With a mix of young talent, new veterans, and the ol’ reliable Brewers vets, it really makes for a difficult decision on who to put where on a daily bases for skip Craig Counsell. The Brewers have a surplus of players in a few different positions, but what makes it even more interesting is the differences in contracts from player to player.
For example, Keon Broxton and Brett Phillips statistically look like the odd men out, with Yelich, Cain, and Braun. But, with the both of them making a combined little over $1 million dollars (!!!!) for 2018, it definitely pays to keep them around.
Likewise at first, Eric Thames will make $5 million this year, and Jesus Aguilar made $536,000 last year, and it’s looking like he will be making around the same this year. Again, it pays to keep them both around. Instead of shopping the guys to make room at a different position, or due to cap issues, the 2018 Brewers will have the luxury of having a deep, and cheap bench.
With all of these things considered, here is my stab at what I think the line up would be in a must win game, obviously there will be days off, lefty righty match ups, platoons, etc.
Starter: Manny Pina
Reserve: Steven Vogt
This is a close battle for the catcher position. Manny brings the rocket arm, great game management, decent bat, .279 in 2017, and energy to the dug out. The wiley vet Vogt brings a locker room presence, decent arm, tons of experience, and a decent bat as well, batting a career .251. But in the end, Manny Pina has the slight edge over Vogt in my opinion.
Starter: Eric Thames
Reserve: Jesus Aguilar
Spot starts: Ryan Braun?
Another close race in the Brewers line up, first base. Thames and Aguilar both had their highs and lows over the course of 2017. Of course Thames had that absolutely ridiculous April, but he mellowed out throughout the rest of the season, finishing with 31 dingers, .359 on base percentage, 63 RBIs, and a .993 fielding percentage, in his first year back from the Korean Baseball Organization, KBO.
Aguilar had somewhat of a break out season out of nowhere in 2017, he smacked 16 home runs, with an on base percentage of .331, 52 RBIs, and a fielding percentage of .988. He was reliable when Thames was resting, or was moved to left to cover for an injured Braun.
Finally, due to a cluttered outfield, it has been rumored that Braun will be seeing some time at first. Personally, I think Braun needs to be in the lineup for his bat as many games as possible, so I am a big fan of this. But, he was a shaky 3rd basemen as a rookie, and I would think him being average defensively is a long shot.
In the end, Thames takes the cake over Jesus.
Starter: Eric Sogard
Reserve: Jonathan Villar, Hernan Perez
I feel like a broken record at these first positions, but another tough decision for the Brewers, but in the end I give the nod to Sogard. Eric Sogard joined the team from the A’s early last season, and in 94 games, Sogard had a .393 on base percentage and a .988 fielding percentage at second. He will not bring much for power batting, but he can get on base for the big hitters, and cover his position well.
Jonathan Villar had a down year compared to 2016, his on base percentage was down to .293 in 122 games, and only stole 23 bases, compared to 62 in 2016. His fielding percentage at second was .963 in his first year since transitioning from short, but he showed some promise.
Finally, there is Hernan Perez, what a great guy to have on your team. He can play literally any position. He played all 3-outfield positions last year, all 4-infield positions last year, pitched a scoreless inning in a blow out, and rumor has it, he is the emergency catcher. If you don’t respect this man, kindly stop reading here.
Starter: Orlando Arica
Reserve: Perez, Villar, Sogard
No competition here, Orlando Arica will be the Brewers shortstop for years to come. In his coming out party of 2017, Arica had a .277 average, 15 bombs, and 53 RBI’s batting mostly in the 8th spot. Defensively, he had the most put outs in the league at short, 4th in assist, 3rd in double plays turned; long story short he was around top 5 defensively in almost every category. Dudes a freak with his glove, has a cannon of a right arm, and will be a gold glove candidate for years to come.
Starter: Travis Shaw
Reserve: Perez, Sogard
The Mayor of Ding Dong City, Travis Shaw, will be the Brewers 3rd basemen for the future. After basically stealing him from Boston Travis Shaw has quickly became a major part of the Brew Crew and is still reaching his prime. In 2017, the 27-year-old Shaw batted .273, with 31 ding dongs, and 101 RBI’s. Defensively, he is solid at the corner position, with a .975 fielding percentage in 2017, and throws lasers over to first. Shaw is a great all around player offensively and defensively, and considering Milwaukee is paying him $544,000 this year he might be the best value in baseball.
Starter: Christian Yelich
Reserve: Domingo Santana, Brett Phillips, Keon Broxton, Perez, Thames, Braun
After trading for Yelich this off-season, the only question about what to do with him in the batting order. The 26 year old will be playing in every game he is healthy for, minus the occasional day off, but is a former Gold Glover in left back in 2014. Yelich is locked up for the next 5 years in Milwaukee, so fans in left field better get used to watching him play- he is cemented out there. No need for stats.
Starter: Lorenzo Cain
Reserves A: Keon Broxton, Brett Phillips
Reserves B: Perez, Villar
Lorenzo Cain is back in Milwaukee after beginning his career here on a 5 year, $80 million dollar free agent deal. For a team that rarely spends money, or signs a big deal, it is obvious that he will play every single game possible in center. He batted .300 last year, with 15 home runs and 49 RBI’s, and defensively had a .984 fielding percentage. He may be shifted to right every now and then to get Broxton’s speed, or Phillips arm in the game, but he will be the center fielder for the next few years- that’s the plan anyways.
Starter: Ryan Braun
Reserve A: Domingo Santana
Reserve B: Broxton, Phillips, Perez
This one is tough, really tough. Say what you want, Ryan Braun is still a must play guy. He is a career .302 batter, the Brewers all time homeruns leader, and the face of our franchise for the last 10 years or so. In my opinion, the Brewers should have traded him last off-season to a contender when we were in an obvious rebuild, but due to his big contract, and the Crew now being contenders, he’s not going anywhere.
Santana is a young stud out there, but just not quite at Braun’s level yet. Personally, I hope he will be traded for pitching, because he has high value now, and we have no room for him, but as of now he is still a Brewer.
These are just my thoughts, it will be a tough decision, and I know the line up will change 100 times this season, but I wanted to put something on paper.
What are your thoughts for the upcoming 2018 Brewers line up?