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King of the Diamond- Week of 8/14-8/20

If this is your first time checking out King of the Diamond pieces, here’s what you can look forward to seeing:

Every week we will look at which Milwaukee Brewer stood out from a game changing performance, or provided consistent production over the previous week. We will do the same for one other player within the NL Central (Cardinals, Cubs, Reds, Pirates).

The Brewers put together a solid week, sweeping the Pirates in a two-game series and taking two out of three in Colorado. The series win against the Rockies was huge as it showed the Crew could compete on the road with a playoff contender. They now look ahead to a series with the Giants and a pivotal weekend series against the Dodgers before returning home on August 29th.

King of the Diamond- Jesus Aguilar

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Jesus Aguilar picks up this week’s Diamond award after crucial, game-changing performances against the Rockies. Despite only playing in three games last week, Aguilar homered three times in two games played against the Rockies, including a go-ahead home run in the ninth inning to seal a 6-3 game two victory. Aguilar wasn’t done yet, as he rounded the bases twice more the following day in an 8-4, series clinching win. He has struggled for quite some time, and it would appear that he has overcame his extended drought at the plate. Aguilar may not be an every day player for the Crew, but he deserves at-bats as the playoff race continues to heat up.

King of the Diamond- Anthony Rizzo, Chicago Cubs

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The Cubs split a four-game series with the Reds to begin the week but finished it off with a sweep of the Blue Jays. Anthony Rizzo’s hot bat earns him our divisional Diamond award this week. Playing in every game last week, Rizzo went 12-for-28 with two home runs and 13 RBI’s. The first baseman performed in the clutch and continues to be a vital starter for the Cubs as we move into the latter part of August. The Cubs own a two-game lead over the Brewers and 3.5 games on the Cardinals, who appear to be fading.

 

 

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

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

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

The Week Ahead

 

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

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

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

Weekly Awards

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

Winner: Neil Walker

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

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

Winner: Jesus Aguilar

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

The Ben Sheets Award for Best Heat (Best Pitcher)

Winner: Chase Anderson

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

Prospect Update

AAA: Colorado Springs

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

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

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

AA: Biloxi Shuckers

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

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

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

 

A: Carolina Mudcats/Wisconsin Timber Rattlers

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

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

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

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

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

Keon Broxton is a (Good and Bad) Streaky Nightmare

This season, no player’s performance has been quite like that of Brewers’ centerfielder Keon Broxton. One day he’s going 0-4 with three strikeouts. The next he’s leading the offense with extra base hits and stolen bases. One day he’s a glaring hole in the lineup. The next? He’s an offensive juggernaut. Keon Broxton truly is the most interesting baseball player in the world, in this regard.

Coming off a breakout 2016 season, many expected big things out of Broxton. He had just hit .242/.354/.430 in 73 games, while ending the year on a high note by hitting .294/.399/.538 in the second half (45 games). Despite playing in only 75 games and having a miserable first half (.125/.253/.188), he recorded 2.1 wins above replacement (WAR) according to FanGraphs, an outstanding accomplishment given that over a full season, 2.0 WAR is considered to be a solid “starter” level of output. He did that in under half a season.

That first half of 2016 was a warning sign, though, hinting at Broxton’s inconsistent tendencies – and his 2017 performance has become the Merriam-Webster definition of “streaky”. This April, Broxton hit .191/.276/.324, followed by a line of .289/.349/.536 in May. Then, he hit a solid .241/.312/.554 in June followed by an abysmal .067/.176/.133 in July, prompting a demotion to Triple-A.

Since returning to the Brewers’ lineup on August 1st, we have seen the potent Keon once again. He is hitting .296/.387/.667 for the month, and has single handedly carried the Brewers’ offense at times, highlighted by his two-home run game this past Wednesday to capture a crucial win against the Pittsburgh Pirates. That formed the crux of a three-game stretch in which Broxton hit four home runs. This is the player the Brewers need – a power-speed threat that can provide instant offense at any moment.

So, why does Broxton’s output vary so drastically? One key reason is that Broxton fits the profile of what many call a “Three True Outcomes” player. This means that a large portion of his plate appearances end in either a strikeout, walk, or home run. Accordingly, his “TTO” percentage for this season is 57.4%. Given that such a large percentage of his output is confined to these three results, there will be times when certain outcomes exceed others, and this is especially true given his high strikeout rate (37.5%).

To check the validity of this claim, let’s compare Broxton’s season “TTO” percentage (57.4%) against his “TTO” percentage in August. In August, Broxton’s plate appearances have culminated in one of the three true outcomes 55.2% of the time, which is right on track with his season long percentage. If we added just one more of any of the three true outcomes to his existing stat line for the month, the percentage would be at 57%, or on par with his percentage for the season. Based on this information, the difference between “normal-Broxton” and “super-human-Broxton” seems to lie in the outcomes alternative to the three true ones, meaning batted balls that are not home runs.

To look at that, we can analyze Broxton’s batting average on balls in play (BABIP). This will tell us something about both the quality of his batted balls and whether or not some luck is partially responsible for his performance (or lack thereof). Additionally, we can discern whether or not batted ball data such as quality of contact (e.g. hard or soft) support his BABIP.

For the 2017 season, Broxton has a BABIP of .330. The league average tends to be around .300, but it is normal for a hitter with a strikeout/power profile to have a slightly elevated number. For August, Broxton’s BABIP is higher than his season mark, resting at .385. Is this increase due to luck? Or higher performance? Based on his batted ball data, it looks to be fair to attribute it to performance. On the season, Broxton has hit 36.5% of balls “hard”, compared to 56.7% in August. The quality of his contact is off the charts, with his hard contact percentage placing 2nd in the league in the month of August. That proves this stretch is no fluke, as he is performing at an extremely high level.

How can Broxton take the leap to become a high-level hitter consistently? There is one answer, and that is to cut his strikeout rate. When you strikeout at a clip as high as Broxton, it puts an increasing amount of weight on having good contact. Striking out over 37% of the time necessitates a really good contact profile in order to be even league average at the plate. If Broxton did not have a good contact profile, he would have no chance to be a contributor on an MLB team, as he simply would not put enough balls in play to make an impact.

If Broxton can slash his strikeout rate and maintain his contact profile, he could evolve into a consistent offensive force. Until that happens, though, we will continue to see shades of Broxton’s best and worst. His increased performance at the moment comes with a high strikeout percentage of 36.2% for the month, leaving him increasingly susceptible to another slump. Broxton’s increase in quality contact shows that he can be a solid contributor even with a strikeout rate that high – it’s just the difference between Broxton taking that leap from “offensive contributor” to “offensive force”.

Crew silencing critics

2017 Brewers showing Stearns’ rebuild decision was right move

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank You, Wilmer Flores

Let’s take a trip back to July 29, 2015. Wilmer Flores is at shortstop for the New York Mets, crying. Some may have figured he was emotional because the Mets were losing 7 to 2 at the time, others may have assumed he was frustrated from his last at-bat, and a select few may have thought that he was thinking about the tear-jerking scenes from Southpaw which had been released a week earlier. In reality, Wilmer Flores had been notified that he had been traded.

In Milwaukee, some were irate while others were overjoyed at the sight of Wilmer’s tears as they knew he, along with former top 10 pitching prospect Zack Wheeler, would be headed to the 414 in exchange for the Brewers’ all-star center fielder, Carlos Gomez. Brewers and Mets fans alike voiced their happiness or displeasure as social media outlets exploded and local bar patrons argued back and forth; however, at 11:13 PM, all were silent.

The blockbuster trade was no more. The Mets training staff saw an issue with Gomez’s hip (which had never given him problems) during his physical and backed off, ultimately cancelling the deal. Those in Milwaukee who were outraged, were pleased, while those who desired the services of the highly touted utility man and the potential ace became sullen.

The Brewers continued the search for a willing trade companion and found just that in the Houston Astros just a day later. Milwaukee parted ways with Carlos Gomez and starting pitcher Mike Fiers and received outfielders, Domingo Santana and Brett Phillips, along with pitchers, Adrian Houser and Josh Hader.

Now, let’s hop in the DeLorean again and come back to August 16, 2017. Carlos Gomez is now with the Texas Rangers. He hit a disappointing .221/.277/.342 over 126 games with Houston and was released in 2016. The Rangers picked him up and he has been serviceable posting a .260/.345/.480 with 23 home runs over 119 games (comparable to his years in Milwaukee.) Mike Fiers has been a decent back end starter for the Astros with a no-hitter, 4.24 ERA, and 64 home runs against in 64 games.

Wilmer Flores and Zack Wheeler are both with the Mets. Zack Wheeler missed two full years with Tommy John surgery. One and a half of these seasons would have been in Milwaukee had the original trade gone through. He earned a rotation slot this year, but has not had the most positive results posting a 5.21 ERA, 1.58 WHIP (walks/hits per inning pitched), and has found himself on the disabled list again with a biceps injury. Wilmer Flores is having a career year hitting .284/.318/.496 with 14 home runs and 38 RBI, but he has only seen action in 93 games. Essentially, he is the Mets’ version of Milwaukee’s Hernán Peréz without the ability to play in the outfield

The crop the Brewers have received has resulted in two full time MLB players, one that has had experience with the club, and one that had a cup of coffee with the Brewers through September call ups. Adrian Houser pitched two innings for the Brewers in 2015. He is currently on a rehab assignment in Rookie ball, but is normally a AA pitcher who has seen some struggles as he had a 5.25 ERA before being injured in 2016. Brett Phillips has bounced between AAA and the MLB this year. He has hit .229/.289/.429 in 39 plate appearances and has been great in the field, barring one error that occurred in his MLB debut. Phillips has emerged as the Brewers’ number 12 prospect and may be a future starter in Milwaukee.

The two we see the most often have assumed key roles on the playoff contending Brewers’ roster this year. Rookie bullpen arm, Josh Hader, has provided a lights-out left handed option for Craig Counsell to rely on. In 25.1 innings pitched, Hader has registered a 0.71 ERA with 32 strikeouts and only 2 earned runs given up. Hader is viewed as a future starting pitcher for the Brewers; however, the sample size that has been provided shows that he has the potential to contribute in a variety of roles. Right fielder Domingo Santana is the crown jewel at this point. As of August 17th, Domingo is hitting .269/.362/.464 with 19 home runs and 62 RBI through 116 games played. Because of this, he has become a fixture in the top half of the lineup as a cleanup and leadoff hitter.

That’s a lot of information. Your head may be spinning, so let’s recap what the Mets, Astros, and Brewers received or retained through this whole ordeal:

Mets:                                                        -2 playoff appearances, 53-65 in 2017 (18.0 GB in the NL East)
-Zack Wheeler: Has not played a full season since 2014
-Wilmer Flores: Utility man who is hitting over .270 for the first time in his 4.5 year career

Astros:                                                          -1 playoff appearance, 74-46 in 2017 (1st place in the AL West)
-Carlos Gomez: Released by the club after 126 games
-Mike Fiers: 4+ ERA in 3 seasons with the club

Brewers                                                    -Lowest payroll in baseball, 63-59 in 2017 (1.5 GB in the NL Central)                                          -Adrian Houser: Injured, struggling in AA
-Brett Phillips: Club’s #12 prospect and has spent time up with the Brewers this year
-Josh Hader: ERA under 1, #1 left handed pitching prospect going into the 2017 campaign
-Domingo Santana: Club’s everyday right fielder, leadoff or 4 hitter most days

All teams involved can rejoice, but the team that has benefitted the most from the 2015 trade deadline has been the Milwaukee Brewers. Wilmer Flores may be having a career year for the Mets; however, Brewer fans owe him and his ball club a thank you for keeping his services. Without them declining the Gomez trade, the Brewers would not have their right fielder and top end left handed reliever this year along with a possible future starting outfielder. Only time will tell what the full return will be for the Brewers, but in the end, thank you, Wilmer Flores.

Brewers Week in Review: 8/7-8/13

The Brewers suffered a heartbreaker to end their last week of games, giving up a Steven Souza Jr. home run on August 6th to blow a chance at a series sweep. However, the Twins along with Cincinnati Reds allowed for a great chance to bounce back. Well, at least on the surface. The Crew would lose all four games, both at home and away, against their border rival before taking a 2-to-1 series win against the Reds. Despite a 2-5 week, though, fans are now suddenly optimistic, as it appears the offense (for now) may be clicking again. In the coming series, we’ll see if that trend is here to stay or if it was just a side effect of playing the Reds that many teams have experienced this season.

With that being said, let’s take a moment to look at the week ahead.

The Week Ahead

 

Upcoming series: vs. Pittsburgh (8/15-8/16) and @ Colorado (8/18-8/20)

Pitching matchups vs. Pittsburgh: Ivan Nova (10-9, 3.87 ERA) vs. Zach Davies (13-6, 4.40 ERA); Gerrit Cole (10-8, 3.96 ERA) vs. Jimmy Nelson (9-6, 3.72 ERA)

Pitching matchups @ Colorado: TBD vs. TBD; TBD vs. TBD; TBD vs. TBD

Weekly Awards

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

Winner: Keon Broxton

“I think I got my swagger back” said Jay-Z, as well as Keon Broxton this week (probably). Keon had one of his best weeks of the season this past week, for sure his best since returning to the big leagues after his time in Colorado Springs. After all, two home runs will do that for you. And while 5-for-20 may not seem like much (comes out to a .250 average), a guy who went on a truly awful stretch for a time like Broxton did will take that any day of the week.

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

Winner: Ryan Braun

Going into August 1st, the face of the franchise was hitting just .265 and had fans once again doubting whether the big contract that the club gave him was worth it. Well, his beginning to August has proved the kind of player Brewers fans roared for all those years may still be in there somewhere. Braun enters Tuesday’s matchup having raised his average all the way to .295 in just 13 games. He exploded once again this week for a 15-for-29 clip (.517) with 1 home run and 2 RBI. A date with division foe Pittsburgh as well as the hitters’ haven known as Coors Field, fans can possibly expect Braun’s new-found hitting prowess to continue.

The Ben Sheets Award for Best Heat (Best Pitcher)

Winner: Corey Knebel

There wasn’t much to choose from here, was there? The fewest amount of runs that the Brewers gave up in a game this week was four, leaving a reliever likely to take this spot this week. Not only did Knebel nab his first win in Saturday’s 6-5 extra inning win (in a two-inning effort no less), he also recorded a save to take the series against the Reds on Sunday. Overall, Evil Knebel’s 4 punch outs over 3 innings and key roles in a pair of big victories make him the best pitcher of the week.

Prospect Update

AAA: Colorado Springs

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

Mauricio Dubon (Brewers No. 9 Prospect): .287, 12 2B, 5 HR, 27 RBI, 7 SB (40 games played with CS)

Brett Phillips (Brewers No. 12 Prospect): .318, 22 2B, 10 3B, 17 HR, 71 RBI, 6 SB (91 games with CS)

AA: Biloxi Shuckers

Luis Ortiz (Brewers No. 3 Prospect; MLB.com’s #79 overall): 4-6, 3.98 ERA, 81.1 IP, 72 K, 32 BB, 1.18 WHIP, .216 Opponent AVG

Corbin Burnes (Brewers No. 7 Prospect): 3-3, 2.10 ERA, 64.1 IP, 67 K, 10 BB, 0.92 WHIP, .208 AVG

Jake Gatewood (Brewers No. 18 Prospect): .167, 2 3B, 1 BB, 1 SB (5 games)

 

A: Carolina Mudcats/Wisconsin Timber Rattlers

Corey Ray (Brewers No. 2 Prospect; MLB.com’s #67 overall): .242, 24 2B, 6 HR, 41 RBI, 21 SB at A Adv Carolina (95 games)

Keston Hiura (Brewers No. 5 Prospect; MLB.com’s #92 overall): .344, 9 2B, 2 3B, 15 RBI, 2 SB at A Wisconsin (23 games)

Lucas Erceg (Brewers No. 10 Prospect): .240, 26 2B, 13 HR, 67 RBI at A Adv Carolina (112 games)

Trey Supak (Brewers No. 16 Prospect): 3-4, 4.83 ERA, 63.1 IP, 52 K, 25 BB, 1.33 WHIP, .249 AVG at Adv A Carolina

Mario Feliciano (Brewers No. 25 Prospect): .242, 14 2B, 4 HR, 32 RBI, 9 SB at A Wisconsin (88 games)

King of the Diamond- Week of 8/7-8/13

If this is your first time checking out King of the Diamond pieces, here’s what you can look forward to seeing:

Every week we will look at which Milwaukee Brewer stood out from a game changing performance, or provided consistent production over the previous week. We will do the same for one other player within the NL Central (Cardinals, Cubs, Reds, Pirates).

The Crew squandered their division lead this week, losing as many as six in a row dating back to August 6th. They finally snapped that streak with back-to-back wins against the Reds, but still sit behind the Cubs and the Cardinals in the division with the Pirates close behind. The Brewers have a huge pair of games coming up against the Pirates that are arguably must win games before heading West to take on the Rockies, Giants, and Dodgers in a 10-day road trip.

King of the Diamond- Ryan Braun

Image result for ryan braun

Braun has really found his stroke as of late, currently sporting an eight-game hitting streak, in which all but one have been multi-hit games. His batting average saw a huge spike over the past week, jumping from .264 to .295 on the season. This is a good sign for the Brewers who have been struggling offensively. Braun’s bat is a necessity for the Brewers offensive success going forward, and they need him to stay healthy at all costs.

King of the Diamond- Paul DeJong, St. Louis Cardinals

Image result for paul dejong

Paul DeJong has been destroying opposing pitchers in the Cardinals resurgence into the NL Central race. DeJong has been a huge part in the eight-game win streak that came to an end this past Sunday. Similar to Braun, his average saw a nice jump from .283 to .297 and he drove in eight runs this past week on a Cardinal team that plated 67 runs since last Sunday. The Cardinals have made the case to be one of Major League Baseball’s hottest teams, and it couldn’t have come at a better time. Saint Louis opens up a difficult road trip this week, making stops in Boston and Pittsburgh.

 

Scooter Gennett: The One That Got Away

Hindsight is 20/20, as we all know. However, that does nothing to soften the blow when decisions fail and backfire.

The Brewers made a significant, yet not completely unexpected move in late March by waiving second baseman Scooter Gennett. A multitude of factors contributed to this decision. First and foremost, the Brewers planned on giving the shortstop slot to Orlando Arcia, thereby forcing Jonathan Villar off the position. With Villar’s breakout season as a near 4-win player in 2016, he needed to find a home in the field. That home ended up being second base, simultaneously pushing Gennett out.

Second, the Brewers owed Gennett a $2.5 million salary. That generally does not fly for a to-be-backup second baseman facing an imminent demotion to the minors, and with no opening at the position apparent in the near future it did not make sense for the front office to keep Gennett on the books.

Third, with Gennett on the outside looking in, he did not have a pedigree of positional versatility (e.g. Hernan Perez) or a recent history of high-level offensive aptitude (e.g. Jesus Aguilar) to warrant a spot on the Brewers’ Opening Day roster. The rest is history.

Should the Brewers have waived Gennett? At the time, it made perfect sense. The decision-making was sound as can be. But as previously stated, hindsight is 20/20, and this is one decision that a Brewers team lacking in production from second base would like to have back.

It’s no secret second base has been a dumpster fire as of late for the Crew. After coming into the season with the most significant expectations of any Brewer, Villar has struggled mightily, hitting .213/.272/.332. He sports a wRC+ of 54, meaning he is 46% worse than the league average as a hitter. Villar’s defensive metrics rate him as a below average option at the position as well. Simply put, he has failed to capitalize on his breakout 2016 season, starting to make last year look like an outlier.

On the other hand, Eric Sogard came into 2017 with absolutely zero hype, yet emerged as a nice option at second base in May and June. Over the first half, he hit .338/.449/.500 with a wRC+ of 151, making him one of the best offensive options not only at the second base position, but at any position in the league across that time frame. However, Sogard hit the DL following a left ankle injury. To say he has struggled since his return would be an understatement; he’s languished. Hitting .061/.139/.061, he has a wRC+ of -48 since the All-Star break.

What could make this situation any worse? The fact that Scooter Gennett, the second baseman that very well could be on the roster, is currently dominating at the plate for the in-division Cincinnati Reds.

Highlighted by a record-setting four-home-run-game, Gennett has enjoyed a resurgent 2017 campaign. Hitting .292/.342/.540 with a wRC+ of 126, he has been everything you can hope for offensively from a second baseman. Slotted into the Brewers line-up as it now stands, Gennett would provide a significant boost.

Additionally, remember reason number two Gennett was let go? The money? Well, the Brewers currently have the second-lowest payroll in the league according to USA Today, sitting just north of $61 million. I understand the Brewers might have not wanted to waste a 40-man roster spot on Gennett, but spending $2.5 million extra for a player who could have made a difference during the season seems to make too much sense, in retrospect.

As unfair as it may seem, this whole saga hinges on the play of Jonathan Villar. Second base was not supposed to be a position of need, and his struggles have placed the Brewers in a tricky situation. However, just as the sun is sure to rise, most players are sure to regress, and that is part of what makes the game of baseball so tantalizing. Finding those players that can maintain high levels of production over several years remains at the core of player acquisition and development.

By no means is Gennett one of those players; at least he has not proven himself to be. The sound reasoning for the decision to waive Gennett holds, and makes sense given the current culture of the organization. But with a rebuilding team, all possible hands need to be on deck in my humble opinion. Gennett is hitting his high stride right now, just as Villar seemingly hit his last season, and it is both unfortunate and unlucky that Gennett was given the boot during a season in which he could have played a pivotal role.

Brewers Week In Review: 8/1-8/6

Two things are true when it comes to this week of Brewers baseball. First, the Brewers scored 15 runs in 6 games (or only 2.5 per game). However, the Crew also managed to pull off a record of 4-2 against the Cardinals and Rays behind solid pitching performances carrying a suddenly anemic looking Milwaukee offense. In addition, the Crew continued to keep pace with the first place Chicago Cubs. Now, with a winnable stretch of games coming up over the next 10 days, the Brewers need to take advantage and make their next move now, or it could be “checkmate” from Chicago before they know it.

With that being said, let’s take a moment to look at the week ahead.

The Week Ahead

 

Upcoming series: @ Minnesota (8/7-8/8), vs. Minnesota (8/9-8/10) and vs. Cincinnati (8/11-8/13)

Pitching matchups @ Minnesota: Brent Suter (2-2, 3.04 ERA) vs. Ervin Santana (12-7, 3.28 ERA); Matt Garza (5-5, 3.68 ERA) vs. Adalberto Mejia (4-5, 4.30 ERA)

Pitching matchups vs. Minnesota: Bartolo Colon (3-9, 7.32 ERA) vs. Brandon Woodruff (1-0, 0.00 ERA); Kyle Gibson (6-9, 6.03 ERA) vs. Zach Davies (13-5, 4.18 ERA)

Pitching matchups vs. Cincinnati: TBD vs. Jimmy Nelson (9-5, 3.24 ERA); TBD vs. TBD; TBD vs. TBD

Weekly Awards

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

Winner: Orlando Arcia

The main man, at last, makes his return! Once again, Arcia showed off his incredible defensive skills and effort in Milwaukee’s 2-0 win over Tampa Bay on Friday. After Evan Longoria hit a double down the left field line, everyone and their mother likely thought that the runner from first, Corey Dickerson, was going to score fairly comfortably. However, no one told the Brewers that. After a solid throw from Ryan Braun to start the relay, Arcia unleased the cannon, throwing a halfway to home Dickerson out from over 100 feet away with an absolute strike to Manny Pina to end the inning. He followed that up with a first pitch home run in the 8th inning off of Rays reliever Sergio Romo to help seal a big win for Milwaukee. Oh, and did we mention that all of this came on Arcia’s 23rd birthday?

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

Winner: Orlando Arcia

For the first time in the week in review, a player has won two awards in the same week. Looking at the performance of Arcia, it’s hard to argue that he doesn’t deserve it. Not only did he have a fantastic 23rd birthday performance, he also had a solid week. While he didn’t start off very well for the week (0-for-4 against the Cardinals on Tuesday), he used the rest of the week to make up for it. He finished 8-for-21 (.380) with two home runs and 3 RBIs in leading the Brewers to the aforementioned 4-2 record. As far as the fans around social media who say he should me moved up in the order go: if Arcia keeps putting performances like this, he could stay in the bottom of the order for as long as he wants.

The Ben Sheets Award for Best Heat (Best Pitcher)

Winner: Brandon Woodruff

August 4th was a long time coming for Mr. Woodruff. Now, for pro players, everyone looks forward to the day where they can put on that uniform and play in a Major League Baseball game. However, Brandon Woodruff had a different experience than most, because this was, effectively, his second debut. On June 13th, the Brewers were playing the first game of a doubleheader against the St. Louis Cardinals. As a result, they were allowed a 26th roster member, which came in handy on this day. Less than half an hour before he was to begin pitching, Woodruff was scratched with a tight hamstring, replaced by current rotation stronghold Brent Suter. So, on Friday, Woodruff gave fans what they had been waiting on for nearly two months. Over 6.1 innings, Woodruff threw 97 pitches while giving up 7 hits and two walks along with six strikeouts. The most impressive of all? No runs allowed. The Brewers would end up winning the game 2-0, putting the icing on top of a debut to remember for the right-hander.

Prospect Update

AAA: Colorado Springs

Lewis Brinson (Brewers No. 1 Prospect; MLB.com’s #15 overall): .335, 22 2B, 4 3B, 10 HR, 43 RBI, 11 SB (71 games)

Mauricio Dubon (Brewers No. 9 Prospect): .287, 11 2B, 5 HR, 25 RBI, 6 SB (35 games played with CS)

Brett Phillips (Brewers No. 12 Prospect): .310, 19 2B, 9 3B, 17 HR, 69 RBI, 6 SB (85 games with CS)

AA: Biloxi Shuckers

Luis Ortiz (Brewers No. 3 Prospect; MLB.com’s #79 overall): 4-5, 3.57 ERA, 80.2 IP, 72 K, 31 BB, 1.13 WHIP, .207 Opponent AVG (No starts as of publishing)

Corbin Burnes (Brewers No. 7 Prospect): 3-3, 2.12 ERA, 59.1 IP, 61 K, 9 BB, 0.88 WHIP, .199 AVG

 

A: Carolina Mudcats/Wisconsin Timber Rattlers

Corey Ray (Brewers No. 2 Prospect; MLB.com’s #67 overall): .239, 24 2B, 6 HR, 40 RBI, 21 SB at A Adv Carolina

Keston Hiura (Brewers No. 5 Prospect; MLB.com’s #93 overall): .375, 8 2B, 2 3B, 11 RBI, 2 SB at A Wisconsin (18 games)

Lucas Erceg (Brewers No. 10 Prospect): .243, 25 2B, 12 HR, 65 RBI at A Adv Carolina

Trey Supak (Brewers No. 16 Prospect): 3-3, 4.78 ERA, 58.1 IP, 50 K, 21 BB, 1.27 WHIP, .240 AVG at Adv A Carolina

Jake Gatewood (Brewers No. 18 Prospect; No. 19 last week): .269, 36 2B, 11 HR, 53 RBI, 7 SB at A Adv Carolina

Mario Feliciano (Brewers No. 25 Prospect; No. 26 last week): .243, 14 2B, 4 HR, 32 RBI, 8 SB at A Wisconsin

Brewers Minor League Review: July

Note: Stats reflect July performances unless otherwise noted. 

Colorado Springs Sky Sox (AAA)

Record: 64-43, 15-12 in July

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

Summary:

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

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

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

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

Biloxi Shuckers (AA)

Record: 53-54, 12-17 in July

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

Summary:

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

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

Carolina Mudcats (Class-A Advanced)

Record: 55-52, 14-15 in July

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

Summary:

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

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

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

Wisconsin Timber Rattlers (Class-A)

Record: 43-63, 12-15 in July

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

Summary:

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

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

Rookie-Level Players to Watch

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

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

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

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

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

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

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