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Thursday, October 17th 2019
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Brewers Prospect Trent Grisham: The Breakout

Entering 2019, scouting services had been souring on Brewers’ prospect Trent Grisham for years. After a tremendous offensive showing (.309/.424/.430) immediately following his selection in the first round of the 2015 MLB Draft, Grisham had failed to post numbers even close to those up until this year.

With three consecutive disappointing seasons at the plate, this is what MLB Pipeline’s scouting report said about Trent Grisham prior to 2019:

Grisham is still in search of his comfort zone as a hitter. He looked particularly lost at the plate in 2018, setting up so far off the plate with an open stance that his front foot was borderline out of the batter’s box. Grisham’s stance along with his naturally passive approach opened the door for pitchers to attack him, and he struggled to drive the baseball even when he got a hittable pitch.

Luckily for Grisham and the Brewers, 2019 has been a different story. Grisham’s first-round talent is shining through… and it’s safe to say that he has found his “comfort zone as a hitter”.

Through 63 games with the Double-A Biloxi Shuckers, Grisham posted a slash line of .254/.371/.504 with 13 home runs. Those 13 home runs are his highest total for an entire season, with his previous high being 8 home runs over 133 games and 569 at bats during 2017. This breakout performance led to Grisham’s promotion to the Triple-A San Antonio Missions.

While most prospects need an adjustment period when arriving to a new level, Grisham started Triple-A right where he left off in Biloxi. So far in 25 games, he is hitting a robust .357/.427/.735 with 10 home runs and a wRC+ of 174, meaning that he is performing 74% better than the league-average at the plate.

Behind Grisham’s offensive breakout is a significant change in his approach at the plate that actually seems to be multiple years in the making. Grisham, who has been regarded as a “passive” hitter that hits for contact and attempts to draw walks, steadily increased his percentage of pulled balls over the last threeseasons. Since 2016, he has increase his pull rate from 32.9%, to 40.1%, to 43.3%, to this year where it sits at a lofty 47.3%. This has allowed him to hit with more power.

In addition, Grisham has combined his increased pull rate transformation with an increase in the amount of fly balls he hits. Since 2016, his fly ball rate has jumped from 30.7% to a hearty 46.5%. With that increase in fly ball rate came a simultaneous rise in his home-run-to-fly-ball rate (HR/FB), as it increased from 6.1% in 2018 to 18.1% in 2019.

Finally, Grisham succeeded in keeping the one area of his offensive game that had kept him relevant as a prospect – his patience and plate discipline. Grisham’s walk and strikeout profiles are next-level good, as in Double-A he walked 15.5% of the time while striking out just 17.7% of the time. Those numbers have decreased to 11.2% and 13.8% in Triple-A, respectively, which is still an outstanding showing.

All of this adds up to Grisham re-establishing himself as a legitimate top prospect in a Brewers’ farm system that currently is thin at the top. Grisham may be the closest thing the Brewers have to a prospect with a combination of performance and tools that screams “potential all-star”.

With no immediate opening for Grisham in the Milwaukee outfield, he will certainly be kept in Triple-A to continue his development and ready him for a future role. However, given his production and potential, Grisham could be used as a trade chip over the next week and a half as the Brewers attempt to bolster their roster for a playoff surge. With the Brewers’ thin farm system, Grisham is one player that teams surely will inquire about in trade talks, and he could be a key piece in any impactful trade getting completed. 

Brewers at a Crossroads with Jhoulys Chacin

Brewers’ starting pitcher Jhoulys Chacin enjoyed a standout campaign in 2018. Leading the starting staff with a 15-8 record and 3.50 ERA in 35 games started, he was a reliable workhorse who performed admirably down the stretch (see: Game 163 at Wrigley Field).

Unfortunately for both Chacin and the Brewers, his 2019 performance is a shadow of what we became accustomed to during his first year in Milwaukee. In 18 starts this season, Chacin has posted a 3-10 record with a 5.67 ERA. What changed for the guy that many expected would be the staff ace for a repeat playoff run?

Most noticeable is a massive increase in the rate which Chacin gives up home runs. From 2016-2018, Chacin’s home runs allowed per nine innings (HR/9) never exceeded 1.0, with him placing 13th among all starting pitchers in 2018 with a HR/9 rate of 0.84. In 2019, that rate has more than doubled to 1.89, which ranks him 6th worst among pitchers that have thrown at least 80 innings. While some may attribute this seismic shift to the “juiced ball”, the jump for Chacin does not tie solely to that – the league-wide HR/9 rate has increased by about 20%, while Chacin’s has increased by 125%. It has more to do with Chacin’s individual performance than anything else.

In line with Chacin’s home run issues is an increase in hard contact against him. During 2018, his hard contact percentage was 36.6%, putting him just in line with the league average of 35.3%. In 2019, he has allowed hard contact on 47.6% of balls put in play against him, almost 10 percentage points higher than the league average of 38.1%. Once again, this is an increase that seems to be attributable to Chacin’s performance, not the league’s elevated offensive environment.

Given his struggles, what is the next move for the Brewers with Chacin? There are three options: keep him in the rotation with the hope he straightens it out, move him to the bullpen, or designate him for assignment, which would effectively be his release from the Brewers.

Keeping him in the rotation is likely for the moment, unless the Brewers acquire a starting pitcher at the deadline. The Brewers have tried internal options Adrian Houser, Freddy Peralta, and Corbin Burnes, and none have provided results that warrant a rotation spot over Chacin. However, Chacin is certainly the weakest link amongst the current five starters, and his removal would need to be followed by a deadline acquisition. If the Brewers are serious about contending, you have to think that they will pursue and complete a trade for a starting pitcher over the next week and a half.

If that trade removes Chacin from the rotation, it would leave the Brewers with two options: demoting Chacin to the bullpen, or designating him for assignment. The challenge with demoting Chacin to the bullpen is that he does not have a profile that necessarily fits a bullpen role. Most starters-turned-relievers succeed because it allows them to concentrate on a two-pitch mix that works in a relief role, but not in a starting one where they need to keep hitters off balance for multiple trips through the batting order. In 2019, Chacin only has had one pitch that is consistently successful – his slider (.368 slugging percentage against). Both of his other two main offerings (four-seam fastball and sinker) are allowing slugging percentages in excess of .660. Putting him in the bullpen may allow him to throw either of these pitches less frequently, but he still will only have one effective pitch in his slider.

The other option is to designate Chacin for assignment. Making Chacin available on waivers, just one year removed from a 3.50 ERA, would almost certainly lead to him being claimed by at least one front office that believes they have the insights and tools to “fix him”. In the event no team claims him, Chacin would be able to refuse a minor league assignment due to his major-league service time, and the Brewers would be faced with releasing him and paying the rest of his contract. This would likely not be an issue given that Chacin is in the final year of his deal.

Of these options, I think that it couldn’t hurt to at least try Chacin in the bullpen if they do make a move for a starting pitcher. He could easily replace Jay Jackson or Burch Smith as an active reliever, as neither provide much upside and are mostly in Milwaukee to eat innings in a blowout scenario. Even if it ends up not working out due to his lack of a consistent second pitch, his upside in a relief role is easily higher than either Jackson or Smith.

Time is ticking for Jhoulys. With only one more turn in the rotation for him before the Brewers hit the deadline, his next start may shape his future in Milwaukee.

Travis Shaw Minor League Update

The Mayor of Ding Dong City for lack of a better word, has been awful to this point in the 2019 MLB season. Before being sent down to the minors on June 28th, Shaw had 212 plate appearances for the Brewers and was hitting just .164 with an OPS of .568. He only had 30 hits and just wasn’t seeing the ball well. He seemed to be swinging right through it. All of his struggles made him good for a -0.8 WAR. Shaw’s struggles have been tough to watch considering he’s been a staple in the middle of Milwaukee’s order for the last two years. In the last two, he has averaged a .258 BA, .844 OPS, 134 hits, 32 home runs and 94 RBIs. It is very rare to see a hitter as good as Travis Shaw to go as cold as he has and stay cold as long as he has.

However, Travis Shaw’s luck may be beginning to change. Since being sent down, he seems to be finding himself more and more at the plate with every at-bat. In Triple-A, he has played in 13 games, has had 40 at bats and has generated 13 hits which is good for a .325 BA. Also, The Mayor of DDC has added 5 home runs, 1 double, 8 runs, and 15 RBIs. Especially in his last 7, he has been on fire. Shaw has had 22 at-bats, gotten 9 hits (.409 BA) with 3 of them being homers and 1 double. These hits have also given him 12 RBIs.

Even though Shaw is doing well, the Brewers would be making the worst move of the year calling him up and sending Keston Hiura back down. I’m very happy Shaw is starting to produce but calling him up would not be justified with Hiura doing as well as he has. Since being called up when Shaw was sent down, Hiura has played in 16 games and is hitting .367 with an OPS of 1.125. He has also added 5 doubles, 1 triple, and 4 home runs. Since July 7th, he has been on a 7 game hit streak and is batting .556 in 31 plate appearances with an OPS 1.761. Hiura may be the hottest hitter in baseball at the moment and is actually putting himself in the NL Rookie of the Year conversation.

If Travis Shaw continues to hit well throughout the rest of the season, he could become a valuable addition to a Milwaukee playoff team when the roster goes to 40. He would be a solid option as a backup first, second, and third baseman. He would also provide value as a pinch hitter. The only way I could see Shaw playing another regular season game for the Brewers is if Moose, Hiura, Aguilar or Thames suffer from an injury. Even though Shaw might not see action outside of the minors for a while, him starting to hit the way Brewer fans are used to is a good sign for his future in Milwaukee.

*Stats accurate as of 7/18/19 at 4:15 p.m.*

*Stats found on fangraphs.com, baseball-reference.com, and MiLB.com*

Potential Starting Pitcher Targets for the Brewers

The Brewers are currently in their worst stretch of the season. It feels like they haven’t won consecutive games in ages. Despite all that, they sit just 2.5 games behind for the Cubs for the division lead, and just a half game out of a wildcard spot. This team has plenty of issues, but some of them can be fixed at the trade deadline. The Brewers starting rotation has left a lot of room for improvement so far this year. They can’t get consistent quality starts and seem to never go past five or six innings, which is taxing the bullpen. There will be several good starting pitchers available at the deadline.

 

  1. Madison Bumgarner: The Giants ace’s name has been linked to the Brewers for a few weeks now. No, this isn’t the Mad Bum of old, but he is still a quality pitcher that would be a huge upgrade for the Brewers. This season Bumgarner has a 3.86 era with 121 strikeouts in just 116 innings. The Giants are playing much better as of late and are just four games out of a wild card spot, so there is a chance Mad Bum stays put in San Francisco.
  2. Noah Syndergaard: Another trade deadline has come and we are thinking the same thing. Will the Mets deal any of their starting pitching? The Mets ace has dealt with his fair share of injuries over the year and isn’t putting up the numbers we are accustomed to seeing. With that being said, Thor would obviously become the Brewers best starting pitcher and would come at a steep price. He’s under club control through the 2021 season. It’s never easy to part with good prospects, but when you can get an ace under team control for a few years, it’s an easier pill to swallow.
  3. Zack Wheeler: I feel like we have heard the Brewers linked to Wheeler the last two or three trade deadlines.   Teams might be a little leery for trading for Wheeler; he was just put on IL on 6/15 with shoulder fatigue. This is probably the worst possible time for this to happen. The Mets think he will only miss a start or two, but this is going to hurt his trade value. Wheeler is an unrestricted free agent after this season.
  4. Marcus Stroman: Stroman would be a great fit for the Brewers for a number of reasons. One, he’s under club control through next year, so it wouldn’t be just a couple month rental. Two, he’s third in the MLB in ground ball rate. According to MLB.com, Stroman has a 57.9% ground ball rate. Pitching in Miller Park while baseballs are flying out at an historic rate, a sinker baller would be perfect.

 

The Brewers are getting close to a breaking point in their season. They have shown flashes of playing really good baseball, and are currently showing they can be really bad as well. If they are serious about another playoff run, they need to make some moves at the end of the month. Acquiring a quality-starting pitcher could be the shot in the arm they need to get back on track.

The fire continues to Burn(es) for the Brewers

(All stats and pictures are from Fangraphs and Baseball Savant)

Life for Brewers relief pitcher Corbin Burnes hasn’t been as smooth sailing as most would have liked. After putting together a fantastic season last year in the show, it seemed to only make sense that he would improve this year. He was put into the starting rotation to start off the season, which was always the plan for the young pitcher. After struggling through 4 starts, Craig Counsell placed him back into the bullpen, where he had gained a lot of success in the past. Although a couple of appearances have been solid, lately he seemed to have lost it all. The question remaining is, why is this happening? 

There are two pitches that Burnes throws the most, the four seam fastball (52.4%) and the slider (31.2%).

First let’s break down the fastball compared to last year. The movement both vertical and horizontal are nearly identical to what they were last year. That is the same when it comes to velocity and the location. However, one thing that has changed for the better, has been the spin rate. It has improved from 2560 (2018) to 2656 (2019), which blew up statcast earlier in the season. From a mechanical aspect, everything is the same or better than it was last year, however the numbers are a much different story. 

This year on the fastball it is finding the barrel 10% more of the time, swing and miss is down 2%, K% has dropped 2%, and BB% is up 9%. To put it blatantly, hitters are getting more of a SLG off of it. How can this be, you may be asking, that will come later. Time to discuss the second most used pitch, the slider.

When it comes to the slider this year, everything about it is better, both mechanically and from a number standpoint. The movement he is getting on it this year is crazy insane. First thought on this is, okay throw the slider more, therefore getting hitters off of the fastball. If only if it were that simple. 

Corbin Burnes has had no issue this year getting ahead in counts and getting to two strikes. What happens after that, make him look like a completely different pitcher. This was very apparent in his last appearance against the Giants on July 14th. Corbin was consistently ahead in the count, but at the same time allowed 4 hits without recording an out. Two of the hits came off the fastball, while the other two came off of the slider. To break it down a little bit more here is the progression of two at bats that resulted in hits. 

 

vs Stephen Voght (result- double) vs Brandon Belt (result- single)
Pitch #1 curveball 1-0 count

#2 slider 1-1

#3 slider 1-2

#4 curveball 2-2

#5 four seam fastball 2-2

#6 changeup 2-2

#7 four seam fastball, double (pitch was left low and in, in the strike zone)

Pitch #1 four seam fastball 0-1 count

#2 slider 0-2

#3 slider, single (pitch was left over the plate, didn’t seem to break)

 

(Also a double off a slider that was left up on a 0-2 count, and a single off of a fastball on a 2-1 count)

Although Burnes is using the fastball and slider to get ahead in the count, they are also the pitches that falter mostly on 2-strike counts. This starts a whole different conversation when it comes to Burnes. Since he is getting beat on 2-strike counts, the following pictures are the fastball and slider in any count compared to a 2-strike count.

 

                                                        

Slider- in any count                                                          Slider- in 2-strike count

In these pictures you can see that in any count the slider ends up down in that inside corner most of the time, and further down out of the strike zone. With 2-strike counts it stays up a bit more into that hitting zone, which would make sense why he is getting beat at those times. Burnes gets a lot of swinging strikes when the ball is below the zone, that’s where it needs to be in a 0-2 and 1-2 count.    

                                                  

Four seam fastball- in any count                                 Four seam fastball- in 2-strike count        

You can see where this is the same as the slider, with 2-strikes instead of having a bit of a tail and breaking down, it stays up in the hitting zone. Then it turns into a straight 96 mph pitch down the heart of the plate that MLB hitters feast on.     

This is where things get hard because there is no statistical reason that explains this. The velocity and spin rate are consistent, and release point seems to have no correlation. The real reason this could be happening could be inside the head of Corbin Burnes. The best guess could be that he is attempting to throw it harder to get the strike out, taking the break or tail out of the pitch. That’s what this issue is beginning to come down to, what’s going on inside his head. Whether he is pressing to get the strikeout, or because he wants to pitch better. A conclusion to the issue is that as much as statistics have flooded the game of baseball, there is still a human on the mound.            

Jesus Aguilar…Good?

After a well-documented, horrible start to the year where even Chris Davis was hitting better than him, Jesus Aguilar is on the right track to turning around his season. As in, Jesus Aguilar is good again.

Since May 31st, Aguilar has played in 30 games and has had 63 plate appearances. During that 30 game span, Aguilar had a .309 batting average with an OBP of .397 and OPS of 1.015. That’s a better BA and OPS since May 31st than NL All-Stars, Josh Bell, Nolan Arenado, and Cody Bellinger. Sure, Aguilar has had a much smaller sample size than these guys, but he’s proving he can get just as hot at the plate as them. During his excellent hitting stint, Aguilar has also added 5 home runs, 10 RBIs, and has only struck out 13 times. The 5 home runs in 30 games may not seem like a lot, but if a player hit 5 dingers every 30 for 162 games, that would put that player around 27 home runs for the season. I don’t know about you, but if any Brewer hit 27 home runs in a season, I’d be happy. Since May 31st, Aguilar has remarkably raised his batting average 36 points and his OPS 125 points. Finally, Jesus went into the All-Star break scorching hot. In the last three games before the break, he had 6 hits in 10 at bats with 3 of them being home runs and 1 being a double. There may not be a hotter hitter in baseball than Jesus Aguilar.

The Brewers big, slugging, first baseman may not be slowing down. Last season, his breakout season, in the month of August, he hit .270 with and OPS of .877. 38% of his hits were XBH and 66% of those were home runs. He did this while starting 22 of 26 games. Since his extremely slow start, his BA and Slugging Percentage has steadily improved and past stats show that trend will continue. If Aguilar can end the season with a BA around .240 and an OPS around .800, I will consider his season a positive considering how poorly he started. If he also finishes with about 16-19 home runs and 55-60 RBI, I’ll be even happier.

Now, I’m not saying Aguilar is back to the player he was last year. However, with how much he was criticized during his struggles, it’s only fair to give him credit when he’s positively producing. Brewer fans should be excited, if Aguilar heats up around playoff time, which I think he will, he’s an incredible x-factor that can be pivotal in a series.

 

 

*Stats according to baseball-reference.com*

The Brewers May Have Bullpen Help In The Minors

The Brewers bullpen is currently 10th in the MLB in ERA with a 4.12 in 356 innings. However, it definitely doesn’t feel like they’re among the top third. I’m sure having a top ten ERA is largely because of All-Star closer, Josh Hader, who has a 2.16 ERA in 31 games. With the second half of the season about to begin in a week or two, the Brewers need some bullpen help if they want to stick with the Cubs in the NL Central. The good thing, the Brewers may not have to look any further than their own minor league system for bullpen help. Below is a list of 6 players I think could help the Brewers’ bullpen, even if it’s just a small role.

Trey Supak

Supak is a giant 6’5” 240 pound righty who screams promise every time he menacingly steps on the mound. He is a 23-year-old starting pitcher who has been dominating AA ball all season. Currently, Supak has pitched 109 innings and has a 2.23 ERA with 69 strikeouts. He is able to throw a fastball, change up, slider, and curve all for strikes at a really funky angle. Trey Supak could help the Brewers by being a reliable middle relief pitcher who can go as many innings as needed. Also, if things on the mound go well, Supak can step in and make a few starts. This could put a struggling pitcher like Jhoulys Chacin in the bullpen to find his groove. Supak is the 11th ranked prospect in the Brewers farm system according to MLB.com and he could be of use as the playoff race gets tighter.

Aaron Ashby

Aaron Ashby is the pitcher with the best “stuff” of this group. He has a curveball that he throws in the mid 90s that’s truly nasty. He can change speeds with that pitch and locate it as well as he does his above average fastball. With a very unique delivery, Ashby has proved in the minor leagues, that he’s a tough pitcher to face. So far in the minors, as a starter, he has pitched 85 innings and struck out 103 batters. He also has a very good 3.18 ERA. Ashby is a 6’2” lefty who is Milwaukee’s 9th ranked prospect according to MLB.com. He’s only 21-years-old but he already looks like someone who could help the Brewers pitching staff this season.

Clayton Andrews

Clayton Andrews may be the most exciting Brewer prospect to watch. Andrews is a 5’6” 22-year-old lefty reliever for Milwaukee’s A+ team. So far this season, Andrews has pitched 28 innings and struck out 44 batters. The lefty also has a 3.86 ERA. With a sidearm release and movement on every pitch he throws, especially his sweeping curveball, Andrews has the makings of a lefty specialist. It would not surprise me if the Brewers front office is already eyeing Andrews because of Alex Claudio’s inconsistency. Interestingly enough, Clayton Andrews can also fill in for outfielders if needed. Throughout his whole collegiate career he was a position player as well as a pitcher and that hasn’t changed in the pros. He has shown an ability to handle himself at the dish, in 33 plate appearances this season, Andrews is hitting .387 with an OPS of .811. Essentially, Andrews is the smaller, less-known, poor man’s version of Shohei Ohtani and Brendan McKay. Andrews could potentially spark the Brewers offense and pitching staff later in the season.

Cody Ponce

The same way Trey Supak is the dominating starting pitcher for Milwaukee’s AA team, Cody Ponce is the dominating relief pitcher. Like Supak, Ponce has a monstrous frame but he is actually an inch taller listed at 6’6”. Ponce is a right hander with a fastball and cutter that both look identical coming out of his hand. He is able to throw both of these pitches for strikes while also sprinkling in a few curveballs and change ups. A cutter is a useful pitch for a reliever to have considering it can induce a lot of ground balls which can help a pitcher get out of a jam. So far in the minors, Ponce has appeared in 20 games and thrown 30 innings. In these innings he also has 33 strikeouts and an ERA of just 1.80. If a player like Corbin Burnes keeps struggling, who knows, maybe a more reliable pitcher down the stretch could be Cody Ponce.

JT Hintzen

Hintzen is a right handed relief pitcher who is probably the riskiest option for the Brewers to call up. For the Brewers A+ affiliate he has pitched 35 innings and generated 48 strikeouts. With an ERA of 3.34, the numbers have looked good for Hintzen. He has a power fastball and a couple great breaking pitches. His only issue is walks. By calling up Hintzen now, the Brewers are either getting a guy who’s striking out the side or a guy who’s walking guys on base and struggling to get out of an inning.

Rodrigo Benoit

Rodrigo Benoit is the Brewers’ A+ team’s closer. He is another right hander who could be a dark horse call up candidate if Milwaukee gets desperate. In 28 innings this season, he is 6-0 with a 1.29 ERA. He has also added 24 strikeouts and 12 saves. As an older prospect, Benoit has been closing games for a few years and may be the guy the Brewers need as the stakes build in the postseason.

As you can see, the Brewers have talented arms in the minors, it’s just a matter of it they are ready for the pressure of an MLB game. If Milwaukee calls up one or two of these pitchers and they make a positive impact, there is no question that the Brewers can recapture their magic from last season.

*Stats accurate as of 7/5/19, 6:00 pm*

Brewers Midseason Grades: The Pitchers

Earlier this week, I took a look at grades for each of the Brewers’ position players thus far in the season. Now, it’s the pitchers’ turn. They have received a lot of flak over the last few months for their performance, with many fans pegging them as inadequate for a team with playoff aspirations. Currently ranked 17th in MLB in ERA and 13th in WAR, the staff has been serviceable, but nothing special. Let’s take a took at their individual performances and their contributions to the Brewers’ 2019 success.

The Pitchers

Chase Anderson (57.0 IP, 4.42 ERA, 0.7 WAR) – This analysis rings true for many Brewers’ pitchers, but Anderson started strong and tailed off as of late before a strong showing in his last start. Of all the Brewers’ starters, he struggles most going through the opponent’s order for a third time, limiting his effectiveness as a starting option. Grade: C

Matt Albers (35.1 IP, 3.57 ERA, 0.4 WAR) – Despite not being too popular with fans after his 2018 collapse, Albers has quietly put together a solid season out of the Brewers’ bullpen. He’s more often than not gotten the job done. Grade: B

Jacob Barnes (19.2 IP, 6.86 ERA, -0.1 WAR) – Despite having good velocity, he has not been able to put it together as a late-inning option. Grade: F

Corbin Burnes (42.2 IP, 8.44 ERA, -0.3 WAR) – After a tremendous season out of the bullpen in 2018, Burnes transition into the rotation went less than smoothly, and his reintroduction to the bullpen has brought many of the same issues. He currently is not capable of being trusted pitching high-leverage innings. Grade: F

Jhoulys Chacin (72.1 IP. 5.60 ERA, 0.0 WAR) – The Brewers’ 2018 ace has not experienced the same success in 2019. He is allowing many more home runs and has seen a large drop in his groundball rate. Grade: D+

Alex Claudio (35.1 IP, 4.33 ERA, -0.3 WAR) – Acquired to be a lockdown option at the back of the Brewers’ bullpen, he has had a rocky season up to this point, mixing wholly ineffective outings with effective ones. His WAR takes a hit due to his low strikeout rate, but his ERA is actually better than the league-average reliever. Grade: D+

Zach Davies (91.2 IP, 3.24 ERA, 1.0 WAR) – After a rough 2018, Davies bounced back to start the year and has been a cog in the Brewers’ rotation. His performance going forward will be a large determinant of the Brewers’ success as a team. Grade: B+

Gio Gonzalez (31.0 IP, 3.19 ERA, 0.8 WAR) – Prior to his injury, Gonzalez provided much needed rotation help after being signed as a free agent. He slots in as the Crew’s #2 starter when healthy. Grade: B+

Junior Guerra (42.2 IP, 3.80 ERA, 0.3 WAR) – The results for Guerra in his first season as a full-time reliever have been solid. The Brewers have relied heavily upon him in high-leverage situations. Grade: B

Josh Hader (41.2 IP, 2.16 ERA, 1.8 WAR) – Hader has been his usual dominant self as he’s taken the reins of the closer role in 2019. He is striking out more than half of the batters he faces. Grade: A

Adrian Houser (38.2 IP, 3.26 ERA, 0.4 WAR) – Houser has been phenomenal as a reliever and subpar as a starter – his ERA in relief appearances is 1.05 in 25.2 innings. He is looking like a legitimate high leverage bullpen arm, and if he does not stick in the rotation he could fill the fireman role that Josh Hader performed in last season. Grade: B+

Jeremy Jeffress (32.1 IP, 4.18 ERA, 0.4 WAR) – After an otherworldly 2018, Jeffress has come back to earth this season. He is striking out fewer hitters and inducing groundballs at a much lower rate. Grade: C+

Jimmy Nelson (14.0 IP, 8.36 ERA, -0.1 WAR) – The results post-injury rehab have not been pretty for Jimmy, which is surely not a testament to the countless hours of training and treatment he put in to get himself back on a major-league mound. Hopefully he finds it in the second-half. Grade: F

Freddy Peralta (58.0 IP, 5.12 ERA, 0.8 WAR) – As his WAR suggests, Freddy has been much better than his high ERA indicates. While inconsistent while switching back and forth between starting and relieving, he’s shown that his ceiling is still sky high. Grade: C+

Brandon Woodruff (102.0 IP, 3.79 ERA, 2.8 WAR) – It looks like the Brewers may finally have found their ace with Woodruff. He currently ranks fifth in WAR among starting pitchers in the National League, and has led the Brewers rotation through its struggles. Grade: A

And we couldn’t forget Milwaukee’s (now-former) shutdown reliever…

Hernan Perez (2.0 IP, 0.00 ERA, 0.0 WAR) – His efforts provided some much needed comedic relief during two blowouts the Brewers were on the wrong end of. Grade: A for effort

Brewers Midseason Grades: The Position Players

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

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

Position Player Grades 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Brewers DFA Hernan Perez Among Other Roster Moves

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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