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70% of the 2016 Milwaukee Brewers

With the trade deadline in the rearview and a talent infusion into the upper ranks of the minor leagues, the Brewers turn their attention toward 2017 and beyond.

Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

70% of your 2016 Milwaukee Brewers – Trade Deadline Looming

Through Friday August 12th (114 games)

Record: 51-63

Over the past 17 games, the Brewers notched a winning stretch at 9-8. (Discalimer: this article contained an extra game as I was up in the Northwoods at a bachelor party and could not save the stats through game 113.) The winning stretch started on the second half of their ten game homestand that closed out July. They won 5 out of the last 6 in the homestand, by taking 2 of the last 3 over Arizona (everyone’s favorite team to hate this year) and sweeping the Pirates in a weekend series. Beyond that, it’s been slim pickings for excitement on the field for the Brewers. They went 4-7 against the dregs of the National League (San Diego, Arizona, Atlanta and Cincinnati). The excitement that was generated by the Crew surrounded the trade deadline, as Jonathan Lucroy, Will Smith and Jeremy Jeffress departed. In the deal with Texas, they grabbed two of their top three prospects in outfielder Lewis Brinson and pitcher Luis Ortiz along with a PTBNL. In an extremely small sample, Brinson has done nothing but hit in Colorado Springs, which has been nice to see. By sending Smith to San Francisco, they may have gotten an even better haul relative to what they gave up. Coming over to the Brewers was catcher Andrew Susac and righty Phil Bickford. While there are concerns as to whether Bickford’s final destination is in the rotation or bullpen, this is a nice return for Smith who was coming off of a knee injury earlier in the year.

Nothing has changed as far as the pecking order goes in the NL Central. Cincinnati continues to bring up the rear at 47-67, although they have also been playing close to .500 ball over the last 17 games. A razor thin margin continues to separate the 2nd and 3rd place Cardinals and Pirates and both have played sub .500 ball over the past 2 plus weeks. Combine these results with a white-hot stretch of 14-2 for the Cubs, and the race for the Central is over for all intents and purposes. The Cubs are now 14 games clear of St Louis and 14.5 games ahead of Pittsburgh. Luckily for the Cards and Buccos, none of the other wild card contenders have really pulled away from them, with only the Dodgers out in front of them. Similar to last season, we could very well see 3 teams from the Central in the playoffs. Over the past few years, it has certainly seemed like the Pirates have been destined to lose the one game wild card playoff, and they may be on a collision course for that distinction again this year.

Offensive Team Stats:

BA NL Rank OBP NL Rank Runs NL Rank HR NL Rank BB NL Rank K NL Rank SB NL Rank
Through 16 games 0.226 13 0.315 7 60 11 15 8 66 3 147 14 5 14
Through 32 games 0.246 8 0.328 7 144 7 39 5 126 4 290 14 18 7
Through 48 games 0.244 8 0.328 6 204 8 53 6 198 2 475 15 39 1
Through 64 games 0.245 9 0.327 5 264 10 68 9 256 2 601 15 56 1
Through 81 games 0.248 9 0.326 9 326 12 83 10 302 3 769 15 68 1
Through 97 games 0.245 10 0.323 8 389 12 102 10 359 2 933 15 95 1
Through 114 games 0.248 9 0.327 7 469 12 125 9 433 2 1088 15 123 1

With the departure of Jonathan Lucroy, there was a gaping hole left in the middle of the Brewers offensive attack. It’ll be interesting to see how they fill the void as they’ve already tried Chris Carter, Hernan Perez and even Scooter Gennett in the cleanup spot. Not surprisingly, in corresponding roster moves immediately after the trade deadline, Milwaukee called up their prized prospect in shortstop Orlando Arcia. There were probably three contributing factors to the timing of this move: (1) from a PR standpoint, it’s probably nice to start talking about a top prospect in the wake of trading away your All-Star catcher and two best relievers, (2) Arcia had served enough time in the minor this season that starting his clock now would not cost the Brewers a year of team control and (3) he had not much left to really prove in AAA at Colorado Springs. In only 44 plate appearances with the big league club, he has expectedly struggled at the plate, with a triple slash of .200/.273/.275. His calling card, however, has been defense all along, and he has certainly not disappointed on that front. He has a strong arm and great range at short, and if he can get his average up to .250, he’ll be entrenched at the position for the next decade.

Despite not having regular, consistent protection behind him now that Lucroy is gone, Ryan Braun has begun heating up again in the past week. He has 5 home runs and 12 RBI’s in the last 17 games while maintaining a strong line of .322/.387/.541. Over the long haul, however, Braun’s numbers will either start to tail off or opposing pitchers will begin to pitch around him if no one steps up behind him.

Scooter Gennett continues to produce with a triple slash of .273/.328/.415. If he can continue to produce for the remainder of the season, the Brewers should have a good problem on their hands. At this point in time, it’s difficult to determine whether the Brewers see Gennett as the long term solution at second base. Jonathan Villar has been performing admirably at third base, but he does not have power profile you would typically expect out of the hot corner. It’s not too hard to envision a strong defensive combination of Arcia and Villar up the middle for years to come. The longer Scooter can keep performing at second, especially in limited reps against lefties this year, the more his trade value increases.

Speaking of Villar, he continues to perform well in his first dose of extended playing time this season. His triple slash sits at .302/.386/.443. His stolen base success rate sits at a respectable if unspectacular 75% (45/60). If Villar can prove that this season has not been a fluke and can follow up his average/patience/speed profile with another strong campaign next year, he’ll leave no doubt that he belongs in the core of the Brewers’ next contending team.

Hernan Perez is also making a push for a spot on next year’s club, as either a regular at third or a super utility player, capable of playing anywhere on the infield and in the corners in the outfield. He does not possess the same abilities as Villar to draw walks, so nearly all of his offensive output will be driven by his batting average. Only 25 years old, Perez still has the potential to improve his batting eye. With his .288 batting average and 20 stolen bases at a 83% success rate, even if his on-base percentage does not improve, Perez has plenty of value to the Brewers. With his defensive flexibility, he only enhances his value to the team as he can line up at a different position on the diamond every day of the week.

Pitching Team Stats:

ERA NL Rank HR NL Rank BB NL Rank K NL Rank
Through 16 games 5.52 14 27 14 66 13 99 15
Through 32 games 5.59 15 49 14 132 13 217 15
Through 48 games 4.52 12 67 14 184 11 353 12
Through 64 games 4.52 10 86 14 221 9 472 12
Through 81 games 4.53 11 101 13 286 10 595 13
Through 97 games 4.32 10 112 10 340 10 704 15
Through 114 games 4.23 9 130 11 394 10 838 15

Since their horrendous start to the season through game 32, the pitching staff has essentially improved upon their earned run average at every step along the way throughout the season. Over the last 17 games, this has been all the more impressive considering the makeup of the rotation through 114 games. Junior Guerra was placed on the disabled list as of August 9th with elbow soreness. All indications are that this trip to the DL was nothing serious and he just needed some time off. Considering he is within 20 innings of his high inning mark in a season for his career, the timing of it makes a lot of sense. If he only spends the minimum 15 days on the shelf, he should return for the last week of August. This will leave enough games for Guerra to make another 6 or 7 starts through the end of the season. Assuming he averages about 6 innings per start as he has to this point in the season, he’ll end up with between 145 and 150 innings pitched which would eclipse his career high by about 20 innings and would be a reasonable innings load for Guerra.

With their best starter in Guerra on the shelf, their second best starter, Zach Davies, has maintained his status as the steady hand within the rotation. He has lowered his ERA to 3.58 and continues to chew through innings, consistently working 6 plus frames. Similar to Guerra, Davies has yet to work an entire season in the majors. The Brewers have done well to limit his workload as well, with Davies high pitch count coming at 105 and only eclipsing 100 pitches 3 times this season. If all goes well, Davies will also eclipse his high inning mark at some point this season. The Brewers will be smart to manage his innings wisely down the stretch with nothing left to play for this season.

With Guerra hitting the shelf for a few weeks, someone had to replace him in the rotation. Wily Peralta drew the assignment, and amazingly, he did not go down in flames. In his first start since returning from Colorado Springs, Wily suffered the loss but pitched well in defeat. He gave up 2 runs over 6 innings. Whether or not this was just a lucky start or signs of a turnaround, it was nice to see Wily put together a good start in Milwaukee. It was encouraging to see some more life on his fastball as well, clocking in at 96 and even 97 on occasion. It all starts with the heavy fastball for Wily, so hopefully he can take advantage of his temporary reinstatement in the rotation. If he would have struggled, there’s no telling whether or not he’d get another turn in the Brewers rotation this year or in future years.

Matt Garza has won 3 straight starts for the Brewers. That is not a misprint. It certainly helps when the team has scored 11 and 15 runs in his last two starts. While he is still not pitching deep into games, he has only allowed 5 earned runs in his past three starts. Walks and long balls continue to mar his starts however, giving up a home run in this last 3 starts and 7 walks over the same time period. While his isn’t lighting the world on fire, he is certainly pitching good enough that the team should not consider flat out releasing him and eating his contract at this point.

With Will Smith and Jeremy Jeffress both shipped off at the trade deadline, Tyler Thornburg has assumed the role of the team’s closer for the remainder of the season. The role change has not fazed Thornburg to this point, as he continues to have a breakout season. He has lowered his ERA to 2.12 to go along with 12 K/9 and a WHIP below 1.00. He has experienced an extended run of dominance, giving up only 1 earned run over his past 17 appearances.

Out of the remaining regular bullpen contributors, Carlos Torres has certainly stood out. His ERA sits at 2.68 to go along with a tidy 1.22 WHIP. Michael Blazek continues to struggle in 2016, with an ERA of 5.26. Blazek cannot seem to get on track, as he has bounced back and forth between injuries and general ineffectiveness.

70% awards

MVPP – Most Valuable Position Player

Ryan Braun: With the departure of Jonathan Lucroy, Ryan Braun becomes the offensive centerpiece of the Brewers for the remainder of the season. His recent power surge coupled with his high batting average shows that he’s the most feared hitter remaining in the lineup. Villar continues to produce, but he cannot instantly change the game the way that Braun is able to. It all comes down to injuries with Braun. If he can effectively manage the bumps and bruises, the Brewers should be able the fill their lineup out around their #3 hitter over the course of the next few seasons.

Honorable Mention: Jonathan Villar

LVPP – Least Valuable Position Player

Ramon Flores: It really is amazing that he can continue to occupy a roster spot on the rebuilding Brewers, even if his playing time has been significantly diminished. Flores’ triple slash remains downright putrid: .206/.291/.263(!). Perhaps Domingo Santana’s extended time on the disabled list in the only thing keeping Flores gainfully employed.

Dishonorable Mention: Martin Maldonado

MVP – Most Valuable Pitcher

Junior Guerra: Disabled list or not, Guerra remains the best pitcher on the team with a sparkling 2.93 ERA. Hopefully he can come off the disabled list after the minimum 15 days and return no worse for the wear.

Honorable Mention: Zach Davies, Tyler Thornburg

LVP – Least Valuable Pitcher

Chase Anderson: With Garza’s recent string of good starts, Anderson gets the nod for this spot. His ERA continues to hover around 5.00 as he is still struggling with the home run, giving up 21 so far on the year. Anderson succeeds when he’s able to get ahead in the count and work off of his changeup in a pitcher’s count. As a result of falling behind in the count frequently this year, Anderson has fallen into more predictable counts making his changeup much less effective.

Dishonorable Mention: Michael Blazek

Highlight of the Season (so far): Winning the series at home against the Cubs. Until the club goes on some sort of extended winning streak (think 6 games or more), this will remain the highlight of the season.

3 Preferred September Callups (with the trade deadline in the rear view mirror, here are 3 guys I’d like to see in Milwaukee when September 1st rolls around):

1) Lewis Brinson: Acquired in the Lucroy trade, Brinson was immediately placed in AAA Colorado Springs and hit the ground running. He has seemingly passed Brett Philips on the CF depth chart of the future. There is no one on the major league roster blocking him for starts in center if he is called up in September. He will most likely not start everyday as they’ll want to bring him along slowly. However, the last month of the season will be a good audition period to see how he will fare against major league pitching.

2) Andrew Susac: Acquired in the Will Smith trade, Susac comes with much less fanfare than Brinson but was also placed in AAA. Carrying three catchers is not unheard of in September and Susac will likely get the call. He is considered an offense first catcher. It will be interesting to see how he performs in September. At the very least, Susac should be in the mix for a roster spot next spring either as the starter or backing up Martin Maldonado.

3) Josh Hader: He has struggled in Colorado Springs, but so does seemingly every starting pitcher. Hader appears to be the starting pitcher prospect that is closest to breaking through to the big club in Milwaukee. Even if there’s no spot available for him in the rotation for a spot start in September, it’d be nice to bring him up to pitch out of the bullpen. If nothing else, giving him that major league experience for a few weeks will be invaluable as he could crack the starting rotation as early as next season.

All statistics courtesy of Baseball Reference