The Milwaukee Brewers’ offense hasn’t been lighting up scoreboards this season like many fans — especially myself — dreamed when the team acquired Lorenzo Cain and Christian Yelich. Overall, the lineup has been streaky and, as Milwaukee tradition dictates, reliant on the home run.
Something that has been especially hurting the team’s offensive performance have been a couple weak spots in the lineup. Domingo Santana is underperforming, Orlando Arcia has been pathetic, but perhaps no position is hurting the Milwaukee Nine’s offense more than second base.
Jonathan Villar has been the best and most regularly played contributor at second; however, it doesn’t look like his modicum of success is sustainable. Here’s why:
- Over Villar’s last 20 games, he is hitting .244/.303/.344, striking out 21 times compared to just 5 walks.
- His BABIP is already at an unsustainable .390. You can expect about a 30-point dip in that total based on his career numbers.
- His contact rates show he’s been very lucky. His soft contact rate is at 28%, a height it has never reached in his career, while his hard contact rate sits at 30%, a low during his time with the Brewers.
- Even during Villar’s amazing 2016, he was at least striking out 25% of the time, versus 30%, and walking 3% more often.
- Villar is only making contact with the ball on 50% of his swings, his worst rate since 2014.
- Defensively, Villar continues to make mistake after mistake. His tendency to make outs on the bases also tends to be a negative,
After Villar, we all know the Brewers LOVE Hernan Perez. As valuable as Perez can be because he plays every position, he has been more detriment than asset at the plate. Perez has:
- A .196/.224/.357 slash line that speaks for itself in terms of how it is hurting the team.
- His lowest walk rate since becoming a Brewer at 3.4%. It’s also below his career average.
- A strikeout rate of 20.7% with a 61% swing rate at pitches in the zone.
- An incredibly low hard-hit contact rate at 22%, his lowest in five years.
- A wRC+ at 53, continuing a trend of poor measurements over the years.
To Perez’s credit, his BABIP is only at .195 and is probably due for some positive regression. His low rate of hard contact, though, doesn’t suggest that his BABIP is wholly a product of bad luck.
Finally, the Brewers can look at Eric Sogard. I have been a fan of Sogard since he joined the team, mostly because he presents himself as being a likable person. His offense is not making an argument for him staying on the team long term, though. He is slashing .113/.175/.170. Like Perez, his BABIP is extremely low at .195, but another hard-hit rate of 22% helps to explain why more hits aren’t falling in.
In my opinion — and the opinion of many others — it’s time for the Brewers to try something new. Right now, the Brewers have two incredibly hot prospects at AAA in Nate Orf and Mauricio Dubon. Both players’ performances should be taken with a grain of salt given the hitter-friendly environment of Colorado Springs, but are doing things that show they deserve a chance.
Nate Orf is making a strong case to be called up and take over second base. While Orf is older than your average prospect at 28, it’s not unheard of for hitters to finally find their way at the plated a little later than some of their peers. Orf has shown:
- Solid offense. His line at home is an absurd .429/.500/.612, but even away he is hitting an admirable .294/.400/.324. I wouldn’t expect a .600 slugging percentage from Orf, the .400 or lower area is definitely more accurate.
- To be good at getting on base. In most seasons, Orf’s BB% is over 10% with a strikeout rate that stays below 15%.
- A strong defensive skillset and would offer versatility similar to Perez. In his career, he has played at every position but first and catcher.
- He is undersized at 5’9”, and as mentioned, has never found much power outside of Colorado Springs.
The crowd favorite to come up is Mauricio Dubon. Dubon was acquired last year in the Tyler Thornburg trade with the Boston Red Sox. You know, the one that gave the Brewers their starting third baseman and this great prospect and a couple other prospects in the lower levels. Dubon is:
- In the middle of a 20-game hitting streak. He is hitting .320/.320/.567 with the Sky Sox and currently has a .306/.324/.472 line outside of Colorado Springs. Given his plus speed, his .351 BABIP isn’t that likely to fall all that much either.
- A safe at-bat. Dubon has never been proficient at walking, averaging a 5% walk-rate in his career, but he excels at not striking out. Dubon’s career K-rate is below 15%.
- A dynamic player on the bases. With his plus speed, Dubon stole 38 bases last year and isn’t one to get caught.
- A solid defender. Dubon has played shortstop and second base regularly and he isn’t a large risk to miss a big throw.
The Brewers haven’t shown any inkling that they are nearing a change, but based on the way their prospects are playing and how poorly the MLB players are performing, I say it’s time for a change.
Statistics courtesy of FanGraphs, Baseball-Reference, and MiLB.com.