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Monday, October 21st 2019
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NLCS Game 3 Recap

After the Brewers lost a heartbreaker in Milwaukee on Saturday, the series shifted to Los Angeles for Games 3, 4 and 5. To secure a chance for a Game 6 at Miller Park, the Brewers needed to win at least one game in Los Angeles. After a stressful game that went down to the wire, Milwaukee pulled out another win. Here’s how it all went down.

Top 1

After leadoff hitter, Lorenzo Cain, struck out to the 98 mph heat throwing starter of Walker Buehler, it looked to be a tough day for the crew. NL MVP favorite, Christian Yelich, started his at-bat down 1-2. Yelich’s first plate appearance looked grim, as the Milwaukee slugger has been struggling with a .180 post season average. However, like most of the regular season, Yelich worked the Pitcher and took three straight balls to walk. Next batter up, Ryan Braun, smashed a double down the left field line on a 1-1 count, reaching second base and scoring Yelich, giving the Brewers a 1-0 lead. Travis Shaw would strikeout looking and Jesus Aguilar would strikeout swinging to end the inning.

 

Bot 1

Jhoulys Chacin looked for redemption in Dodger Stadium as his last start against Los Angeles resulted in an early 5th inning exit. In the 21-5 loss in July, Chacin gave up five hits, eight earned runs, three home runs, and three walks. Unfortunately for Chacin, he would face three of the most fearsome hitters to start off a game. However, as the Brewers ace, Chacin was dialed in from the get go. In 15 first inning pitches, Jhoulys struck out Joc Pederson and Max Muncy, while finishing Justin Turner with a groundout to shortstop.

 

Top 2

Buehler really started to groove in his pitching after giving up one run in the first inning. He would strikeout Mike Moustakas and Erik Kratz in back to back plate appearances. After Orlando Arcia reached on an error by shortstop Manny Machado (It should’ve been a hit), Buehler would finish off Pitcher Jhoulys Chacin with a flyout to the second baseman, Kike Hernandez.

 

Bot 2

Jhoulys’ night wouldn’t get any easier as he would have to face the red hot Manny Machado. In a 2-1 hitters count, Machado ripped a lead off single to left field. Struggling Center Fielder, Cody Bellinger would ground out into a fielder’s choice to the shortstop in which Machado looked to interfere. Brewers Manager, Craig Counsell, argued with the umpires, but after discussion there was no review. In the next at-bat, Yasiel Puig doubled to left sending Machado to third base. With two runners in scoring position (RISP), Catcher Yasmani Grandal would strikeout looking. Manager Craig Counsell would then intentionally walk the eight hole hitter, Kike Hernandez, in effort to face the Pitcher, Walker Buehler. After working a 2-2 count, Buehler would strikeout looking, leaving two RISP.

 

Top 3

Even though the Brewers started the third inning with the top of their order, Walker Buehler would go three up, three down. Lorenzo Cain would line out to centerfield and Christian Yelich would groundout to the shortstop. Buehler then struckout Ryan Braun finishing the inning with only 13 pitches.

 

Bot 3

Just like Buehler, Chacin would start to groove in the crucial Game 3. Jhoulys faced the top of the Dodgers order making Pederson groundout to shortstop, Muncy fly out to left field and Turner ground out to third base.

 

Top 4

Buehler would surrender one base runner and 17 pitches in the fourth inning, but remained strong. Travis Shaw would groundout to first and Jesus Aguilar would groundout to second. After giving up a single to Mike Moustakas, Buehler would get Erik Kratz to fly out to second base.

 

Bot 4

Dodgers shortstop Manny Machado would walk on five pitches, leaving Cody Bellinger a chance to yet again tie the game. After what seemed to be a fielder’s choice from first to second base, Counsell wanted to review Machado’s slide into shortstop Orlando Arcia. After review, it was found that Machado intentionally slid out of the base path and grabbed Arcia, to prevent the double play. Head umpire, Gerry Davis, would rule both Machado and Bellinger out, resulting in a 3-6-1 double play. Killing all momentum the Dodgers had, Yasiel Puig would groundout to Mike Moustakas to end the inning.

 

Top 5

Buehler really started to stroll along getting nine of his last ten batters out. Orlando Arcia and Jhoulys Chacin would both strikeout, as leadoff hitter, Lorenzo Cain, would groundout to second base.

 

Bot 5

Chacin would start off shaky in the fifth inning giving up a double to the Brewers NLCS MVP, Yasmani Grandal. However, in the next at-bat Jhoulys would get a key flyout to left from Kike Hernandez. Dodgers Manager, Dave Roberts, would now have to face the decision of keeping in his best Pitcher, or pinch-hitting him to tie the game with a RISP. Roberts would stick with Buehler who eventually struck out looking. With two outs, Joc Pederson would fly out to centerfield leaving yet another RISP.

 

Top 6

Christian Yelich and Ryan Braun would both groundout to Manny Machado to start the beginning of the sixth inning. However, Travis Shaw would finally catch a piece of Buehler, tripling to deep right center field. After a wild pitch got passed the Brewers MVP, Yasmani Grandal, Travis Shaw scored. Jesus Aguilar would groundout to third base to end the inning with a two run Milwaukee lead.

 

Bot 6

After Starting Pitcher Jhoulys Chacin got Max Muncy to strikeout swinging, he would run into trouble against Justin Turner. A hard hit ball to Mike Moustakas lead to a throwing error giving Turner second base. With only a two run lead, Counsell went to his trusted relief pitcher, Corey Knebel. On the first pitch, Knebel would get Manny Machado to ground out to third base, Turner at second. With two outs in a close game, Knebel would get Cody Bellinger to strike out with a RISP.

 

Top 7

After Mike Moustakas grounded out to second base to lead off the seventh inning, Buehler was in for a rude awakening. Veteran Catcher, Erik Kratz, unleashed a double to left field on the first pitch. With Kratz in scoring position, Mr. October took over. Arcia, who is now on a 12 game hitting streak, took advantage of the tired pitcher. Arcia launched a two run home run to opposite field, giving the Brewers a four run advantage. After a double switch by Craig Counsell to strengthen defense, Hernan Perez was due to hit. Perez would fly out to right field and Cain would fly out to center field to end the inning. After giving up four runs, and his spot coming up in the order, Buehler would exit the game.

 

Bot 7

Yet again, Knebel would finish his night strong. Knebel would Strike out the side of hitters Puig, Grandal and Hernandez on 13 pitches. Corey would finish with 19 pitches on the night, leaving him a chance to be available for Game 4 if needed.

 

Top 8

The Brewers would threaten to score in the eighth inning but wouldn’t score. Yelich would lead off with a bunt single down the third baseline. After Ryan Braun hit a “Texas-leaguer” in front of Right Fielder Yasiel Puig, Yelich was thrown out at second base. Though Ryan Braun seemed mad at the moment, Yelich thought there was a chance of getting doubled up at first. (Rather be safe than sorry on the base paths.) After tripling in the sixth inning, Travis Shaw would strikeout, leaving two outs for pinch-hitter Domingo Santana. In the regular season as a pinch-hitter, Santana hit a cool 12-for-29 (.413). Keeping this in mind with a RISP, Dave Roberts intentionally walked Santana. Roberts move would prove to work as Moustakas would fly out to right field, ending the eighth inning.

 

Bot 8

Trying not to use Josh Hader right away, Counsell called Joakim Soria to pitch. After throwing just four pitches, Chris Taylor would fly out to the first basemen to secure one out in the eighth. With the top of the order coming up, Counsell again called the bullpen to get LHP Josh Hader to finish the job. Even though Roberts would switch out Pederson and Muncy for Freese and Kemp, the Dodgers would be no match for Haderade. Only throwing eight pitches total, Josh Hader struck out both hitters leading the Brewers to the ninth inning.

 

Top 9

Heading into the ninth inning, Counsell hoped to get some insurance runs for his Closer. Erik Kratz would lead off the inning with a walk but a fielder’s choice by Arcia would lead to an out. Perez would rip a single to left field advancing Arcia to second base. While Cain attempted to score both Arcia and Perez on a 2-2 hit and run, the center fielder struck out. Without making contact, Cain left Perez caught stealing, and ending the hopeful ninth inning.

 

Bot 9

Feeling confident in the four run lead and wanting to save Hader for possible use in Game 5, Counsell left the LHP on the bench. Enter Jeremy Jeffress. While being absolutely dominant in the regular season with an 8-1 record, 15 saves and a 1.29 ERA, Jeffress has been anything but that in the playoffs. After blowing two saves (Game 1 NLDS/Game 2 NLCS), Counsell went to Jeffress out of the pen to boost his confidence. While being rattled right away from a single by Justin Turner up the middle, it got worse. Manny Machado would smash a double down the right field line, putting two RISP. Luckily, Jeffress would settle down and get an out from Cody Bellinger. Bellinger would pop up to the shortstop giving the Brewers one out. Jeffress would then walk Puig on four straight pitches leaving Counsell to call to the bullpen to start warming up Junior Guerra. However, Jeffress would get three straight strikes against guess who? Brewers NLCS MVP, Yasmani Grandal. (Love that guy). With the bases loaded and two outs in the ninth inning, all pressure was on JJ to perform. On a 1-2 count, Jeffress blew a 96 mph fastball passed Brian Dozier to lead the Brewers to a 4-0 victory over the Dodgers.

 

After Monday’s win, the Brewers take a 2-1 lead in the NLCS. This win secures the chance for the Brewers to come back to Milwaukee for Game 6, if needed. Game 4 will be held in Los Angeles at 8:09 CST. Gio Gonzalez will lead the Brewers into what seems to be another bullpen game.

What will the Brewers do at the 2018 trade deadline? CCC Roundtable

As we approach the 2018 MLB trade deadline on July 31st there have been a lot of big names thrown out as available for teams looking to buy. Manny Machado has been the biggest name all season long, and recently landed with the Dodgers, which kicked off the craziness that is the trade deadline.

A couple of us writers here at Cream City Central put together our opinions of what we think the Brewers will do here at the deadline, what are yours?

Jessy Stagliano @stagosaurusss

The Brewers limped into the all-star break this season, and it all but finished the discussions on if the Brewers will acquire someone at the 2018 deadline, it is now a matter of whom. There are two glaring holes in this team, the middle infield, and the starting rotation-especially with the Brent Suter news, but both are almost equally important. It will be interesting to see if Stearns will diverge from his controllability plan to get a rental, or try to sign an additional guy long term.

I think the best fit for the Brewers for a pitching would be Chris Archer from Tampa Bay. The 29-year-old two-time all-star is having a down year, but is a career 3.7ish ERA guy. He also has team controllability until 2021; he totally fits the David Stearns controllability mindset.

As far as middle infield, my ideal scenario would be acquiring Mike Moustakas from Kansas City. The 29-year-old third baseman has a mutual option for 2019 the Brewers might consider, but he would be more of a rental type player. This of course would require Travis Shaw to move to second, which would solve the middle infield problem, all while beefing up that lineup for this season.

Sam Monnat @sam_monnat02

The Brewers can most benefit from an improvement up the middle at second base and shortstop. The offense has been a black hole past the 5 spot, and much of that is due to the total lack of production from those two positions. Tyler Saladino has been a nice small addition, but it’s tough to expect him to continue to sustain adequate production over the remainder of the season. One intriguing upgrade I could see the Brewers making is trading for either one of or both of the Twins’ starting middle infielders; Brian Dozier and Eduardo Escobar. Both are above average bats that could kick-start the second half of the line up.

As far as pitching, I would expect a starter to be added before a reliever following the Brent Suter injury. I think it’s tough to get a good feel for what exactly the Brewers are thinking as for as arms go simply because the need isn’t as apparent as on offence. They could take a flyer on a rental, or go bigger and look at a controllable starter like Chris Archer. If the Brewers go after any reliever I would expect it to be after the July 31st trade deadline, via waivers.

Ryan Timmerman @TheDudeMan3

The 2018 Brewers don’t necessarily fall neatly into either the “buyer” or “seller” category. Sure, they’re good enough to contend this season. But they’re young enough to contend perennially. So how much of the future are you willing to sacrifice for the now? It’s entirely possible – even likely – that fans will be surprised by the number of moves Milwaukee makes, but slightly disappointed by the lack of big names coming back.

The biggest fish, Manny Machado, is already off the market. Milwaukee’s situation is pretty obvious: they might look into bringing in bullpen help (make a team strength even stronger), help up the middle infield, and help in the starting rotation. If they were busy scouting Machado recently they probably got a good look at Orioles starter Dylan Bundy and reliever Zach Britton, both available. As for the infield, a guy like Whit Merrifield from Kansas City could prove very usable and affordable from a prospects-sacrificed standpoint. Incremental changes could do the Brewers a world of good, and the front office might not think a “we’re one move away” home run swing at the deadline is the right approach.

Al Juneau @junesfoshiz

Stearns has always been shrewd in trades, as a fan base we sort of knew Machado would only be the move if Stearns got him at the price he thought efficient. I believe Stearns will prioritize getting one infield bat and one reliever. A pair of a low cost consolidation moves instead of a huge roster-altering move. I would expect Stearns to keep Corbin Burnes, Freddy Peralta, Corey Ray, and Keston Hiura. This organization has an excellent AA team that will provide solid depth next year. They do have to trade some prospects though as there will be an intense 40 man roster crunch this summer. If I had to predict names the Brewers will acquire, I’d go with: Brian Dozier and Zach Britton.

It will be a tough decision on what to do for the 2018 Brewers, but here’s to an enjoyable ride.

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.

Corey Ray Wins Southern League MVP

After a 2017 season that was filled with struggles, many scouts opined that the star potential of Corey Ray seemed to be dimming significantly.

Well, Corey had something of his own to say about that.

He came out firing on all cylinders in 2018, hitting .252/.347/.449 with 9 home runs in the first half. That home run count surpassed his total for the entirety of the 2017 season, as the power that was often noted in his pre-draft evaluations finally came to fruition.

The second half brought success as well, but in a slightly different form. Ray leaned much more on his power profile while increasing his strikeout-rate (many refer to this as “selling out for power”). It led to a second half slash line of .222/.292/.527 with 18 home runs.

His overall success this season led to Ray being named the 2018 Southern League MVP this past week, as Ray has also stolen 35 bases. Ray was an easy choice given his vital contributions to the first-place Biloxi Shuckers, who sit atop the league standings with an impressive 78-57 record.

Despite the honor and his productive 2018 season, Ray still has much to work on before becoming a viable outfield option for the Brewers’ big league club. He has posted a strikeout rate of 29.4% in 2018, and while high strikeout rates are common in today’s MLB, they are not optimal. In turn, Ray also will need to work on his contact abilities, as his .239 batting average for the entire season is not exactly inspiring.

The good thing for Ray – and the Brewers, for that matter – is that there is no rush to get him to the big leagues. The Brewers are currently set with their starting outfield for the next couple of years at least (Braun, Cain, Yelich), with players like Eric Thames, Domingo Santana, and Keon Broxton providing depth.

Ray still has work to do to fill the expectations that come with being a #5 overall pick, but this season definitely could be the stepping stone that paves his way to fulfilling them.

Brinsanity is Coming Soon

Brinsanity will happen in Milwaukee at some point in 2017, it’s just a matter of when. Lewis Brinson has taken the Pacific Coast League by storm since getting traded to the Brewers organization last August. Since the trade, all he has done is post a .384 average with 7 homers and 13 doubles in 138 at-bats. Those are phenomenal numbers for the 23-year-old outfielder. It seems as if every single night MLB Pipeline is tweeting about a crazy good night at the plate or a sensational grab he makes in the field. He possesses the potential to become a star and the fans are itching to see this guy roam the outfield at Miller Park.

 

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Sorry Brewer fans, but you won’t see Brinson in Milwaukee until late May at the earliest. It doesn’t make much sense to start his service clock early with the contract implications at this point of the rebuild. I think we will all get a glimpse of Brinsanity at the major league level in mid-June. There are a number of situations that could ensue in the next few months to push Brinson to the bigs. Braun may be traded. Keon Broxton & Domingo Santana may not turn it around. Injuries might happen. It’s only a matter of time until Brinson makes his way to the Brewers.

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Through 23 games the offensive production from the outfield minus Braun as been abysmal.  Broxton, who was tabbed as a breakout candidate, has not produced. He is hitting .169 and has struck out in 44% of his at-bats. It’s been tough for him to use his speed when he isn’t putting the ball in play or getting on base. The strikeout rate is concerning. The defense he brings is awesome, everyone is just hoping he can turn it around with the stick. Domingo Santana is also having some early season woes. He’s hitting .169 but has been walking at a decent clip to bring is OBP to .276. The walks have been promising; however, he hasn’t quite been the big bat in the middle of the order everyone was hoping for. Don’t expect them either of them to be taken out of the lineup anytime soon. Counsell has gone out and said he was going to let these guys play through their struggles because he believes they are potential impact players. Lets just hope it happens sooner rather than later.
Ryan Braun has been….well….Ryan Braun. He’s consistent. You know what you’re going to get. A player that hits around .300 with 25+ homers, 85+ RBI and solid defense. When he’s on the field you know what you’re going to get. The only things that could take Braun out of the lineup is an injury or trade. The trade rumors are already rolling. Once again the Dodgers seem to be a nice fit for Braun. I’m sure that as the season goes on there will be more contenders that will be in the market for him. There is an important deadline looming on May 24th that could speed up the process. Once that date hits Braun will acquire the 10-and-5 rights which will virtually give him the ability to deny any trade. A player gets this by having 10 years of MLB service time and spending the last 5 seasons with the same team. His contract and his past makes a potential trade more difficult but there is always a market for one of the premier corner outfielders in baseball. As someone who has watched and marveled at Braun’s greatness the past decade it would be tough to see him go. Just understand that it may have to happen for the good of the organization.

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By the end of the season the outfield could have an entirely different feel. Braun and Santana could be dealt. Keon’s struggles may continue. Stearns is dealing from a position of strength. Prospects such as Ryan Cordell, Brett Phillips, Trent Clark and Corey Ray are also rated very high in the system and play outfield. Not very often is a player sent up that could potentially be the next face of the franchise. Lewis Brinson is that kind of talent. Scouts have compared him to Adam Jones of the Baltimore Orioles, and has the skill set to become a superstar. A young core that consists of Eric Thames, Orlando Arcia, Jonathan Villar, and Lewis Brinson is certainly something to get excited about. The future is looking bright in Milwaukee.

Christian Yelich’s Offensive Transformation

What a difference a season can make. At this point during the 2018 season, Christian Yelich was having an above-average offensive year, hitting .291/.366/.473 with 11 home runs, making his offensive performance 26% better than the MLB average according to weighted-runs-created-plus (wRC+).

Fast forward one calendar year and one MVP-award and Yelich has taken his game to another level. In his quest for a repeat as the game’s best player, he has hit .332/.426/.723 with a league leading 29 home runs. According to his wRC+ mark of 183, he is performing 83% better than the league-average hitter.

Yelich’s increase in production isn’t coming on the account of luck, either. Of all MLB hitters, the Brewers’ right-fielder places third in average exit velocity (measuring how hard a player hits the ball) with an average of 93.7 miles per hour. In addition, his has the fifth highest expected weighted on-base (xwOBA) in baseball, which measures what a player’s offensive production is expected to be based on their quality of contact and strikeout/walk percentages.

What has been behind his insurgence? On a league-wide scale, there has been an established trend of trying to increase a hitter’s average launch angle (the plane at which the ball comes off the bat) to give the hitter a better chance at achieving an extra base hit. Yelich, who for years was among the league-leaders in ground ball percentage while still being an above-average hitter, stood to gain more from adjusting into this trend than nearly anyone else. Those who successfully adopt the trend increase their launch angle while maintaining or increasing their exit velocity, and Yelich certainly checks that box.

From 2018 to 2019, Yelich has decreased his ground ball rate by 7% while increasing his fly ball rate by 14%, all while hitting the ball harder (increase from 47.6% hard contact to 52.8%). While he did not have the previous performance struggles of “launch angle revolution” standouts like Justin Turner and J.D. Martinez, his career trajectory has undergone a transformation of a similar magnitude. Rather than his ceiling being a player that has the potential to make a few all-star games during his career, he has become a player that has the potential to win a few MVP awards during his career.

A recent Baseball America article shed some light on Yelich and his mindset during this transformation. In the piece, Yelich said the following:

“I think there are a lot of people who said I wouldn’t be this player in Miami, or I wouldn’t have been able to do what I did in Marlins Park, and I don’t think that’s true,” Yelich said. “I’d think I’d probably lose a couple homers in Marlins Park compared to Miller Park, but I think it’s a different case. My setup is different, swing is different, everything is different than when I was in Miami because you grow as a player and you learn and things change.”

This provides some context for the dramatic performance increase that we have seen Yelich achieve. It is not the result of him simply trying to hit more fly balls and hoping for the best. It is not the result of luck. Rather, Yelich has undergone a process of continuous changing and tweaking of intricate parts of his offensive approach that has resulted in him becoming a completely different baseball player.

What is next for Christian Yelich? For this year, his first all-star start is a near lock, and a second MVP trophy may soon be on the way. However, on a larger scale, he has guaranteed national relevance for the Milwaukee Brewers through at least 2022, which is when his current contract expires. As one of the league’s best players, he carries value that extends beyond what happens between the lines, bringing fans in droves to Miller Park and helping the Brewers increase their national media following and fan base in an ever-increasing media-centric world.

Where Yelich will rest among the Brewers’ greats has yet to be decided. However, what can be said is that he is arguably in the midst of the greatest season ever by a Brewers’ hitter. Based on wRC+, Yelich’s current mark of 183 is the highest single season mark in Brewers’ franchise history, meaning that no other Brewers’ hitter has ever performed this well in relation to the rest of the league. We are currently witnessing dominance – sit back and enjoy it.

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.

Brice Turang: Brewers Shortstop of the Future?

With the 21st pick of the 2018 MLB Draft, the Milwaukee Brewers selected Brice Turang, a high school shortstop from the baseball talent cornucopia known as California. Turang had been touted as a potential first-overall pick earlier in the spring, and his availability at #21 was something no one would have anticipated just a few months earlier. However, middling scouting reports from his senior season, along with a potentially unfair standard and microscope given his longtime status as the top prospect in his class, pushed him down draft boards and made him a steal for the Brewers in the back half of the first round.

After rumors that his signing with the Brewers would be a “toss-up”, Turang, an LSU commit, made the decision to forgo his college eligibility and start his professional career with the Brewers for an over slot-value signing bonus of $3.44 million.

Placed with the Brewers rookie-level Arizona League affiliate, the young shortstop silenced the pre-draft concerns about his bat by hitting .319/.421/.362 through 13 games, showing such an advanced approach and feel at the plate that he was promoted to the Helena Brewers. His batting average dipped a bit to .268, but he posted an on-base percentage of .385, which is especially impressive given he was an 18-year-old playing mostly amongst players who had just been drafted out of the college ranks.

This season, Turang has picked up right where he left off in 2018. The Brewers challenged him with an aggressive assignment to the Single-A Wisconsin Timber Rattlers, and he has delivered on all fronts. He currently carries a slash line of .302/.406/.379, and most impressively is walking 14.9% of the time while striking out only 16% of the time. To put into context how impressive that is, the only MLB players right now that have a walk rate of 14.9% or better AND a strikeout rate of 16% or less are Cody Bellinger (2019 NL MVP candidate) Alex Bregman (2019 AL MVP candidate), Carlos Santana (all-star candidate), and Mookie Betts (2018 AL MVP). If Turang can maintain this walk/strikeout profile throughout his journey through the minor leagues, he will find himself in good company when he debuts in Milwaukee.

If you need some extra context to understand how rare this level of hitting prowess is, only 12 of the 1,387 minor-league players with at least 100 at-bats in 2019 have filled that same criteria described above. That accounts for just under one percent of all minor-league batters with at least 100 at-bats.

While the young shortstop excels at controlling the strike-zone and getting on-base, Turang does possess one weakness in his offensive game: his power. Of Turang’s 473 plate appearances as a professional, only two have culminated in him hitting a home run. His isolated power (ISO), a statistic that tells the difference between slugging percentage and batting average, is currently .077. Generally, complete hitters have an ISO of at least .150. Of the four MLB names mentioned above, the lowest ISO is Mookie Betts (.189). To reach the notoriety that those names currently carry as elite hitters, Turang has a bit of work to do in the power department.

Given Turang’s 6-foot-1 frame, it is reasonable to believe that he could grow into a bit more power as he fills out and packs on a little more muscle. Ozzie Albies, now an all-star second baseman with the Atlanta Braves, provided an example of developing his power during his time in the Braves’ minor league system. Through his first three seasons in the minors, Albies hit only seven home runs in nearly 300 games. Then, he broke out for 15 home runs split between the minors and majors in 2017, and added 24 long balls in 2018.

However, given that Turang’s swing is noted as “lacking lift”, it may be best for him to continue focusing on generating a high amount of contact and drawing walks at an elite rate. With this current offensive profile at an MLB-level, Turang would be a perfect candidate to set the table atop the Brewers’ lineup. Any added power is certainly welcome, but it is not necessary for him to be a successful and productive big-leaguer.

Although he likely would arrive in Milwaukee during 2021 at the earliest, it is difficult to not get overly excited about the potential Turang has. Pairing his offensive game with solid defense at a premium position (shortstop) makes him extremely valuable going forward for the Crew.

Brewers Midseason Grades: The Pitchers

Earlier this week, I took a look at grades for each of the Brewers’ position players thus far in the season. Now, it’s the pitchers’ turn. They have received a lot of flak over the last few months for their performance, with many fans pegging them as inadequate for a team with playoff aspirations. Currently ranked 17th in MLB in ERA and 13th in WAR, the staff has been serviceable, but nothing special. Let’s take a took at their individual performances and their contributions to the Brewers’ 2019 success.

The Pitchers

Chase Anderson (57.0 IP, 4.42 ERA, 0.7 WAR) – This analysis rings true for many Brewers’ pitchers, but Anderson started strong and tailed off as of late before a strong showing in his last start. Of all the Brewers’ starters, he struggles most going through the opponent’s order for a third time, limiting his effectiveness as a starting option. Grade: C

Matt Albers (35.1 IP, 3.57 ERA, 0.4 WAR) – Despite not being too popular with fans after his 2018 collapse, Albers has quietly put together a solid season out of the Brewers’ bullpen. He’s more often than not gotten the job done. Grade: B

Jacob Barnes (19.2 IP, 6.86 ERA, -0.1 WAR) – Despite having good velocity, he has not been able to put it together as a late-inning option. Grade: F

Corbin Burnes (42.2 IP, 8.44 ERA, -0.3 WAR) – After a tremendous season out of the bullpen in 2018, Burnes transition into the rotation went less than smoothly, and his reintroduction to the bullpen has brought many of the same issues. He currently is not capable of being trusted pitching high-leverage innings. Grade: F

Jhoulys Chacin (72.1 IP. 5.60 ERA, 0.0 WAR) – The Brewers’ 2018 ace has not experienced the same success in 2019. He is allowing many more home runs and has seen a large drop in his groundball rate. Grade: D+

Alex Claudio (35.1 IP, 4.33 ERA, -0.3 WAR) – Acquired to be a lockdown option at the back of the Brewers’ bullpen, he has had a rocky season up to this point, mixing wholly ineffective outings with effective ones. His WAR takes a hit due to his low strikeout rate, but his ERA is actually better than the league-average reliever. Grade: D+

Zach Davies (91.2 IP, 3.24 ERA, 1.0 WAR) – After a rough 2018, Davies bounced back to start the year and has been a cog in the Brewers’ rotation. His performance going forward will be a large determinant of the Brewers’ success as a team. Grade: B+

Gio Gonzalez (31.0 IP, 3.19 ERA, 0.8 WAR) – Prior to his injury, Gonzalez provided much needed rotation help after being signed as a free agent. He slots in as the Crew’s #2 starter when healthy. Grade: B+

Junior Guerra (42.2 IP, 3.80 ERA, 0.3 WAR) – The results for Guerra in his first season as a full-time reliever have been solid. The Brewers have relied heavily upon him in high-leverage situations. Grade: B

Josh Hader (41.2 IP, 2.16 ERA, 1.8 WAR) – Hader has been his usual dominant self as he’s taken the reins of the closer role in 2019. He is striking out more than half of the batters he faces. Grade: A

Adrian Houser (38.2 IP, 3.26 ERA, 0.4 WAR) – Houser has been phenomenal as a reliever and subpar as a starter – his ERA in relief appearances is 1.05 in 25.2 innings. He is looking like a legitimate high leverage bullpen arm, and if he does not stick in the rotation he could fill the fireman role that Josh Hader performed in last season. Grade: B+

Jeremy Jeffress (32.1 IP, 4.18 ERA, 0.4 WAR) – After an otherworldly 2018, Jeffress has come back to earth this season. He is striking out fewer hitters and inducing groundballs at a much lower rate. Grade: C+

Jimmy Nelson (14.0 IP, 8.36 ERA, -0.1 WAR) – The results post-injury rehab have not been pretty for Jimmy, which is surely not a testament to the countless hours of training and treatment he put in to get himself back on a major-league mound. Hopefully he finds it in the second-half. Grade: F

Freddy Peralta (58.0 IP, 5.12 ERA, 0.8 WAR) – As his WAR suggests, Freddy has been much better than his high ERA indicates. While inconsistent while switching back and forth between starting and relieving, he’s shown that his ceiling is still sky high. Grade: C+

Brandon Woodruff (102.0 IP, 3.79 ERA, 2.8 WAR) – It looks like the Brewers may finally have found their ace with Woodruff. He currently ranks fifth in WAR among starting pitchers in the National League, and has led the Brewers rotation through its struggles. Grade: A

And we couldn’t forget Milwaukee’s (now-former) shutdown reliever…

Hernan Perez (2.0 IP, 0.00 ERA, 0.0 WAR) – His efforts provided some much needed comedic relief during two blowouts the Brewers were on the wrong end of. Grade: A for effort