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BCB Mailbag 49: A slump leads to more rebuild talk

Answering the burning questions from you, the reader.

MLB: Milwaukee Brewers at Pittsburgh Pirates Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Sorry for the delay on this mailbag post, friends. I got distracted by watching Tiger Woods at the British Open and then had some family stuff going on, so here you go:

Spaul149 asks:

Given the inconsistencies at 2B what are the odds that Hiura jumps AAA and gets called up?

In the recent midseason update of Baseball Prospectus’ top-50 prospects, Keston Hiura was all the way up to #5 overall in baseball. Here’s what their scouts had to say:

He’s back to full-time at the keystone in Double-A this year, and has hit .300 with medium pop between the Carolina and Southern League. He’s basically major-league-ready, and if this list were a week later, he might be up and ineligible. Hiura could very quickly be a .300-hitting second baseman that should have some 20-home-run seasons.

At least according to scouts, it’s not outlandish to wonder whether or not Hiura will reach the big leagues this year. He was considered to be a highly polished bat coming out of the draft last summer and has done nothing to disprove those thoughts so far. With that said, however, I don’t get the feeling that we’ll see Hiura this year. The Brewers continue to explore all sorts of middle infield options, which includes mostly shorter-term ones like Manny Machado (before he was dealt) or Brian Dozier or Asdrubal Cabrera. Adding a player like that would help the team cover second base for the rest of this season, but wouldn’t block Hiura from taking the job next year. If things continue for Keston with the bat and with his elbow health like they have been, I would fully expect to see him in the big leagues next summer around the Super Two cut-off at the very latest.

brew_crew22 asks:

Can Domingo Santana pitch? That’d be cool

I can’t find any stories or videos about Domingo pitching as a professional, unfortunately. But at 6’5” and 220 lbs, he certainly has the ideal body to be an inning-eating middle rotation starter. He typically received plus grades for his throwing arm, so I would imagine he’s able to rush a pretty good fastball up to the plate. Maybe if he works with Derek Johnson to learn the splitter, he could give Milwaukee another late-innings option for the playoff run.

Big10freak asks:

Is anyone else confused on how the Brewers manage injuries?

Thames tweaks something and is put on the DL. Braun and Shaw are clearly fighting nagging injuries and Braun finally goes to the DL while Travis limps along. It’s very strange

I do think that the way they handle injuries as far as hitters vs. pitchers is very different. It seems like the org is more than willing to have a pitcher skip a start or take a break for a few days while dealing with mild discomfort, so that they can bring up a fresh arm for the roster. But anecdotally, it sure does feel like the team has played a bat or two short on the bench an awful lot this year while having several players stuck in day-to-day purgatory. A more aggressive approach in utilizing the 10-day disabled list would help the team have bats available more regularly, although the trade off is that replacement players like Hernan Perez and Keon Broxton and Brett Phillips don’t come close to guys like Shaw or Yelich or Braun when those players are right.

Fortunately, the Brewers aren’t the only team that seems to struggle in this regard. The Dodgers just came and went through town and are going through a similar situation with Justin Turner. He didn’t play and wasn’t available for eight straight days (including the All-Star break) but wasn’t put on the DL, so the Dodgers were just short a bat. He pinch-hit in Friday’s game and started on Saturday, then exited yesterday’s contest early with groin tightness. Now he’s looking at a disabled list stint.

Secret Stadium Sauce asks:

If how the Crew finished the first half continues after the break

Do you think they will stand pat and plan for next year?

No, I definitely think that the team will make some moves. David Stearns isn’t the kind of general manager who will let a week or two worth of games sway his opinion of the team. Although they’ve been slumping, the Brewers are still a good squad that is very firmly in the playoff picture. They missed out on Machado but there are still plenty of other potential fits for them out there on the market. We may not see a blockbuster trade for a deGrom or an Archer, but I think at least a couple incremental improvements like the Walker and Swarzak deals of 2017 are almost a given at this point.

Dreman50 asks:

Is Zack Brown the real deal?

He’s having a sensational year at AA but is this just a flash in the pan? If he continues to improve and reaches his ceiling, are we looking at a #2/3 type starter or is he another “what if” that ends up in the bullpen like Jorge Lopez?

Zack Brown is a very different pitching prospect from where Jorge Lopez was a couple years ago, in my opinion. Lopez was a high school draftee who was always inconsistent with his control and third pitch, and there was always a lot of bullpen risk in his profile. I think Brown, who was drafted as a collegiate arm, is a safer bet to stick in the rotation, although his upside may not be quite as high as we hoped Lopez’s was back in 2015. Brown has got a solid three-pitch mix with his fastball/curveball/changeup, and his demonstrated command and control has been a lot better and more consistent as a professional than Lopez. Brown posted a 3.11 ERA across 110.0 innings with Wisconsin and Carolina last season and has obviously carried that success over to Biloxi this year. He was pulled early from his last start with an injury and the severity of that has yet to really be determined, but assuming it’s nothing serious, I think that the upside here is a possible mid-rotation starter who could be MLB-ready within the next year or so.

nullact asks:

Our rebuild was going to take a while, then it was happening faster than expected

Right now, how does this team compare to our original rebuild expectations? Do we still feel further along? Are we worried about the changes that free agency will bring (with the potential to add at least one major FA into the division)?

When this whole thing began in 2015, I think the assumption among fans and analysts would be that it was going to be another Astros/Cubs-style scorched earth rebuild and that the team wouldn’t be looking to compete again until 2020 or later. David Stearns obviously had different ideas, however. Stearns, his front office, and the scouting and analytics department deserve an awful lot of credit for identifying, acquiring, and developing undervalued assets from other clubs like Junior Guerra, Travis Shaw, Jesus Aguilar, Eric Thames, and even Jeremy Jeffress. They deserve a lot of credit for building up prospect depth not only to supplement the MLB roster, like we’ve seen with Josh Hader, Freddy Peralta, Corbin Burnes, Jacob Nottingham, etc, but also for completing a significant trade like the Yelich deal. They, along with Mark Attanasio, deserve a lot of credit for going out and making an investment in a player like Lorenzo Cain, who is a leader both on and off the field. These Brewers are showing that if you have an excellent front office and are willing to take risks, the path to consistent contention can be a lot shorter than five years.

Ultimately, the Brewers need to do what they think is going to be best for their franchise and future, and not worry about ‘responding’ to what other teams in the division may do. The Cubs looks like a team that is set up to compete for the next several seasons, sure, but so do the Brewers (who arguably have a better front office and field staff). I think that this is going to be an entertaining ball club and exciting division to follow for many years to come.

I hope everyone has an enjoyable week, here’s hoping the Brewers can string some wins together and make a big splash before the rapidly approaching trade deadline!

Statistics courtesy of Fangraphs