Brewers claim All-Star catcher off waivers

David Stearns is back at it in the Brewers front office scouring the waiver wire. He claimed yet another player off of waivers yesterday, while the Brewers finished up their series with the Atlanta Braves with a 7-0 win. Catcher Stephen Vogt was the player claimed off of waivers from the Oakland Athletics. Vogt, 32, was an AL All-Star for the A’s in 2015 and 2016, but has seen his production fall so far this season. He was batting .217 with four home runs and 20 runs batted in this season before being designated for assignment by the Athletics.

Milwaukee Brewers catcher Martin Maldonado, left, tags out Oakland Athletics' Stephen Vogt in a seventh-inning rundown during a baseball game Tuesday, June 21, 2016, in Oakland, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
(AP Photo/Ben Margot)

Why I like this move

I absolutely love this move by the Brewers front office! Jett Bandy has been struggling since May and has seen his batting average drop over one hundred points since then. Bandy also had one option left on his contract, so the Brewers could demote him to Triple-A Colorado Springs without having to place him on waivers. This move now allows them have four major league caliber catchers within the organization in Manny Pina, Andrew Susac, Bandy, and now Stephen Vogt.

Vogt also carries a team friendly deal, as he is making just under three million dollars a year. The Brewers will also have three more years of control of Vogt as he is under contract until 2020. The amount and length of his contract are perfect for the Brewers. He’s a cheap contract in the prime of his career until the end of his deal. Vogt has been  thought of as a good offensive and defensive catcher throughout his career in the major leagues.

A change in scenery could be just what the doctor ordered for Vogt. He’s been with Oakland for the past five seasons and hasn’t been to the postseason since 2013. He will also bring more veteran leadership to a young Brewers team. Vogt was previously teammates with Eric Sogard. Sogard has had nothing but good things to say about Vogt since the news of his acquisition. The change in scenery should allow for Vogt to get his offense back on track, as Miller park is by far a more hitter friendly park than is the Oakland Coliseum.

Overall, this was a cheap move that could really benefit the Brewers ball club in every aspect of the game. Vogt should help the Brewers offensively and defensively as well as bring another veteran voice to the team. Once again, Stearns has shown that he can make a low-risk move with high ceiling potential.

Brewers soar to 7-0 win over Braves

ATLANTA — The Milwaukee Brewers avoided a series sweep Sunday afternoon, handing the Atlanta Braves a 7-0 loss behind the stellar pitching of Zach Davies. Although Davies didn’t record a strikeout, he allowed just four hits over the course of his seven innings, keeping his road record blemish-free. It’s the first game this season in which […]

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Brewers offense stalls in 3-1 loss to Braves

ATLANTA — The Milwaukee Brewers dropped their second straight game Saturday evening, failing to build on an early lead in a 3-1 loss to the Atlanta Braves. After loading the bases in the first inning and scoring one run, the Brewers couldn’t figure out R.A. Dickey and would get just a single runner in scoring position […]

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Defense helps push Atlanta past the Brewers 5-4

Stellar defense from Atlanta propelled them past Milwaukee 5-4 on Friday night in the first game of a weekend series. The Braves were clinging to a one-run lead in the eighth inning with one out and two men on base. Pinch hitter Jesus Aguliar smoked a liner down the third base side, which Johan Camargo […]

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Brewers celebrate with another win over Pirates

MILWAUKEE | After the Brewers lost their 2nd straight to the Pirates at Miller Park on Tuesday night and saw their lead in the NL Central drop to just half a game, some were wondering if the “real” Brewers were finally showing up. The Brewers are happy to disappoint those people. For the second time […]

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Santana, Arcia help Milwaukee to a 4-3 win against Pittsburgh

Timely hitting from Domingo Santana and a brilliant play from shortstop Orlando Arcia helped Milwaukee get past Pittsburgh 4-3 Wednesday night at Miller Park. The Brewers never led in the game until the bottom of the seventh. That’s when Santana stepped up to the plate with two outs and drilled what proved to be the […]

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The Brewers need to continue to search for bullpen pieces

The Milwaukee Brewers have reportedly signed relief pitcher Tom Wilhelmsen to a minor league deal after he was released by the Arizona Diamondbacks. Wilhelmsen was previously drafted by the Brewers but injuries and drug issues derailed his time with the organization. He did have some solid seasons with the Seattle Mariners, where he saved 53 games between 2012-2013.  The Diamondbacks are paying most of his contract for the remaining of his season with the Brewers. If he doesn’t work out, it wont really affect the Brewers payroll. This isn’t a big-time move, but it’s the type of move the Brewers need to continue to make.

The organization’s rebuild is obviously ahead of schedule. The Brewers shouldn’t be going “all-in” on this season just because they are contending in the National League Central. They shouldn’t be selling off big name prospects in order to land a solid pitcher. Being a “buyer” at the deadline to try to make a playoff push could compromise the farm system. It’s a top-rated farm system that  David Stearns  has worked hard to bolster the past two seasons. That doesn’t mean that Stearns shouldn’t continue to make moves or small-time deals to try to improve the current team. He should continue to search free agency as well as the waiver wire to try to find serviceable arms for the Brewers bullpen.

Recent Moves

Former Brewers general manager Doug Melvin as well as Stearns have already shown that they can find players to help the team win. Lots of players currently on the Brewers roster have been waiver wire, minor league, or small signing deals. Some of the players who have been claimed off of waivers by the Brewers in the past few years are, Hernan Perez, Junior Guerra, Jesus Aguilar, Nick Franklin, and Oliver Drake. Other small signings that have occurred the last couple years are Eric Sogard, Jared Hughes, and Paolo Espino. Obviously not all of the moves the Brewers have made have worked out, but the majority has.

(AP Photo/Alex Gallardo)

Neftali Feliz definitely didn’t work out for the Brewers and was designated for assignment and ultimately released by the team. The team has also gotten rid of Rob Scahill, Jhan Marinez, and Tommy Milone, all of who weren’t able to get the job done this season.  If I was in the Brewers front office I would definitely be designating a few more relievers for assignment (DFA).

Proposed Moves

The first guy I’d have to start with is Wily Peralta. At the beginning of the season, I was all for giving him as many opportunities as possible. I was just hoping he could get back to his 2014 form.  After watching the Pirates game on Monday night, I’ve seen enough. He needs to go. Another reliever that needs to be DFA’d would be Oliver Drake. He was a veteran given another chance to potentially make the team, but in my opinion hasn’t done enough to deserve a spot in the bullpen. I may be in the minority on this one, but I’d be willing to give Carlos Torres a little more leash after the success he showed last season. The Brewers should continue to give veteran pitchers like Wilhelmsen, who have had success at the major league level a chance.

 

The absolute worst case scenario would be that the Brewers never end up finding any guys that can really come in and anchor down the bullpen, but that would leave them back to square one.  The Brewers already have the lowest payroll in baseball, so the addition of minimal salaries shouldn’t greatly affect it or their willingness to sign players. And we all know how bad Brewers owner Mark Anttanasio wants to win. I think he would be for whatever move may help the Brewers contend now and in the future. Going after more low-risk relief pitchers  would be the best way for the organization to go about trying to win now as well as keep the farm system in tact and not derail the future.

Brewers soar to 7-0 win over Braves

ATLANTA — The Milwaukee Brewers avoided a series sweep Sunday afternoon, handing the Atlanta Braves a 7-0 loss behind the stellar pitching of Zach Davies. Although Davies didn’t record a strikeout, he allowed just four hits over the course of his seven innings, keeping his road record blemish-free. It’s the first game this season in which […]

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Brewers offense stalls in 3-1 loss to Braves

ATLANTA — The Milwaukee Brewers dropped their second straight game Saturday evening, failing to build on an early lead in a 3-1 loss to the Atlanta Braves. After loading the bases in the first inning and scoring one run, the Brewers couldn’t figure out R.A. Dickey and would get just a single runner in scoring position […]

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Defense helps push Atlanta past the Brewers 5-4

Stellar defense from Atlanta propelled them past Milwaukee 5-4 on Friday night in the first game of a weekend series. The Braves were clinging to a one-run lead in the eighth inning with one out and two men on base. Pinch hitter Jesus Aguliar smoked a liner down the third base side, which Johan Camargo […]

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Starting Pitchers need to be going deeper into games

Jimmy Nelson threw a complete game for the Brewers Sunday afternoon in a 2-1 win over the San Diego Padres. It took Nelson 118 pitches to record the 27th and final out in a game the Brewers desperately needed to rest its weary bullpen. Believe it or not, this was the first complete game thrown by a Milwaukee pitcher since Taylor Jungmann did it in 2015. If you listened to the telecast with Brian Anderson and Bill Schroeder on FSN Wisconsin, you would have picked up on how Schroeder continued to make comments about how hard of a decision this must have been for manager Craig Counsell.

The Number 100

The reasoning behind this was because of Nelson’s high pitch count. The Brewers bullpen has been used quite a bit and has been awful this season. Nelson was in uncharted territory for him. He has averaged 93.5 pitchers per start this season, and was already over 100 pitches after he finished his eighth inning of work. Counsell believed in his pitcher and Jimmy came threw for the Crew as he finished off the Padres in the ninth, and gave the Brewers a series win. Nelson struck out 10 batters, while only surrendering one run on six hits and two walks in his complete game.

When I was a kid a don’t ever really remember hearing much about pitch counts for Major League pitchers. I can still remember my junior high days when CC Sabathia was grabbing the ball every third day and throwing complete games like it was nothing. It feels like all of a sudden Major League Organizations decided on the number 100 for when to go out and pull your starting pitcher. 100 is a nice round number to wrap your brain around, but shouldn’t be the factor that ultimately ends a pitcher’s start.

Going Deeper into Games

There is no perfect time to know when to remove a pitcher from the game. To me it should come down to feel. The manager should have a feel for when his pitcher is at the end of this rope. I applaud Counsell for staying with Nelson in yesterday’s game. Nelson was rolling along. He was pitching well and was emotionally invested in the game. You could tell he didn’t want to come out of the game in that spot. If the pitcher is still pitching well and feels good, why not leave him in?

(AP Photo/Gregory Bull)

Brewers fans know how bad the bullpen has been this season. The bullpen has already blown 19 of the teams 33 losses. That leads the Major Leagues in games blown by a bullpen. I don’t care if the bullpen has been heavily worked or not. I’m not confident in handing the ball to any of the relievers not named Barnes or Knebel! The Brewers are winning and leading the National League Central and should be able to lean on their starters for more innings. It would be easier to put more on the starters plates, than to revamp the bullpen at this point in the season.

Today’s Game

I’m sick of hearing how they need to protect young arms. These guys aren’t “young” anymore. Outside of Zach Davies, all of the Brewers starters are in they’re late 20’s or early 30’s. This should be a time in their careers where you can stretch out their innings. Allowing for these pitchers to work through tough situations should make them better pitchers in the long run. When pitchers are tired and don’t have the same velocity as they did in the earlier innings, this is where they learn how to pitch. It will make them have to rely on their location, develop new pitches and tricks to get batters out, etc.

(AP Photo/Morry Gash)

Some may argue that more innings and pitches equals more injuries. I think that’s true to a point. Yes, more pitches and innings allows for more opportunity for injuries. But in today’s baseball, guys are throwing harder than ever before and surgeries are becoming common practice. Arm injuries no longer end guys careers, and in some cases allow them to come back stronger. It’s not if your starting pitcher is going to have arm surgery, it’s when. Injuries are a part of the game, but shouldn’t deter managers from allowing pitchers to go longer in games to help the team win.

 

Brewers claim All-Star catcher off waivers

David Stearns is back at it in the Brewers front office scouring the waiver wire. He claimed yet another player off of waivers yesterday, while the Brewers finished up their series with the Atlanta Braves with a 7-0 win. Catcher Stephen Vogt was the player claimed off of waivers from the Oakland Athletics. Vogt, 32, […]

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Brewers soar to 7-0 win over Braves

ATLANTA — The Milwaukee Brewers avoided a series sweep Sunday afternoon, handing the Atlanta Braves a 7-0 loss behind the stellar pitching of Zach Davies. Although Davies didn’t record a strikeout, he allowed just four hits over the course of his seven innings, keeping his road record blemish-free. It’s the first game this season in which […]

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Brewers offense stalls in 3-1 loss to Braves

ATLANTA — The Milwaukee Brewers dropped their second straight game Saturday evening, failing to build on an early lead in a 3-1 loss to the Atlanta Braves. After loading the bases in the first inning and scoring one run, the Brewers couldn’t figure out R.A. Dickey and would get just a single runner in scoring position […]

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Brewers:Wave of Prospects Continues

The Brewers have continued to dip into their Minor League system this week. This morning the Brewers recalled pitchers Brandon Woodruff and Brent Suter from Triple-A Colorado Springs. The organization continues to take a stance saying they’re going to take their time in this rebuild. They insist they aren’t  going to rush prospects to the big leagues to help the team win now. Well as this current Brewers team continues to win, more and more prospects have been called-up this past week.

Brandon Woodruff

Woodruff is 24 year old right handed hurler, who stand 6’4″ and weighs 215 pounds. He played his college ball at Mississippi State, but his career was anything but outstanding. His career was full of inconsistencies and injuries. The Brewers believed that there was more ability in his game and took a chance on Woodruff with their 11th round pick in the 2014 Major League Baseball draft. Woodruff struggled in his first couple seasons of Minor League baseball, but then broke out in 2016 with the Biloxi Shuckers. The breakout occurred after the tragic loss of his older brother to an ATV accident. Since that tragic day, Woodruff has become a different pitcher, and has climbed the Brewers Minor League system. He is currently listed as the Brewers eighth ranked prospect.

Woodruff’s fastball is consistently clocked in the mid-90’s with good natural sink. Along with his above-average slider, it allows him to consistently miss barrels and induce ground-balls. Many scouts believe that his changeup can become at least a Major League average pitch. In college, he struggled with his control and command, but since turning pro, that part of his game has become much more consistent. Woodruff is projected to develop into a number three starter at the Major League level.

Through 12 games started at Colorado Springs, he posted a 6-4 record with a 4.12 ERA over 63 1/3 innings of work. He also managed to strike out 60, and only walk 19 batters. His numbers have been trending up the past two seasons even with him pitching in the altitude in Colorado.

Brent Suter

Suter isn’t like most of the prospects that have been called up recently by the Brewers. He technically isn’t on the Brewers top 30 prospect list and Brewer fans have seen him before. Suter is a 27 year old lefty, who has been up and down between Triple-A and the Major Leagues the last couple of seasons. He appeared in 14 games last season and already five games earlier this season for the Crew.

 (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

In 2016, Suter primarily came out of the bullpen making 12 appearances, while only starting two games. He posted a 2-2 record over 21 2/3 innings with a 3.32 ERA and allowed eight runs on 25 hits and five walks. Suter also appeared in five games this season during the first three weeks of April. He logged a 4.91 ERA in 7 1/3 innings allowing four runs on nine hits and four walks. It will be interesting to see who stays at the Major League level for the Brewers after Rob Scahill was designated for assignment and Garza is able to return from injury .

 

Braun expected to return Tuesday vs Reds

CINCINNATI — The Milwaukee Brewers will be joined in Cincinnati Tuesday night by six-time All-Star Ryan Braun, who completed a Class A rehab assignment over the weekend. Braun is expected to rejoin the team when they take on the Reds, having played in three games with the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers in Appleton. Braun was 2-for-8 with […]

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Brewers claim All-Star catcher off waivers

David Stearns is back at it in the Brewers front office scouring the waiver wire. He claimed yet another player off of waivers yesterday, while the Brewers finished up their series with the Atlanta Braves with a 7-0 win. Catcher Stephen Vogt was the player claimed off of waivers from the Oakland Athletics. Vogt, 32, […]

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Brewers: Recently Promoted Prospects

The Milwaukee Brewers have recently called up three of their top-10 Minor League prospects in the past week. The players that the Brewers called up were outfielders Brett Phillips and Lewis Brinson, as well as pitcher Josh Hader. Each guy has been thrusted into the Brewers lineup shortly after arriving from Colorado Springs. These three prospects may have been recalled earlier than the Brewers organization may have wanted, but with all the injuries at the Major League level they had no choice. Fans should undoubtedly be excited to see these young players, but shouldn’t expect these guys to come in and take the league by storm.

Lewis Brinson

Brinson was called up by the Brewers only a day ago due to the Brewers having to put Jonathan Villar on the disabled list. He batted lead off for Milwaukee in his Major League debut Sunday afternoon against the Arizona Diamondbacks. Brinson went 0-2 on the day, but did show great patience, working two walks and showing  his great speed by stealing a base.

Brinson is a 23 year old outfielder, who was a former first-round draft pick by the Texas Rangers in 2012.  He was one of three players the Rangers traded to the Brewers in the Jonathan Lucroy and Jeremy Jeffress deal. Brinson is the Brewers top prospect according to most experts. He is a player that many scouts believe could have a 5-tool ceiling.  Brinson is a very athletic player who has power, speed, as well as a good arm and solid defense in his arsenal. Many scouts believe Brinson could one day  become a 30 home run 30 stolen bases type player. Since being drafted, Brinson has really improved his pitch recognition and has become more consistent with his patient approach.

Before being promoted to the Major League club, he was hitting .312 with six home runs and 25 runs batted in. He also added 41 runs and seven stolen bases in 45 games played for Triple-A Colorado Springs.

Josh Hader

Hader was called up just one day before Lewis Brinson. He made his Major League debut Saturday night in the seventh inning against the Arizona Diamondbacks. He started the seventh inning struggling to find the strike zone as he walked his first two batters. Hader settled down after that as he ended his lone inning of work striking out Jacob Lamb, who’s leading Major League baseball in the  runs batted in category.

Hader is a 23 year old left-handed pitcher, who was originally drafted by the Baltimore Orioles and then traded to the Houston Astros. He was apart of the trade that sent Carlos Gomez and Mike Fiers to the Astros, while the Brewers got  Domingo Santana, Brett Phillips, Adrian Houser, and Hader.  Hader is currently the Brewers number three rated prospect.  Hader has electric stuff as he consistently throws a mid-90’s fastball and also features a nasty slider. The key for Hader will be to prefect  and improve his changeup, which will give him three good pitches. Many scouts believe his ceiling could be that of an ace if he consistently controls and commands his three pitches.

Since being called up to Triple-A Colorado Springs in 2016, Hader has struggled due to his control and elevated pitch counts. Colorado Springs is also a hitters friendly park due to the altitude and thin air.  In Triple-A this season Hader posted a 3-4 record with an ERA of 5.37 in 12 games. He also struck out 51 batters in 52 innings of work. A change in scenery could be just what the doctor ordered for Hader who has struggled in Colorado Springs, but has the stuff to become an ace.

Brett Phillips

Phillips was the first to be called up by the Brewers in this wave of prospects. He has appeared in five games and started two sine his promotion. He is currently hitting .200, going 2-10 in his first ten career at-bats. Phillips has always been a guy who strikes out at a high rate, as he was striking out 35% of the time in Triple-A. In a small sample size with the Brewers, he is striking out at an alarming rate of 70%. 

Phillips is also a 23 year old  outfielder. He was originally drafted by the Houston Astros in the sixth round of the 2012 draft. Like Hader, Phillips was apart of the deal with Houston that sent Gomez and Fiers to the Astros. Phillips comes in as the Brewers tenth best prospect this season. He is known for his great arm strength and defense as well as his power bat.  Many scouts believe that Phillips has a ceiling of a dynamic top-of-the-order hitter. He was the prized prospect in that trade a couple of summers ago, but has struggled since due to injury. This is the first season that Phillips has been completely healthy and it’s showing.

In 49 games with Colorado Springs, he was batting .297 with 11 home runs and 41 runs batted in. He also added 35 runs and 4 triples. Even with his high strikeout rate, Phillips had a .369 on base percentage due to his good eye and discipline at the plate.

 

Looking Ahead at the Brewers Schedule

Going into the weekend series with the Arizona Diamondbacks, the Milwaukee Brewers sit atop the National League Central Standings. They lead the reigning World Series Champion Chicago Cubs by one full game. For Brewer fans this brings up many questions surrounding the team and its winning ways. How long can they stay in first place? If they’re still in contention should they be a buyer at the deadline? Is the rebuild ahead of schedule? Can the Brewers make a postseason push? These are just a few of the questions floating around in the media and conversations between fans in everyday life. For many people, the measuring stick so to say, is where the team is in the standings around the All-Star break.

Looking Ahead

If you look at the Brewers schedule up until the all-star break, you’ll see that it isn’t terribly difficult. In their next 10 series (30 games), only four of those teams currently have winning records.  In those 30 games before the break, the Brewers have 13 home games and 17 road games. The Brewers will also see each member of the National League Central, which will most definitely shape how the standings look come early July.  They mostly play teams from the National League, but do have two Interleague series between teams from the American League East. The Brewers next 30 games will answer many of the questions that the fans and media are currently asking.

 (AP Photo/Darren Hauck)

 June

The Brewers next series is with the Arizona Diamondbacks in Arizona. The Diamondbacks are one of the better teams in the National League at this point in the season, but the Brewers have good pitching match-ups. The Brewers will trot out Davies, Guerra, and Anderson against Delgado, Godley, and Ray respectively for Arizona. After a day off, they then stay on the road for a four game series with the St. Louis Cardinals, a team also under .500. The Brewers will then  head home for a three game series with the worst team in baseball, the San Diego Padres. Staying in Milwaukee, they will then match-up with the Pittsburgh Pirates, another team playing less than stellar baseball after losing one of their better players to PED use.

After the seven game homestand, the Brewers will hit the road and travel to Atlanta for a three game set. The Braves are yet another team with a below .500 record this season. After the three games in Atlanta, they will then play a three game series in Cincinnati against the Reds. The Reds are currently overachieving for the roster they have, but still have a losing record. After the Cincinnati series, the Brewers will return home to finish out June with a game against the Miami Marlins.

July

As the calendar changes for June to July, Milwaukee will have two more games with the fish. The Marlins have had a disappointing season thus far. They’ve really been struggling as a team dating back to late last season since the passing of star pitcher Jose Fernandez. After the Miami series, the Brewers will host the Baltimore Orioles. The Orioles are currently playing good baseball and are right in the thick of things in the tough American League East division. After the three game series with Baltimore is when things get strange. Many fans will remember the Brewer-Cub “rain-out” from earlier this season, and it may have done more of a disservice to the Brewers then anyone could have imagined at the time.

 (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

Instead of getting the day off on July sixth after completing a three game home series with Baltimore, the Brewers will have to travel to Chicago to take on the Cubs for a one game series. This day off become significant because the very next day Milwaukee has to finish up the first half of the season with a three game series in New York against the first place Yankees. That off-day could have turned out to be quite beneficial to the Brewers, being that it was sandwiched between the Baltimore and New York series.  After playing a series with a tough Orioles team it would have been nice to either rest the pitching staff or have the day off in general for the team.

By the All-Star Break

If the Brewers continue to play the same type of baseball they have for the first 10 months of this young baseball season, with the schedule that’s laid out in front of them until the all-star break, it should be very realistic that the Brewers could be contending in the National League Central and possibly still in first place in the division.

 

 

The Emergence of Domingo Santana

Over four of the past five games, Brewer’s manager Craig Counsell has switched up the lineup. He has inserted Domingo Santana into the second spot in the batting order. Santana has responded to the shift in the lineup, having at least one hit in every game. He’s also been  giving the Brewers good at-bats during the four game stretch. Santana has compiled a .375 batting average, going six for his last sixteen since being moved to second in the Brewers order. Not only has his bat responded to the changed, but so has his eyes, as he’s drawn walks for the team as well.

With Eric Thames struggling since April, this may just be Counsell trying change things up and reinvigorate the Brewer’s lineup. Domingo Santana may not be your prototypical number two hitter, but the definition for the second hitter is changing. Historically a number two hitter is a guy who can hit for a solid average, get on base, and work the count. In today’s baseball,  more and more two hitters are becoming guys who can hit for power and drive in runs.  The use of sabermetrics has played a large role on how  components of the game are changing.

(Associated Press)

Domingo Santana can give the Brewers a little bit of both worlds. He is a patient hitter, who works the count and is averaging about 4.5 pitches per at-bat.
This is extremely high for the Major League Baseball standard for pitches per plate appearance. Santana also owns a walk percentage of nearly 14%, where 15% is deemed good in the major leagues. He’s not only letting the middle of the order see pitches, but is also setting the table by getting on base in front of them. Santana owns a .367 on-base percentage, which is almost one hundred points higher than his batting average, which is also impressive.

Hitters in today’s game are supposed to bring pop to the lineup and Santana is doing just that. Santana is second on the team in home runs, runs batted in, hits, walks, and runs scored. Santana is finally healthy and playing well for the first time in his Brewers career. The Brewers and manager Craig Counsell should continue to give him an opportunity in the second spot  and see how it pays dividends.

 

Why Eric Sogard Should be an Everyday Starter

The Milwaukee Brewers are in a “rebuild” or at least that’s what the organization and the media are saying. Don’t tell that to all the fringe big league guys that the Brewers either signed or claimed off waivers in the past couple seasons. A rebuild is when a big league club trades away its assets in order to gain better prospects and draft picks. But that leaves a roster with a mix of young and veteran players looking to make a name for themselves. Sogard is in the camp of veteran players looking to prove to a team he deserves to be in the Major Leagues.

Sogard made his Major League debut in 2010 at the age of 24 for the Oakland Athletics. He spent the next two seasons playing between the Minor and Major Leagues. From 2013 to 2015 Sogard played for the Athletics, but never really showed why any team would think he was more than a solid utility player. In 2016, Sogard underwent a major reconstruction surgery to his left knee, which kept him out of baseball last year. The Brewers offered Sogard, now age 31, a minor league contract with a spring training invite this winter. It was a low-risk move as it wouldn’t hurt the team financially if they ended up cutting him.

(AP Photo/Alex Gallardo),

One of the main reasons for the Brewer’s interest in Sogard could of been the familiarity that Brewer’s bench coach Pat Murphy had with him. Murphy coached Sogard in college at Arizona State and knew he was a good all-around player. He also knew he was a very versatile player as well as patient at the plate. So far, Sogard has been everything the Brewers could have asked for and then some.

Why He Belongs

The Brewers are now 8-1 in games that Sogard leads off, not to mention have a winning record when he starts regardless of where he bats. Counsell needs to ride the hot bat, and Sogard is definitely the hottest bat at this point of the season. Sogard is batting a sizzling  .396  with an outrageous .529 On-base percentage. He is watching pitches and giving the Brewers  good at-bats nearly every time he steps up to the plate. Having him at the top of the order has  done wonders for setting the table for the middle of the Brewer’s potent order. Sogard is taking pitches and working counts to the tune of walking over 20% of his at-bats.

(AP Photo/Gregory Bull)

Since he is one of the most versatile players on the Brewers roster next to Hernan Perez, it should be easier for him to consistently get playing time. Sogard has played practically every position in the infield besides catcher and first base and can also play each corner outfield position. This flexibility should not only allow Sogard the chance to start everyday, but for manager Craig Counsell the opportunity to rest other players when needed. Jonathan Villar had a breakout season last year for the Brewers, but has fallen on hard times this season. The Brewers should give Sogard a consistent look at second base because they have Villar under contract until 2021. This gives the Brewers ample time to figure out what the best move should be.

And finally, he’s also become a fan favorite. The “Nerd Power” phenomenon has taken over Milwaukee like Eric Thames did in April. Every broadcast you watch they’re mentioning his glasses or stats. Every fan is calling for more of Eric Sogard, and it’s time to start to listen to the fans. Ride Eric Sogard’s hot streak for as long as it lasts!

Why Brewer Bullpen Woes are “OK”

The Brewers took a 5-0 lead into the top of the ninth inning last night at Miller Park. It was a game in which manager Craig Counsell was hoping not to have to use his closer Corey Knebel or his setup man Jacob Barnes. Of course the first four Giant batters reached base against reliever Carlos Torres and Counsell was left with no choice but to bring in his closer to finish out the game. Barnes and Knebel have been used quite a bit  already this year for the Brewers. They won’t be able to sustain this type of heavy use without consequences to the bullpen or their individual performance.

Why it’s OK

If the Brewer offense continues to hit and score runs at this pace, the Brewers will  be in these situations where they will be relying on their bullpen to close out games. Fans should expect to see more collapses because this team isn’t built to win now. The Brewers bullpen is a mix of young power arms and a number of veteran pitchers trying to extend their careers.

Either way, this is not a bullpen that is meant to help the Brewers compete and contend for a playoff position this year. This is a squad which is set up to get the Brewers through the season and potentially help them land more prospects in deals with teams looking to add a veteran arm for a postseason run. Neftali Feliz, Oliver Drake, and Rob Scahill weren’t added to the roster this season to get the Brewers over the hump, but with the hope that they pitched well enough so Milwaukee can  flip them for prospects by the trade deadline.

The Astros

The Brewers are in the midst of a rebuild despite the fact that some fans believe they should be trying to win now. Even general manager David Stearns isn’t falling into this  win now trap. Stearns has said all the right things about how he is going to stick to his plan and that’s why the Brewers are somewhat competitive now. The Brewers rebuild to a point resembles what the Houston Astros rebuild looked like. This makes sense since Stearns was an assistant GM with the Astros during that time.

The Astros strategy was to unload all their talent AKA Lance Berkman, Roy Oswalt, and Hunter Pence to name a few players and to acquire as many prospects as possible. They also started cutting payroll to an extremely low amount, which enabled them to “tank” and obtain top draft picks. The next piece to the Houston rebuild was to grow as much pitching as possible from the minor leagues.  The Astros acquired the rest of the arms that were needed by way of trades or free agency. This strategy has worked out pretty well for the Astros, as they have become a competitive playoff team and the best team in baseball this season with a record of 42-17.

Brewers Rebuild

Back to the Brewers. They have traded most of their valuable pieces outside of Ryan Braun and have picked inside the top-ten in the draft the last two seasons. They have also cut down their payroll to just under 64 million dollars this season, which ranks dead last in Major League Baseball for team salary. Matt Garza and Ryan Braun account for over 53% of the team’s payroll this season. With Garza’s contract over at the end of the season and Braun potentially being a piece in trade talks, the payroll could be significantly lower next season. The last thing a team who isn’t considered a “contender” needs is to spend its money on a good bullpen.

It doesn’t make sense for a team that doesn’t see itself as a playoff contender to spend money on a bullpen that isn’t going to be relied on  because the logic behind it is that there isn’t going to be a large number of games that they are going to be needed in. So why spend the money? Going out and building a good bullpen should be the last thing a contender should go out and do. It’s also easier to build a good bullpen once you have other pieces. Once you have a good product on the field you can go out and sign a high profile reliever, take a risk on a solid reliever or two coming off an injury or an abnormal year. Teams also aren’t  afraid to pull up young arms from the minor league system because the future is already here.

Looking to the Future

The Brewers and especially Brewer fans need to stay patient and believe in the process that David Stearns has laid out and stood by these past couple years. Milwaukee has a ton of high ceiling prospects as well as some good young talent at the Major League level. The team has been really competitive the first 10 weeks of the season and fans shouldn’t be deterred by the lack of success by the bullpen. Brewer fans should take the good with the bad this season and just embrace this team for what it is… A young exciting team to watch in the midst of a rebuild.

(AP Photo/Morry Gash)

Milwaukee Brewers Prospects to Watch For

It’s known to most Milwaukee Brewer fans that the team has one of the best farm systems in all of baseball. Their Minor League system features high profile prospects such as Lewis Brinson, Corey Ray, and Josh Hader just to name a few. But many casual fans don’t realize how deep the Brewer’s farm system actual is! The Brewers have a wealth of  talent at every level of their system,  from Low-A ball with the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers to the Triple-A  team located in Colorado Springs.

With so many high ceiling prospects within the organization, it’s hard to stand out, but so far this season their have been three players who have done just that and fans should keep an eye out for them in the next few years. They are Mauricio Dubon, Jake Gatewood, and Trey Supak. Each one of them will show up on the Brewer’s top 30 prospect list and are all under the age of 23.

Mauricio Dubon

Dubon is a 22 year old SS/2B that figures to reach the majors sometime next season (2018). He’s currently  playing for the Biloxi Shuckers, the Brewer’s Double-A affiliate. He is currently ranked as the Brewer’s ninth best prospect. Dubon was originally drafted by the Boston Red Sox in the 26th round of the 2013 draft. The Brewers  acquired Dubon this offseason, as he was a piece in the Tyler Thornburg deal. In that trade the Brewers sent Thornburg to the Red Sox for Travis Shaw, Josh Pennington, and Dubon. Dubon, a native of Honduras, has the same body composition as Brewer’s starting shortstop Orlando Arcia, as he stands six feet tall and 160 pounds.

 (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

His game also mirrors Arcia, as he is known as a slick fielder, who has quick hands and feet as well as a strong arm. He projects as a player who can make plays from either side of second base thanks to his glove and arm. One thing that separates Dubon from Arcia is his defensive versatility. Dubon can not only play shortstop and second base, but also has had some experience in centerfield in the Arizona Fall league this past year. He is seen as a hitter who has quick hands and great hand-eye coordination. Dubon is a right-handed hitter who is projected to hit for average, but in 2016 saw an increase in power, as he recorded career highs in homeruns, extra base hits, and slugging.

So far in 51 games this season for the Shuckers, Dubon is batting .298 with two homeruns and 19 runs batted in. He has also added 22 runs, 15 base on balls, and a Brewer’s minor league leading 24 stolen bases. Dubon is putting together a nice season in Double-A in 2017, where he is showcasing not only his defensive skills, but the ability to hit for average and steal bases.

Jake Gatewood

Gatewood is a 21 year old 1B/3B that figures to reach the majors in 2019. He is currently playing for the Carolina Mudcats the Brewer’s High-A club. Gatewood is currently ranked number 25 on the Brewer’s top prospect list, but has really come into his own this season. He is a homegrown talent as the Brewers selected Gatewood in the supplemental first round, or 42nd overall in the 2014 draft. He was a high-risk high-reward type pick the Brewers fell in love with due to his prodigious power. Gatewood was originally drafted as a shortstop, but had trouble translating his game in the field once reaching the professional ranks.

Though he struggled at shortstop, his raw power at the plate had shown through in his first two seasons, and the Brewers decided to switch his position to third base. Gatewood has a huge frame, standing six foot five, but at the age of 21 is still growing into his body as he weighs only 190 pounds. Due to his size, athleticism, and arm strength, third base should be a better fit for his skillset. If he continues to struggle in the field however, the Brewers haven’t ruled out moving him to first base because they love his power bat. Gatewood continues to be evaluated as a player that has a high ceiling, but will need to cut down his strikeout percentage. In his career he is striking out in nearly 30% of his at bats, while his walk percentage is only about 5%.

In 52 games this season for the Mudcats, Gatewood is batting .306 with seven homeruns and 28 runs batted in. He also has hit 20 doubles and scored 35 runs so far this season. Though his strikeout percentage is still right around 30%, his walk percentage has more than doubled in the first couple months of the season. This season, Gatewood is showing that he can continue to hit for power and that his eye has gotten considerably better.

Trey Supak

Supak is a 21 year old starting pitcher that is projected to reach the Majors in 2019. He has recently been call up to the Carolina Mudcats in High-A ball after spending most of the first two months in Low-A ball with the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers. He is currently 29th on the Brewer’s top prospect lists, but has had some setbacks due to injury. In December of 2015, the Brewers acquired Supak in the trade that sent Jason Rogers to the Pirates, while the Brewers also received starting centerfielder Keon Broxton.

(AP Photo/Morry Gash)

Supak is a large hurler, who stands six foot five, and weighs 235 pounds. He features a fastball, curveball, changeup and currently throws in the low 90s. He like many of the Brewer’s young prospects is still growing into his body and should be able to gain some velocity on his fastball if he continues to add strength. Supak features an above average curveball, and a changeup that he likes to cut and fade to get called strikes as well as swings and misses. Many scouts believe Supak can project to become a third starter with three above average pitches.

In eight games with the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers, Supak went 2-2 with an ERA of 1.78 and a WHIP of 0.76. He also struck out 53 batters over 41 innings of work. Supak was recently called up to High-A with the Carolina Mudcats where he has made just one start. He went four innings giving up four runs and striking out seven batters.