The situation isn’t good right now for the Brewers, especially in the outfield. They lost their seventh game out of their last nine with the extra inning loss to the Mets last night. Ryan Braun is currently on the disabled list. The Brewers currently have only two true outfielders on the roster. Last night, they had to go with an alignment of Hernan Perez in left field, Keon Broxton in center, and Nick Franklin in right after a double switch. It may not have cost them anything last night, but it’s going to in the future. Eric Thames is dealing with leg issues from the long season, and running him out to left field every few days isn’t going to help with that. If the Brewers want to compete this season, or at least make an attempt at it, they can’t keep putting together a patchwork outfield and hope it doesn’t burn them. They need to make a replacement.
To be clear, I’m not advocating the Brewers go all-in this season. I realize that they are not at the point where they can sell prospects for a shot at a World Series. However, the outfield is the strongest position in the Brewers system, yet they are sitting here, running infielders out to the outfield to try and cover up the holes. When the Brewers offense is running at full steam, it can work because the offense can cover up the defensive issues. However, it’s not running at full steam right now. To sit on a resource that the team has, and not do anything with it, is a foolish move.
For the first two months of this season, I’ve been a defender of keeping Lewis Brinson in the minors. It made sense to begin the year, he only had 31 games in Triple-A, and holding him there at least delays his free agency and arbitration years. However, we’re now beyond those deadlines. Based on the Super Two marks in previous years, Brinson should avoid them by coming up now. Also, Brinson has been hot in Colorado Springs. In 66 career Triple-A games, he’s batting .347/.410/.542, with a 129 wRC+ in 2017. He is striking out more than you would like to see (61 K in 288 PA), but that’s a problem that could be addressed in Milwaukee. Plus, he wouldn’t have to sit on the bench if he came up right now. There’s an open job in the outfield until Ryan Braun comes back. Bringing up a hot bat like Brinson’s bat could help keep the Brewers offense going for now.
The only issue to bringing up Brinson right now is an ankle injury that he suffered recently. Because of it, Brinson may not be playing at 100% himself, so bringing him up could be counter-productive. However, the Brewers still have other options. Brett Phillips (.310/.383/.614, 152 wRC+ in 2017) and Ryan Cordell (.302/.368/.515, 129 wRC+ in 2017) may have less time at Triple-A, but could hold a position on the roster until Braun comes back, and even get some valuable experience with the club. Even Kyle Wren (.308/.369/.441, 114 wRC+ in 2017) could at least get a realistic look for now. That’s four outfielders total from the minors that could step onto the Brewers roster right now and allow the team to have three true outfielders again. All of them have played well enough to earn a shot, but are being held in a logjam at Triple-A.
Here’s a realistic question that has to be asked right now: What are the Brewers gaining by keeping a player like Nick Franklin on the roster? He had one good year in 2016, and six other bad years, counting this one. He does have positional versatility, but so does Hernan Perez and Eric Sogard. He doesn’t have a positive UZR at any position, with further negates the idea that he’s valuable as a position player. At the plate, he’s batting only .175/.217/.281 with 26 wRC+. How much longer do we need to watch him before it becomes obvious that he’s not the answer to anything?
It’s important to keep some perspective this season. The Brewers were not expected to compete, and what we’ve seen so far is basically a bonus in the rebuilding schedule. However, that doesn’t mean that we can’t hold the Brewers to higher expectations. It’s time to stop the experiments with playing players out of position and hoping it will all work out. It’s time to start putting a product on the field that makes sense to play, especially when you have the resources to field that team.
Statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference and FanGraphs.