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Monday, May 20th 2019
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Top 5 Most Valuable Brewers So Far In 2018

Exactly two months removed from Opening Day on March 29th, the Milwaukee Brewers are in first place in the National League. While the team’s success has been a complete team effort, it is still important to recognize and praise the individual players who have been most valuable and leading the way. Factors that determine these rankings will include Wins Above Replacement (WAR), RBI, ERA, and OPS, among others. The first two players listed are honorable mentions followed by the top 5 most valuable Brewers thus far in the 2018 season.

 

Honorable Mention #1: SP Jhoulys Chacin

2018 Stats: Record: 3-1, ERA: 3.69, GS: 12, SO: 45, WHIP: 1.326

 

Chacin’s numbers aren’t extremely eye-popping, however, he qualifies as an honorable mention on this list because of his solid and steady presence in a Brewers rotation that has fallen victim to injury and ineffectiveness at times this season. The Milwaukee Brewers have found success this season while not having a true ace, and Chacin has been a key part of a pitching staff that has slightly overperformed compared to most people’s expectations this season. Perhaps most notably regarding Chacin, he has outperformed some of the hot starting pitching commodities this offseason that other clubs overpaid for, specifically Lance Lynn of the Twins, Yu Darvish of the Cubs and Alex Cobb of the Orioles.

 

 

Honorable Mention #2: 1B/OF Ryan Braun

2018 Stats: WAR: 0.1, BA: .245, HR: 5, RBI: 22, OPS: .728

Image result for ryan braun 2018

    Longtime Brewer Ryan Braun makes this list as an honorable mention largely because of his knack for coming up with big-time clutch hits when the Brewers have needed it most. He is single-handedly responsible for three Brewers victories already this season via walk-off or game-winning hits. Specifically, a game-winning home run in San Diego during the season’ first series, a walk-off blast against the Cardinals shortly after, and then a clutch two-run double against Pittsburgh that proved to be the difference in the game. He recently came off the disabled list for a minor back injury and has looked solid upon returning capped by a three-hit game on May 28th hitting out of the number 5 spot in the order, which is rare for Braun who almost exclusively hits 3rd. Hopefully, Braun is able to find his power stroke again shortly and provide an offensive boost in addition to his obvious clubhouse leadership.

 

Most Valuable Brewer #5: OF Christian Yelich

2018 Stats: WAR: 1.4, BA: .310, HR: 6, RBI: 24, OPS: .859

 

Christian Yelich’s value lies primarily in the fact that he is a true 5-tool talent and while he may not excel in one specific stat category, he is absolutely serviceable in all of them. He hits occasional home runs, steals bases, hits for average, and is a Gold Glove outfielder who can play all three outfield positions well. Batting mostly in the 2nd spot in the lineup, Yelich leads the team in batting average at .310 and is second in hits (53) behind Lorenzo Cain (54) despite spending time on the disabled list for an oblique injury in April. Yelich has been as consistently reliable as any Brewers position player thus far in 2018, and he is capable of even more.

 

Most Valuable Brewer #4: 1B Jesus Aguilar

2018 Stats: WAR: 1.1, BA: .315, HR: 9, RBI: 30, OPS: .957

If this article was discussing the most valuable Brewers during the month of May, the 27-year-old first baseman would most likely occupy the top spot. He has been an absolute stud in Eric Thames’ absence and is making it impossible for manager Craig Counsell to keep his bat out of the lineup. 8 of his 9 home runs this season have come in the month of May. If he had been the everyday starter from Opening Day, he would likely be closing in on his first career all-star game appearance based on the numbers he has been able to put up when starting.

Going into the season, it was tough to determine how many at-bats Aguilar would obtain due to Ryan Braun getting starts at first base in addition to Thames. With that being said, credit David Stearns for not immediately deeming Aguilar irrelevant due to that circumstance. This breakout season for Aguilar does not seem anything like a fluke, and Brewers fans everywhere should be extremely eager to watch him continue to make a name for himself in Major League Baseball.

 

Most Valuable Brewer #3: CF Lorenzo Cain

2018 Stats: WAR: 2.8, BA: .289, HR: 6, RBI: 16, OPS: .840

The Brewers are absolutely seeing the player they thought they were going to see when they signed Lorenzo Cain to a 5-year, 80 million dollar contract last offseason in January. He has shown tremendous aptitude in getting on base out of the leadoff spot that he has occupied in the majority of the Brewers’ games so far this season. In addition to leading the team in on-base percentage (.396), he also paces the team in Wins Above Replacement, Stolen Bases (11), and runs scored (35). It has been an all-star level season for an all-star level player, and the Crew will benefit from his postseason experience to help them in a potential playoff run that looks more and more likely by the day. 

 

Most Valuable Brewer #2: RP Josh Hader

2018 Stats: Record: 2-0, ERA: 1.15, G: 18, SO: 62, WHIP: 0.574

It’s safe to say that southpaw Josh Hader has been the biggest surprise for the 2018 Milwaukee Brewers and arguably all of baseball with his exceptional ability to get opposing batters to swing and miss on his fastball and make them look foolish in the process.

Manager Craig Counsell has used Hader similarly to how Terry Francona used reliever Andrew Miller during the Indians’ 2016 World Series run, which consists of putting him in usually in the 7th or 8th inning and then letting him go for the save as well if the situation makes sense. Hader was originally thought of as a starter coming up in the Brewers minor league system but has clearly found a home in the bullpen. The reason he is second on this list is that the Brewers are a staggering 18-0 in games where Hader toes the rubber. Even Craig Counsell has been in awe of what Hader has been able to do this season, saying: “Literally, your mouth is kind of wide-open watching it. It was absolutely incredible.” following Josh Hader’s outing in Cincinnati on April 30th. The fact that Hader is just 24 years old should send chills down the spines of NL Central foes for years to come.

 

Most Valuable Brewer #1: 3B Travis Shaw

2018 Stats: WAR: 2.5, BA: .260, HR: 13, RBI: 36, OPS: .882

Travis Shaw, a.k.a. “The Mayor of Ding-Dong City” has followed up his breakout 2017 season with more of the same elite production and then some. For consecutive seasons now, Shaw has been the Brewers’ best run producer and top home run hitter out of the cleanup spot in the batting order. In addition to the offensive production, Shaw has played a very solid third base so far in his tenure in Milwaukee. Last season, he committed just 9 errors in 144 games, and thus far in 2018 he only has 3. Unbiasedly, Travis Shaw should absolutely represent the Brewers at the All-Star game this July and begin gaining more respect as one of the National League’s elite third basemen.

Corey Ray Wins Southern League MVP

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Brewers Bolster ‘Pen with Acquisition of Alex Claudio

David Stearns and the Milwaukee Brewers struck a deal on the final day of the Winter Meetings, acquiring left-handed reliever Alex Claudio from the Texas Rangers in exchange for the Brewers’ competitive balance pick in the 2019 draft. The trade fills the need of having a second left-handed reliever behind Josh Hader, as the Brewers failed to tender contracts to both Dan Jennings and Xavier Cedeño at the outset of the offseason.

Claudio comes to Milwaukee with a history of solid on-field performance during his time in Texas. He owns a career ERA of 3.20 spread over 230 innings of work, appearing in 208 games in that span. The lefty saw his best success during 2017, when he hurled 82.2 innings over 70 games, racking up 11 saves and a 2.50 ERA. He experienced somewhat of a step back in 2018, as he saw his ERA rise to 4.48, but many of his peripherals stayed essentially the same.

Claudio fits the profile of being an extreme ground ball pitcher. In 2018, he induced a ground ball on 61% of balls put into play against him, and that number was even higher in 2017 at 67%. This is the type of pitcher that could see great success in Milwaukee, where the Brewers’ aggressive defensive shifting tends to allow ground ball pitchers to see great success. That should allow him to return to sporting an ERA in the low-3.00 range, which will make him a welcome addition to the middle of the Brewers’ bullpen.

One area in which Claudio does struggle is striking hitters out. For his career, he holds a K/9 rate of 6.16, and logged a rate of 5.4 K/9 in 2018. This is certainly not ideal for a relief pitcher, with many of the most successful ones in the game today being strikeout artists. However, Claudio makes up for his strikeout deficiencies by greatly limiting the number of batters he walks. Last year, he only walked 1.71 hitters per nine innings, which is an excellent mark. Pairing this with his ground ball prowess is what makes him effective.

The return to the Rangers is somewhat surprising on the surface, as the Brewers will give up the 39th overall selection in this year’s MLB Draft. Given all of the deadline deals that sent Brewers’ prospects packing in 2018, that 39th selection could have immediately jumped into the Brewers’ organization top-10, and perhaps the top-5 even. However, Stearns seems to be going for the “win-now” mode of operating, as that draft pick likely would have arrived in the major leagues in 2021 at the earliest, and more likely in 2022 or 2023. By then, Christian Yelich and Lorenzo Cain would have been nearing the end of their contracts, and the team perhaps could be falling out of contention. There is a lot of uncertainty involved with trying to look at what the Brewers’ competitive scenario will be 4 years into the future. Given that Claudio has three years of controllability remaining, this deal makes perfect sense given the current outlook of the team and their “win-now” mentality.

Claudio will join a bullpen that is led by the trio of Josh Hader, Corey Knebel, and Jeremy Jeffress. Given the acquisition of Claudio, it is likely that Stearns will not go for any of the big names on the relief market, and will fill out the rest of his bullpen with either low cost or internal options.

A Peek Inside The Brewers 2017-2018 Offseason

Ask Milwaukee Brewers fans what their expectations for the 2017 season were, and most would have said somewhere between 65-75 wins.

The team was supposed to be “rebuilding” and waiting for the talent in their loaded farm system to make it to the big leagues before making a playoff push.

But the big league roster flourished, and the team gelled together better than ever — putting the team in a playoff race with just weeks remaining. And although the team struggled down the stretch and finished with an 86-76 record, a few games short of a playoff run —  hopes are higher than ever around Milwaukee.

Notable Returning Pitchers: Chase Anderson, Jacob Barnes, Zach Davies, Josh Hader, Jeremy Jeffress, Corey Knebel, Brandon Woodruff, Jimmy Nelson.

Notable Returning Position Players: Stephen Vogt, Orlando Arcia, Travis Shaw, Eric Thames, Eric Sogard, Brett Phillips, Domingo Santana, Lewis Brinson.

Notable Losses: Neil Walker, Anthony Swarzak, Matt Garza.

Free Agent Signings: Yovani Gallardo, Jhoulys Chacin, Boone Logan.

Pitching:

The Brewers finally got rid of Matt Garza’s contract this offseason, freeing up even more cap space. But David Stearns continues to stand by his rebuild through the system, rather than bringing in top dollar free agents.

Jake Arrieta, Yu Darvish, and Lance Lynn, all are top dollar starters that could fill the void as the ace of the staff until Jimmy Nelson returns. However, all wanted more than Stearns was willing to spend.

So instead he opted to save the money and bring back former Brewer Yovani Gallardo to compete for a spot in the bullpen, Boone Logan to bring a veteran lefty presence to the bullpen, and Jhoulys Chacin to bring another solid arm with a plus slider to the rotation.

This means the team will lean on Chase Anderson and Zach Davies to anchor the rotation and hope for second year starter Brandon Woodruff to pick up where he left off in 2017. Meanwhile the bullpen will hope Corey Knebel, Jacob Barnes, and Josh Hader can continue to eat up innings in relief.

Offense:

Offensively the Brewers were carried by sluggers Eric Thames and Travis Shaw during the first half of the season, but Thames production dwindled as he hit only eight home runs after the midsummer classic.

Meanwhile, shortstop Orlando Arcia’s bat woke up in 2017 and right fielder Domingo Santana’s ability to hit for average and power became a big asset. Contributions from pesky second baseman Eric Sogard and catchers Many Pina and Stephen Vogt also made many forget about the struggles of Jonathan Villar.

But the biggest question as the team hits spring training is what to do with all of the outfield talent. Ryan Braun, Keon Broxton, Domingo Santana, Brett Phillips, and Lewis Brinson are all battling for time in the big league outfield. Meanwhile, Corey Ray and Monte Harrison aren’t far from the bigs with the Carolina Mudcats.

Where Do They Go From Here?

Does the team think about moving Braun at the deadline? Can Arcia Continue to put up numbers at the plate? Can the rotation hold up without Jimmy Nelson? Do you keep Josh Hader in the bullpen? Can Jonathan Villar bounce back this season? These tough questions linger as Stearns plans for not only 2018, but for the future as well.

Braun has made it clear he will not be traded unless it is to the Dodgers, and that currently isn’t an option. So as long as Brinson and Phillips continue to grow as every day players, I think your best bet is trying Braun in a platoon at first base with Thames despite his early career struggles in the infield.

Arcia was a favorite of many in 2017. The youthful shortstop hit .277 with 15 home runs all while dazzling defensively. The energy he brings to the field every game is something hard to find in the league. Not only does Arcia have a bright future ahead of him defensively, but I also see him continuing to hit for average and more power as he matures.

Jimmy Nelson was one of the biggest surprises of 2018 and could have been key down the stretch had he not gotten hurt. No doubt he will be missed for the first half of 2018 while he rehabs, but the combination of Anderson, Davies, and Woodruff isn’t awful, while Chacin who went 13-10 with the Padres in 2017 may surprise some with his deceptive stuff. Management will have to hope this staff has no issues bridging the gap.

Josh Hader was by far one of the most exciting Brewers to watch in 2017. A 96-99 mph fastball mixed with a devastating slider for lefties is must see TV, which allowed him to sit perfectly in a late inning relief role. Being that as a reliever he could pitch almost every day, I think this is where Hader needs to stay unless he is able to develop a third pitch.

Lastly, If I said Villar was not a disappointment in 2017 I’d be lying. For much of the year he was barely batting over .200 and had his blunders defensively and on the basepaths. I think a lot of these struggles stemmed from the pressure he put on himself after his outstanding 2016. Now i’m not saying he will be able to repeat what he did in 2016, but it’s not out of the question for him to bounce back and hit .260 and swipe 25 bases.

As February lingers and pitchers and catchers get ready to report to Arizona for the spring ahead, hopes should still be high despite very few changes being made personnel-wise. Craig Counsell will once again have depth on his roster and plenty of young talent to choose from. If the Brewers don’t once against find themselves chasing a wild-card spot, I think most around the league would be shocked.

 

What Could’ve Been: Ryan Braun’s Alternate Universe

Coming off a National League MVP award while leading Milwaukee to its first ever NLCS, Ryan Braun seemed to be the burgeoning face of the MLB following the 2011 season. A homegrown Milwaukee talent, Braun had just signed a contract extension in the spring that locked him up through 2020, essentially keeping him in the Cream City for the duration of his career.

Then, the unthinkable happened. News broke that Milwaukee’s baseball savior had been busted for PED use. I vividly remember sitting on the living room couch watching ESPN when suddenly the condemning “Breaking News” banner flashed across screen, and then subsequently reacting in disbelief. “There’s no way he did it. He’s one of the good guys,” I thought to myself. After numerous lies by Braun himself and a failed smear campaign against the testing sample collector, all my confidence in the to-be legend was obliterated. Braun officially joined the ranks of the “cheaters”, and no future accomplishments, no matter how great, could vindicate that from the baseball world’s collective memory.

Brewers Week In Review: 7/3-7/9

This is the best time of year to be a baseball fan. Independence Day, one of the major holidays that fall within baseball’s calendar, has come and gone. Last night was the All-Star Game, where Corey Knebel represented the Brewers in the mid-summer classic (even though he didn’t pitch, and Shaw should have been there too, just saying). However, there may also not be a better time to be a Brewers fan in recent times than right now. The Brewers sit at 50-41 with a 5.5 game division lead in the NL Central heading into the break, and after yet another solid week, they most definitely deserve it.

With that being said, it’s time for a look at the week ahead.

The Week Ahead

Upcoming Series: vs. Philadelphia (7/14-7/16)

Pitching matchups vs. Philadelphia: Nick Pivetta (2-4, 4.73 ERA) vs. Zach Davies (10-4, 4.90 ERA); Aaron Nola (6-6, 3.59 ERA) vs. Jimmy Nelson (8-4, 3.30 ERA); Jeremy Hellickson (5-5, 4.49 ERA) vs. Matt Garza (4-4, 3.98 ERA)

Weekly Awards

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

Winner: Orlando Arcia

Pretty soon, we’re going to have begin calling this the Orlando Arcia award if he keeps this pace up. Once again, the shortstop proved this week to be one of the most exciting players in recent times for the Brewers, as he dazzled both at the plate and on the basepaths. His “now you see me, now you don’t” style rundown escape against the Orioles is one of the best highlights of the entire Brewers first half this year, and that’s counting highlights for a 50-WIN TEAM. Safe to say, it is going to be hard for someone to knock Arica off his perch.

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

Winner: Jesus Aguilar

Could it truly have been anyone else? The Brewers turned some heads on the national stage following their series win over the Yankees this past weekend, and Jesus Aguilar was a major catalyst of that, as he effectively won one of those games for the Crew. With his 2 home run, 7 RBI performance in Friday’s 9-4 victory at Yankee Stadium, Aguilar got back on track showing the power that many fans saw during Spring Training in Arizona a few months ago. With Eric Thames possibly coming back to form after solid recent performances, how much playing time will Aguilar find for himself during the end-of-season stretch? We’ll have to wait and see.

The Ben Sheets Award for Best Heat (Best Pitcher)

Winner: Brent Suter

For the third consecutive week, we have a new winner of the Ben Sheets award. This time, it’s (relative) newcomer Brent Suter, who produced two very solid starts against consecutive AL East opponents. In Monday’s game against Baltimore, Suter coasted through six innings, allowing just four hits, one walk and a single unearned run while striking out 8 Orioles. He followed that performance up with a second impressive outing, with 5 punchouts and just two earned runs in 6.1 innings against a powerful Yankees lineup. While Corey Knebel was not able to get it done in the latter game to give Suter his second win of the week, the lefty did more than enough to earn this award for the week.

Prospect Update

AAA: Colorado Springs

Brett Phillips (Brewers No. 10 Prospect): .293, 16 2B, 7 3B, 17 HR, 66 RBI, 5 SB

Ryan Cordell (Brewers No. 16 Prospect): .284, 18 2B, 5 3B, 10 HR, 45 RBI, 9 SB (currently injured)

Mauricio Dubon (Brewers No. 9 Prospect): .233, 4 2B, 1 HR, 9 RBI, 2 SB (currently on temporary inactive list)

AA: Biloxi Shuckers

Luis Ortiz (Brewers No. 4 Prospect): 3-4, 4.08 ERA, 64.0 IP, 57 K, 26 BB, 1.22 WHIP, .224 Opponent AVG

Corbin Burnes (Brewers No. 20 Prospect): 2-1, 1.06 ERA, 42.1 IP, 43 K, 6 BB, 0.76 WHIP, .174 AVG

 

A: Carolina Mudcats/Wisconsin Timber Rattlers

Corey Ray (Brewers No. 2 Prospect): .237, 18 2B, 4 HR, 33 RBI, 18 SB at A Adv Carolina

Mario Feliciano (Brewers No. 23 Prospect): .249, 11 2B, 3 HR, 24 RBI, 7 SB at A Wisconsin

Jake Gatewood (Brewers No. 25 Prospect): .278, 29 2B, 10 HR, 41 RBI, 7 SB at A Adv Carolina

Trey Supak (Brewers No. 29 Prospect): 2-3, 5.65 ERA, 43.0 IP, 38 K, 19 BB, 1.42 WHIP, .255 AVG at Adv A Carolina

Chasing October: Brewers Top Prospects #11-15

This week’s top prospects all differ greatly from one another. One hitter is a massive power threat, while two others are speed demons. One pitcher is coming off an absolutely forgettable year, while another put his name on the map. One similarity they all share, however, is their potential to significantly contribute in the future. All could conceivably be integral parts to the Brewers’ success within the next three years. Here are prospects #11-15:

  1. Marcos Diplan, P

Acquired back in 2015 from the Texas Rangers in exchange for former Brewers’ ace Yovani Gallardo, Diplan experienced a breakout season in 2016, spinning a 3.02 ERA with over 10 strikeouts per nine innings (K/9). However, 2017 saw him struggle significantly, as he scuffled in his attempts to adjust to a new minor league level (Class A-Advanced). In 125 and 2/3 innings of work, Diplan pitched to a 5.23 ERA with a 1.57 WHIP, both being very concerning numbers. His strikeouts dipped as well, as he posted 8.5 K/9. His control disappeared, evidenced by his walk rate of 5.08 BB/9.

Despite this, Diplan still houses enormous potential. He is only 21 years old, and will be for the entirety of next year’s minor league season. He has two potential plus pitches in his fastball and slider, with a developing change-up occupying the role of being a serviceable third pitch. He stands 6 feet tall on the dot, but still has remaining projectability to add strength (and therefore velocity) as he fills in his 160 lbs. frame. At the least, Diplan should develop into a solid bullpen option, with his ceiling topping out as a mid-rotation starter. To achieve this, he will need to work on his command, as that is the biggest hurdle he currently faces in his development.

  1. Trent Clark, OF

As the Brewers’ 2015 first-round draft pick, Clark was lauded for his natural hitting ability. He started off his minor-league career displaying his advanced bat and approach, hitting .309/.424/.430 across the two rookie levels in 2015. However, he hit a roadblock in 2016 as injuries held him back at Class A Wisconsin, posting a slash line of .231/.346/.344 in just 59 games. Despite this, the Brewers decided to promote him to Class A-Advanced Carolina for the 2017 season and he struggled again, hitting .223/.360/.348.

Regardless of Clark’s struggles, he still sports a tantalizing skill set. First and foremost, his plate discipline is off the charts. Clark boasted a 17.2% walk rate in 2017, and his walk rate has always been above 14% during his time in the minor leagues. Second, he has wheels. Clark stole 37 bases in 2017, and that speed makes him an asset defensively as well. Finally, I believe Clark still has the hitting ability that made him a first-round draft pick. He has been moved along aggressively, and should probably stay in Carolina for at least the first half of next season. Clark needs time to develop, especially given his injury-laden 2016. Should everything fall into place, it is easy to see him hitting lead-off one day for the Crew. 

  1. Tristen Lutz, OF

This is where the Brewers’ farm depth starts to become apparent. Lutz was drafted in 2017 in Competitive Balance Round A, which is directly after the first round. Lutz is as physically imposing a 19-year-old that one can find, standing 6’3” and weighing 210 lbs. Even though he has a corner-outfield profile, the Brewers thus far have deployed him in center field. Most scouts believe his ultimate home will be right field. Lutz is known for his raw power and strong arm, which both grade out as “plus” tools. He has a short, quick stroke at the plate that should allow him to hit for a solid average.

Lutz experienced great success in his introduction to professional baseball. Between Rookie-levels Arizona and Helena, he hit .311/.398/.559 with 9 home runs and 27 RBI in 40 games. He will likely start 2018 in Class A Wisconsin and could move up the system quickly if his bat holds up against advanced pitching. If he reaches his ceiling, he could be a 30+ home run threat that anchors a lineup.

  1. Mauricio Dubon, SS/2B

The Brewers acquired Dubon as part of the now infamous Tyler Thornburg trade with the Red Sox, which brought third baseman Travis Shaw, pitcher Josh Pennington, and infielder Yeison Coca to the Cream City as well. Dubon has utility man written all over him. I believe he currently lacks the impact ability to be an everyday contributor, but he would be one of the top bench talents in the league and could find success as a super-platoon player. He can play all around the infield, and even dabbled in center field during the 2016 Arizona Fall League. He is above average in all of his tools except for power, which limits his effectiveness at the plate given his low walk rate.

While he hit for a solid average of .274 between Double A and Triple A in 2017, Dubon’s biggest offensive contributions came on the bases. He swiped 38 bases over the course of the year, and offers high-end speed. He still needs time to develop his bat in the upper levels of the minors (he was a career .300+ hitter in the lower levels), but we could see Dubon in Milwaukee during the second half of next season. His ceiling is limited, but his high floor should guarantee him a role in Milwaukee at some point.

  1. Freddy Peralta, P

Acquired as part of the deal for Adam Lind after the 2015 season, Peralta’s breakout started in 2016 and rolled right on into 2017. After a 3.62 ERA in 2016 at Class A Wisconsin and Class A-Advanced Brevard County (the Brewers’ affiliate at the time), Peralta took his game to a whole new level this season. He started the year at Class A-Advanced Carolina, where he pitched to a 3.04 ERA while striking out 12.46 batters per nine innings. After a mid-season promotion to Double A Biloxi, Peralta achieved a pearly 2.26 ERA, .167 batting average against, and a 12.86 K/9. His numbers are clearly dominant.

Peralta’s best pitch is his fastball that sits in the low-to-mid 90s and is said to have “plus life”, meaning it has great movement. His main secondary pitches are a changeup and slider, with the changeup being slightly more advanced. Peralta has a slight frame, standing 5’11” and weighing in a 175 lbs., leading some to believe he will have to move to the bullpen. However, I am confident that he will be able to stick as a starter long-term due to his three-pitch mix. He has some command issues that need to be addressed (4.65 BB/9), but that seems to be his only hurdle at this point. His first action in the big leagues may come in the bullpen (a la Josh Hader) due to his electric stuff, but he certainly should be in the plans for the future rotation.

How Many Stars Will the Crew Send to Washington?

The 2018 MLB All-Star Game is fast approaching, with fan voting ending this coming Thursday. The annual midsummer classic will be hosted by the Washington Nationals this year, and should be a chance for the Brewers to showcase some of their high-level talent on a national stage. While it looks like no Brewers will make the starting line-up via the fan ballot, your local nine should be able to still place multiple players on the roster via the players’ vote and manager picks. Let’s take a look at which Brewers have the best chance of representing the Crew come July 17th.

Josh Hader, RP

Hader has the most obvious case of any Brewer. He’s gained national notoriety for his dominance out of the ‘pen, and has made a case for being the best reliever in the NL. He leads the league in K/9 with 17.5, which is a whopping 3 strikeouts better than the second-place Tony Cingrani (14.5 K/9). He leads all NL relievers in WAR at 2.3, which is nearly a full-win better than second-place Adam Ottavino of the Colorado Rockies (see a trend here?). Even though he recently ran into his first rough patch of the season, it would be an upset if Hader is not suited up as an NL All-Star.

Lorenzo Cain, OF

Much like Hader, Lorenzo Cain has separated himself as the best performing outfielder this season. He carries a .291/.394/.438 slash line on offense, and has played elite defense by posting the second-most defensive runs saved in the NL. He currently leads all NL outfielders in WAR at 3.3, which is 0.7 WAR ahead of second-place Brandon Nimmo. 3.3 WAR also puts him at second-place for all NL position players, behind only Freddie Freeman of the Atlanta Braves (3.4). Cain likely would hold the lead if not for his recent injury. He is someone who doesn’t have the name recognition or public perception as being an MVP level talent, but his performance this year certainly warrants his name entering the conversation. A snub from the All-Star game would be astonishing.

Christian Yelich, OF

Yelich is slightly more on the fence than Cain and Hader. He is having a great offensive season, hitting .289/.364/.471 with 11 HR, 34 RBI, and 10 SB. His WAR of 2.1 places him as the 5th best outfielder in the NL. His issue, however, is that of the few players that have performed better than him, only one is currently in a starting spot from fan voting. Currently, Nick Markakis (2.4 WAR, .883 OPS), Matt Kemp (1.4 WAR, .864 OPS), and Bryce Harper (1.5 WAR, .848 OPS) have the top-3 balloting spots seemingly on lock, leaving little leeway in terms of the bevy of outfielders having all-star seasons to make the final roster. The NL roster took 5 reserve outfielders last season, and it is easy to see Yelich getting lost in the mix (regardless of the stats) among candidates that include big names like Charlie Blackmon and AJ Pollack, young stars like Juan Soto and Brandon Nimmo, and players having statistically impressive seasons like Cain and Albert Almora. While Yelich does carry some name power, it will be interesting to see if the NL manager is willing to give two outfield spots to the Brewers.

Jesus Aguilar, 1B

This is likely to be one of the more interesting decisions regarding the All-Star game and the Brewers. Up until 2 weeks ago, no one would have mentioned “Jesus Aguilar” and “All-Star game” in the same sentence. However, Aguilar then went on to mash 7 home runs with a 1.444 OPS since June 17th to vault himself into the conversation. Aguilar currently holds a lead in two “counting” stats that may interest the NL manager that ends up picking the roster, and he leads the all first basemen in home runs (19) and slugging percentage (.627). His overall line of .309/.368/.627 is probably the most impressive in the NL. The one problem is that first base is an extremely deep position in the NL, so Aguilar is currently sitting tied for fifth in WAR among first basemen. The current leading vote getter is Freddie Freeman, who has been far and away the best first baseman in the NL this season. Aguilar will be going against names like Paul Goldschmidt, Joey Votto, Brandon Belt, and Eric Hosmer to secure an all-star bid as a reserve. Regardless of how deserving Aguilar may be, it may be tough for him to overcome the combination of name recognition and performance on that list.

Jeremy Jeffress, RP

The final Brewers candidate is Jeffress, a guy who forms a large part of the heart and soul of this ball club. Jeffress ranks 5th among NL relievers in ERA and has been instrumental in providing Hader and Knebel with help in the backend. Jeffress may not have as clear of a case as some other relievers that may be more “dominant”, but he deserves a look nonetheless.

How David Stearns Made Milwaukee Win Again

After ending a disappointing 32 games outside of first place in 2015, the Brewers decided to part ways with former General Manager, Doug Melvin. Under Melvin’s reign, Milwaukee had made the playoffs twice, the NLDS in 2008, and the NLCS in 2011. However, while making the playoffs twice, Melvin missed out 11 times over 13 years.

Enter David Stearns. Three years later, for the first time since 2011, the Milwaukee Brewers have clinched a postseason spot. The Crew are currently in the Wild Card Game, however they’re only a half game out of the NL Central lead. Whether it was picking up All-Star Jesus Aguilar off waivers or trading for MVP candidate Christian Yelich, we take a look into how David Stearns has made the Brewers one of the best teams in the National League.

  1. Tyler Thornburg traded to Boston Red Sox for Travis Shaw and three prospects. (Offseason, 2016)

Ranking 25th in runs scored, and 15th in Homeruns, Stearns went on the hunt for a power hitter. After Tyler Thornburg finished the 2016 season with a 2.13 ERA, Stearns sold high, getting Travis Shaw and three prospects. Stearns would prove to be the winner, as Thornburg did not play in 2017 due to surgery on his right shoulder. Shaw however, was one of the teams MVPs, hitting .273, with 101 runs batted in and 31 home runs. In 2018, Shaw consistently bats fourth for Milwaukee and currently has 31 home runs and 85 runs batted in.

2. Jonathan Lucroy and Jeremy Jeffress to Texas Rangers for Lewis Brinson, Luis Ortiz, and Ryan Cordell. (8/1/16)

 

As much as trading Lucroy hurt me as a Brewers fan, it ended up being one of the biggest moves in franchise history. Stearns, willing to rebuild, picked up two first round draft picks in Brinson and Ortiz. In addition the Rangers added their sixth overall prospect, Ryan Cordell, to finish the deal. Seen as a rebuild move at the time, trading for Lewis Brinson would play a big role in the acquisition of Christian Yelich. Milwaukee has since traded Texas back for Jeffress.

3. Jesus Aguilar claimed off waivers from Cleveland Indians. (2/2/17)

During the beginning of the Year in 2018, Jesus’ primary role was a pinch hitter. And man was he good. Walk off after walk off, Jesus worked his way into the Brewers lineup and has been making a major impact ever since. Aguilar has hit .275, tied second in the National League with 34 home runs, and is top ten for runs batted in, with 105. His consistent bat has helped propel Milwaukee from a middle of the road ball club, to leading the National League in wins.

4. Brewers sign Jhoulys Chacin from San Diego Padres for a Two Year Deal. (12/20/17) 

Not knowing when Ace Jimmy Nelson would return, Stearns looked to add a great starting pitcher. In Chacin, the GM felt comfort, as the veteran put up steady numbers in San Diego. While taking over as the ace, Chacin has done wonders. Logging fifteen wins and only eight losses, Chacin finished the regular season with a 3.56 ERA and 1.182 WHIP. With 187 innings of work and 34 games started, Chacin will be the probable starter for the Wild Card Game.

5. Prospects Lewis Brinson, Monte Harrison, Isan Diaz and Jordan Yamamoto to Miami Marlins for Christian Yelich. (1/25/18)

One of the more shocking trades of the MLB this offseason was the Brewers acquisition of OF Christian Yelich. Throughout the season, trading for Yelich has paid dividends. The MVP candidate leads the National League in average, slugging, on base + slugging and runs created. He is second in runs and wins above replacement, while also being sixth for on base percentage. Christian Yelich has brought Milwaukee to the playoffs for the first time in seven years, and fifth time in franchise history. Oh, and did I mention we have him until 2022?

6. Free Agent Lorenzo Cain signed to a 5 year/$80 million deal from Kansas City. (1/25/18)

Within hours of trading for OF Christian Yelich, GM David Stearns wasn’t done filling his outfield. Originally drafted by the Brewers, Cain was traded away to Kansas City. After winning a World Series, the two time all-star has returned home and is putting up insane numbers. Cain leads the National league with a wins above replacement of 7.0. He is in second for on base percentage and fourth for batting average and stolen bases. Cain has been a wonderful leadoff hitter for the crew, and an even better outfielder ranking second in defensive wins above replacement.

7. Wendell Rijo to New York Yankees for Erik Kratz. (6/16/18)

When originally acquired from the Yankees, Kratz’s job was to backup Manny Pina at Catcher. Since being in Milwaukee, Kratz has played in 63 games, batting .251 and having a .297 on base percentage. The Catcher has been a breath of fresh air, adding depth to Milwaukee’s lineup.

8. Kodi Medeiros and Wilber Perez to Chicago White Sox for Joakim Soria and Cash. (7/26/18)

Needing a key SP heading into the trade deadline, David Stearns went a different direction. The 33 year old GM added a veteran reliever to increase depth in the bullpen. In 2018, Soria has posted a 3.22 ERA with a 1.176 WHIP.

9. Brett Phillips and Jorge Lopez to Kansas City Royals for Mike Moustakas. (7/27/18)

Needing a bat in the lineup but still an excellent infielder, Stearns set out to get Moose. In 2018, Moose has hit .250, with 28 home runs and 93 runs batted in. Not only did the Brewers upgrade in hitting, but acquiring Moose meant the Brewers could move Shaw to second base and trade away Jonathan Villar.

10. Jonathan Villar and two Prospects to Baltimore Orioles for Jonathan Schoop. (8/1/18)

With Jonathan Villar struggling at the plate and Travis Shaw getting the nod to play second base, Schoop was a perfect pickup for Milwaukee. Before being traded, the former All-Star had won AL Player of the Week honors. Even though his year hasn’t been tremendous, Schoop can pay dividends for the Brewers in years to come, as he is signed until 2019.

11. KJ Harrison and Gilbert Lara to Washington Nationals for Gio Gonzalez and Cash. (9/1/18)

Looking for a consistent LHP, the Brewers acquired Gio Gonzalez. While he struggled in D.C. with a 4.57 ERA, he has been lights out with the Crew. In four appearances, Gonzalez has gone 2-0, with a 2.66 ERA and a .984 WHIP.

12. Demi Orimoloye to Toronto Blue Jays for Curtis Granderson (9/1/18).

In the same day as Gonzalez, Granderson was traded to the Brewers. The polished veteran has done wonders for the Brewers in the outfield as the health for Cain and Braun being a concern. With Ryan Braun’s age comes injuries, and Granderson has filled in nicely. When in the lineup, Granderson hits leadoff, as his on base percentage is .385 with the Crew. While he might not start in the Wild Card Game, Granderson would be a perfect fit for a pinch hit at-bat against a RHP in the Playoffs.

Brewers 2018 Postseason Projected Lineup:

  1. Cain CF
  2. Yelich RF
  3. Aguilar 1B
  4. Shaw 2B
  5. Braun LF
  6. Moose 3B
  7. Kratz C
  8. Arcia SS
  9. Chacin P

*Bolded names are players who weren’t apart of the organization before Stearns was GM*

It’s safe to say Stearns has had one busy year with the Brewers, and his hard work is paying off. Milwaukee is currently twenty five games over .500, and only half a game back of the Cubs. While popping champagne bottles after clinching a playoff spot, Counsell told ESPN, “We have the weapons to win the World Series…we’re deep enough where I think we can make a good run”. With that being said, you can’t help but think David Stearns has had a major role in the Brewers success thus far.

 

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.