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Tuesday, October 22nd 2019
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Brewers Call Up Jacob Nottingham

With the injury to Manny Piña, multiple reports have surfaced that the Milwaukee Brewers will be calling up top prospect and catcher Jacob Nottingham from AAA Colorado Springs. It will be the 23 year old’s first shot at the big league level with the Brewers as he looks to add depth to the catcher position for Craig Counsell’s crew. Nottingham has been playing with the AAA Sky Sox for 8 games this season hitting 8-for-27 at a .296 average, with one home run, four runs batted in, a .345 on base percentage, and .710 on base plus slugging percentage. Last year Nottingham played at the AA level with the Biloxi Shuckers and hit a less than impressive .209 average, adding on nine home runs and 48 RBIs in only 101 games played.

While the numbers last year were down for Nottingham this call up is an excitement for Brewers fans everywhere. Jacob Nottingham was the key trade piece initially when the Oakland Athletics sent Scott Kazmir to the Houston Astros. Nottingham was then traded to the Brewers as the main piece in the Khris Davis deal later that offseason. Since coming to the Brewers organization Nottingham has not found a groove on both sides of the ball, but still has shown glimpses of the raw power that scouts had raved about back in 2015. Nottingham is well known for his aggressive approach at the plate which has lead to pitchers being able to exploit him and a high strikeout rate. 2017 was a much improved season for Nottingham in terms of his approach even though the numbers might not show it. Nottingham also showed big strides behind the plate throwing out 40% of baserunners and showing much improved glove work and blocking in 2017 and spring training.

Nottingham is a talent that many scouts have said is potentially an everyday player at the big league level, but whether he reaches that potential is yet to be seen. With a crowded catcher position when healthy, it is more than likely that Nottingham’s stay will last as long as Piña is unavailable. With that being said, Brewers fans should be excited to get a look at the young catcher over the next series or two.

The Brewers Basket of Unexpected (and Poor) Performances

Coming into 2019, expectations were sky-high in the Cream City. After finishing one game shy of the World Series the previous October, the Brewers entered spring training with a roster containing many of the same faces, but also some key off-season acquisitions like catcher Yasmani Grandal.

133 regular season games later, things are looking and feeling much, much different. Just as a sample: Four of the Brewers’ five opening day rotation members are no longer in the starting mix, whether it be due to injury (Brandon Woodruff), poor performance (Corbin Burnes and Jhoulys Chacin), or a role change stemming from poor performance (Freddy Peralta). Few things have gone as expected for the Brewers this season, leading to a roller coaster ride for players and fans alike.

Starting with the offense: the Brewers started the season with a line-up that looked to be one of the most fearsome in the league, with free agent signing Yasmani Grandal adding a surplus of talent to a group that already included an MVP (Christian Yelich), multiple other all-stars (Lorenzo Cain and Jesus Aguilar), and a trio of established players with a history of success (Ryan Braun, Mike Moustakas, Travis Shaw). The first seven spots in the order were filled with all-star caliber talent.

However, no one could have seen coming the struggles that caused the Brewers to trade Jesus Aguilar, demote Travis Shaw to Triple-A, and drop Lorenzo Cain from the lead-off spot. Some reversion to the mean was fair to expect for Aguilar after an other-worldly 2018 season, but for his OPS to dip nearly 200 points (from .890 to .694) was far and away from a realistic expected outcome at the outset of the season. The same goes for Shaw and Cain – Shaw’s OPS plummeted 250 points following two years of sustained production, and Cain has performed worse than all but six qualified hitters in Major League Baseball based on the wRC+ metric after being in the MVP conversation during 2018. Whether it is bad luck, poor coaching, or just a natural diminishing of skill level for all three, it would have been extremely hard and downright crazy to have reasonably expected all three to falter to the extent that they have. The three combined for 13.4 WAR in 2018. This year? A meager -0.2 WAR.

Unexpected and low probability outcomes have also played a part in some (but not all) of the Brewers pitching issues. Corey Knebel was slated to be Milwaukee’s ninth-inning relief ace until a spring training injury turned into Tommy John surgery. Jeremy Jeffress and Jhoulys Chacin have been shadows of their 2018 dominant selves, leading to Jeffress no longer handling high-leverage situations and Chacin’s recent release from the team. Throw in Corbin Burnes losing all sense of effectiveness, Brandon Woodruff’s oblique injury, and Freddy Peralta failing to establish himself as a reliable big-leaguer after a promising yet shaky debut in 2018, and you can see how the pitching staff is mired in much of the same unfortunateness as the offense.

Despite these unexpected struggles the pitching staff has faced, some of the blame in that area falls on the front office and their inability to adequately mitigate the risk of their pitching strategy. While starting pitching did not play as important a role on the 2018 Brewers as it did for other teams, that was because they had a shut-down bullpen that could effectively cover the majority of a game’s innings if need be.

The 2019 Brewers’ bullpen was not built to be that same dominant group, as important relief pieces Corbin Burnes and Brandon Woodruff were moved to the rotation while Joakim Soria left via free agency. This made the bullpen’s margin for error very small. Throw in the injury to Knebel and the injury recovery of Jeffress and you have just a shell of what the Brewers needed for their starting pitching strategy to work, especially given the inexperience of the majority of their Opening Day rotation members (Burnes, Peralta, Woodruff). Once the injury to Knebel happened and the ineffective return of Jeffress became apparent, something should have been done to improve the staff and modify the model they used to get outs. A stronger starting rotation was certainly needed.

This season is just one iteration of a million possibilities concerning how it could have turned out. There are several things the Brewers can and cannot control. Unfortunately, most of what the Brewers cannot control has gone against them this season, revealing roster construction mistakes and playing a large part in their current struggles. 

 

Christian Yelich’s Offensive Transformation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Brewers Approach to the Plate in the First Half

The Brewers approach at the plate has been one key ingredient within the Brewer’s success the first half of the season – prior to the recent struggles. They have looked like a different team in the box compared to years past. Over the first half I have seen previous “free swingers” tone it down in the box allowing them to get deeper into counts. Two big keys have been the amount of pitches per at bat and two out RBI’s. There are many more outstanding numbers pertaining to their approach at the plate, but these two are the headliners.

 

Pitches Seen Per At-Bat

This is something so important, it is the best way to quickly get into a opposing team’s bullpen. This has become a team strength. The team average is 4.43 pitches per at-bat. If every Brewer hitter in the lineup takes four pitches in each of their at-bats and the pitcher goes through the lineup three times, the pitcher throws 108 pitches. 108 pitches will usually spell “game-over” for an average starting pitcher. Therefore, getting into their bullpen quicker.

 

If this pattern is followed in a three game series, it may not impact the bullpen in the first game, but the bullpen wears over the series. Pitches seen per at-bat may seem ridiculous to track, but it can make all the difference, and it for sure has in the first half.

Team Leaders (100+ AB)

Name Avg. Pitches seen per AB
Jesus Aguilar 5.02
Travis Shaw 4.81
Lorenzo Cain 4.77

 

Two Out RBI’s

This is something that this Brewers team has done so incredibly well. Nearly 34% of the team’s RBI’s this season have come with two outs with men in scoring position. This has not only come from the top of the lineup, but also from the bottom.

 

This goes into the character of the team. Many have said that with this team, “you have to play all 27 outs”. You also have to say that you must play all three outs per inning.

Team Leaders (RBi’s with men in scoring position)

Name RBI’s
Ryan Braun 20
Christian Yelich, Travis Shaw 16
Jesus Aguilar 15

 

This team continues to grind out at-bats into deep counts as well as continue to compete with two outs – even through the recent struggles. This in the first half have helped the Brewers become a dangerous team. Continuing to do these things in the second half, with the potential of adding another bat, this team is going to be really fun to watch.

Milwaukee Brewers Retrospective: A Look Back on some of David Stearns’ Best and Worst Trades as Brewers GM

 

     Being a small market franchise, the Milwaukee Brewers have historically had to rely heavily on trades to acquire major talent to help them compete at the highest level possible. We saw this in December of 2010 when former GM Doug Melvin made a splash in trading for CY Young award winner Zack Greinke from the Kansas City Royals for a slew of prospects, along with other similar deals.

    Shifting to David Stearns’ tenure as the Brewers’ general manager, the young Harvard graduate has already pulled off a number of large-scale trades that have accelerated the Brewers’ post -2014 rebuild. Starting on a positive note, let’s highlight some of those deals and how they have worked out for the Brewers. Some are easier to judge than others, but for the most part, the sample size is large enough to determine a winner and a loser of the deals.

 

2016-17 offseason- Brewers receive Travis Shaw, Mauricio Dubon, and Josh Pennington from Red Sox  in exchange for Tyler Thornburg

 

    As we speak, this deal has been 100% one-sided because Tyler Thornburg has yet to throw a pitch in a Red Sox uniform due to injury woes. With that being said though, it is still fair to say that the Brewers are the clear winners of the trade because of the amount of production they have gotten from Travis Shaw since he arrived in the Cream City. Last season, Shaw was the Brewers’ best player and boasted all-star caliber numbers to the tune of 31 home runs and 101 RBIs while playing a solid third base. Thus far in the 2018 season, Shaw has again been arguably the Brewers’ best hitter. In addition to the great production that Shaw has provided, infield prospect Mauricio Dubon was swinging an extremely hot bat and seemed to be on the verge of a call-up to the major league club before just recently tearing his ACL. This trade is already lopsided, and if Dubon is able to reach his potential, the gap will continue to grow. Another win for the Brewers here.

 

 

  • 2016-17 offseason: Brewers receive Jett Bandy from the Angels in exchange for Martin Maldonado

 

    This swap of catchers that the Brewers and Angels pulled off prior to the start of the 2017 season has proved to be the antithesis of other David Stearns trades. When this deal was made, the goal for Milwaukee was to be able to have more offense coming from the catcher position with Jonathan Lucroy out of town. That hasn’t been the case whatsoever because aside from a few good moments, Bandy has been ineffective at the plate. Last year, he batted just .207 and managed only 18 RBIs and was eventually demoted to Triple-A Colorado Springs. And this season has been unfortunately more of the same for the 28-year-old backstop.

     As for Martin Maldonado, he has blossomed with his change of scenery and capped off a very strong 2017 season by winning an American League Gold Glove Award with the Angels of Anaheim. It is good to see Maldonado playing at a very high level, and the sting of this trade is balanced out by the fact that Manny Pina has been a stud both offensively and defensively as Milwaukee’s regular catcher, and has come up with some huge clutch hits for the team, most recently being a 9th inning game-tying home run off of Wade Davis in Colorado on the Brewers’ last road trip to cap off a 6-run comeback by the Crew.

 

  • January 25th, 2018: Brewers trade Lewis Brinson, Monte Harrison, Isan Diaz, and Jordan Yamamoto to Marlins in exchange for Christian Yelich

    This trade is a perfect example of what David Stearns values most in terms of player acquisition: Team-friendly contracts and versatility. Even though he has only played 29 games as a Brewer, outfielder Christian Yelich has quickly acclimated himself to the style of play that the Brewers are trying to adopt; being active on the bases and cutting down on strikeouts. Again an early sample size, but Yelich has definitely been the player the Brewers thought they were getting when they pulled off the trade for him.

      As for the major piece that the Brewers let go of in the Yelich deal, center fielder Lewis Brinson has struggled mightily out of the gates for Miami. One has to assume that Brinson will improve offensively with consistent at-bats, but the jury is still out on him as a potential franchise cornerstone.

     While not every deal that Stearns has made in his relatively brief tenure as the general manager of the Milwaukee Brewers has been entirely perfect, the larger scale ones have been the ones that have worked out which is all you can ask for from a young GM. And let’s be honest, the Travis Shaw trade is already one of the best made by any team in recent memory. All things considered, the David Stearns era is off to a fantastic start and a potential 2018 postseason run will only help him and his assembled ballclub gain respect and notoriety among the Major League Baseball community.

King of the Diamond- Week of 5/22

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

Every Monday 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 had a rough beginning this past week, losing five games in a row that began last Sunday. They saw their division lead evaporate, and needed to stop the bleeding in order to remain atop the NL Central.

King of the Diamond- Chase Anderson

Image result for chase anderson brewersChase Anderson picks up his first King of the Diamond award after a stellar performance that snapped Milwaukee’s five game losing streak. So far this season, Anderson has been rather average, earning a decision in just four out of ten starts this year. Saturday appeared to erase all of this, as Anderson failed to allow a hit through seven strong before a lead-off single in the eighth ended his hopes for a no-hitter. Despite Anderson coming up just short of what would have been the MLB’s first no-no this season, he picked up the much needed win with seven strong innings, allowing just one hit while striking out eleven. Milwaukee picked up another win Sunday afternoon to end the week on a high note.

King of the Diamond- Zack Cozart, Cincinnati Reds

Image result for zack cozart

The NL Central continues to be the most competitive division in all of baseball, with all five teams separated by a mere four games. The Reds are fourth in the division but are just two-and-a-half games behind the Brewers for the division lead. Reds shortstop Zack Cozart earns our divisional King of the Diamond award this week. He has been a pleasant surprise for Cincinnati this season and currently holds an eleven-game hit streak and has recorded a hit in 19 of his last 20 games played. Cozart has been on an offensive onslaught all season long and could be a valuable trade asset should the Cincinnati become active in the trade market.

Corey Knebel’s Resurgence

Corey Knebel was riding high coming into 2018. Fresh off an all-star appearance and a truly dominant season that saw him sport a 1.78 ERA over 76 appearances, he looked poised to continue his ascension towards being one of the elite relievers in the game today.

However, the baseball gods had other plans. Knebel was hampered by a knee injury in spring training, and did not look to have the same effectiveness. Then, on April 5th, he suffered a hamstring injury while pitching against the Cubs. He did not return until early May, and from then on he struggled to a 5.08 ERA in 39 innings pitched before being demoted to the minors on August 24th.

With the September roster expansion, the Brewers recalled Knebel hoping he could rediscover his 2017 dominance and help anchor the bullpen down the stretch. In 10 and 1/3 innings since his recall, Knebel has been nearly perfect. He has allowed no earned runs, held opponents to a .065 batting average, and has struck out 18 batters while walking only 2. He looks to have harnessed the command of his curveball, a pitch that is utterly dominant when it’s “on”. In addition, his confidence looks to be back, which is potentially the most important component of any relief pitcher.

Knebel’s revived success isn’t the result of luck either – advanced stats back up his improved performance. Based on QOPBaseball’s “Quality of Pitch” statistics, Knebel’s fastball and curveball quality have improved significantly since his September recall. His fastball’s quality rose from 4.56 to 5.30 (from MLB-average to Good/Great quality), and his curveball rose from 5.05 to 5.58 (from Good to Great quality).

Knebel’s addition to the bullpen could prove to be invaluable down the stretch. Given Craig Counsell’s careful bullpen management, the Brewers have been in a bit of a bind when those two are unavailable, having to use less reliable options like Dan Jennings and Taylor Williams in high leverage situations. Knebel changes that. His addition provides an elite option for Counsell to utilize when his other two “stoppers” can’t be used. Given a starter can go five or six innings, the Brewers should generally be in good hands if they have a Jeffress/Hader or Knebel/Burnes combo ready and available.

With October baseball looming, a Brewers bullpen with an effective Knebel could prove to be a huge advantage in the postseason. If Knebel is truly back, the Brewers have three all-star caliber relievers in himself, Josh Hader, and Jeremy Jeffress that can shut down an opposing lineup in the final innings on any given night.

Chasing October: Brewers Trade Targets

The Brewers currently sit atop the NL Central with a record of 52-35. However, to win their first division title since 2011 (and inject misery into the hearts of hordes of Cubs fans), they will need to upgrade their roster as it currently stands. The Brewers have a bevy of needs across the board, most notably at either of the middle infield positions, the bullpen, or the front of the rotation. Here are some players the Brewers have either been linked to or should target in the weeks leading up to the July 31st deadline (for your peace of mind or lack thereof, a “Keston Hiura trade inclusivity” field has been added for each target):

Starting Pitcher

Noah Syndergaard and Jacob DeGrom – These two are the “elite” options that the Brewers could pursue to give their rotation a massive upgrade. DeGrom comes with 2.5 years of controllability and a sterling 1.84 ERA. He is likely a top-5 arm in the MLB, and is likely one of the very few players the Brewers would give up Keston Hiura for. Syndergaard is probably on that list as well. He has 3.5 years of controllability remaining, but comes with some injury concerns. He is an ace nonetheless, and currently sports an ERA of 3.06. Acquiring one of these arms would clear the top of the Brewers farm, but that may be the price for a deep postseason run in Milwaukee. Recent reports have pegged these two as now being off the market, but you’d have to think the Mets would pull the trigger if the offer is right. Requires Hiura: Yes and Yes

Michael Fulmer – Fulmer is a young arm that is on the peak of greatness. After an impressive rookie campaign for Detroit in 2016, many thought we would see Fulmer emerge as a bonafide ace in 2017. However, injuries hampered his effectiveness, and his struggles have seemed to dampen his outlook for the time being.  He still holds great potential as a front-end starter and would require a combination of high-level prospects to pry him away from Detroit. He currently holds a 4.22 ERA with a mediocre K/9 of 7.62, so the Tigers may want to hang onto him and try to rebuild his one sky-high value. Requires Hiura: Maybe

Middle Infield

Manny Machado – The Orioles shortstop/third baseman has been floated as a trade possibility for the Crew, and for good reason. He is an elite MVP level talent, and is currently hitting .308/.378/.561. He is poised to land a massive free agent contract in the offseason, meaning that he would only be a Brewer for half of a season. His price could be too high for Stearns to pull the trigger on a rental, but anything is possible. Requires Hiura: Maybe

Jed Lowrie – Aside from Manny Machado, Lowrie is likely the next-best infielder that could be on the trading block this July. The Athletics are just barely hanging on to their playoff aspirations, as they sit 7 games back of the second wild card in the AL. Lowrie offers the positional versatility the Brewers covet (can play both positions up the middle) and would be a drastic offensive upgrade at either middle infield position. He is currently hitting .291/.357/.498 with 14 HR, and has accrued 3.1 WAR thus far. Lowrie is on the last year of his contract making him a pure rental, but he could be part of what pushes the Brewers over the top. Requires Hiura: No

Derek Dietrich – Dietrich was connected to the Brewers a couple weeks ago as a trade target, and for good reason. The Miami utility man could fill Milwaukee’s second base hole while providing a great offensive boost. He is currently hitting .287/.346/.459, but does not grade out as well defensively. He will certainly be available as the Marlins continue their firesale, and would come with a moderate price tag that the Brewers should be able to easily meet. Requires Hiura: No

Whit Merrifield – Merrifield is yet another second base option that should be available due to the Royals rebuild. His offense has taken a slight step back this year in the power department, but he had made up for it with improved plate discipline. He would certainly be an upgrade for the Crew with his .288/.358/.411 slash line. Merrifield likely will have a higher price than Dietrich due to his 3 remaining years of controllability. Requires Hiura: No

Bullpen

Who knows. A multitude of names are available, but it ultimately will come down to price and fit for David Stearns.

Additional Possibilities

Catcher:Wilson Ramos, JT Realmuto – The price on Realmuto will be high, but the Brewers are struggling to generate offense behind the dish. Both Ramos and Realmuto are offensively sound, and don’t sacrifice any skill defensively either. Requires Hiura: Ramos – No, Realmuto – Yes

Rotation Depth: J.A. Happ – Even though Stearns has stated publicly he will look for a starter to lead the rotation, Happ would be the best fallback option should he decide to go for depth. He won’t command the sky high prospect haul of Syndergaard or DeGrom, but the price won’t be cheap to acquire his services. Requires Hiura: No

Keston Hiura is a Hitting Machine

When the Brewers selected Keston Hiura with the 9th pick in the 2017 MLB Draft, there were many questions surrounding him as a prospect.

“What position will he play?”

“Is he just a DH?”

“Will he need Tommy John surgery?”

Despite all the noise, there was one thing no one questioned: the legitimacy of his hitting ability. As a college junior, he hit .442/.567/.693 with 8 home runs, 24 doubles, and 42 RBIs for the UC-Irvine Anteaters. With the MLB draft approaching, it was clear that he was a surefire first-round pick. The uncertainty laid in where he ultimately would be selected.

Some had him pegged as a top-5 pick. Others predicted him falling to the 20s, thinking teams would shy away from his injured arm. At #9, the Brewers thought process likely went as such: “We could take a guy with 5-tool potential across the board, or a someone who we are sure has a bat that will get him to the big leagues.” With drafting Hiura, the direction they decided to take is clear. They wanted what was closest to a “sure thing”.

In just under a year of professional baseball, Hiura has already spanned four levels of the minor leagues. He started last year at Rookie-Level Arizona before being promoted to the Class-A Wisconsin Timber Rattlers. In total, he hit .371/.422/.611, cementing his status as being the “real deal”. This year, he started out slowly at Class-A Advanced Carolina before going on a tear in the month of May, leading to his recent promotion to Double-A Biloxi. With Carolina, he hit a slick .320/.382/.529 with 7 home runs on the heels of his .377/.437/.664 May slash line.

Hiura’s hitting prowess is unmatched in the Brewers’ minor league system. The Brewers’ pipeline is filled with hitters that either have low-contact and high-power or vice versa. Two examples of this mismatch are Double-A first baseman Jake Gatewood and Triple-A shortstop Mauricio Dubon (now injured). Both have limited ceilings because of the one-sided nature of their offensive game. Hiura, on the other hand, presents the whole package. He grades out as having an elite hit tool, while possessing at least average power at maturity with the potential for more. In addition, he is expected to further develop his plate discipline which will make him a high-level on base threat. Strikeouts aren’t an issue either – he currently carries a 20.6% rate on the season, which is very palatable in today’s game. He should continue to improve in this area as well as he becomes more accustomed with professional pitching, and could ultimately settle in the 13-15% range.

Now to the two questions everyone wants the answers to – where will he play in the field, and when does he get to Milwaukee? The answer to the first question could take many routes, but the most likely is second base. His arm issues are concerning, but as long as he can keep it in playable condition he will be fine. The worst-case scenario would be recurring pain and/or injury that keeps him out of the line-up, which would likely necessitate a trade eventually to an AL team where he could DH. Some have floated the possibility of him playing left field, but I cannot see that happening with the Brewers’ current outfield plethora, along with some impressive prospects that will be ascending to the big-league club at the same time.

The answer to the second question is much simpler: He will get to Milwaukee when he’s ready. David Stearns and Co. have proven to be adept at determining when a player can take the leap from Triple-A. There is a reason we haven’t seen Corbin Burnes make a start yet, just like there’s a reason Freddy Peralta was sent back down to Triple-A. They require seasoning so that when they do make that leap, they are in the best possible position to succeed and contribute. Accordingly, Hiura is not going to be rushed to the big leagues even though the Brewers’ middle infield has been futile offensively. If Hiura proves to be too advanced for the Double-A level come the end of July, we could see him promoted to Triple-A Colorado Springs for the remainder of the season. However, I believe there is close to a zero-percent chance he makes it to Milwaukee before the end of this year. Even though his bat could potentially have some success currently, he still needs much more development defensively before he is major-league ready.

Hiura could be a big name in Milwaukee for many years – but that ride is not yet ready to begin. When it does, it could be something truly special.

So be patient, Brewers Nation. Keston Hiura – the hitting machine – will soon enough be coming to a ballpark near you.

Brewers deal reliever Smith to Giants

Just before the announcement of the trade involving Jeremy Jeffress and Jonathan Lucroy, the Brewers made their first deal of the day. Will Smith, a veteran of five years, including three with Milwaukee, was traded to the San Fransisco Giants in exchange for two prospects. The trade was first reported by Yahoo! Sports.

The Brewers acquired Smith via trading Nori Aoki to the Royals in 2013. He only has the rest of this season of guaranteed team control, before he enters arbitration years each of the next three years.