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.

Travis Shaw’s 2-run walk-off HR pushes the Brewers past Chicago

Faced with the same extra innings situation they had been in the last two nights, the Milwaukee Brewers were determined to change the outcome on Saturday — and they did.

After watching the Chicago Cubs score in the top of the 10th inning in each of the last two games and go on to win, manager Craig Counsell’s club once again faced a deficit when they came to the plate at Miller Park in the 10th. But instead of just accepting a fourth straight loss, the Brewers kept their playoff hopes alive thanks to a 2-run, walk-off homer by Travis Shaw for a 4-3 win.

It was a 1-1 game until the top of the eighth inning when Kris Bryant drove in a run with a sacrifice fly, and it stayed that way heading to the bottom of the ninth.

Two things were going against the Brewers at that point — closer Wade Davis hadn’t blown a save in 2017 and Milwaukee hadn’t won a game when trailing after eight innings all year. Shortstop Orlando Arcia took care of the first part with a solo homer, and then, after Chicago got an RBI single from Jon Jay in the 10th inning, Shaw took care of the second part following up a Ryan Braun double with his 31st homer of the year and the win.

The victory guaranteed the Brewers would have a winning record, the first time since 2014. It also kept them in the race for the second wild card in the National League, as they pulled even with St. Louis, sitting 1 1/2 games behind Colorado. Both of those teams had yet to play Saturday.

Milwaukee will try to get the split of its four-game series with the Cubs on Sunday afternoon.

Cincinnati beats the Brewers with a walk-off home run from Billy Hamilton

A walk-off home run from Billy Hamilton ruined the start of Milwaukee’s important six-game road trip as the Brewers fell 5-4 to Cincinnati on Monday.

Milwaukee fought back from an early 4-0 deficit thanks to a pair of home runs in the seventh inning — a solo shot by Ryan Braun and a three-run blast by Orlando Arcia. The Brewers had opportunities to add to its tally but were unable to capitalize and paid for it.

Hamilton, well known for his speed and base running, only had to jog around diamond after crushing the ball to deep left center off of Josh Hader for his first career walk-off homer. It was another shaky outing for Hader, who gave up a pair of runs in a 3-2 loss to Washington his last time out.

The Brewers were facing the big deficit thanks in part to Chase Anderson misplacing his command. The starter walked three, including two when the bases were loaded, allowing a pair of runs to cross. He ended up making it 5 1/3 innings, giving up four runs on seven hits.

Homer Bailey retired 14 batters straight at one point for the Reds, before he faltered in the seventh inning.

The loss did some damage to the Brewers playoff hopes, as Colorado got a walk-off win of its own against San Francisco. It allowed the Rockies to move 1.5 games up on Milwaukee. As for the NL Central, the Crew remained 3.5 games back of Chicago.

Milwaukee and Cincinnati will face off once again Tuesday night at Great American Ball Park.

Matt Garza roughed up in an 11-4 loss to the Twins

Matt Garza picked the wrong time to have his worst outing of the season.

The Milwaukee starter gave up eight runs in just 3 1/3 innings at Minnesota in an 11-4 loss on Tuesday night. The veteran had allowed just four runs in his previous 15 1/3 innings of work.

Garza started out OK, but the fourth inning turned into a nightmare for the 33-year-old. It started with a solo home run from center fielder Eddie Rosario, included a grand slam by second baseman Bryan Dozier and concluded with another home run, this one from right fielder Max Kepler. The Brewers had entered the frame with a 4-2 lead and came out of it down 8-4, a deficit they wouldn’t recover from.

Offensively, the Crew got three hits apiece from right fielder Domingo Santana, left fielder Ryan Braun and shortstop Orlando Arcia, but they could manage just the four runs. Braun came up a home run short of hitting for the cycle.

The loss was Milwaukee’s third-straight, but because the Cubs lost to San Francisco, the Brewers remain just 1 ½ games back of Chicago in the NL Central. But things are getting tight behind them, too, with St. Louis just a game back of Milwaukee and Pittsburgh only two games back.

The Brewers and Twins will continue their interleague series tonight in Milwaukee.

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.

 

 

 

 

Rays walk off against Brewers, avoid series sweep

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — The Tampa Bay Rays avoided a series sweep Sunday afternoon, taking down the Milwaukee Brewers 2-1 on a walk-off home run from Steven Souza, Jr.

After eight quality innings from Brewers starter Jimmy Nelson, Jacob Barnes allowed the one hit that made the difference in the contest, breaking the 1-1 deadlock. Nelson allowed six hits while fanning nine.

Opposing starter Chris Archer exited the game after six innings and an Orlando Arcia solo home run, Milwaukee’s only scoring offense of the game. Archer was given a no-decision while extending his streak of six innings to 15 consecutive starts.

While the Rays end their 21-inning scoreless drought, the Brewers took a momentary step back in the National League Central standings. Milwaukee now trails Chicago by a full game, with the Cubs and Nationals finishing up Sunday evening.

Brewers come out of All Star break with 9-6 win over Phillies

MILWAUKEE — The Milwaukee Brewers took advantage of lesser competition Friday night, blasting two home runs in a 9-6 win over the Philadelphia Phillies at Miller Park.

Keon Broxton got the momentum moving with an RBI single in the bottom of the second inning and that’s when the doors blew open. Orlando Arcia followed up Broxton’s hit with a three-run blast to give Milwaukee a 4-2 lead, but it didn’t take long for that lead to grow. Ryan Braun’s 17th-career grand slam came just moments later to make it an 8-2 contest after two innings.

That big lead allowed Brewers starter Zach Davies to make mistakes without being punished. He’d finish his night with six runs (five earned) allowed on seven hits, with a career-high five walks. He was replaced by Carlos Torres mid-way through the sixth inning.

“I’m pissed off by my performance, definitely,” Davies said. “But the team’s winning, and you can’t be selfish in that aspect and be upset and show it when the team is doing what it should be doing.”

Davies would still get credit for the win — his 11th of the season — thanks to the run support. Of all the regular starters in baseball, Davies has been backed by the third-most runs scored.

“That’s the case this year, there’s no question about it. We’ve scored a ton of runs in Zach’s starts,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. “I don’t have a great explanation. There’s going to be a guy that gets the most runs. I can guarantee that.”

With the Chicago Cubs also winning Friday night, Milwaukee’s win helped maintain the team’s 5 ½ game lead atop the National League Central. Arcia admitted to keeping an eye on the score for their division rival, though he didn’t seem affected by it.

“You’re always paying attention. I don’t think it’ll be a distraction, especially if we keep winning. It’s obviously going to be fun to watch the other teams, what they’re doing, if we keep doing our thing.”

Chase Anderson injured, Brewers lose 4-3 to the Reds

Milwaukee lost to Cincinnati 4-3 on Wednesday night and also lost its best pitcher for what is expected to be an extended period of time.

Chase Anderson suffered an oblique strain during a second inning at-bat and was forced to leave the game.

“I [swung] at it and it literally just felt like someone stabbed me on the left side,” Anderson told reporters after the game. “Not a good feeling.”

It’s unclear how long Anderson will be out, but the team has already decided to put him on the disabled list, and his absence could be last for quite a while.

“It’s [going to] take time. Those are injuries that you really can’t pinpoint a time schedule. It could be a month, it could be two months [and] hopefully nothing longer than that,” Anderson said. “Obviously, I hate sitting out. I don’t want to be on the [disabled list]. I want to pitch. [I’ve] been throwing the ball well lately. It’s just unfortunate for our rotation and for our team.”

Anderson has been Milwaukee’s No. 1 pitcher this season, going 6-2 with a 2.89 ERA – the best among the team’s starters.

“Anytime you lose one of your five starters, it’s a big blow,” manager Craig Counsell said. “I got used to [him] pitching very, very well. We’ll have to cover in his absence. It’s going to be difficult.”

LISTEN: Chase Anderson talks about the injury that landed him on the DL

Paulo Espino replaced Anderson after the injury and gave up three runs in three innings of work, including a 2-run homer to former Brewers second baseman Scooter Gennett, his 12th of the year.

The game was tied 3-3 in the bottom of the eighth inning when Counsell decided to go with closer Corey Knebel, who promptly walked the speedy Billy Hamilton. He stole second and third before scoring on an infield single by Adam Duvall.

Milwaukee had a chance to tie the game in the top of the ninth, with Jonathan Villar on third base and just one out. But pinch hitter Jesus Aguliar struckout and Orlando Arcia was thrown out trying to get to second base on what Counsell said was a called play.

“It was going to work,” Counsell said of the intended rundown that would have allowed Villar to potentially score the tying run. “Orlando just didn’t stop in time, and they got a tag.”

The loss was Milwaukee’s fourth in its last five games, yet the Brewers remain in first place in the NL Central by one game over the Chicago Cubs.

It’ll be Cincinnati and the Brewers again Thursday night. First pitch is at 6:10 p.m.

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 game-winning two-run homer. It was his first home run since June 7 and his 12th on the year.

“He’s got opposite field power. We’ve seen it a bunch this year,” manager Craig Counsell said. “That’s a huge spot.”

Arica and first baseman Eric Thames made sure it would hold up. With the tying run on second base, John Jaso sent a grounder up the middle that looked destined for the outfield. But Arcia somehow tracked it down, spun and threw a one-hopper to Thames, who scooped it up for the final out of the game.

“Off the bat, I was like, ‘Oh, shoot,” Thames said. “I was like, ‘Oh, please don’t be a hit.’ Then all of a sudden I see Arcia going for it. I was like, ‘There’s no way he’s going to catch that.’”

But Arcia did, and in doing so made one of the plays of the year so far for the first-place Brewers.

“I was yelling don’t throw it,” Counsell said with a laugh afterwards. “That’s probably what stands out the most.

“It’s a special play in a huge moment.”

Corey Knebel was the benefactor of the play as he picked up his 11th save of the season to help Milwaukee snap a two-game losing streak.

Junior Guerra got the start, going six innings, giving up three runs on seven hits and striking out six.

Milwaukee, which owns a 1.5 game lead on the Cubs in the NL Central, will try to salvage a split of its four-game series with the Pirates Thursday afternoon.