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 continue their playoff push, beat Washington 7-2

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

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

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

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

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

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

Brewers gain ground in the playoff race, beat Washington 1-0

Neil Walker drilled a solo home run in the first inning, and it turned out to be all the offense Milwaukee would need Friday night in a 1-0 win over the Washington Nationals.

Starter Jimmy Nelson was masterful in keeping the NL East-leading Nationals off the scoreboard, going seven innings, giving up just three hits and striking out 11. The bullpen backed him up, with Josh Hader and Corey Knebel striking out all six batters they faced. It gave Nelson win No. 11 on the year, tying a career-high for him, while Knebel picked up save No. 32.

On the other side, Washington’s Tanner Roark was nearly as good. Outside of the mistake to Walker, he shut Milwaukee down, going seven innings and allowing five hits while striking out 10. Centerfielder Jonathan Villar was the only Brewers batter to have more than one hit on the night.

Outfielder Ryan Braun was tossed from the game in the fourth inning for arguing balls and strikes. It was the sixth time in his career he’s been ejected from a game.

With the win, and a loss by Colorado, Milwaukee moved to within 1 1/2 games of the Rockies for the final wild card spot in the National League. The Crew remains 3 1/2 games back of Chicago in the NL Central.

It’ll be Washington and the Brewers once again Saturday night at Miller Park. First pitch is set for 6:10 p.m.

Milwaukee overcomes early deficit to beat Pittsburgh 7-6

Powered by five home runs, the Milwaukee Brewers came back from an early deficit to beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 7-6 on Wednesday afternoon at Miller Park.

Manager Craig Counsell’s team trailed 4-0 entering the bottom of the third inning when their bats finally woke up. Centerfielder Keon Broxton drilled a solo home run, which was followed by a two-run shot from second baseman Neil Walker.

Things stayed 4-3 until the sixth inning, when third baseman Travis Shaw tied the game with his 26th homer of the year. The Pirates answered that with a run in the seventh, only to see Broxton hit another solo shot to tie things up in the bottom of the frame. After an Adam Frazier single gave Pittsburgh a 6-5 lead going to the bottom of the eighth inning, the Brewers showed off their resiliency as catcher Manny Pina hit a two-run homer that proved to be the game-winner.

The victory was the fourth straight for the Brewers, who improved to 2-43 this season when trailing after seven innings, and in doing so moved into sole possession of second place in the NL Central, 1 ½ games back of Chicago and a game in front of St. Louis.

After a rough first three innings, Jimmy Nelson settled in, going 6 1/3 innings, allowing three earned runs on eight hits while striking out seven. Anthony Swarzak picked up the win, while closer Corey Knebel earned his 24th save with a scoreless ninth inning.

Milwaukee now hits the road for nine games, starting Friday night in Colorado.

Smooth Santana leads Brewers to 7-4 win over Reds

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

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

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

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

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

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

Brewers Neil Walker making debut at 3rd base

One day after the Milwaukee Brewers traded for second baseman Neil Walker from the New York Mets, Walker gets the start for the Crew Sunday against the Reds. Walker will start at third base and bat cleanup in place of regular 3B Travis Shaw who is dealing with a right foot injury.

 

Walker is batting .264 this season, with 10 home runs and 27 RBIs in 73 games. He missed a large chunk of June and July with a hamstring injury, just returning to the lineup on July 28. This was the 31-year-old’s second year in New York, having spent his first seven seasons with the Pittsburgh Pirates.

While Walker’s stats may not blow anyone away, the Brewers struggles at second base have been a story for several months. They waived Scooter Gennett during spring training, handing the job to Jonathan Villar. He’s batting just .222 with nine home runs and 35 RBIs. Milwaukee overcame his struggles early on because of Eric Sogard’s surprise success. He batted .331 before the all-star break, but since returning from an injury in late July, he’s got five hits in 45 at-bats.