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.

Brewers win 3-2 to hand Dodgers rare series loss

LOS ANGELES — The Milwaukee Brewers accomplished a rare feat Sunday afternoon, handing the Los Angeles Dodgers a 3-2 loss at Dodger Stadium and a series loss for the first time since June 5-7.

Left fielder Hernan Pérez gave the Brewers a solo home run in the third inning to give run support to Jimmy Nelson, who didn’t allow a hit through his first five innings. He finished with 6.2 innings of work, giving up two runs on four hits.

The day before, Milwaukee had beaten Los Angeles 3-0 behind a solid performance from Zach Davies. Nelson says the Dodgers series puts the Brewers back on track after a disappointing series loss last week to San Francisco.

“We proved to ourselves that we’re right there with the best teams,” Nelson said.

Though idle on Monday, the Brewers had climbed back to 2.0 games behind the Chicago Cubs in the National League Central standings with 31 games to play.

Sunday’s win was a chance for Milwaukee to show it was still a contender in the division with the season winding down. In the seventh inning, Eric Sogard made a defensive play which spoke to that mindset. With two outs and a runner on first, Yasiel Puig drove a liner up the middle which was stopped with a diving effort from Sogard, who then quickly got up and scorched a throw to Neil Walker for the out.

“It was great to kill that rally,” Sogard said. “He’s a good runner, and so I just tried to get my feet under me as quick as I could and get enough on the throw, and it worked out great.”

Corey Knebel came to the mound for Milwaukee for the final inning, notching his 29th save of the season.

Davies masterful in shutout win over Rays

TAMPA, Fla. — It was his first career start against the Tampa Bay Rays, but you wouldn’t know it as Zach Davies led the Milwaukee Brewers to a 3-0 win Saturday night.

Davies logged seven innings, allowing just one hit on the way to his 13th win of the year. Jacob Barnes and Anthony Swarzak finished it off with just three hits allowed between them.

Milwaukee’s offense was held relatively quiet in Alex Cobb’s six innings for Tampa Bay. They logged five hits against him, one of which was a solo home run by Orlando Arcia in the third inning. That would prove to be Milwaukee’s only scoring until a key ninth inning.

That’s when Hernan Perez went to work, leading off the inning with a solo shot to set the tone for the rest of the inning. With the bases loaded, Jose Alvarado was charged with a wild pitch, allowing Jesus Aguilar to score from third base.

But it wasn’t all good news for the Brewers. In the second inning, third baseman Travis Shaw was hit in the head as the Rays tried to throw him out as he attempted to steal second base. He left the game and did not return, though an initial evaluation has him listed as day-to-day with a bruised neck.

Davies’ performance followed up a 2-0 win on Friday night, giving Milwaukee it’s first set of back-to-back shutout wins since 2013.

Brewers fall 5-4 to St. Louis

Brent Suter couldn’t keep his success from July going in August, as Milwaukee (56-53) fell 5-4 to St. Louis (53-54) on Wednesday night.

An injury replacement for Chase Anderson, Suter gave up six runs all of last month, but the Cardinals tagged him for five in his first start this month. Suter made it 5 1/3 innings, giving up the five runs, including a pair of home runs, on eight hits and striking out seven. He took the loss to fall to 2-2 on the year.

On the other side, Milwaukee once again jumped on the board early with a home run from Eric Thames in the first inning. But after that, Luke Weaver largely shut them down, holding the Brewers scoreless until a seventh-inning single from Hernan Perez. Weaver’s final line showed him giving up just the two runs on five hits and striking out eight. He improved to 1-1 for the season.

A two-run homer from Jesus Aguilar in the eighth inning got Milwaukee within one, but that’s as close as the Crew would get.

The loss proved to be a wasted opportunity for Milwaukee, as Chicago lost 3-0 to Arizona. It leaves the Cubs lead in the NL Central at 2 1/2 games on the Brewers with 53 games to play.

Milwaukee and St. Louis will close out the three game series on Thursday afternoon at Miller Park.

Arizona’s pitching silences Milwaukee in a 3-2 win

Milwaukee had few answers for Arizona’s pitching staff Saturday night in a 3-2 loss at Chase Field.

The Brewers managed just two hits all night, though one of them was a 2-run homer from Hernan Perez, his ninth on the year. But that’s all they’d get against starter Zack Godley and a trio of relievers, including closer Fernando Rodney, who came on for his 16th save of the year in the ninth inning.

Milwaukee’s Junior Guerra didn’t pitch poorly – he went six innings, giving up three runs on five hits – but he took the loss thanks to a two-run shot from Chris Drury in the sixth inning to give the Diamondbacks a 3-2 lead. Guerra is now 1-1 on the year.

Guerra’s departure allowed for the debut of the Brewers’ top pitching prospect – Josh Hader. The big lefty walked the first batter he faced, got a pair of fly outs, issued an intentional walk and then got his first-ever Major League strikeout.

“He had a good inning,” manager Craig Counsell said afterwards. “He got the first batter jitters out of the way. After that, I thought he locked in and he pitched very well.”

Hader was the second of the Brewers top prospects to get called up, joining outfielder Brett Phillips. But that number soon became three, they were joined on Saturday but the club’s No. 1 prospect in outfielder Lewis Brinson. He got the call after the team put second baseman Jonathan Villar on the 10-day disabled list with a lower back injury. Brinson could make his debut in the series finale against Arizona on Sunday afternoon.

Anderson shuts down the Mets in a 2-1 win for the Brewers

Chase Anderson pitched a gem for a second straight outing as Milwaukee took care of the New York Mets 2-1 on Thursday at Citi Field.

Anderson, who took a no-hitter into the eighth inning of his last start, threw seven scoreless innings, allowing just three hits and striking out seven. The effort earned him his fourth win of the year.

“I think he’s in a good place right now,” manager Craig Counsell said. “He’s getting ahead in the count well, and he’s got a kind of different variety (of pitches) for the left handers and the right handers. A lot of good stuff.”

Milwaukee needed Anderson to be that good because the Brewers offense was unable to capitalize on most of their opportunities. The Crew had 11 hits, including three from Hernan Perez, but left nine runners on base. The lone run producing hits came courtesy of a Perez double in the third and a Nick Franklin single in the fourth.

“It was a frustrating day offensively,” Counsell said. “We did a great job of getting guys on base. We had good at-bats. Then we hit into some double plays at bad spots. I think our at-bats were good, (but) we just didn’t get the results.”

The win allowed Milwaukee to stay 1.5 games up on the St. Louis Cardinals in the NL Central.

The Brewers will open a weekend series against the Los Angeles Dodgers Friday night at Miller Park.

Milwaukee tees off on Matt Harvey, Mets in a 7-4 win

New York Mets starter Matt Harvey, fresh off a 3-game suspension for not showing up to a game last weekend, was abused by Milwaukee on Friday night in a 7-4 win for the Brewers at Miller Park.

Manager Craig Counsell’s team crushed three home runs off of Harvey, including a two-run shot from shortstop Eric Sogard, who had just been called up from the minor leagues. Harvey lasted five innings, giving up five runs on seven hits while walking five. He’s now 2-3 on the year.

The Brewers got contributions from all over their lineup, including a 3 for 4 night from left fielder Hernan Perez, and catcher Jett Bandy driving in a pair of runs.

Matt Garza picked up his second win of the year for the Crew, going six innings, allowing two runs on five hits and striking out four. Reliever Jared Hughes got the save, the first of the season for him.

Milwaukee played the game without outfielder Ryan Braun, who was placed on the 10-day disabled list with a calf strain suffered in the team’s series against Boston earlier in the week.

The Brewers and Mets will play game No. 2 of their three-game series on Saturday night at Miller Park.

Milwaukee makes it three straight wins with a 7-4 victory over Boston

The Milwaukee Brewers earned their third straight win last night, a 7-4 victory against the Boston Red Sox at Miller Park.

The Crew has scored more runs in the first inning of games than anyone else in the majors this year, and that continued Wednesday night, as RBI’s from Domingo Santana and Hernan Perez platted a pair of runs to take a 2-0 lead against starter Kyle Kendrick. Milwaukee would chase the Boston righty after just 4 1/3 innings of work, tagging him for six runs on 10 hits.

Perez finished 2 of 4 with a pair of RBI’s, while Keon Broxton and Eric Thames each had a pair of hits.

Milwaukee got the win despite starter Chase Anderson making it 4 1/3 innings. He gave up two runs on nine hits, while striking out four. He was replaced by Rob Scahill, who held the Red Sox scoreless over his 2 1/3 innings to pick up the win.

The only down note for Milwaukee on the night was watching Ryan Braun hobble off the field in the fifth inning with tightness in his left calf. Manager Craig Counsell didn’t know how severe the injury was, but did mention that he had been planning to give the outfielder Thursday off anyway. The game was Braun’s second since missing much of the team’s 6-game road trip last week with an arm injury.

The two teams will finish off their 3-game set Thursday afternoon with first pitch coming at 12:10 p.m.

Note:

Junior Guerra is getting closer to returning to the Milwaukee rotation. The team’s Opening Day starter is scheduled to make a rehab start on Monday for Double-A Biloxi. He’s been out since the season opener with a calf strain.

Thames, Garza lead Brewers past Reds 11-7

MILWAUKEE — Eric Thames increased his home run total to 10, while Matt Garza impressed in his season debut to give the Milwaukee Brewers an 11-7 win over the Cincinnati Reds Monday night.

Thames’ hot April continued early in the game, blasting his ninth and tenth home runs of the year in the first and second innings of the game. He’s now hit seven home runs against the Reds this season in just five games.

But Hernan Perez may have played just as big a role in Milwaukee’s win, bombing a three-run home run at the score board in the first inning. The Brewers are now outscoring opponents in the first inning 22-7. That early run support made Garza’s job easier, striking out four batters during his four innings of work. He allowed just one earned run, but Cincinnati was able to grind out his pitch counts to 93 before his day was over.

Milwaukee is now a half game out of second place in the National League Central with two more games coming against Cincinnati at Miller Park.

Brewers can’t slow Reds in 7-5 loss

CINCINNATI — Eric Thames homered twice, but the Milwaukee Brewers still fell to the Cincinnati Reds Saturday afternoon at Great American Ballpark.

The former Korean star now leads Milwaukee with five home runs, but Cincinnati’s bats were hot as well, recording 11 hits in the win. Scooter Gennett drove in two runs against his former team, taking advantage of a bullpen playing from behind. Starter Zach Davies allowed three earned runs on five hits in five innings of work.

Reds starter Brandon Finnegan left after one inning on the mound due to a lat strain. Raisel Iglesias would pick up the win, throwing two innings of one-run ball.

Hernan Perez provided a silver lining for the Brewers, driving in three runs on a first-inning double and a sixth-inning solo blast that held up under umpire review. Perez finished 3-for-4 at the plate.