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.

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.

What this Brewers offense is missing

The Brewers have undoubtedly played better than anyone expected this season, and are still in the hunt for the National League Central title. This has lead to Brewers general manager David Stearns making some moves to sure up the Milwaukee bullpen, which emerged as the team’s weakest unit.

The team has struggled since the All-Star break going 9-14 in that time. The starting pitching has been relatively good all season, and the bullpen has made strides as of late. What is really plaguing the Brewers is the fact that the offense isn’t hitting home runs and not scoring runs in general.

David Stearns mentioned how he would continue to look at every option available to improve this ball club. I’m sure he’ll continue to scour the waiver wire and look to make deals during the waiver trade deadline.  He could also continue to bring up younger players from the minor league in hopes of a spark. Which might not really happen until September.

Lewis Brinson and Brett Phillips are two highly touted prospects, but both have shown that the Brewers need to be patient with their progression as they’ve both struggled in their limited time at the big league level.

There has been a lot said lately about how the Brewers have struggled to score runs especially when they aren’t hitting home runs. That is true, but the team is struggling to even get on base at the same time. What I think this Brewers team is missing is a true lead-off hitter. Jonathan Villar was the Brewers lead-off man for most of last season, but he has been anything but productive so far this season.

Villar is hitting .216 this season with 8 home runs and 32 RBIs. He does have 20 stolen bases, but has shown a lack of concentration on the bases too many times in his career. He has also struck out 111 times this season, which is over 34% of his at-bats. His on-base percentage of .276 is terrible for a traditional lead-off hitter. He has also committed 11 errors this season, which doesn’t help his case.

Eric Sogard has also seen quite a bit of time in the lead-off spot since mid-May. He was fitting the role nicely up until he went on the disabled list just before the All-Star break. Since returning to the lineup a little more than two weeks ago, he has really struggled. Since July, Sogard is a combined 3-39 for a batting average of .077 during that time period. The Brewers have to monitor his playing time because he is coming off of knee reconstruction surgery.

The Brewers don’t really have many other options. Eric Thames and Domingo Santana have seen some time at the top of the order, but Craig Counsell and the Brewers would prefer them lower in the order. Keon Broxton has also gotten starts in the lead-off spot, but has struck out at too high of a clip to be a good candidate for the position. The Brewers could try Orlando Arcia at the top spot in the order, but Craig Counsell seems content with batting him in the seventh or eighth spot.

Without a consistent lead-off hitter, the Brewers offense will continue to struggle as long as they aren’t hitting the long ball. For my money, I’d pull the trigger on calling up top prospects Lewis Brinson and/or Mauricio Dubon and let them find their swings at the major league level.

 

 

 

 

SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game Results

All-Star week festivities kicked off Sunday afternoon with the SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game at Marlins Park in Miami. The Futures Game features the best minor league prospects in baseball. Team USA came away with a narrow 7-6  victory over the World team. The USA team has now won seven of the last eight contests and twelve of the nineteen All-Star Future games. MVP honors went to Brent Honeywell, property of the Tampa Bay Rays organization, who started the game for the United States. Honeywell went two innings, allowing no hits or walks, and striking out four batters. The Brewers organization was represented well, as they had three prospects playing in the game. Playing in the game for the Brewers organization was Lewis Brinson, Corey Ray, and Mauricio Dubon.

Brewer Prospects

Lewis Brinson

Brinson was the only Brewers prospect to start in the Futures game. He started in center field and batted second in the Team USA order. In his first at-bat in the first inning, Brinson struck out on a full count from a nasty slider. In his second at-bat, Brinson worked the count full and ended up walking. Just a few pitches after walking, he showed off his good speed, and stole second base with ease. In the fourth inning, he had an RBI double and scored a run. Brinson’s last two at-bats in the game were hard-hit fly outs to center and right field respectively. Brinson earned the second highest bat speed in the game, recording a bat speed of 75.4 mph. He was also the only player on the USA team to play all nine innings. Brinson finished the game 1-4 with an RBI, run, walk, and a stolen base.

Corey Ray

Ray entered the game in center field in the sixth inning after Lewis Brinson was moved to left. He struck out swinging in his first at-bat of the game in the bottom of the sixth inning. In his second plate appearance in the eighth inning, Ray grounded out to another Brewers prospect, Mauricio Dubon, at second base. In the top of the ninth inning, Ray committed an error in center field. On a base hit to center, he looked up to throw the runner out at home too soon and the ball went right under his glove. He finished the game 0-2 with a strikeout. Ray may have struggled while playing in the Futures game, but he shined in batting practice before the game. Ray put on a show lunching eight home runs, most by any prospect who took batting practice before the game.

Mauricio Dubon

Dubon entered the game in the fifth inning at second base. He is a shortstop by trade, but is expected to join the Brewers next year as a second basemen. In his first at-bat in the sixth inning, Dubon doubled down the right field line and scored a run. In the seventh inning, Dubon lined one to another Brewers prospect in Lewis Brinson. The two Colorado Springs teammates had a good laugh and were joking with each other. Dubon’s third at-bat ended the game in the top of the ninth as he grounded out on a sharply hit ball to third. He finished the game 1-3 with a run.

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All-Star Break Schedule

The Major League Baseball All-Star Break is only a few games away for most teams. The Brewers will have a one game series in Chicago due to a “rain out” earlier this season, and then head to New York for a three game series with the Yankees before the break. The official All-Star break starts on Monday, July 10th and goes through Thursday, July 13th. Before the major league All-Star festivities begin, Marlins Park in Miami will host the All-Star Futures game.

Futures Game

The Futures Game showcases minor league talent from many different levels. The Brewers will have three prospects participating in this game. Lewis Brinson and Corey Ray will represent the organization and play for the U.S. team. Brinson is the Brewers top prospect while Ray is the Brewers second ranked prospect. Both players are prized outfielders ranked in the top-25 for minor league prospects. Brinson has already gotten his feet wet in the majors this season, and Ray is expected to be on a fast-track to the majors. Mauricio Dubon, the ninth ranked prospect in the Brewers system will also play in the game, but on the World team. Dubon is a SS/2B who has recently been called up to Triple-A after having a breakout season in Double-A. Fans should expect to see Dubon in Milwaukee for September call-ups.

The Futures Game will be held on Sunday, July 9th at Marlins Park in Miami. The game will start at 3 p.m. CST and can be viewed on MLB Network and MLB.com. The All-Star Legends & Celebrity Softball game will follow the Futures Game.

All-Star Events

On Monday, July 10th, the T-Mobile Home Run Derby can be seen on ESPN at 7 p.m. CST. The telecast of the Celebrity Softball game will air after the Home Run Derby.

On Tuesday, July 11th, the All-Star Game will be played live from Marlins Park. Game time will be 6:30 p.m. CST and can be seen on FOX.

 (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

The Brewers closer Corey Knebel will be participating in the All-Star game representing the Brewers and the National League. The 25-year-old flame throwing right-hander was named to his first All-Star team. In 40 2/3 innings, Knebel has only allowed five earned runs and struck out 71 batters. Knebel is in the midst of extending his major league record 41 consecutive outings with a strikeout. He has converted 13 saves in 16 attempts.

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0 comments

Jesus Aguilar comes to Josh Hader’s defense over old tweets that surfaced during All-Star Game

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