Happy weekend! I spent the morning at breakfast with an old friend from grade school learning about his doctoral research in solar cells at UT-Austin, which is definitely way cooler than baseball and went mostly over my head. So let’s get to some questions in a field I’m a little more equipped to chat about:
The Dane asks:
Lewis Brinson was injured playing in a meaningless game for the Sky Sox. (We all know the important games take place in AZ in March.) The reason usually given for keeping him in AAA vs being the 4th outfielder was to give him consistent at-bats and playing time. Was that the right decision or should this be used as a cautionary tale? With his high output at AAA, would he have been better off riding the pine with our Local 9 (hey, that rhymes!) or is regular playing time important to continue his development?
I don’t think it was the wrong decision for Lewis to have been playing in AAA at that time. As we discussed in our last mailbag, Keon Broxton is the best option to be playing regularly in center field right now. He’s also hitting a cool .292/.370/.708 with 6 homers in his last 54 PA since being recalled on August 1st. I do believe in Brinson and think he’ll be a very good player at the MLB level, but based on his output in The Show this year it is difficult to argue that he’d be a more productive fourth outfielder than someone like Hernan Perez at this point in time. Winning games right now is important, and it would probably make more sense to have Brinson get acclimated to the MLB when there is regular playing time available. Scouts have said that it could take awhile for his skills to truly translate to the MLB, especially his hit tool, so we’ve got to stay patient with his development even though his AAA production is obviously exciting.
It’s worth keeping in mind too that in regards to his injury, issues like this aren’t anything new for Brinson. In fact, he’s made lengthy trips to the disabled list in each of his last four full seasons. He spent 26 days on the minor league DL in May 2014, 36 days in May-June 2015, 34 days between two stints in 2016, and now this injury in 2017. He’s still young and all, but perhaps he should have a small concern about the possibility that he’ll be injury prone?
What are your thoughts on intentionally hitting batters?
Tangentially related question: What are your thoughts on the "body armor" that some guys wear to the plate?
I don’t support the idea of hitting a batter intentionally and wasn’t a fan of what Zach Davies did the other day against Pittsburgh.
As far as the body armor goes, I guess it’s not something I ever really thought that much about before. It doesn’t really bother me. If I were a batter at the plate, I would probably load up with as much of that stuff as I could so long as it didn’t inhibit my swing. Getting hit with a pitch hurts, man.
I know you are not supposed to scout stat lines,
but why isn’t Troy Stokes getting more top prospect recognition?
Stokes has become one of my favorite under-the-radar prospects in Milwaukee’s system. He was considered a toolsy prep player when Milwaukee plucked him in the 4th round of the 2014 draft and this is the first season that he’s been able to stay fully healthy for. As you mentioned, he’s been able to put together pretty drool-worthy stat lines this year, batting .250/.344/.445 with 14 homers and 21 steals in 426 PA (121 wRC+) in a difficult hitting environment in Carolina before getting promoted to AA Biloxi. There, he’s produced a .296/.354/.535 slash with 4 dingers and 4 steals through his first 79 PA (155 wRC+). Oh yeah, and he won’t turn 22 until next February.
Stokes is an undersized player at just 5’8” and 182 lbs, so it’s easy for him to get overlooked in an organization filled with athletic and talented outfielders (much like how Khris Davis didn’t get much love as an undersized outfield prospect). As I wrote in a scouting profile on Stokes for BP Milwaukee earlier this year, though, a change in his batting stance has helped him unlock his above-average raw power potential more regularly in game settings. Similarly to the adjustment made by Keon Broxton, Stokes has dropped his hand positioning to closer to his belt buckle and the change has clearly paid dividends. He’s also got above-average speed and a discerning eye at the plate, not striking out overly often and taking a good amount of walks. He’s definitely a guy to keep an eye on, as Eric Longehagen also recently noted for Fangraphs:
A muscular 5-foot-8, Stokes packs quite a punch and has above-average pull power. Because of his size, his swing is equally as compact as it is lofty and he’s able to be short to the baseball while also lifting it into the air. Stokes lacks bat control and doesn’t square balls up as frequently as scouts like to see, leading to many pop ups, and his pull-heavy approach to contact means he might be solved at upper levels, but he’s got an interesting power/patience combination and some speed, too.
My weekly Keon question
If Keon finished the season 20/20 and with an .800 OPS, what should the Brewers do with him?
Broxton hit his 20th home run yesterday and has 19 steals, so it’s really only a matter of time until he reaches the 20/20 benchmark. His OPS this season is up to .774 and his wRC+ up to 95; for his MLB career he now has a 100 wRC+ with 29 homers, 43 steals, and 3.4 fWAR/2.9 bWAR across 626 plate appearances, or roughly a full-season’s worth trips to bat.
We would be ecstatic if Lewis Brinson could achieve those types of numbers, right? A 3+ WAR player who is capable of producing a league-average OPS, is a threat to mash 25+ long balls and swipe 40+ bags, all while playing average-to-better defense at a premium position in center field? So why then should the competing Brewers feel the need to so quickly jettison a player who is already actualizing that production at the MLB level, who has at least one more year of control at league minimum before possibly hitting arbitration as a Super 2 player, and isn’t eligible for free agency until after the 2022 season? In my opinion, Keon Broxton should be the starting center fielder until someone takes the job from him.
Lewis Brinson isn’t going anywhere. He’ll inevitably get his opportunities - someone is going to get hurt or have their play fall off at some point. But until he truly forces the issue - which he hasn’t yet at this point - I don’t see a great need to get rid of a controllable and talented player like Broxton or Domingo Santana simply to give Brinson a chance to prove he can be even as good as one of those two players.
The 2B solution...
Although I’m happy the Brewers finally did something to address 2B and I feel Walker is a good addition (depending on the price), why didn’t the Brewers try the free alternatives of Mauricio Dubon or Ivan De Jesus Jr? They gave Brinson and Phillips a go in CF when Broxton couldn’t figure it out, why not give Dubon a shot. And if you bring in a veteran like De Jesus in Spring Training for depth, why not use him when you need him most (he’s been destroying AAA pitching .346/.409/.490)? The Brewers clearly aren’t in win now mode yet, so why jump to a trade before utilizing the cost effective options at your disposal?
First off, in regards to the perception of being or not being in “win-now” mode - from the reports that were out there, Stearns was prepared to part with some pretty good prospects at the deadline if he could get his price on the players he was targeting. Stearns has indicated that this is going to be a theme during his time as GM: he is never going to overpay for any player, in any season. In this way, it is difficult to say that the Brewers will ever truly be operate under a “win-now” mindset while Stearns is at the helm.
In the case of the Walker aqcuisition, the Brewers desperately needed a player that they could count on being an upgrade at the keystone. Sure, Ivan De Jesus has been crushing AAA pitching, but that’s nothing new for the 30 year old. He’s got a 137 wRC+ with Colorado Springs this season, but he also had a 124 wRC+ for the Reds’ AAA team in 2015, a 109 wRC+ for Baltimore’s AAA team in 2014, and a 134 wRC+ for Pittsburgh’s AAA squad in 2013. At the MLB level, he’s a .242/.303/.327 hitter with 5 homers and 4 steals in 650 plate appearances. The AAA numbers haven’t translated to the big league level.
Even Dubon’s .276/.321/.425 slash only translates to a below-average 91 wRC+ when factoring in the environment of Colorado Springs. He projects for well below-average power output at the big league level and even though he’s stolen 38 bases between AA and AAA this year, he has also been caught 15 times. There’s sure to be a learning curve for Dubon once he reaches the MLB, meaning that like De Jesus, we can’t exactly count on him to outproduce either Jonathan Villar or Eric Sogard either.
Given the market for position player rentals this season, it doesn’t seem like the PTBNL that is owed to the Mets will wind up being anyone very notable within Milwaukee’s system. For that relatively negligible cost, the addition of Walker - a career .273/.340/.438 hitter who has put together an 1.196 OPS with a homer in his first 4 games with Milwaukee - seems like a no-brainer for the contending Brewers.
I've noticed that Travis Shaw has been wearing bright red batting gloves lately.
Someone correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t think it’s been that way the whole year. Anybody know what that’s all about? Perhaps it’s something to do with his daughter? If that’s the case, I hope he’s not getting fined for wearing non-team-colored equipment.
Good timing with this question, as Adam McCalvy recently tackled this topic over on the Brewers’ site. I’ll direct you to his story, which apparently started as a joke between Shaw and Milwaukee’s equipment manager.
What is the status of our top four catchers next spring?
Contract/Free agency wise at least, not like relationship status or something.
This is Manny Pina’s first full season in the big leagues (he’ll probably get some rookie of the year votes, to be honest) and he’ll have another two years of control at league minimum before becoming arbitration eligible.
Stephen Vogt was arb-eligible for the first time this past year with Oakland and is earning a salary of $2.97 mil. He’ll have two more years of arbitration before becoming a free agent if the Brewers opt to tender him a contract and keep him around.
Jett Bandy had exactly one year of service time entering this season, and based on the 23 days he spent in the minor leagues this season, he’ll still have another five years of club control after this year. If he plays a full season in the big leagues next year, though, he’ll almost assuredly become arb-eligible as a Super 2 player.
Andrew Susac entered the year with 1.092 years of MLB service, and if he finishes out the season either in the MLB or on the big league disabled list, that’ll push him to 1.151 years of service if I added the days up correctly. That means he’ll still have five years of club control, but like Bandy, would become eligible for arbitration as a Super 2 player if he spends all of 2018 in the MLB.
What is your favorite Brewers nickname that will appear on a jersey over the weekend?
I like Zach Davies (Bat Boy), Hernan Perez (Pan Blanco, which translates to White Bread), Eric Thames (Sang Namja, which is Korean slang for badass), and Brent Suter (The Raptor) the best on the Brewers. Although I don’t think anyone can beat Scooter Gennett opting to go with ‘Ryan’ on the back of his jersey.
Brewer Fan Mike asks:
Neil Walker and payroll next year
What are the odds the Brewers resign him next year to a 1 or 2 year deal. He seems to have fit a need for the Brewers and a great addition. I think the future at 2nd base will be Dubon. But, having watched him play last week in Colorado Springs, he seems like he is a year away from being ready to be a starting 2nd basemen in the big leagues. Also what amount do you think payroll could be increased to next year? The owner seems to be open to spending when we have a realistic shot at the playoffs (just not when in rebuilding mode) and it appears that this team is ready to compete for the playoffs 2 years ahead of schedule!
If Walker is willing to take a one or two year deal worth somewhere in the range of maybe $10-15 mil per season, that would be something I would be heavily in favor of the Brewers doing. He apparently wasn’t enamored with the multiyear deals he was offered last year, which lead to him accepting the Qualifying Offer given to him by the Mets. Given that he missed time with an injury this season and hasn’t been as productive as he was last year, it’s hard to imagine the market being a ton better for the soon-to-be 32 year old this winter. Something like 2 years, $25 mil could work out well for both sides. I could see the Brewers getting a bit more involved in free agency this coming winter, and they’ll also have to pay arbitration raises to guys like Jimmy Nelson, Chase Anderson, Corey Knebel (who will almost definitely qualify as a Super 2), and Hernan Perez, among others. I could see the payroll at least cracking the $80 mil range in 2018.
Brad Ford asks:
Why is Kyle so mean to Brad?
Brad, you’re my best friend on line! If I have done something to upset you and that’s why we don’t DM as much lately, I truly apologize. * insert sad crying face emoji *
Well I certainly didn’t anticipate this getting up to 2500+ words when I started out this post, but y’all asked so many good questions this week and I just couldn’t help myself, so here we are. Can’t wait to see how our beloved local nine is doing the next time when we have our next discourse!
Statistics courtesy of Fangraphs and Baseball-Reference
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