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Wednesday, August 21st 2019
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Brewers Midseason Grades: The Position Players

More than 81 games have come and gone, and the Brewers officially stand at 44-39 at just past the midway point of the season. After a hot start that established the Crew as clear front-runners in the stacked NL Central, they have faltered in recent weeks as their starting pitching has failed to deliver and the offense continues to be unreliable beyond all-star contenders Christian Yelich, Mike Moustakas, and Yasmani Grandal. However, early April showed what this team is capable of when clicking on all cylinders, and they still have the internal firepower necessary to take the division for a second consecutive season.

In part one of this two-piece series, I will provide midseason grades for each player that has had a meaningful role on the Brewers thus far in the season. We will start with the position players.

Position Player Grades 

Jesus Aguilar (.207/.312/.322, 5 HR, -0.7 WAR) – After an All-Star season in 2018, Aguilar has not been able to get it going in 2019. His days in Milwaukee may be numbered if he doesn’t turn it around in the next couple of weeks. Grade: F

Orlando Arcia (.240/.300/.404, 10 HR, 0.3 WAR) – The offense is still a work in progress, but he has shown flashes of the player he can be when he shows patience at the plate. His defense has been solid, but not spectacular according to advanced metrics. Grade: C

Ryan Braun (.272/.321/.459, 12 HR, 0.4 WAR) – Braun is much the same hitter this year as he was last year, being just slightly above the league-average with a 101 wRC+. He still provides some “thump” in the middle of the lineup. Grade: C+

Lorenzo Cain (.248/.312/.352, 4 HR, 10 SB, 0.7 WAR) – Cain has been spectacular on defense once again, making play after play as one of the premier defensive centerfielders in the game. His offense has taken a notable step back from 2018, putting his spot as the Brewers’ leadoff hitter in jeopardy. Grade: B-

Ben Gamel (.261/.346/.400, 5 HR, 0.6 WAR) – Gamel has provided great value for the Brewers as a fourth outfielder, playing all three positions and swinging the bat adequately. Grade: B-

Yasmani Grandal (.266/.377/.533, 18 HR, 3.0 WAR) – Grandal’s signing in retrospect could be the steal of the offseason for the Brewers. His offense out of the catcher’s position is among the league’s best and his pitch framing abilities make him a plus-defender, regardless of the occasional blocking mishap. Grade: A

Keston Hiura (.271/.329/.500, 5 HR, 0.2 WAR) – The most controversial Brewer of the season, Hiura showed his offensive promise during his first stint in Milwaukee while also showing that his defense has room for improvement. Now back in the majors, he will have the chance to solidify himself as a middle-of-the-order threat. Grade: B

Mike Moustakas (.275/.349/.570, 23 HR, 2.6 WAR) – The Moose has been an all-star for the Crew, pairing elite offense with solid defense at both second and third base. Grade: A

Hernan Perez (.235/.277/.383, 5 HR, 0.0 WAR) – The Brewers’ jack-of-all-trades struggled offensively while providing some modest value through his defensive versatility. His lack of upside led to his designation for assignment. Grade: D+

Manny Pina (.147/.266/.309, 3 HR, 0.0 WAR) – As the Brewers’ backup catcher, Pina has been just that and nothing more. He’s been great defensively. Grade: C-

Travis Shaw (.164/.278/.290, 6 HR, -0.9 WAR) – Entering 2019 fresh off of back-to-back 3-win seasons, Shaw has struggled to get it going and looks lost at the plate. Let’s hope he can turn it around in the second half. Grade: F

Eric Thames (.270/.383/.522, 11 HR, 1.2 WAR) – Thames has quietly put together a very productive year thus far at first base. He still is largely just a platoon option against righties, but his on-base/power combination has paid dividends. Grade: B+

Christian Yelich (.327/.423/.704, 29 HR, 4.5 WAR) – Another year, another MVP campaign from the reigning NL MVP. Business as usual. Grade: A+

Brewers DFA Hernan Perez Among Other Roster Moves

Something needed to change for the Brewers after a recent 3-7 stretch against mediocre opponents. That change came Thursday evening when it was announced that Keston Hiura and Tyler Saladino were being called up, and Travis Shaw was demoted to AAA, and super-utility man Hernan Perez was designated for assignment.

 

Perez being designated for assignment was a bit of a shock for Brewers fans and likely for his teammates as well, given his unique positional versatility and obvious leadership within the clubhouse. However, his recent struggles at the plate pushed the envelope enough for this move to make sense. In the month of June, Perez only hit .196 with a .255 OBP while being given plenty of opportunities to showcase himself and be productive. He will be missed but Milwaukee (43-38) is not in a position to keep players around for the sake of comfort, tenure, and past productivity.

 

Keston Hiura being recalled to the bigs was a far less surprising move, and it now seems he will be in Milwaukee for the long haul if all goes according to plan. In his debut stint earlier in the season, Hiura slashed .281/.333/.531 with five home runs and looked confident as a middle-of-the-order run producer.

 

Travis Shaw’s dreadful offensive season which was on life-support already, seems to be unsalvageable at this point in the season. The Brewers’ leading run-producer over the previous two seasons has looked lost ever since Opening Day. It was increasingly difficult for Craig Counsell to justify keeping a .164 hitter in the lineup on a regular basis while Keston Hiura was continuing to rake in AAA San Antonio. Here’s hoping Shaw’s tenure as a Milwaukee Brewer does not end on a sour note, as he was a large part of the franchise’s rebuild and turnaround since his acquisition prior to the 2017 season.

 

Despite the recent tough stretch for the team as a collective, they still find themselves only a game out of first place in the NL Central, and with their next three series coming against divisional opponents, they are aiming to right the ship with these significant roster moves. David Stearns has proven to have good judgement on these kinds of tough decisions, so having faith in him is imperative for the Milwaukee Brewers fans and overall community.

 

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.

Where Does Lorenzo Cain Rank Among All Center Fielders?

An everyday, dominating center fielder is becoming a lost art in baseball. With utility players and platoon players becoming more prevalent, finding the next Rickey Henderson or Kirby Puckett is only going to get tougher in future years. If a shortstop is the captain of the defense think of a center fielder as the alternate captain. Luckily for the Milwaukee Brewers, they do not have to struggle to find someone to man the middle of the outfield. The Brewers have Lorenzo Cain. Cain has sort of struggled to start 2019 and that has generated some unfair criticism for the veteran. Cain is still a player the Brewers are lucky to have if you compare him to other center fielders, but where exactly does he rank among them? Look no further, here is the official center fielder rankings when it comes to who a team should want for the remainder of the 2019 season.

 

30. Lewis Brinson

Once regarded as a highly touted prospect in the Brewers’ farm system, Lewis Brinson has failed to live up to expectations. In 3 years and 543 plate appearances, Brinson has a batting average of .190 and an OPS of .561. He has been so bad that the Marlins can’t even put him in their lineup.

29. Keon Broxton

Another former Brewer, Keon Broxton has failed to have a productive season since 2017. Even in 2017, Broxton had a very low batting average of .220. An above average defender because of his speed, Broxton is not able to show his glove off consistently because of his struggles at the plate. This season, he is currently hitting .188 with an OPS of .518 for the Orioles.

28. Delino DeShields

The only reason DeShields stays in the lineup for the Texas Rangers is because of his glove and speed in center. Since his debut in 2015, DeShields has hit below .230 three times and has only hit 15 home runs.

27. Kevin Pillar

Although he has a fantastic glove for the Giants, Pillar has struggled at the plate in 2019. His best days are behind him and right now, he is one of the least desirable center fielders to have in your lineup.

26. Leonys Martin

Currently in his 9th MLB season, Leonys Martin is a journeyman who has played for four teams in the past 2 seasons. This year with the Indians, Martin is continuing his streak of lowering his batting average every year since 2014.

25. Brett Gardner

Once an MLB All-Star, Gold Glover, and World Series Champion, Brett Gardner is coming off his worst professional season in 2018. He has followed 2018 up by hitting .233 this year in the Yankees star-studded lineup.

24. Juan Lagares

If Juan Lagares could stay on the field for the Mets, he would be ranked much higher on my list. Currently in his 7th season, Lagares hasn’t played more than 94 games in a season since 2015. A former Gold Glove winner, Lagares has never been a threat at the plate considering the most hits he ever had in a season was during 2014 in 416 at-bats.

23. Jake Marisnick

In a stacked lineup, Jake Marisnick stands as the odd ball out for the Houston Astros. He plays with energy out in center but that isn’t enough to rank him higher.

22. JaCoby Jones

Unless you’re a Detroit Tigers fan, you probably don’t know who JaCoby Jones is. This is most likely because he is just average at everything he does when it comes to hitting, fielding, and base running.

21. Manuel Margot

At only 24 years old, Margot is apart of the young core for the San Diego Padres. In his two full seasons in 2017 and 2018, Margot showed the ability to be respectable at the plate. However, in 2019, Margot has regressed and has hit worst batting average of his career.

20. Randal Grichuk

Perhaps the center fielder with the most power on this list, Grichuk has averaged 22 home runs a year for the past 4 years as a Toronto Blue Jay. However, he struggles to get on base at an average rate and that is why Grichuk rounds out the 20s. Also, when it comes to other MLB center fielders, Grichuk is just average defensively.

19. Billy Hamilton

One of the most exciting players to watch on this list, Billy Hamilton is also the fastest. He doesn’t get on base at the most efficient rate, but when he does, he is an automatic bet to steal a base and score a run. Acquired by the Royal this offseason, Hamilton is having one of his usual seasons. He has a low batting average but a good amount of tripes and stolen bases.

18. Victor Robles

A 22-year-old for the Washington Nationals, Robles has a very bright future ahead of him. He has shown the ability to succeed at the MLB level but the sample size is too small. However, in 3-4 years, don’t be surprised if Robles is a top ten center fielder.

17. Jarrod Dyson

An older player on this list and a former World Series Champ, Dyson has played 9 full years in the majors. This year is his first full year as a starter and he has been solid for the Diamondbacks. His numbers won’t blow you away but they are good enough to consider Dyson an average MLB center fielder.

16. Ramon Laureano

Like Victor Robles, Laureano is a younger prospect for the A’s who doesn’t have a big enough sample size to make a definitive statement about. In 2018, Laureano was a rookie and hit .288 in 176 plate appearances. This year, he is hitting .265 in 75 games but has struggled defensively a bit.

15. Alex Verdugo

The only reason Verdugo isn’t higher on the list is because he isn’t the everyday center fielder for the Dodgers. He is used more in pinch hitting role and fills in defensively where he can. Verdugo doesn’t struggle at the plate and is one of the reasons Los Angeles has such a feared lineup. This year he is hitting .296 with an OPS of .812. Those numbers are very impressive considering Verdugo mainly comes off the bench.

14. Harrison Bader

Entering his prime at 25 for St. Louis, Bader plays great defense for the Cardinals. This season, Bader is having a down year at the plate hitting only .217 but last year showed Bader can get in a groove at the plate when he hit .264.

13. Albert Almora Jr.

Albert Almora Jr., is one of the most consistent players for the Chicago Cubs. He is only 25-years-old and already has a World Series and three solid years under his belt. His numbers and defense aren’t flashy but Almora gets the job done and provides good value for Chicago out in center.

12. Mallex Smith

As he enters his prime, Seattle Mariners’ Mallex Smith is a center fielder with great speed and a good bat. Last season, he led the league in triples while also hitting .296 with 40 stolen bases. In 2019, Smith is having a bit of a down year but I have the confidence he will turn it around and rise up the ranks of the top center fielders.

11. Jackie Bradley Jr.

Although debatable, JBJ is the best defensive center fielder on this list. His defense alone gets him to the 11th spot on my rankings but his inconsistently on offense keeps the Red Sox player out of the top 10.

10. Nick Senzel

The only true rookie on this list, Senzel was drafted 2nd overall by the Reds in 2016 and has lived up to the hype. He is already one of the better fielders of his position and he is currently hitting .261 with an OPS of .781. For a rookie, these numbers are impressive and are only expected to rise as the 23-year-old gets older. Baseball fans should expect to see Senzel’s name on All-Star ballots for many years to come.

9. Ian Desmond

As we dive inside the top ten, this is where we get to the best of the best. Coming in at number nine is Rockies center fielder, Ian Desmond. Desmond is a two time All-Star and three time Silver Slugger. Desmond always could and still can hit with the best of them even at 33-years-old. A utility man who mostly plays center, Desmond is a jack of all trades.

8. Odubel Herrera

Since his All-Star season in 2016, Herrera has yet to catch that same magic. However, that does not mean he hasn’t been good. Consistently ranking near the top for center fielders in home runs and RBIs, Herrera would be an upgrade for most teams in center.

7. Leury Garcia

Probably the most unknown player in the top ten, Garcia is in his prime and playing great for the Chicago White Sox. Although the power numbers aren’t there, Garcia hits in the .270 range while also playing great defense. As a White Sox fan favorite, Garcia is in the middle of his prime and will continue to be a consistent player for the next 4-5 years.

6. Kevin Kiermaier

Once I got to Tampa Bay Rays center fielder, Kevin Kiermaier, is when the rankings got the most difficult. Kiermaier is a two time Gold Glove winner and one time Platinum Glove winner. He is one of the best defensive players in the entire MLB but he’s also no slouch at the plate. He shows off solid numbers at the plate but not necessarily good enough to get into the top five.

5. Lorenzo Cain

Well, here he is, this is where Milwaukee Brewers center fielder, Lorenzo Cain, ranks among all MLB center fielders. So far in 2019, Cain has had somewhat of a down year when it comes to batting average but that is sure to change soon. For the past five seasons, Cain has hit .301, .307, .287, .300, and .308. He has finished top seven in MVP voting twice because of his ability to hit and play elite defense. Speaking of defense, Lorenzo Cain is the best defensive player in the entire MLB to not have a Gold Glove. Maybe 2019 will be the year? The only reason Cain isn’t ranked higher is because he is 33 and history says he will be entering a decline soon.

4. Byron Buxton

This is the spot in the rankings where we get to players I would rather have on the Brewers over Lorenzo Cain. Coming in at number four is Twins phenom, Byron Buxton. Buxton is the best defensive center fielder in the MLB. He has won a Gold Glove, Platinum Glove, and Wilson Overall Defensive Player of the Year awards. Besides his defense, Buxton can hit for average with above average power. He has elite speed meaning Buxton is very close to being a five tool player. Also, did I mention he’s only 25? The best is yet to come for Byron Buxton.

3. Ender Inciarte

Ender Inciarte is apart of the youth movement in Atlanta that has the team winnings games at an alarming rate. Like Buxton and Cain, Inciarte is a great defender who has won three Gold Glove awards. Besides incredible defense, Inciarte also hits the ball better than most center fielders. In the past 5 seasons, he has hit .289 while also providing speed on the base paths. At 28, Inciarte is in the middle of his prime so don’t be surprised to see 5 more solid years out of him. Maybe a Silver Slugger could be in his future.

2. Starling Marte

The second best center fielder in all of baseball is Pittsburgh’s, Starling Marte. An elite hitter and defender, Marte has been Pittsburgh’s rock for 6 years. He has the power and speed to be considered a five tool player and at 30-years-old, Marte still has some left in the tank.

1. Mike Trout

This was the easiest decision in the entire rankings. It’s Mike Trout, do I even have to explain myself here?

 

 

 

***Stats accurate as of 6/20/19 according to baseball-reference.com***

Who Should Represent the Brewers in the 2019 All-Star Game?

 

Its that time of year again, who should be playing in the mid summer classic and who shouldn’t. A debate we as baseball fans every single year. Looking at it from the Brewers standpoint, they are having a pretty good first half and should be fairly well represented in Cleveland.

 

Let’s get the easy one out of the way. Christian Yelich will and should be the starting right fielder for the National League team. The reining MVP is well on his way to winning another one. He is in the top five in just about every single offensive category. He also leads the NL in stolen bases. Assuming he stays healthy he will have another shot at the Triple Crown again this year.

The guy who has been the Brewers second best player this year, and should be the starting second baseman in the NL is Mike Moustakas. Moose is currently hitting .280 with 21 homers and an OPS of .932. He is near the top of most offensive categories amongst NL second basemen. He is currently second in votes, trailing Atlanta Braves Ozzie Albies. Moose is having a significantly better offensive season, and should be rewarded. Fan voting is also very annoying because cities like Milwaukee rarely get the recognition they deserve.

First year Brewer Yasmani Grandal came to Milwaukee as advertised. He is having a very good offensive first half. He is currently third in the NL amongst catchers, trailing just Willson Contreras and Brian McCann. Contreras and Grandal have very similar numbers across the board, and both should be in Cleveland.

The lone Brewers pitcher that is a near lock for the ASG is closer Josh Hader. Hader is arguably the best reliever in the league and is a huge reason the Brewers are where they are in the NL Central. In just 35.2 innings so far this season, he has a whooping 69 strikeouts and just 12 walks. He has only given up eight runs in those 35+ innings. He is 17/18 in save opportunities this year, good for fourth in the NL.

Honorable mention goes to starting pitcher Zach Davies. Before his terrible outing in San Diego, he was fourth in the NL with a 2.60 era. He falls near 30 in both innings pitched and whip. He is having a solid year and has been a huge lift to the Brewers inconsistent starting rotation. That bad outing against the Padres probably did him in.

Grading Hiura’s First Month

On May 14th, Brewer fans were ecstatic when they received the news that coveted prospect, Keston Hiura, would start at second base while Travis Shaw rehabbed on the IL. And boy oh boy, did Hiura impress. While being called up, Hiura displayed all the reasons why he is the 11th ranked prospect (according to MLB.com) in all of baseball. As the everyday second baseman he hit .281 with an OPS of .865 in 17 games. He had a higher batting average and OPS during his time in the bigs than well-known solid second basemen like Starlin Castro, Yoan Moncada, and Ozzie Albies. Keston Hiura also has the same amount of home runs as the player he was sent down for, Travis Shaw, in 29 less games. As a hitter, Keston Hiura deserves a B+ grade for what he did as a replacement piece. The only reason he did not get an A was because of the fact, he struck out a lot. In only 17 games, the young second baseman struck out 23 times and only walked 3. This tells me that Hiura needs to be more selective at the plate and wait for the pitches he wants. Either way, 35% of Hiura’s games in the league were multi-hit games so the strikeout rate is a minor problem. If Hiura becomes more selective, there is no cap on the numbers he can rack up.

Keston Hiura is the best Brewer prospect since Ryan Braun.

The one major problem Hiura had in his first month in the big leagues was his defense. In 67 chances, Keston had 4 errors for a fielding percentage of .942. If he continued the season at that rate, he would be the worst qualified defensive second baseman even underperforming Oakland’s, Jurickson Profar. Also, what the stats do not tell you, is the amount of double plays that could not be turned with Hiura at second. With Milwaukee, he deserved a D grade on the defensive side of the field, something he will definitely need to improve on when the games get tougher later on in the season.

Since being sent back down to AAA San Antonio, Keston Hiura has continued his hot hitting. He has generated 11 hits, 4 of them home runs, 2 doubles, and 11 RBIs in 34 at-bats. When Hiura was sent down for Travis Shaw, many, many, MANY, Brewer fans were upset with the move. Those fans are still upset considering Shaw has only 4 hits in 21 at-bats (.190 average) with 9 strikeouts since coming back. Also, The Mayor of Ding Dong City is coming off of one of his worst professional performances when he came to the plate 6 times and struck out 4 last series against the Astros. On the season, Shaw is hitting .167 with an OPS of .573 in 180 plate appearances. Who knows, maybe Shaw is feeling the heat of Keston Hiura who just dominated his first month in the bigs. I would. Hiura is a stud.

 

***All stats accurate as of 6:00 p.m on 6/14/2019 courtesy of baseball-reference.com***

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.

In the second round, the Milwaukee Brewers select…

 

 

Ahh the MLB draft, the draft that happens during the season, it’s like getting dessert while eating a steak. The Milwaukee Brewers came into the draft standing in first place in the NL Central, looking to add some young prospects to the farm system that hopefully will see the bigs down the road.

After selecting Ethan Small in the first round, the Brewers doubled down in the second round, by taking a big lefty pitcher Antoine Kelly out of Wabash Valley Community College with the 65th selection.

Kelly is a bit of an interesting pick. He was actually selected in the 13thround out of high school last year, but went to school instead to hone his craft. The decision ultimately paid off for the 6 foot 6 left hander, as he moved up to the second round in 2019.

In his only year at Wabash Valley Community College, Kelly had a 1.88 ERA and a 9-0 record, totaling 112 strikeouts. With eye-popping numbers, it is just a matter of if it will translate through the professional baseball ranks.

Antoine is a guy who throws the ball hard, reaching 98 MPH on his fastball already; he could see 100 once he fills out his massive frame. Like all young guys who throw hard, his other pitches are still developing, but he is young, so he has time.

Antoine Kelly has a ton of upside, and is a great prospect to have in the farm system. We will just have to wait a few years to see if he will pay off for the Brewers.

First Base – Is It Time For a Change?

With the Brewers being in a tight race for first place it’s time to start looking at some of the places where improvements can be made. The two big fish on the free agent market are no longer there and there’s still over a month until the trade deadline, which leads me to the current team outlook. Thus far in the season the Brewers have gotten rather decent production out of most positions on the field but one of the glaring holes is at first base. Jesus Aguilar has been non-existent and Eric Thames is very streaky with very little production against left handed pitchers. However, when he’s on he is a very tough hitter to face. So what are the Brewers current options for upgrades at the first base position?

 

One option would be to play Yasmani Grandal at first base against left handed pitching and get Manny Pina more playing time behind the plate. According to baseball reference, Yasmani Grandal has amassed 367 innings at first base. Though Jesus Aguilar grades out as a better fielder than Grandal, Yasmani brings more at the plate and is competent enough at first base that it won’t be a big drop off.  On the other end of this swap, you have Manny Pina getting more time behind the plate which could help him become more productive with the bat, but currently Manny Pina doesn’t bring a lot at the plate when it comes to hitting. Baseball Reference grades Yasmani Grandal out as a worse thrower of the ball from behind the plate as well as gives him a negative grade as a pitch caller also, and grades him out as -4 defensive runs saved. By inserting Manny Pina behind the plate, you get a plus pitch caller as well as a plus thrower from behind the plate. If one spot in the batting order is going to be an offensive waste land, Pina would make the defense better and may help stabilize a pitching staff which would upgrade the team as a whole.

 

There is a thought looming very large in the back of all of our minds – how do we get Keston Hiura back up. Everybody in, around or with any knowledge of the Brewers knows that Keston Hiura can hit at any level and is very much major league ready with the bat. The only problem is how can we fit him into the current roster with only being able to play second base. This leads us to the possibility of getting Travis Shaw playing time at first base, moving Mike Moustakas back over to third base for some games which then opens the door for Keston Hiura and his bat to slide back into second base. It’s going to be very important to get Travis Shaw back going at the plate as he is going to be a big part of this team for the next few years. Travis Shaw has extensive playing time at first base and grades out positively there so there would be no drop off from that standpoint. Travis Shaw has 30 home runs each of the past two seasons and by showing faith in him to find his stroke there is a strong chance you find that 30 home run hitter while also upgrading your defense. The downside to this plan is that Shaw never finds his swing and you end up with the same defensive black hole at first base.

 

The next option would be to step back to the last time the Brewers had some uncertainty at first base and give Ryan Braun some starts there. This move then gives Ben Gamel more playing time in the outfield. It’s been noted that Ben Gamel provides strong defense and good contact at the plate which would then upgrade the overall offense of the Brewers. Braun doesn’t have a lot of experience at first base but in a small sample size has been adequate. From the eye test, Braun could handle the position although there may be a bit of a learning curve since he doesn’t have a lot of experience to draw from. The upside to this move is that you end up getting more consistent production at the plate from top to bottom of the batting order. Though this weakens the bench significantly since you then are left with two players who are primarily first basemen on the bench.

 

The final option, would be to stand pat and ride with the pair of Eric Thames and Jesus Aguilar. This option is appealing because Jesus Aguilar could very easily find his stroke and get on a hot streak. You also know what you are getting in Eric Thames which is a streaky hitter with plus power that will go through stretches where he will look lost at the plate. The reason this may be the best option for a while longer would be because Jesus Aguilar is out of minor league options and therefore would be lost if the Brewers wanted to move him down. Someone with the production that Aguilar has shown in his past wouldn’t make it through waivers and therefore would essentially be lost. Though currently the Brewers are ok with giving Jesus Aguilar time to figure out his bat, time and patience is going to grow very short and the Brewers will be forced to make a move. Not only is Jesus Aguilar struggling but there is an option knocking very loudly in the minors that is going to force the Brewers hand very soon.

Are the Brewers Cursed?

It’s that time again of the year where our opening day starters struggles begin to come infuriating. That’s right this trend traces all the way back to 2015 when Kyle Lohse was the Brewers opening day starter. Ever since then we have had Wily Peralta, Junior Guerra, Chase Anderson, and now Jhoulys Chacin nearly crumble after their start. Now this may seem a little ridiculous and maybe just a coincidence. So sure maybe 2 or 3 years in a row, but 5, there seems to be some funny business going on. Let me expand.

It all started when Kyle Lohse was picked to be the opening day starter in 2015. All seemed great and fine the year before (see table below) and it seemed as though Lohse would have a similar year. That could not be farther from the truth.

Year Barrel % BB% wOBA
2014 7.8% 6.5% Around .300
2015 17.5% 10.4 .362

 

Before I get deep into discussing this “curse”, let’s talk about what I am using to evaluate. When it comes to pitching the name of the game is quality pitches. The more quality pitches the better you will be. Barrel%, comes from the percent of batted balls that are hit on the barrel by a combination of exit velocity and launch angle. Then there is BB%, it’s pretty self explanatory, just the percent of walks given up. Then there is wOBA (weighted on base average),  the overall production of a hitter. Just a preposition, when I was finding these stats Lohse’s wOBA was only available for his 2015 season. Therefore, I used the equation from the 2013 season to get a rough estimate.

Now that that’s done, let’s get to business. Every single one of these numbers for Lohse went up dramatically. To put it blatantly, his quality of pitches must have been real bad compared to the season before for those numbers to rise like they did. The barrel% sticks out like a sore thumb, it went up 10%. For every 100 hits he had, there were 10 more than the year before that were barreled up. The drop off happened for one year, things didn’t pan out, no big deal right?

Next up is Wily Peralta, the only questionable one of the group talked about today. This is what his numbers looked like:

Year Barrel% BB% wOBA
2015 5% 7.7% .363
2016 6.7% 7.8% .365

Here’s the deal. The numbers went up, but not at the rate of Kyle Lohse or the pitchers that will follow. Maybe the Brewers got away with this one. However, I did look at his stats for 2017, and they were not as pretty.

Year Barrel% BB% wOBA
2017 8.7% 11.9% .396

 

When you compare the numbers in 2017 you will see the changes that suggest that he wasn’t as sharp as he once was. Looking at the BB%, there is nearly a 4% difference. That is four more hitters walked per 100, that tells me that his pitch quality has dropped. The reason that this one may be more of a stretch, is because it was the year after his start that he dropped. That may be just a classic case of “regression”.

This is where things get real interesting, starting in 2017 with Junior Guerra.

Year Barrel% BB% wOBA
2016 5.8% 8.7% .307
2017 10% 13.7% .371

 

I don’t have to get much into the details with this one considering you can see this plain and simple, his pitching skills seemed to have fallen off a cliff. Where things get interesting is during his start. In what I believe the third inning he was sacrifice bunting. While leaving the box he hurt himself and was out for quite a while. Kinda a little creepy right?

The next victim of this so called curse, is Chase Anderson.

Year Barrel% BB% wOBA
2017 4.4% 7.2% .281
2018 8.8% 8.9% .317

 

You see the stats don’t you, this is the same story line for the 4th year in a row. Another story line that is way too similar, is quite honestly the ugliest slide on planet earth. If you recall, he was running into home, when he practically barrel rolled and plopped onto the plate. I don’t quite remember if he was safe or not, however, he was not injured, but still too much of a close call.

Last but not least, is the most recent storyline, that has been a headline this year, Jhoulys Chacin.

Year Barrel% BB% wOBA
2018 6.5% 8.9% .287
2019 5.5% 11.2% .343

 

Although the barrel% did go down, everything else is too much of a close call, and the same story. This year has been a smaller sample size than pitchers before, since he was put on to the IL the other week.

Since Chacin has been the fifth pitcher to succumb to this so called curse that is lingering, there is reason to believe something weird is going on. Sure, maybe it is a crazy cowinsadince since Guerra and Anderson have both redeemed themselves with the team. However, I think we can all agree that it’s a much better story that they are cursed, and that the Brewers need someone to break up this bizzare cycle.