The 2016 Baseball Prospectus Annual has been trickling out over the past week plus to the cast of thousands that pre-ordered the tome, and my personal Twitter timeline, which is largely populated by my fellow baseball writers, has been filled non-stop with gleeful pictures of the industry's preeminent guide next to beverages of varying caffeine and/or alcoholic content. After finally gaining access to the digital version I ordered on Wednesday, I perused the book for it's salient bits for you, my favorite Brewers community, and I'm here to share with you a couple of the things I learned.
Important note: The ten points below are things that I personally either found interesting or thought would be easy to make jokes about. There's literally a thousand other pieces of information about the Brewers and a million other things about baseball in general in this book, all of which you may very well find more interesting than everything I have to say below. Not only is it filled with a vast array of incredible information, it also contains some of the smartest and most entertaining baseball writing you'll find anywhere from the very best in the industry. If you're a fantasy baseball player and you don't have this book, you will lose to anyone that does. You can buy the enormous volume for around $15, or you can buy the digital version for about a dollar less if, like me, carrying around a book the size of six bibles everywhere isn't your bag. Either way, it's a steal at twice the price.
Full Disclosure: I am an intern at Baseball Prospectus. They do not pay me any money and I will not see one red cent from sales of this book. Listen pal I'm not some sell out I'm just telling you about good books.
1. BP Milwaukee has a gem in Ryan Romano
What do you think this is, some book report post where I summarize what he said? Think again. Go read the book ya jabroni. I'm just saying that Romano, who wrote the Brewers essay in this year's Annual, really has a way with words. Go check him out at BP Milwaukee if you want.
2. Miller Park is built to boost left-handed hitters
Miller Park is one of the best parks for left-handers, especially home run hitters: the three year park factor for HR/LH is 121 (average is set to 100) which is the fourth highest in the league, trailing only Baltimore and the two New York parks. Miller Park is a hitter's haven that boosts offense from both sides of the plate, but the advantage to lefties is significantly greater. It's clear the Brewers are aware of the advantages Miller Park offers to left-handed power hitters, as they've loaded up their lineup with big-time lefty mashers like Scooter Gennett and Kirk Nieuwenhuis.
I kid the General Manager! But it does make one wonder why, for instance, David Stearns brought in the right-handed Chris Carter to fill in at first base for the next couple years when Pedro Alvarez, who has a similar bat profile but swings from the left-hand side, was likely available for a similar price. Carter has a couple of additional years of control as he was entering his first year of arbitration eligibility this season, but neither projects as a long-term solution at first base and Alvarez's price isn't likely to rise past Milwaukee's budget. It's also odd that the Brewers haven't had a left-handed starting pitcher since Tom Gorzelanny in 2013, giving up the platoon advantage to opposing lefties for two straight years. But hey, that's why they brought Cappy back, right?
3. Nobody knows what Domingo Santana is
The blurb about Santana states that the Brewers experiment with Santana last year, in which they stuck him in center field to see what they had in him at the plate, failed to really advance any knowledge about the 23-year-old; coming in he was a guy with big raw power that struggled to make contact, and we still don't know if he'll hit enough to let the power play up. Then they compared him to Gorman Thomas, but it was mostly just to make facial hair jokes. The prevailing wisdom is that Khris Davis will be moved to make room in the starting lineup for Santana, but is he really a major league starter?
4. If you love bunts, you'll hate Craig Counsell
Hopefully you do not love bunts, because bunts are bad. In the game of baseball there is no clock, there are no downs, and it is theoretically possible that a single inning could continue for eternity. I like baseball a lot, but that would actually be the worst -- baseball games should end in my opinion. Sacrifice bunts give away baseball's only finite resource, outs, in exchange for a nebulously increased possibility of scoring a run later, which is a thing that can be obtained without giving away one of your 27 outs.
The nature of the National League makes the bunt a necessary evil to some extent, because we are stuck in 1950 and continue to force pitchers to go do a thing they're terrible at for our own sick amusement. However, once Counsell took over following Ron Roenicke's firing, the team's brash willingness to discard potentially productive outs dropped by more than half, as Counsell asked his hitters to sacrifice themselves just once every 3.1 games, while Roenicke had done so once every 1.4 games. Bunts and intentional walks are like punting and field goals in football -- they're for turbo nerds who aren't kickass enough to hit dingers and score touchdowns.
5. It's a make-or-break year for Garin Cecchini
After two full years at Triple-A, Cecchini's time to break through and realize the potential attached to him as a former top 100 prospect has arrived. He had a miserable year at Pawtucket in 2015, and at this point the old "he needed a change of scenery" adage is what you're clinging to if you're expecting a breakout. PECOTA isn't: they give him just an 8% chance to "breakout," defined as a 20% increase in production, vs. a 13% chance to "collapse," which as you might have guessed is the direct opposite of a breakout. One of his comparables is Shane Peterson, so that's not great. Speaking of those...
6. Ryan Braun's comparables are wild
Comparables are ultimately silly. They are there to give context but usually end up confusing folks way more than they help, and either Braun or Trent Clark are the prime examples of that for the Brewers in this year's issue. Braun's age 32 season projections draws comparisons to those of Frank Robinson, Hank Aaron and Matt Holliday; a pair of Hall of Famers including perhaps the greatest player to ever call Milwaukee home. Clark's age 19 season draws comparisons to Andrew McCutchen's, which is nonsensical since Clark will not play in the majors this season, and McCutchen didn't when he was 19. Nevertheless, it's fun to see one of the best center fielders in the game today compared to one of Milwaukee's top prospects, whose ability to stick in center field currently sits near the "sure, Braun could be a third baseman" range of outcomes.
7. Tap the breaks on the Isan Diaz bandwagon
I'm not saying you have to bail, folks. If you're about that life, stay about it. I'm just saying, let's not write in Diaz as the shortstop of the future and put Orlando Arcia on the trading block just yet. While Diaz has spent the vast majority of his career at shortstop, the consensus is that he's destined for the right side of the infield. His three comps are a trio of dudes I've never heard of, which is fine, because he's 20. He's pegged as nothing more than "a starter on a bad team," but you could say the same thing about 2015 Omar Infante and he's got a ring now. Yes, he led the Pioneer League in OPS in 2015. Here's the last 10 guys to do that: Ryan O'Hearn, Cal Towey, David Dahl, Runey Davis, Adam Eaton (hey! We've heard of him), Paul Goldschmidt (okay wait), Roberto Lopez (that's more like it), Travis Vetters, Danny Dorn and Kenny Holmberg. It's a long, long way from rookie ball to the majors.
8. Rymer Liriano should be fine
PECOTA predicts a TAv (explained here) of .251 for Liriano in 2016, which is slightly below the forced league average mark of .260 -- TAv adjusts for park factors, so there's no need to slide that number up with the move from pitcher-friendly Petco Park to decidedly pitcher-unfriendly Miller Park. The PECOTA marks are the 50% projections for players, so there's upside for Liriano to be an above average starter, especially if he can stick in center field.
The Annual notes that with the outfield log jam in San Diego, it might have been time for the Padres to trade the 25-year-old, so that Milwaukee acquired him essentially for free is a coup for Stearns and another baffling move by A.J. Preller. Liriano is ranked 7th among NL rookies in projected WARP which sounds really great until you realize he's just one spot ahead of Matt Clark, the former Brewers farm hand who is currently a free agent because no one is willing to sign a man with two first names. Take the projections with grains of salt, folks.
9. Maybe don't buy your Will Middlebrooks shirsey just yet
I'm not sure who wrote the Middlebrooks entry specifically (J.P. Breen took the lead on the Brewers' player analysis) but suffice it to say he or she did not have kind things to say about Middlebrooks. If, like me, you owned him in a fantasy baseball league in 2012 and then subsequently sort of forgot he existed, you were momentarily over-the-moon that he was joining Milwaukee on a minor league deal. In just under 900 major league PA since, however, Middlebrooks has hit .213/.258/.363 with a 26.0% strikeout rate. He could get it together and start mashing like he did in 2012 again, just like it's entirely possible that my Tinder date on Saturday could result in a long and happy marriage. I'm not going to start sending out wedding invites just yet though, and Middlebrooks probably doesn't need to write a Silver Slugger award acceptance speech.
10. Your Arcia excitement is justified -- kind of
I hope you are sitting down for this: Arcia is an elite prospect. BP says that Arcia is the best prospect the Brewers have had since Braun and Prince Fielder, which is lofty company. However, don't expect big things from Milwaukee's top prospect in 2016. PECOTA projects him to get just 69 at-bats in 2016, which I think is a nice number for him -- it represents a short cameo at the major league level, which is what I'd like to see versus rushing him through Triple-A before he's ready.