NL All-Star ballot first return released

Major League Baseball released the first return for voting for the 2018 MLB All-Star Game on Monday. The news was not good for the Milwaukee Brewers. Despite having the second-best record in the National League as of Tuesday, Milwaukee only had two players appear to be in the running for starting spots on the team.

Outfielders Christian Yelich and Lorenzo Cain were the two Brewers to make the list, coming in at 11th and 15th among National League outfielders, respectively.

Yelich had 163,575 votes as of Monday while Cain had 104,948. Bryce Harper was the leader among outfielders in the National League with 498,189 votes. The top three vote-getters among outfielders are selected as starters in the game. Atlanta’s Nick Markakis is currently second and Matt Kemp of the Dodgers is in third.

The 2018 Major League Baseball All-Star Game is July 17 at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C.

Last strikes: Brewers 17, Mets 6

MILWAUKEE – Seventeen last strikes for the 17 runs scored by the Milwaukee Brewers in the 17-6 win over the New York Mets on Saturday evening at Miller Park.

1. The game started about as poorly as possible for the Brewers. Starting pitcher Chase Anderson didn’t record his first out until his 29th pitch of the game, and the Crew trailed 3-0 before they came to bat.

2. Anderson was forced to make 46 pitches in the first inning and only lasted 3.2 innings before being pulled in favor of reliever Dan Jennings after allowing a Wilmer Flores single in the fourth. The final line on Anderson wasn’t great as he allowed five runs in the time he spent on the mound.

3. Luckily for Anderson, Milwaukee’s lineup certainly came to play on Saturday afternoon. After allowing three runs in the top half of the first, the Crew quickly struck back for three runs in the home half of the frame. They started putting up crooked numbers in the first inning and didn’t stop.

4. The Brewers scored a pair of runs in both the third and fourth innings, three runs in the fifth, and finally exploded for seven runs in the seventh inning to take a 17-6 lead.

5. The top of the lineup for Milwaukee did quite a bit of damage. Lorenzo Cain finished the day 3-for-4 with a double as well as a pair of walks, three runs scored and an RBI. He grounded out in the first inning and then reached base in his next five plate appearances.

6. Cain now holds a six-game hitting streak in which he has batted .417 (10-for-24). Reaching base five times on Saturday also tied a career-high for the outfielder.

7. Christian Yelich was also outstanding for the Brewers. He was a home run short of the cycle, finishing 3-for-5 with a walk, three runs scored, and three driven in.

8. It wasn’t just the top of the lineup that was productive, however. Every batter in Milwaukee’s lineup – with the exception of starting pitcher Anderson – finished the day with at least one hit and one run batted in.

9. Offensive outbursts like this don’t happen often, before Saturday Milwaukee’s season-high for runs in a game was 12. In fact, 17 or more runs had only been scored in two games in all of Major League Baseball this season prior to Saturday.

10. Milwaukee is now 8-2 in the last 10 games and 12-4 in the last 16. This marks the first time that the Brewers have been 13 games over .500 since August 27, 2014 when they were 73-60.

11. The Brewers have been playing great baseball as of late. There’s no questioning that. The best part for this team is that it all seems sustainable. Teams are going to go through peaks and valleys during the course of the 162-game season.

12. There will be a point again this season when Milwaukee losses two-of-three or three-of-four. Regardless of that, the Brewers certainly look like they’re for real.

13. The early season qualms about Milwaukee was that the team had feasted on weak competition and struggled against above .500 teams. At the time, that was true. Since the month of May started – the month that was littered with games against above .500 teams and playoff contenders – the Brewers have played their best baseball. Milwaukee has gone 16-7 in the month, with all but six of the games coming against teams that entered the day at or above the .500 mark.

14. This team is going to almost certainly finish the month in first place in the National League Central Division, which is arguably the best in baseball. Four of the five teams in the division are above .500. But the Cubs, Cardinals, and Pirates all trail Milwaukee by four games.

15. Any of those four teams would be the division leaders in other divisions across baseball. Instead, they’re trying to chase down the Brewers.

16. It’s a long season, that’s not something that’s to be forgotten. With that being said, the Brewers are here for the long haul.

17. The Brewers and Mets will wrap up this four-game series on Sunday afternoon at 1:10 p.m. CT. Milwaukee will send right-hander Jhoulys Chacin (3-1, 3.32 ERA) to the mound and the Mets will counter with righty Zack Wheeler (2-4, 5.32 ERA).

Last strikes: Brewers 12, Marlins 3

MILWAUKEE – Nineteen last strikes for the 19 pitches thrown in relief by Milwaukee reliever Taylor Williams in the Brewers 12-3 win over the Miami Marlins on Thursday night.

1. Offensively, the Milwaukee Brewers had been able to get by with just two runs in each of the past two games. Granted, both of them turned out to be victories for Milwaukee. But that’s not a recipe for consistent success.

2. Sure, a team has never in the history of baseball lost a game while not allowing a run. But it’s not realistic for this pitching staff, or any for that matter, to keep opposing offenses off the board on a nightly basis.

3. Thursday night saw the offense break out. The Brewers scored seven runs in the sixth inning against the Marlins. Milwaukee had not scored that many runs in a single game at Miller Park this year.

4. The Crew entered the bottom of the fifth inning trailing Miami 3-2, thanks to a pair of home runs by former Brewers farmhand and current Marlins outfielder Lewis Brinson. He was greeted with cheers as he stepped to the plate for his first at-bat in the third inning. Roughly 75 seconds later those cheers turned to boos as he circled the bases following his 429-foot no-doubt blast to center field.

5. Brinson again homered off Anderson in the fifth inning to give the Marlins a brief lead. It marked his first career multi-homer game, and the first two of this season. It’s rather fitting that it happened in Miller Park, considering Brinson was the top prospect in Milwaukee’s system prior to trading him to Miami in exchange for outfielder Christian Yelich.

6. “He put two good swings on balls, that’s for sure,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell said following the game. “He had a nice game.”

7. “Kudos to him,” Brewers starter Chase Anderson said regarding Brinson’s home runs. “I made a mistake and he took care of it the way good hitters do. I’m sure he played this game today with a little extra adrenaline playing his former team. But you tip your cap, he hit the ball hard twice.”

8. That was about the only thing that went well for the Marlins. The Brewers scored three runs in the bottom of the fifth to immediately take the lead back. They were able to keep Miami off the board in the sixth before the flood gates opened for the Brewers offensively.

9. The inning started with catcher Jett Bandy lacing a ground-rule double down the left field line and advancing to third on a ground out off the bat of Eric Sogard. Bandy then scored on a Lorenzo Cain double, his second of the night. Yelich and Domingo Santana followed with back-to-back walks to leave the bases loaded. After a Travis Shaw strike out, Jesus Aguilar delivered with a two-run single to center.

10. “I think [Aguilar’s] base hit was kind of the one that broke it open,” Counsell said following the game. “Obviously, Lorenzo [Cain] had great at-bats all night. We had good at-bats up and down the lineup tonight but I thought that [Aguilar’s] two-out hit there was kind of the one that really broke it open.”

11. Ryan Braun, who was out of the starting lineup for the second night in a row, was called up as a pinch-hitter in the pitcher’s spot. He delivered with his second career pinch-hit home run. Braun slugged a no-doubt bomb into the home bullpen in left-center field.

12. “It was a good spot for [Braun to pinch-hit] and I think his 1,000th RBI. Really cool way to get it,” Counsell said about Braun’s at-bat.

13. “It’s special, for one you’ve got to play a long time to reach that goal,” outfielder Lorenzo Cain said of Braun’s milestone. “He’s been a consistent, great hitter his entire career. I’m definitely happy for him. We definitely need him to get where we want to be.”

14. Braun’s home run did mark a special milestone, as he reached 1,000 career RBIs with the blast. Fewer than 300 players in the history of baseball have amassed that many in a career. Braun is the ninth active player to reach the mark, and the second Brewers player to do so, joining Robin Yount, who finished his career with 1,406 runs batted in.

15. “It’s a cool number, it’s a special number for sure,” Braun said. “I’ve said many times that the biggest challenge in this game is longevity and consistency and you can’t get to a number like that unless you’ve played for a while and had a lot of success.

16. “It also speaks to being fortunate to being on a lot of really good offensive teams. It’s a result of having really good teammates, having a ton of opportunities. First five or six years I had Prince Fielder hitting behind me so people never wanted to walk me to get to him. You’re just given a lot of opportunity. But it’s definitely a pretty cool number.”

17. Suddenly the Brewers held an 11-3 lead after Braun’s home run. The offense was as alive as it had been all year. To cap things off, Orlando Arcia stepped to the plate after Braun and went deep as well to give Milwaukee some unnecessary extra insurance.

18. No offense is going to score 12 runs on a regular basis. While remembering that, the Brewers did show what they’re capable of offensively on Thursday night with the offensive outburst. This isn’t going to be a regular thing for the Brewers, but this should be far from the only time it happens.

19. Milwaukee and Miami continue this four-game series on Friday night at Miller Park. First pitch is at 7:10 p.m. CT. Jhoulys Chacin is the probable starter for the Brewers and Trevor Richards is slated to start for the Marlins.

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.