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Wednesday, April 24th 2019
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What Proposed MLB Rule Changes Could Mean for the Brewers

This past week, several rules changes proposed by the MLB Players Association came to light. They covered topics ranging from the designated hitter to tanking, and many of the proposed changes would shake the very core of what we’ve come to know the game of baseball to be. This article will break down the most significant proposed changes and their significance to the Brewers. Here we go:

1. Forcing Pitchers to Face at Least Three Batters

This is a rule that is aimed partly at improving pace of play while also attempting to restore the value of the starting pitcher, in my opinion. Forcing a reliever to face three batters would limit a manager’s ability to have a quick hook on a starting pitcher for a situational matchup, and also would restrict a manager from using a reliever for the first batter of the game as a matchup tactic.

The Brewers’ utilization of relievers would certainly be altered if this rule change were implemented. For example, Craig Counsell used Dan Jennings as an “opener” this season, where he would face the lefty batters that led off the game and then was removed. This would eliminate that strategic option. Counsell also loves to play the matchup game with his relievers, and was not shy about inserting a new reliever just for one batter if the left/right splits suggested he do it.

2. The DH Being Installed in the NL

This rule would see the designated hitter become a league-wide policy, rather than just existing in the American League. As the Commissioner’s Office wants more offense to hopefully drive more fan interest (debatable), adding the DH to the NL would be an easy way to attempt that. It also would eliminate the injury risk that pitchers currently face while batting and running the bases. 

This would have the largest immediate impact on the Brewers, as it would completely change the way they would have to construct their roster. The Brewers likely would need to find a starting caliber DH, as I don’t think they would feel comfortable assigning that role to anyone on their current roster. This would involve either a free agent signing or a trade, and could make older free agents more appealing to the Brewers if they knew that they had the fallback option of playing them at DH if their skills in the field deteriorated down the stretch. In terms of in-game strategy, it definitely would change the way the Brewers would pitch to hitters, as there no longer would be the option of intentionally walking a batter to face the pitcher.

3. Expansion of Rosters to 26 Players and Limiting September Rosters to 28

Currently, MLB teams are afforded 25 players on their active roster. This has led to a lot of manipulation using the disabled list and minor-league options over the past couple of years, as teams would send down a relief pitcher after a long outing so that they would have a fresh arm in the bullpen. There have also been complaints previously about rosters expanding to 40 in September, with some saying that it creates a playing environment that differs too much from the rest of the season.

The Brewers would be greatly affected by this. They were one team that religiously exchanged relievers between their Triple-A club and the major leagues due to usage, so this would likely eliminate some of the need for that. In addition, the Brewers’ September surge to first place largely was bolstered by their ability to have the majority of their 40-man roster on the bench. It gave them the opportunity to give Corey Knebel another chance after his demotion to the minors, and he became arguably their most dominant reliever down the stretch. It also allowed them to creatively deploy their bullpen, which they took advantage of greatly. By the time the Brewers got to the playoffs, it seemed difficult to imagine the team being whittled down to just 25 players, as you could see the clear function of each one’s place on the roster. Were this rule in place in 2018, the Brewers may not have become division champions.

4. Having a Single Trade Deadline

Currently, MLB has two trade deadlines: the July 31st non-waiver deadline, and the August 31st waiver deadline. With this current set-up, July 31st acts as the deadline for teams to decide whether they want to go the extra mile to make themselves “contenders” for that year to bolster the roster. Teams are also allowed to make trades after July 31st, but the player involved must go through waivers.

With this proposed rule change, the MLB is trying mainly to force teams to win early in the season to establish themselves, while also preventing them from selling off talent later in the season if they fall out of contention.

This would mainly affect the Brewers in trying to acquire talent during contending years. If fewer teams can gauge whether they are in contention, fewer assets may be available on the trade market. It also would prevent them from committing to a rebuild late in a season if they are not in contention. David Stearns would certainly feel the heat from this one.

5. Punishing Tanking Teams with Draft Penalties

At the moment, the MLB has no way to penalize a team for tanking. In fact, tanking is viewed by executives around the league as a mere byproduct of a rebuilding process, where a team will tear down their MLB roster to acquire young, minor league assets that can return them to contention in the coming years. While this may be an effective way to become competitive, it hurts those team’s on-field product drastically.

To attempt to rectify this situation, the union suggests that any team who loses 90+ games in consecutive years would fall 15 places from their allotted draft slot. A team picking 5th would drop all the way to 20th, which would greatly hurt their chances of acquiring an elite-level prospect. This is meant to incentivize teams not only to try during the regular season, but also to make changes necessary in the off-season to ensure they do not have a disastrous season. From the union’s side, this is likely a response to free agents receiving below-market pay days even when many losing teams could use their services. For the Brewers, this does not look to be an issue at the moment, but could turn into one if they attempt another rebuild at some point in the future.

While none of these rule changes are set in stone, and almost certainly aren’t on the table for 2019, they all clearly point to a couple main objectives MLB is trying to accomplish. First, they want to make the league more uniformly competitive. By establishing an earlier trade deadline and punishing teams in the draft for consecutive poor seasons, they will attempt to force teams to make more decisions that will impact the team’s success in the short term. Second, they want to continue to improve the on-field product in the eyes of the fan. Adding the DH would add more offense, which MLB thinks would drive fan interest (although I do not agree). In addition, forcing pitchers to face three batters would improve pace of play.

Who knows what will ultimately become of these talks, but it sounds like meaningful change will be coming to baseball in the near future.

What To Expect From Top Brewers Prospects in 2019

I understand how getting caught up in farm system rankings and prospects that may not crack a big league roster for several more years may seem silly at face value for a Brewers organization that was one win away from a World Series berth. However, this article will analyze the present through the lens of the future, by highlighting the status of some Brewers prospects who are already household names, namely Keston Hiura, Corey Ray, and others, and when we can expect them to fill a meaningful spot on one of the best rosters in the National League.

 

When Milwaukee traded three of their top 10 prospects almost exactly a year ago to acquire Christian Yelich, they sacrificed being seen as having one of the best farm systems in baseball for improving the major league roster; something that must be done for teams looking to contend in a competitive, money-driven league. Combined with trades such as the Yelich deal and some other top prospects graduating to significant, high-leverage roles in Milwaukee like Corbin Burnes and Freddy Peralta, the consensus regarding the Brewers’ farm system that it is pretty much middle-of-the-road. Starting with Keston Hiura, who Baseball America calls: “The best hitter the Brewers have developed since Ryan Braun” let’s look at what we can expect in 2019 from some future Brewers.

 

  • 2B Keston Hiura

With his elbow concerns far in the rearview, and his pure offensive domination in the minors, Keston Hiura seems more ready than ever to take over as Milwaukee’s starting second baseman and an as an important middle of the lineup weapon. That said, that role will not immediately belong to him coming out of spring training, according to Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, and he will have to wait for his call-up sometime during the 2019 regular season. In 2018, Hiura hit to the tune of .293/.357/.464 with 13 home runs and 34 doubles. Hiura projects as an elite contact hitter and an average power threat at a position of need for the Brewers.

Keston Hiura’s career BA is .313

 

 

 

 

Projection: All attempts to pry Hiura away from Milwaukee will be unsuccessful and by the end of 2019 he will be starting on a daily basis and garnering some NL Rookie of the Year buzz.

  • OF Corey Ray

Seen as a true five-tool threat worthy of the 5th overall selection in the 2016 Draft, Corey Ray has had many eyes on his performance ever since his selection. After a down year offensively in 2017 that sparked some concern, Ray was able to flip the script entirely in 2018 and play so spectacularly that he took home the Southern League MVP award at AA Biloxi.

Unlike Hiura, Ray does not have a clear opening for him on the major league roster, given the strength of the Brewers outfield, so he will likely have to wait for injury or another extenuating circumstance if he hopes to make his debut in 2019.

 

Projection: Corey Ray’s struggles with plate discipline and the Brewers’ outfield depth will prevent him from taking over a meaningful role in 2019, but he will make his debut at some point and turn some heads with his balanced skill-set.

 

  • 2B/SS Mauricio Dubon

Mauricio Dubon was acquired from the Boston Red Sox in the Tyler Thornburg deal from 2016, and has yet to crack the big leagues. In 2018 he seemed on the verge of a call-up when he unfortunately suffered a season-ending ACL tear. In 2018, Dubon hit for the superb average of .343 in 108 at-bats and projects as a plus defender with above average speed and range.

Mauricio Dubon is a plus defender with great offensive instincts

 

 

 

 

Projection: As it stands, there is no clear spot for Dubon on the Brewers, but expect him to get a chance in 2019 at either shortstop if Orlando Arcia struggles or at second base if injury strikes.

RHP Zack Brown

 

Zack Brown has had an up and down career thus far, however, his recent success in 2018 in Double-A is indicative of future prosperity. Last season, he was able to finish with a 9-1 overall record partnered with a 2.44 ERA. Brown projects as an excellent ground-ball pitcher who pounds the strike zone well.

Projection: Brown’s success will carry over into 2019 and will earn him a chance to debut in the Brewers’ bullpen following in the footsteps of Josh Hader, Corbin Burnes, and others.

 

While the Brewers farm system may not be as much of a strength as it was a couple years ago, it is safe to say there are some potential difference makers who will be primed for substantial roles in the not too distant future. Organizational depth is a vital key to a successful franchise, and the Brewers’ scouts and decision-makers have done a great job of building for the present without leaving the future in the rearview. Bring on 2019!

Stats Courtesy of Baseball Reference

Brewers Secure their Bright Future

As the offseason is coming to a close, with pitchers and catchers reporting February 14, the Brewers have orchestrated a slower offseason than last year. However, with an announcement on Wednesday, they may have topped last year.

On Wednesday, they announced they promoted GM David Stearns to President of Operations and more importantly extended his contract. No details were released. However, the Brewers – with this move – secured their future for years to come.

Friday January 25th marks one year since one of the most exciting days in recent Brewer history. On that day, one year ago, they made the blockbuster trade to receive Christian Yelich, only to sign Lorenzo Cain about a half hour later. Although, that made a major impact on the burst to the NLCS run of 2018, extending Stearns seems more important.

Stearns was hired near the end of the 2015 season. He has built the team since, through drafts, trades, and acquisitions. To get a more in depth view on those specifically, you can read one of my past articles;

http://www.creamcitycentral.com/brewers/the-most-important-contract-extension-of-the-year/

Since arriving, Stearns had brought an analytical mindset that has resulted in fast success. While doing that, he has still kept young, controllable, and fairly inexpensive talent.

Take someone like Jesus Aguilar, somewhat undervalued in the Indians organization, he became extremely valuable in the Brewers organization. To many he might have seemed like the last player to make the roster. But yet he had an influential first half in 2018, and at 28 years old made the All- Star roster.

Piggy backing off of that, is the importance of young players. While obviously the Brewers want them to have an impact in the majors, they can be great for trades. Whether you look at the Yelich trade that finished off the roster or the Moustakas trade that gave them the last push for the postseason. Either way, young talent is crucial for the small market Brewers.

Another major point of Stearns’ tenure in Milwaukee, is how he handled the rebuild. I did touch on it in the article I linked before, but I would like to mention it again. Stearns never put a timetable on the rebuild and though analysts did, he refused. A normal rebuild blueprint shows that the Brewers should have expected at least two “terrible” seasons. However, Sterns and the Brewers wrote their own story.

Although the story has a few more chapters to be written, it has been an entertaining one for sure so far. With only one real “unbearable” season in 2016, when they went 73-89, it really could have been much worse. Then we all know the rest of the story, in 2017 they exceeded all expectations, then missed the playoffs by one game and then in 2018 missed the World Series by one game. That brings us to the present, and from the view right now, the future looks even brighter.

It is easy to see that Stearns has been undoubtedly a perfect match for Milwaukee. If you don’t believe that, you are either a Cubs fan who doesn’t want to admit the Brewers success or someone who lives under a rock. Anyways, giving him a contract extension as well as a promotion, not only solidifies the future, it makes sure no one tries to steal him away from our beloved Brewers.

Bargain Bin Free Agent Targets for the Brewers

 

With David Stearns as the GM the Brewers have sought depth and flexibility. The Brewers as you all may know don’t have the payroll of bigger market teams and the test for Stearns is build a World Series contender on a budget. He’s shown he’s quite capable of doing this. However, none of this would have been possible without the signing of some key guys who were more bargain bin adds. Wade Miley was signed to a minor league contract last off-season. Others such as Jesus Aguilar, Stephen Vogt, and Hernan Perez were designated for assignment by their previous clubs. Every team should investigate the bargain bin for potential diamonds in the rough, but it’s crucial for a small-market team such as Milwaukee to.

Clay Buchholz

Clay Buchholz is coming off a solid, but short season. Buchholz started 16 games for the Arizona Diamondbacks last season. In 98 innings last season Buchholz had a 2.01 ERA with a 1.037 WHIP. Clay also had good advanced numbers including a FIP of 3.47. Buchholz may not be an ace like Madison Bumgardner or Corey Kluber that Brewers fans have been pawing after for years, but if Buchholz as effectively this year as he did last season he gives the Brewers a solid starter that won’t cost and arm in payroll or a leg in prospects.

Derek Dietrich

Derek Dietrich is one of the last remaining options the Brewers have at 2nd base. He was designated for assignment by the Marlins back in November. Dietrich has one key asset the Brewers absolutely love, versatility. Dietrich played 1st base, 2nd base, 3rd base, right and left field last season. He isn’t quite Hernan Perez in the field though. One of his biggest dings his entire career has been his defense wherever the Marlins stuck him. However, as the Brewers proved last season, they can hide defensive shortcomings with the use of shifts and a magician at shortstop. Dietrich is most certainly an offensive upgrade bringing to Milwaukee his slash line of .265/.330/.421. He also hit 16 HRs and 45 RBIs. Let’s not forget that this happened in pitcher friendly Marlins Park. The swap from Marlins to Miller Park helped turn Christian Yelich into an MVP maybe it could give another former Marlin a huge boost.

Logan Forsythe

Logan Forsythe is another cheap middle infield option for Milwaukee. He can play both 2nd and 3rd base which helps give Milwaukee the versatility they love. His 2018 was a tale of 2 teams. He had a slash line of .207/.270/.290 in 70 games in as a Dodger. Forsythe was then traded to Minnesota as a part of the Brian Dozier deal. He turned things around as evidenced by a .258/.356/.292 slash line in 50 games there.  He may not be a guy you want to play every day, but he can provide quality at-bats throughout a week while platooning with Hernan Perez and Corey Spangenberg.

Marco Estrada (Signed a one-year contract with Oakland)

Marco Estrada is a former Brewer who spent the last 4 seasons with the Toronto Blue Jays. Marco is coming off a rough 2018 season in which he had an ERA over 5.5. He had troubles with walks and the long ball last season. If the Brewers can help him fix those issues he can again return to the solid back-end of the rotation option he had been in Toronto.

Jeremy Hellickson

Jeremy Hellickson has been around the block in his career playing for 5 teams in 9 seasons.  Hellickson had a solid 2018 season in a Nationals uniform. He had a 3.45 ERA in just over 90 innings last year. He also had one of the best BB/9 in all of baseball only surrendering 1.97 walks per 9. If he can repeat what he did last season he’s not going to lose you many games. Hellickson like Buchholz isn’t the ace Brewers fans yearn for, but he to would provide a solid depth option that can help get this team where it wants to go.

There’s a good chance that none of the guys are All-Stars next season, but the Brewers don’t necessarily need another All-Star. They are looking to fill holes for minor issues. Every position these guys play there is a young and exciting player coming from the minor league ranks or from the bullpen. Corbin Burnes, Brandon Woodruff, Freddy Peralta, and Zack Brown figure to all have shots to be in the starting rotation sooner rather than later. Prized prospect Keston Hiura and Mauricio Dubon both figure to get cracks at playing 2nd base in the not to distant future. This means the Brewers are looking for stopgap guys. Sometimes the best place to find them is in the bargain bin, which is right where these guys sit.

Brewers Sign Yasmani Grandal

2015 All-Star catcher Yasmani Grandal is the newest member of the Milwaukee Brewers. Late Wednesday night, phones of Brewer and MLB fans were aglow with the news of Grandal agreeing to a one year, $18.25 million dollar contract. I know what you are thinking, “Don’t you mean ‘Yasmani Passedball?’” It’s hard not to remember the rough days behind the dish for Grandal in the 2018 NLCS, but I am asking you to take a deep breath, let the negativity leave your body, and keep an open mind regarding the former La La Land backstop because I had to do the exact same thing initially.

 

True to his less than spectacular moniker, Grandal has accumulated 64 passed balls giving him an roughly 16 passed balls per 162 games.  Despite the issue of passed balls, Grandal has proved to be a plus defender over his seven years in the MLB. He has posted a career fielding percentage of .994 as well as finishing second in WAR among catchers in 2018 and first among catchers in runs saved with 39 over the last three seasons. Yaz has also shown ability at first base where he has appeared in 50 games. His versatility could prove to be a major key in a Craig Counsell led squadron which emphasizes essentially “positionless” baseball.

 

The switch hitting, former Miami Hurricane has built a career on finding his way onto the basepaths. In his seven seasons, he has posted a modest .240 batting average, but has an solid OPS of .782 including an OBP of .341. This is large in part to a 13% walk rate over 2660 plate appearances. He has also mashed 113 home runs along with 339 RBI. Grandal does most of his damage against right handed pitchers in 2018 with 20 home runs and a line of .252/.351/.492 totaling to an OPS of an impressive .844. He has not, however, hit well at all in the playoffs, which is a major strike against him with the Brewers positioning themselves for a deep run. Yaz has only three postseason extra base hits, slashed .107/.264/.200 with a .464 OPS, and struck out 35 times in 75 plate appearances.

 

Love or hate the move, this shows Brewer fans that the pocketbook is open and there is an emphasis of winning right now. Be on the look for more moves as the hot stove continues to heat up.

Brewers Offseason Pitching Transactions

In 2018, the Milwaukee Brewers were one game away from clinching their first World Series since 1982.  Just two seasons ago, they were projected to be one of the worst teams in the MLB, but quickly rose to one of the top teams in the league in 2018.  It is crazy to think that in 2016, the Brewers roster was completely different than what it currently is today. David Stearns has certainly done a phenomenal job as the youngest GM in the MLB.  Coming from one of the top farm systems in the league, the Brewers have turned average players into superstars, in players like Christian Yelich and Josh Hader. Now, it is time to look ahead into next season and decide what moves need to be made.  The Brewers have already made a few transactions this offseason, including trading outfielder Domingo Santana to the Mariners and outfielder Keon Broxton to the Mets. Milwaukee received minor league prospect pitchers in both trades, which will give them more depth in their bullpen.  The pitching rotation is an area that Milwaukee needs more strength at, and there are several ways they could go about making this more lethal.

Re-Sign Key Players

Wade Miley– From a minor league prospect at the start of the season to a top notch force in the postseason,  Wade Miley became a big part of the Brewers this year, ending with a 2.57 ERA and one of the main areas of success in the Brewers rotation this postseason.  Wade Miley should be a key player for Milwaukee to keep around. This year, it was almost as if he was on a “prove it” contract, making only $2.5 Million on a minor league deal at 32 years old, and Miley definitely improved coming off of a struggling 5.61 ERA season in Baltimore.  

The Brewers also have Gio Gonzalez as a key free agent, who is a former NL Cy Young Award winner, but in order to make big transactions this offseason, Wade Miley would be the smarter move for Milwaukee to keep.  Even though Gonzalez has more experience in the playoffs, he also struggles majorly in big games like that. Wade Miley would be the better move at helping the Crew win a ring in the next few years.

Sign Players

Dallas Keuchel– As one of the top farm systems in the league, the Brewers would have enough money to make a move on Keuchel.  This is a solid veteran with playoff experience coming off a 3.74 ERA during the 2018 season. Keuchel has a total of 4 Golden Glove Awards, including one in 2018, and is one of the best pitchers in today’s game.  The former 2015 AL Cy Young pitcher has one World Series ring earned in 2017, which would help the Brewers to have another guy in their rotation familiar with the playoff atmosphere. He also has had an average WHIP of under 2.00 ever since he has entered the league in 2012, which shows how consistent he is throughout the season.  Keuchel will receive numerous interests from other teams, and Milwaukee should definitely be a contender to sign him.

Trade for Key Players 

Corey Kluber– This is another veteran pitcher that would help Milwaukee substantially with his consistency on the mound.  Cleveland has been to the postseason for 3 consecutive years, including 1 World Series appearance. Kluber had the 5th best ERA in the American League last year, finishing with a 2.89.  He also captured a 20 win season, which was the 2nd highest in the AL. His numbers were impressive in 2018, as he is one of the best pitchers in the league when it comes to staying consistent throughout the regular season.  Kluber might require Milwaukee to give up more than they would like, but he would help improve their rotation immensely at times when it matters most.

Madison Bumgarner– Bumgarner has been in trade talks with various teams for quite some time.  As of right now, the Brewers seem to be one of the frontrunners to acquire the 12-year veteran.  The Brewers have just what the Giants need to give up for him, it is just a matter of if they will make the move.  Corey Ray, a top prospect of Milwaukee who many believe will make a great impact in 2019, has started to enter the trade mix for the Brewers in acquiring a top pitcher like Bumgarner.  Madison Bumgarner has 3 rings with San Francisco and was the MVP for them all. He has had an average ERA of 3.03 his entire MLB career. His numbers in the postseason are jaw-dropping.  Of his 4 year playoff appearance, Bumgarner’s postseason ERA is 2.11 and has an 8-3 record out of the 12 opponents he has faced. In the 2014 World Series, he had a 0.43 ERA in 21 innings pitched, averaging out to be one of his best years in baseball.  Madison Bumgarner is one of the most successful pitchers of this era and very well could be on the move soon, garnering interest from Milwaukee and several other teams. 

The Milwaukee Brewers can only get better from here and that starts with pitching, something that was strong in the 2018 postseason, but there is always room for improvement.  The Brewers starting rotation struggled with injuries last season. For example, they will most likely lose Brent Suter for the 2019 season due to Tommy-John surgery late in the year.  The Brewers need a big playmaker that will make an impact in their rotation, and transactions like these will make a difference and improve their consistency throughout the year.

 

 

 

 

 

New Year, Same Brewers

As the new year gets under way,it is the social norm to reflect on what the last year has brung. Looking at the Brewer’s past year, they made their first postseason berth since 2011. However, I can’t help but think about what came before to make the postseason roster. If you look at all the Brewers have done from drafts to trades, there are several bright spots.

Everything started after the 2014 season when the Brewers fell apart in the second half of the season. In 2015, they tried to patch things together but it didn’t work. That is when it was decided they were in operation rebuild. The following is looking back at key parts that brought us to the success of 2018.

Key Trades

Trading Jonathan Lucroy and Jeremy Jeffress

You may be thinking about how this trade helped propel the Brewers to the postseason. At the trade deadline in August of 2016, the Brewers traded  Jonathan Lucroy and Jeremy Jeffress. In return they got a young outfielder in Lewis Brinson and RHP Luis Ortiz. Ring a bell?

Luis Ortiz later was  traded to the Orioles for Jonathan Schoop. As much as that was a bust, Lewis Brinson makes the trade worth while.

As you all remember, almost a year ago (January 25) Lewis Brinson was traded to the Marlins in exchange for now MVP, Christian Yelich. If there is someone out there who doesn’t think Yelich was a huge push for the Brewers, please click off now. Posting a 7.6 WAR and a HUGE wOBA (weighted on base average) of .422. This one was a pretty easy connection. Safe to say, without Yelich, the Brewers may not have ended in the same place.

Trading Carlos Gomez and Mike Fiers

I am going to bring it back to July of 2015 when the Brewers made the first blockbuster trade. They received OF Brett Phillips, OF Domingo Santana, RHP Adrian Houser, and LHP Josh Hader in exchange for Gomez and Fiers.

I’ll talk about the elephant of the room first, Hader made a hefty impact on this past season. As for Houser, he has been a steady option to bring up from the minors for bullpen relief. As for Phillips, he had a pretty good impact in the first half of the season. He was then traded to Kansas City for Mike Moustakas.

Moose came to Milwaukee and made an immediate contribution. Not only was his “one the field play” valuable, but his playoff experience was huge for a young team going into the postseason for the first time.

Domingo Santana also had an impact in 2018. However, his biggest impact may come in the future with being involved in an off-season trade with the Mariners.

Trading Tyler Thornburg

A sometimes overlooked trade has brought great success. Gaining the underrated INF Travis Shaw for Tyler Thornburg has given the Brewers a steady LHH and great versatility. His value really shined this past year after agreeing to play 2B to make room for Mike Moustakas.

For a player who was fairly “inexpensive”, he has “boomed” in a Brewers uniform. The other part of that trade was acquiring young prospect Mauricio Dubon. Dubon struggled with an injury in 2018 but still carries a lot of potential. He is definitely a young face to keep your eye on.

After looking back to see how last year’s squad was formed, it’s important to look to the future. Since David Stearns has taken over, he has had multiple very good drafts. His first draft in 2016 has already proved plentyfull.

Coming out of that draft was RHP Corbin Burnes who has already proved himself in the majors and is slated to start in 2019. Another top pitcher is Zack Brown. He spent the 2018 season in AA. He put up very good numbers and is starting to prove himself as a future ace. The last player coming out of 2016 was Corey Ray. Whether he makes it to the majors in Milwaukee or is part of a trade, he is slated to have a big impact.

Moving into the 2017 draft, Keston Hiura takes “the cake”. He is a natural born hitter who adds a little power. It is easy to see him having an impact later in the 2019 season and for  years to come. The latest draft is hard to see a major league impact so early, however first round pick Brice Turang thrived in his first year in the minors.

It is easy to see that Brewers have made many key moves that brought them the 2018 success. Those same moves and drafts ensure that their success carries into years to come.

Analyzing the Brewers’ Return for Keon Broxton

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

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

Bobby Wahl, RHP

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

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

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

Adam Hill, RHP

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

Felix Valerio, INF

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

What the Corey Spangenberg Signing Means for the Brewers

The Brewers took a step on Thursday towards solving their hole at second base by signing free agent Corey Spangenberg to a one-year contract. The deal will pay Spangenberg $1.2 million if he makes the major-league roster and $250K if he ends up in the minors, making this a very low-risk signing for the Crew.

Spangenberg has spent his entire career up until this point with the San Diego Padres, who selected him with the 10th overall pick in the 2011 MLB Draft. He owns a career slash line of .258/.307/.390, while logging the majority of his innings at second and third base. He also has played nearly 270 innings in left field, giving him some of that positional flexibility that the Brewers seem to value highly. Spangenberg’s finest season as a professional came in 2015, during which he hit .271/.333/.399 while accumulating 2.0 wins above replacement.

The main downside to Spangenberg’s game is he strikes out… a lot. He has a career strikeout percentage of 26.4%, with that number being elevated to 32.8% during the 2018 season. Spangenberg’s swing and miss tendencies hurt his offensive profile significantly given his general lack of power, and that is something that he will need to improve upon if he hopes to be a meaningful contributor to the Brewers in 2019.

If he makes the big-league roster, Spangenberg likely would form one-half of a platoon combination at second base, acting as the left-handed hitting option. With the roster’s current composition, the other half of that platoon would almost certainly be Hernan Perez. Spangenberg offered above-average production against righties last season, registering a 101 wRC+ mark while hitting .261/.332/.393. Perez, accordingly, hit .277/.304/.479 while putting up a wRC+ of 104 against lefties. The 2018 Brewers struggled to get any semblance of consistent offense prior to the Mike Moustakas trade in July, so having a league-average combination like Perez and Spangenberg would be a large improvement over the Crew’s situation at the start of last season.

Due to the low-risk nature of Spangenberg’s contract, the Brewers are not removed from exploring other second base options. They could still look to bring in an established player like Jed Lowrie, Brian Dozier, or Josh Harrison. In addition, they could still dip into the third base market and shift Travis Shaw to second base, which would significantly alter Spangenberg’s chances at making the roster. However, this signing to me says that it is very likely they will continue to look at stop-gap options like Spangenberg to plug the hole until either Keston Hiura or Mauricio Dubon is ready to take over at the big-league level.

The Brewers trade Domingo Santana for Ben Gamel and Noah Zavolas

               The Milwaukee Brewers traded outfielder Domingo Santana to Seattle for outfielder Ben Gamel and pitching prospect Noah Zavolas. Santana only appeared in 85 games for the Brewers last season after his breakout 2017 campaign where he hit 30 homeruns. Santana was probably the biggest Brewer casualty from the acquisitions of Christian Yelich and Lorenzo Cain. He was sent down to AAA in late June and did not return until he became a September call-up. Last off-season there were many rumblings about a potential trade last off-season, so this may not come as a surprise.

               Ben Gamel is a left-handed hitting outfielder. Ben is the younger brother of former Brewer Mat Gamel. He has spent his last 2 seasons with the Mariners. Gamel had a late start to last season while he was sidelined at the end of spring training and most of April with a sprained right oblique muscle. Gamel primarily plays in the corners making 48 appearances in left field and 40 in right. However, he did show some slight versatility making 4 appearances in center field and 1 at first base. He played in 101 games total for the Mariners last year slashing .272/.358/.370. He doesn’t offer much power only hitting 1 homerun last season. He had a 20.8% K rate last season which was a full 12.0% lower than Santana’s last season.

               Gamel offers more positional versatility than Santana. Another key factor in this trade is the fact that Gamel has a minor league option left. David Stearns has proven time and time again that he covets the flexibility that comes with having a minor league option brings. Gamel also has one more year of team control than Santana had.

               The mostly unknown piece in this deal is Noah Zavolas. He was an 18th round pick in 2018 out of Harvard University. He is a right-handed pitcher who pitched in relief for the Mariners Low-A and High-A teams last season. He made a total of 19 appearances spanning 38.2 innings. He had an ERA of 3.03 while striking out 41 hitters.

                This trade may not be popular amongst most fans as Santana was beloved, however this trade was further proof that the Brewers love versatility. Santana was a good player in 2017, but an odd power outage last year hurt his profile. Gamel adds not only positional flexibility, but also helps the rosters flexibility with his minor league option. While also adding a lower strikeout rate. Zavolas is a lottery ticket, but what’s life without a little risk. With this trade the Brewers wanted to add versatility and that’s what they did, this may not be popular but having major league talent with minor league options certainly helped last year.