We're just about done with the infield how in our series running through the organization by position as we arrive at the hot corner. The refrain is a familiar one at this point, as with the exception of shortstop, the Brewers are quite thin as an organization at catcher and in the infield. As you dig into the Thanksgiving leftovers this afternoon, let me guide you through the situation at third base for Milwaukee's future. And for the love of all that is good, don't disrespect yourself with canned cranberry sauce.
1) Elian Herrera (30)
Contract status: Pre-arbitration, ealiest eligibility in 2017, free agent in 2020
2015 with Milwaukee: .242/.290/.395, 7 HR, 81 wRC+, 0.3 fWAR (277 PA)
2) Hernan Perez (24)
Contract status: Pre-arbitration, earliest eligibility in 2018, free agent in 2020
2015 with Milwaukee: .270/.281/.365, 1 HR, 69 wRC+, 0.4 fWAR (238 PA)
Multi-positional depth: Jonathan Villar, Yadiel Rivera
Herrera, who will turn 31 before next spring, is probably not your starting third baseman on Opening Day, but he's the nominal number one here as the only player on the roster with significant experience at third. We're projecting that the starter will be Jonathon Villar, the shortstop acquired from Houston last week, but who knows. Maybe they'll sign someone else, maybe it really will be Herrera, or maybe they'll trade for Pablo Sandoval. Maybe the world will end and this is all meaningless, folks. What I'm saying is, don't count your chickens before they're hatched. Let's move on.
I'm listing Perez here for now, even though he's not on the 40-man roster after being outrighted earlier this month. He rejoined the Brewers several days later after being resigned to a minor league deal. There's no reason to assume that Perez will be on the Opening Day roster right now since he'd need to be re-added to the 40-man roster, but he's not a prospect either so he doesn't belong below. We'll stick him up here since he has major league experience. The Brewers claimed Perez off waivers in June after his .061/.066/.061 slash line with Detroit forced them to DFA the utility infielder, who was out of options. He was better with Milwaukee, which, you know, was probably a certainty given his numbers with the Tigers.
3) Nathan Orf (25)
Acquired: Signed as an undrafted free agent in 2013
2015 with AA-BIloxi: .274/.378/.368, 2 HR, 117 wRC+ (511 AB)
4) Tucker Neuhaus (20)
Acquired: 2nd round of the 2013 draft
2015 with Low-A Wisconsin: .249/.307/.355, 4 HR, 92 wRC+ (413 AB)
5) Dustin DeMuth (24)
Acquired: 5th round of the 2014 draft
2015 with Wisconsin: 285/.361/.388, 5 HR, 122 wRC+ (351 AB)
6) Jose Cuas (21)
Acquired: 11th round of the 2015 draft
2015 with Rookie-level Helena: .260/.319/.430, 7 HR, 90 wRC+ (285 AB)
Orf is an interesting case. Obviously not a highly sought prospect as an amateur going undrafted, he's done nothing but hit at every stop. Milwaukee skipped Orf up to the Florida State League after he crushed at Helena, and he crushed in Brevard County. He successfully made the jump to Double-A last season, and performed so well once again that Milwaukee elected to send him to the Arizona Fall League, where he, yep, you guessed it, crushed. He was leading the league in hitting (.464 batting average) before he was shut down after undergoing abdominal surgery -- he is expected to be ready to go for next spring. He walks a ton and doesn't strike out much (12.3% and 13.7 BB and K rates, respectively), and if he continues to hit with Colorado Springs next year, he could force his way onto the big league roster as early as next season.
Neuhaus has the tools to be a major league contributor but it hasn't led to much in the way of production just yet. He cut his K% with Wisconsin last season and flashed a little bit more power (27 extra base hits), but he's going to need to hit a little more to stick at the hot corner. Obviously, he's still quite young and there's time for him to improve. DeMuth, with whom Neuhaus split third base duties for the Timber Rattlers, outperformed his younger platoon-mate (both are lefty swingers) last season, There's not a ton of power in his swing, but he gets on base a ton. FInally Cuas, an 11th rounder this June, had a respectable debut with Helena. I won't pretend to know much about Cuas myself at this point, so I'll direct you here for a pre-draft scouting report.