The position to pay attention to for the upcoming Brewers season

The trade for outfielder Christian Yelich, the signing of former All-Star outfielder Lorenzo Cain, the experiment of moving Ryan Braun from the outfield to first base and the push for another starting pitcher have dominated the offseason storylines for the Milwaukee Brewers. But it’s another position that’s not garnering headlines that fans of the team should be keeping an eye on — second base.

Why? Well, the Brewers were one of the worst teams in baseball when it came to production out of that position in 2017. The push to fix it has left Milwaukee with a lot of options as well as question marks. The players who are poised to see time at second base this season are Jonathan Villar, Eric Sogard, Hernan Perez, and Mauricio Dubon.

A name missing there is Neil Walker. The Brewers traded for the veteran last season, but in the wake of the Yelich trade and Cain singing, it’s unlikely Milwaukee brings him back.

The first option, and the one with the most upside, is Jonathan Villar. The switch-hitting Villar is coming off a disappointing season in 2017 after a big year during the 2016 campaign. At 26 years olf, Villar is relatively young and still learning how to play the game at the major league level.

Some of his errors in the field and on the bases were head-scratching, but can be manageable when he produces like he did in 2016. That season, Villar hit .285 with 19 home runs and 63 RBIs from the lead-off spot. He also added 63 stolen bases, which led Major League Baseball.

Last season, Villar hit .241 with 11 home runs and 40 RBIs. His numbers were down pretty much across the board, but took significant hits in stolen bases, on-base percentage and slugging percentage.

Overall, Villar had a lot more swings and misses in 2017, which didn’t allow him to get on base, and ultimately steal bases. Milwaukee already has a scary lineup, but if it gets the 2016 version of Villar, it could field one of the best offenses in baseball.

Eric Sogard is coming off one of his best seasons as a professional, and is another candidate to get time at second base. Sogard has had injury issues that have plagued his career, but stayed relatively healthy for the Brewers last season. He signed a one-year deal with Milwaukee right after the season and should be a heavily used utility player.

Hernan Perez, like Sogard, should be used as a utility player once again this season and should see spot starts at second. Perez is the most versatile player on the Brewers roster and potentially in the major leagues. He played every position beside catcher last season, including getting one inning on the mound.

Perez will find playing time at many positions this season, and could find a permanent spot at second base if Villar doesn’t produce and Sogard doesn’t stay healthy.

The biggest wildcard of all the players is Mauricio Dubon. The 23-year-old from Honduras is practically a spitting image of the team’s shortstop — Orlando Arcia. He came up playing the same spot, but the Brewers moved him to second base due to Arcia playing at such a high level. Dubon like Arcia, is a slick fielding infielder with a cannon for an arm.

He’s a player that will hit for average, steal bases, and play gold glove caliber defense. Dubon won’t bring the power that Villar or Perez will, but the Brewers lineup might not need that from him. He appeared in the MLB Futures Game last season and had a nice performance. It’s unlikely that he’ll start the season in the big leagues, but should see some time with the major league club.

For my money, I think Brewers fans should hope for a bounce back season from Villar, as he has the highest ceiling of any of the potential second base candidates this season. I like having guys like Sogard and Perez as key utility players, who can play multiple positions and are a reliable bat off the bench. I’ve been a Dubon advocate for a couple of years now, and am looking forward to see what he can do when he arrives in the big leagues. I don’t think he will have a huge impact on the team this season, but could be the second baseman of the future.

Here’s why the Brewers should hold on to OF Domingo Santana

With the trade for Christian Yelich and the signing of Lorenzo Cain last week, the Brewers now have a surplus of outfielders. Besides Yelich and Cain, Milwaukee also has Ryan Braun, Keon Broxton, and Brett Phillips, all who primarily play the three outfield positions.

Undoubtedly, the Brewers will have to move some of the outfielders on their roster, but should hold on to Domingo Santana, who had a breakout season in 2017. Santana’s name has come up  in multiple reports as a player the Brewers are currently shopping. Many have speculated that Milwaukee will be likely looking to trade Santana for a high-end starting pitcher.

The Brewers and Santana have been linked to teams and players such as the Tampa Bay Rays with Chris Archer and the Cleveland Indians with most notably Danny Salazar. It makes sense that Milwaukee would look into potential trade partners for Santana, but should at least think about holding on to a player of his caliber.

Since coming to Milwaukee as part of the trade that sent Carlos Gomez to the Houston Astros, Santana’s numbers have shown continued improvement. His batting average, on-base percentage, slugging, and OPS, were all up in each of the last three seasons. Not only has his batting production increased, but his defensive runs saved and adjusted range statistics have also improved. He also has a cannon for an arm out in right field. MLB Network ranked Santana as the 8th best right fielder heading into 2018.

The Brewers have also talked about moving Ryan Braun to first base, which would make sense since he took a step back in the outfield last season, but is still a bat you want in the lineup. Braun used to be an above-average outfielder, but age and injuries have started to take its toll. Of the five outfielders listed above, Braun is the worst outfielder of the group.

Santana’s contract goes right along with both Yelich and Cain’s deals. Cain will be under contract through the 2022 season making an average of $16 million a year. Yelich is under club control through 2022, making an average of just over $7 million per year, while Santana is under contract through 2021 and is eligible for arbitration for the first time in 2019. Overall the outfield of Cain, Yelich, and Santana will be under contract for the next four to five years at a reasonable price.

The Brewers also still have a good enough farm system to trade for a top-end starter. Prior to the Yelich trade, a move in which Milwaukee sent three top 100 prospect to the Marlins, the team’s farm system was ranked eighth by Baseball America. On Monday, the outlet had Milwaukee at No. 11. The Brewers still have three prospects ranked in the top 100 and two more who just narrowly missed the cut. The cupboard definitely isn’t bare in Milwaukee.

Overall, if the Brewers hold on to Santana, they would have one of the most productive outfields in MLB both offensively and defensively. Santana also has a very team-friendly deal and would be under contract for another four years, which would give Milwaukee financial flexibility. The Brewers also have a good enough farm system to go out and acquire top-end talent with the prospects they still have in the minor leagues.

Why the Brewers aren’t necessarily going “all in” with these recent moves

The Milwaukee Brewers and general manager David Stearns are back at it again. The club is the talk of the off-season right now after trading for Miami Marlins outfielder Christian Yelich and signing former All-Star outfielder Lorenzo Cain as a free agent Thursday night.

Milwaukee still has a crowded outfield, which means that more moves will be likely to come before the start of spring training and players such as Domingo Santana, Brett Phillips, and Keon Broxton could be on the move. Despite all of these transactions, though, the Brewers aren’t necessarily going all in with a win-now mentality.

Here are some of the reasons why the Brewers didn’t mortgage their future and are not only going to contend for a playoff spot this season, but for a World Series for the next five years.

Trading for Yelich cost Milwaukee its top prospect in Lewis Brinson and other highly ranked prospects in Isan Diaz (6th), Monte Harrison (14th), and Jordan Yamamoto (21st). Yelich is the player right now that the Brewers had hoped Brinson could become and the one Miami is banking on him becoming.

The 23-year-old Brinson spent some time in the majors last season, but struggled when given the chance to play. At 26 years old, Yelich has been playing in the big leagues for five years, and is coming off a season in which he hit .282 with 18 home runs and 81 RBIs. He did that while hitting at Marlins Park, a much bigger stadium than Milwaukee’s Miller Park.

Milwaukee included 21-year-old Diaz in the deal and was able to do so because of the depth at its middle infield spots. The Brewers currently have Orlando Arcia at shortstop and are hoping for a bounce back season from Jonathan Villar at second base. The Brewers also have their seventh-ranked prospect in Mauricio Dubon, who is expected to see time at the big league level this season. Milwaukee also has another top prospect, Jean Carmona (13th) at that position.

The 22-year-old Harrison was another prospect that became expendable because of the depth at the outfield position. Harrison had a big season last year between low and high-A. He was still a ways away from the big leagues at this point in his career.

The last player involved in the trade, 21-year-old Jordan Yamamoto is coming off a good season in high-A with Carolina, but was among the organization top-10 pitching prospects.

Yelich will be under contract through a good chunk of his prime. He won’t be eligible for free agency until 2022. Yelich will command the most money during the 2021 season, a season in which he will make $15 million. Milwaukee basically nailed down an All-Star caliber player for a reasonable price during the prime of his career.

Many fans have questioned the signing of Cain, especially after trading for Yelich. Yes, the Brewers still have a crowded outfield. Yes, Cain turns 32 years old during this upcoming season. Yes, he’s making an average of $16 million per year over the next five season with this new deal.

What many people don’t know is that is that every Major League Baseball owner was given $50 million due to the deal that Disney struck with the league related to streaming and marketing. This means that Milwaukee’s owner, Mark Attanasio, could put that money towards the Brewers team salary. In the past, Attanasio hasn’t hesitated to spend money when he feels the team can contend and these moves suggest he does.

The Brewers could essentially use that money to pay for part of Cain’s $80 million contract. This would leave Milwaukee on the hook for $30 million over the next five years, which makes it a much more team-friendly deal at $6 million per year over five years. Under the ownership of Attanasio, the Brewers have seen their team salary rise as high as $110 million. The Brewers expected salary is around $90 million for the upcoming season, which should leave the Brewers with roughly $20 million dollars a year to spend on future signings, extensions, etc. The Brewers still have financial flexibility to make future moves.

Brewers fans are a winning starved bunch and just seeing progress from off-season moves like these can lead to this kind of “all in” thinking by fans. The moves that Stearns and the Brewers made yesterday by no means show that the Brewers are in the “win now” mode. These two transactions are just another step in the rebuild and the push for getting to the World Series in the near future. Milwaukee definitely added better players to their roster yesterday, but still have a farm full of prospects, financial flexibility, and time to build towards championships.

Brewers beat Pittsburgh 1-0, move to within a game of Colorado in wild card race

The Milwaukee Brewers continued their push towards the postseason Tuesday night with a 1-0 shutout victory over Pittsburgh.

Chase Anderson threw six scoreless innings with eight strikeouts to pick up his 11th win of the year, though it didn’t come easy. In the sixth inning, Pittsburgh managed to get a runner to third with no outs. Anderson had an answer though, getting Andrew McCutchen to strike out and then a pair of fly balls to get out of the inning.

With Anderson’s night done, the duo of Anthony Swarzak and Corey Knebel came on to finish things off, with the latter picking up his 37th save. It was Milwaukee’s 12th shutout this year and the fourth in the month of September alone.

The only offense Milwaukee got – or needed – came courtesy of a solo home run in the fourth inning from Domingo Santana, his 26th long ball of the year.

Thanks to a walk-off win by San Francisco over Colorado, the Brewers moved to within one game of the Rockies in the race for the final wild card spot in the National League. The Crew remained 3 ½ games back of Chicago in the NL Central after the Cubs won their seventh straight game.

Milwaukee will finish off its series with the Pirates tonight before coming home for four games against the Cubs at Miller Park.

Thames, Santana help the Brewers to a 5-2 win over Pittsburgh

Milwaukee took care of Pittsburgh 7-2 on Tuesday night, but the Brewers failed to gain any ground in their push for a playoff spot.

Brent Suter gave up two runs in three innings of work before turning things over to six relievers to go the rest of the way. Jeremy Jeffress got the win thanks to 1 2/3 innings of scoreless ball, while Corey Knebel picked up his 35th save of the season.

The Brewers were paced offensively by first baseman Eric Thames and right fielder Domingo Santana, as the duo combined for four of the team’s five RBIs, including the 29th homer of the season for Thames.

Unfortunately for the Brewers, all the teams they are chasing in the National League also won, meaning they are a ½ game back of St. Louis and 2 ½ games back of Chicago in the NL Central, and four games off Colorado’s pace for the second wild-card spot.

Milwaukee will close out its series with the Pirates on Wednesday night at Miller Park.

Brewers continue their playoff push, beat Washington 7-2

In a rare occurrence in the second half of the season, the Milwaukee offense and its pitching showed up in the same game, helping the Brewers to a 7-2 win over Washington on Sunday at Miller Park.

The offense was powered by Domingo Santana, who had a solo home run in the first inning and followed that with a two-run blast in the fourth. The right fielder drew a pair of walks in his other at-bats and finished the day with three runs scored. Left fielder Ryan Braun and first baseman Neil Walker each had a pair of hits.

As for the pitching, it was a group effort. Brent Suter got the start, going three innings and giving up two hits. Three relievers — Jeremy Jeffress, Jacob Barnes and Andrew Zwarzak – kept the shutout going, not allowing a hit in a combined five innings of work. Former starter Junior Guerra, who spent time in Triple-A the last month, allowed a two-run homer in the 9th, the only runs Washington managed for the afternoon.

Milwaukee ended up taking three of four from the NL East-leading Nationals and completed its six-game home stand 4-2.

With the win, the Brewers moved to within one game of Colorado in the push for the second wild card spot in the National League, and could be within a ½ game depending on the outcome of the Rockies contest with Arizona that was ongoing.

Now, the Brewers hit the road for six important games, first with a stop in Cincinnati and then in Chicago against the NL Central-leading Cubs.

Milwaukee falls 3-1 to the Dodgers in LA

Milwaukee’s offense remained virtually non-existent Friday night as the Brewers fell for a third time in four games, this one a 3-1 setback to the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Starter Kenta Maeda had a very good night for LA, going six innings and allowing just one hit – a solo homer from Domingo Santana – while striking out seven to move to 12-5 on the year. It marked the fourth straight game the Brewers had failed to score more than three runs.

“We’ve got to score more runs. It’s simple,” manager Craig Counsell said. “We’re facing good pitching and good teams, for sure, and that makes it really challenging.

“We’ve obviously got to create more opportunities.”

The struggles offensively overshadowed a strong start from Chase Anderson. He made it five innings, giving up two runs on six hits and striking out six, but ended up taking the loss to fall to 7-3.

Despite losing, Milwaukee remained three games back of Chicago in the NL Central and 3 ½ games back of Colorado for the final wild-card spot in the National League.

The Brewers and Dodgers will play again Saturday night in LA. Zach Davies gets the ball for Milwaukee, while Los Angeles will send Ross Stripling to the mound. First pitch is set for 8:10 p.m.

Brett Phillip’s bounce back season continues

Brett Phillips was the prized possession of the 2015 non-waiver trade deadline deal with the Houston Astros. The trade sent Carlos Gomez and Mike Fiers to the Astros in exchange for Phillips, Domingo Santana, Josh Hader, and Adrian Houser.

The Brewers had high expectations for Phillips, but it was Santana and Hader who continued to succeed after the trade. Santana made it to the big leagues with the Brewers at the end of the 2015 season and has been on the roster ever since. Hader climbed the ranks as one of the Brewers top pitching prospects before graduating to the bullpen this summer.

Phillips was once thought of as a top-5 prospect in the Milwaukee Brewers organization, but has since fallen out of the top-10, and ranks 12th. He struggled in Double-A with the Brewers affiliate after being traded. He also had the worst season of his minor league career the next year in Double-A. In 2016, he batted a career worse .229 and struck out 154 times. Phillips was nagged by injuries all season long.

Phillips entered this season in Triple-A and was finally completely healthy. He is having a breakout season this year, and it even got him two stints with the Milwaukee Brewers at the major league level. Phillips is currently hitting .318 with 17 home runs and 71 RBIs. He’s also hit 22 doubles and 10 triples to go along with his production. The Brewers organization is most impressed with his decreased strikeout rate. He has cut his strikeout rate over three percent this season and has shown a better eye at the plate.

Phillips is one of two players in all of minor league baseball who has double-digit doubles, triples, home runs, and outfield assists. Fans should expect to see him called back up in September for September call-ups.

Smooth Santana leads Brewers to 7-4 win over Reds

MILWAUKEE — The Milwaukee Brewers broke out of an offensive slump in a three-game series with the Cincinnati Reds, capped off by a 7-4 victory Sunday at Miller Park.

Domingo Santana led the Brewers offense with his 19th home run of the year, driving in three runs in the process. Ryan Braun also stayed hot during the home stand with a 2-for-4 performance and an RBI.

Matt Garza didn’t have his best stuff, allowing four runs (three earned) over 5.1 innings while walking five, but he was pleased to get a win after a disastrous stretch prior to the series.

“We’re just trying to get back to playing our style of ball,” Garza said. “Guys are smiling, having a good time, and we’re creating a lot of pressure for the other team. That’s kind of what we do.”

After a four-game sweep by the Twins, Milwaukee held a team meeting in an attempt to get back on track. During the series with the Reds, the Brewers scored 23 runs and hit seven home runs.

Utility infielder Neil Walker, acquired over the weekend in a trade with the New York Mets, wasted little time making an impact. Playing third base, Walker finished with a 2-for-4 day at the plate.

Matt Garza roughed up in an 11-4 loss to the Twins

Matt Garza picked the wrong time to have his worst outing of the season.

The Milwaukee starter gave up eight runs in just 3 1/3 innings at Minnesota in an 11-4 loss on Tuesday night. The veteran had allowed just four runs in his previous 15 1/3 innings of work.

Garza started out OK, but the fourth inning turned into a nightmare for the 33-year-old. It started with a solo home run from center fielder Eddie Rosario, included a grand slam by second baseman Bryan Dozier and concluded with another home run, this one from right fielder Max Kepler. The Brewers had entered the frame with a 4-2 lead and came out of it down 8-4, a deficit they wouldn’t recover from.

Offensively, the Crew got three hits apiece from right fielder Domingo Santana, left fielder Ryan Braun and shortstop Orlando Arcia, but they could manage just the four runs. Braun came up a home run short of hitting for the cycle.

The loss was Milwaukee’s third-straight, but because the Cubs lost to San Francisco, the Brewers remain just 1 ½ games back of Chicago in the NL Central. But things are getting tight behind them, too, with St. Louis just a game back of Milwaukee and Pittsburgh only two games back.

The Brewers and Twins will continue their interleague series tonight in Milwaukee.