.

The second and most prominent point is Yelich’s stat progression. Since he has come up to the big leagues his linear progression is very impressive. Down below are graphs representing his growth over the years. These graphs do not include this past season for further proof that Yelich was progressing to be a star before his MVP season. In both wOBA and WAR he has a steep slope going in the right direction. I won’t go into the math and process behind it, mostly because I don’t want to bore you. However, using this gives you a great look visually on a players progression.

                               

This first set of graphs are representing Yelich’s War (wins above replacement) from the ages of 21-25. The first graph is year by year plotted out. You can see that there is quite a few ups and downs and doesn’t give you a full picture. This is where the second graph comes into play. Think of it as averaging the ups and downs to a straight line. As you can see this line goes by a steep positive slope, which shows rapid improvement overall, year by year.

             

The next graphs show wOBA (weighted on base average- similar to OPS but OBP is worth 1.8 times more than SLG). wOBA is one of my favorite stats and I think can be the most telling. Like before the first graph shows the raw plotted out data, while the second shows the average line. The second line may not be the most exciting to look at or as visually appealing as the first data set, however, it is just as good. Since wOBA is a decimal stat, the values aren’t as big as WAR. When you zoom in you can see that it is another flourishing positive incline.

Although using graphs may tap into my baseball geekiness, they are still a great representation of a players progression. Using graphs in the argument  proves that Yelich was growing into star potential. Even though no one saw it coming this quick, it was to be expected at some point. David Stearns has mentioned that Yelich is a player that he  kept his eye on since taking over the GM position. Even without a breakout season like 2018, Yelich proved to be an impact player, and explains why Stearns kept his eye on him.

Again bringing us back to the initial point of this piece. Why did the Marlins trade away a gem in Yelich? Maybe it was the intriguing prospect haul that was given in return, which is another story in itself. Anyways, it is crystal clear that Yelich would have been an impact player anywhere. I still don’t quite understand why he wasn’t a base for a rebuild, being the type of player with his contract. Yet, I think Brewers’ fans are happy it happened the way it did. As Billy Beane would say, “When your enemy’s making a mistake, don’t interrupt them.”

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.

Crew silencing critics

2017 Brewers showing Stearns’ rebuild decision was right move

Before the start of baseball season every fan’s dream is envisioning themselves sitting in their home stadium in October, with a hot dog in their left hand and a beer in their right hand, watching their team compete in the MLB playoffs. It’s every fan’s happy place.

The Milwaukee Brewers are on the brink of making every fan’s dream a reality. To be sitting in Miller Park cheering on their hometown Crew on a beautiful fall day in October, in the thick of the National League playoffs.

The Brewers are currently sitting at a record of 63-59, only a mere two games behind the World Champion Chicago Cubs (65-57), a half-game ahead of the St. Louis Cardinals (63-60), and 4.5 games ahead of the Pittsburgh Pirates (59-64).

With 38 games remaining, the playoff push is officially off and running. The Crew still have to face-off with these three divisional opponents 18 times. 13 of these match ups coming in their final 16 games. This includes what could be an all-so-pivotal four-game home series against the Cubs that when concluded, would leave only six games remaining on the schedule. The Crew also wrap-up the regular season with a three-game set in St. Louis, ending on Oct. 1.  

While the playoffs are within reach, and undoubtedly on every fan’s mind, I simply ask fans to take a deep breath and a step backward. Before we get ahead of ourselves, as fans, we need to think about some contributing factors.

Before the season began, there were no expectations of this team. Many pre-season polls had the Brewer’s winning between 62 and 65 games and taking last place in the NL Central. At the start of the season, Vegas had the over/under of wins for the Brewers at 72.5 games, the second lowest among MLB teams. The Brewers also had the lowest payroll in all of baseball ($63,031,300), which was a shade over a quarter of the league-leading Dodgers ($242,065,828).

David Stearns officially took over as the Brewer’s General Manager in Oct. 2015, and considering the circumstances, seems to be the right man for the job. Stearns signed backup third-baseman Travis Shaw from the Boston Red Sox before the start of this season. Shaw has been the Brewer’s best player this season, hitting .293 with 79 RBI’s and 26 home-runs.

The most notable move Stearns has made as GM was trading away all-star catcher Jonathon Lucroy and RHP Jeremy Jeffress in Aug. 2016 to the Texas Rangers. The Brewers’ received outfielder Lewis Brinson, outfielder/third-baseman Ryan Cordell, and RHP Luis Ortiz. Which seemed to reassure Brewer fans the rebuilding process was officially underway.

Stearns has completely flipped over the Brewer’s roster since taking over in Oct. 2015. He has traded away players such as outfielder Khris Davis, and shortstop Jean Segura. Trading away Segura brought in starting pitcher Chase Anderson, who is currently 6-2 on the season with an ERA of 2.89 on 16 starts.

The Segura trade also paved-the-way for our budding star-shortstop Orlando Arcia. The 23-year-old is currently batting .284, good enough for second among NL shortstops, in only his first season as a full-time starter.

Other moves that Stearns has made have brought in players like Eric Thames, Jesus Aguilar, Jonathon Villar, Hernan Perez, Junior Guerra, and Keon Broxton. All of whom have been an integral part of this magical Brewer’s season.

Thames currently leads the Brewers in home-runs with 27, and has driven in 51 runs. Perez has proved to be an excellent utility player and can fill in at any defensive position, whether it’s the infield or outfield, and seems to do it with ease.

With all of these great signings, this still isn’t the most impressive thing Stearns has done. Stearns is keeping these players for the future. None of the players mentioned above will be free-agents until the 2020 season. Stearns has not only been able to keep the lowest payroll in the MLB, but has locked-up key players for at least the next two seasons.

Stearns has made it a point to build this team with his eyes looking forward. Restructuring the Brewers’ lineup looking at the future, while still keeping his mind on the present. Stearns even recently acquired second baseman Neil Walker from the New York Mets.

This move does more than just tend to our second base struggles this season. The GM is showing fans he is committed to this season, while at the same time, showing he doesn’t have to throw the kitchen sink at teams to get better.

As this playoff push moves forward, fans need to support this team. This city needs to buy into the process, and have patience. Fans need to realize that something great is brewing up in Milwaukee. Behind the genius of David Stearns, the Brewers’ run to becoming an MLB powerhouse is just taking off, and well ahead of schedule.

A new golden-age of Milwaukee Brewers baseball is surely coming, and on-the-cusp of bursting. Just remember Brewer fans, Rome wasn’t built in a day, and patience is a virtue. Go Crew!

Acquiring Curtis Granderson more than just a ball player

The Brewers acquired Curtis Granderson right before the August 31st waiver trade deadline. The Brewers sent Demi Orimoloye a High-A outfielder to Toronto in return. The Brewers went out to acquire Grandy for 2 reasons. 1. He’s a good left-handed bat off the bench. 2. He brings veteran leadership to the clubhouse. Both attributes are important for any team to have when making a run in October.

Why the Brewers needed a left-handed bat

               Now the Brewers weren’t expecting Grandy to slash .300/.548/.700 when they made this trade, however they were expecting him to give them good quality at-bats. Before acquiring Granderson the Brewers only boasted only 4 left-handed batters. Three of which play just about every day (Travis Shaw, Mike Moustakas, and Christian Yelich), with the fourth being Eric Thames. The move for Granderson was most likely because of the latter. With the emergence of Jesús Aguilar Thames was moved to the outfield. However, a myriad of cringeworthy defense and poor at-bats he went from starting first baseman to right fielder to the bench. Thames’ 34.1% K percentage is the biggest issue. Enter Granderson a veteran bat off the bench who can give you better at-bats than Thames can at the moment.

Why the Brewers (and every contender) need a veteran presence

               Guys like Curtis Granderson are so desirable this time of year, but not just because of their ability to produce on the field. Grandy has been around the majors for a while, 15 seasons to be exact. Granderson has also played in plenty of post-season baseball as well. He’s amassed 237 playoff plate appearances. With 25 of those being in the 2015 World Series with the New York Mets. That type of experience can’t be taught or isn’t a skill, it’s earned over a long illustrious career. A stabilizer like Granderson will help the Brewers avoid too high of highs and too low of lows. He’s in there to keep everyone level-headed and ready to go. Grandy is also a good mentor for the young players on the team. He’s already had a connection mentoring a player in the Milwaukee Organization. He mentors Brewers stud outfield prospect Corey Ray.

               Now the Brewers can’t expect Granderson to keep having such a gaudy slash line. However, they can expect him to keep being a positive influence and have good at-bats. With Granderson the main thing you’re getting is where he’s been and who he is as a person, anything you get on the field is a bonus. No longer are you getting the 40+ homerun power 20+ stolen base speed, but you’re getting Curtis Granderson the mentor.