It’s the weekend, my coffee is poured, and I’m ready to talk some ball after a long week at work. So let’s get to your questions:
Who’s the biggest threat to the crew retaking the central?
The Cardinals make me a little nervous, man. Goldschmidt is a tremendous addition and they have a lot of talented depth on their pitching staff. At the same time, I expect the Cubs to still be pretty good, too. I know PECOTA is projecting them to finish last in the Central right now, but I just don’t see such a steep regression across the roster. I think it’ll win up being a three-team race in the end, though it wouldn’t surprise me to see either or both of the Reds or Pirates to finish with winning records. Milwaukee will be battling within what looks like the strongest division in baseball top-to-bottom.
Will Thames be on the opening day roster?
I’d be be thoroughly surprised if he isn’t. First, there doesn’t really seem to be that much of a trade market for a left-handed hitting first baseman right now. With the Brewers into record payroll territory, I think that if Stearns had received an offer he thought was more worthwhile than keeping Thames’ bat and his $7 mil commitment around, he’d have moved on it. I don’t expect the team to eat that money and DFA Thames, either (he cannot be sent to the minors). The fit off the bench isn’t the greatest due to Thames’ limitations defensively in the outfield, but he figures to be a part of Counsell’s regular position player group rotation seeing time on the grass and at first base. He was ice cold down the stretch last season but still posted an above-average batting line overall (105 wRC+, 106 OPS+) for 2018, and the projections see him providing a similar level of production at the plate as the man he lost his everyday job to:
Thames vs. Aguilar
|Jesus Aguilar||118 wRC+||106 DRC+|
|Eric Thames||116 wRC+||104 DRC+|
Thames is nice insurance to have in case Aguilar craters at the plate (which I don’t expect, but I’ve some fans on Twitter express concern about) or if he or someone else gets hurt. I don’t see much chance of the Brewers cutting bait before the start of the regular season.
What is the deal with Angel Perdomo?
How did the team take on a journeyman minor leaguer who’s never played about the Florida State League, give him a non roster invite, and seem to have found a guy who looks, at least so far, like he could be legitimately really good?
Milwaukee is only Perdomo’s second organization, so I think it’s a little bit unfair to the 25 year old southpaw to call him a “journeyman.” As we dug into back in November when the Brewers signed Perdomo, he was at one time a fairly well-regarded prospect within the Blue Jays’ system and represented the org at the 2016 All-Star Futures game. But injuries and issues commanding the baseball have slowed Perdomo’s overall progress - as you mentioned, he’s never pitched above Class A-Advanced.
But development isn’t linear for every player. And as was recently explored in an article at The Ringer, today’s technology makes it possible to seemingly “create” a pitching prospect:
Progressive teams have also grown more adept at making low-profile pitching prospects into major league material. In an era of data-driven player development, “You can create a pitching prospect,” Callis says, noting that the advent of sensitive tracking technology, high-speed cameras, and sophisticated velocity programs has made it more feasible for pitchers to make sudden strides. And some of those strides are almost imperceptible to public prospect rankers. “Trackman/Statcast data on hitters (exit velo/launch angle) is stuff that scouts can see much more easily, and we can approximate without having the data,” McDaniel says. “Whereas fastball rise or spin rate-based deception are really hard to peg even from video.”
Just about every team in the league is using TrackMan and Rapsodo these days, but the Brewers appear to be on the cutting edge when it comes to analyzing and implementing the data those technologies produce. Perdomo’s “stuff” - including a mid-90’s fastball and a swing-and-miss slider - clearly piqued the Brewers interest, and they think they can help him take that next step. “We’re still a ways away from the big leagues, but the swing-and-miss [stuff] is an impressive thing ... It’s a fun player to try to work on,” Counsell recently stated. Perdomo is certainly opening eyes after striking out eight of the first 17 batters he’s faced in big league camp this spring. Perhaps a move to full-time relief, as well as a dearth of left-handed pitching depth in Milwaukee’s upper levels, will hasten his journey to The Show.
Does Gio Gonzalez hate CC and Milwaukee?
starting rotationI mean initial out-getters devoid of lefties, I assumed the Brewers would consider bringing Gio Gonzalez back for some veteran leadership, rotation stability, and added depth. But here we stand a week into March and Gio sits on the market with no teams showing much interest and the Brewers apparently set with initial out-getters. Thinking back to some of his late seasons starts he often appeared visibly upset when Councell, following his three times through the order philosophy, would take him out of a game in the 5th. Have you heard anything about Gio’s true feelings on this strategy and has this played a roll in the Brewers staying away from him in free agency?
Honestly, I have no idea where this notion of a discontented Gio Gonzalez is coming from. The guy constantly professed how grateful he was for the opportunity that the Brewers gave him down the stretch and for how welcoming everyone in the clubhouse and organization was while repeatedly saying that he wanted to help out in any way possible and do whatever the organization needed him to do in order to make it to the playoffs. Re-read this interview from late September.
Gio remains a useful, MLB starting rotation caliber pitcher based on his numbers from last season. His command has never been his strong suit, but he still thrived at limiting hard contact and he generated swinging strikes right at his career average. FIP- saw him as roughly league-average (102) while DRA- saw him as a bit better than average (93), and he was healthy enough to make 30+ starts for the eighth time in the last nine seasons. I’d be happy having him back in Milwaukee on a one-year deal, but the Brewers seem committed to keeping opportunities open for the trio of Burnes, Woodruff, and Peralta this season.
What are the chances the Crew breaks camp with Keuchel, Kimbrel, and/or Gio?
And on another subject, what are the chances that Clayton Andrews has a decent MLB career – or even gets to The Show?
I don’t think there is a high probability of the Brewers signing any of those guys. I’ve already touched on Gonzalez and the payroll, but if they were going to shell out $15+ mil, I’d love to see them sign Kimbrel. He’s statistically the most dominant reliever of all-time. If he’d be willing to sign a short-term deal, I’d love to see Milwaukee plug him in the ninth inning, then move Knebel to become the every-other-day opener and blow away the opposing team’s 1-2-3 hitters to start off games.
On Andrews, his first season in the pro ranks was statistically incredible. He posted a 54:7 K/BB ratio and a DRA- of 43 in 33.0 innings between Helena and Wisconsin and showed enough for Fangraphs to consider the 17th-rounder among the org’s top-30 prospects. It’s going to be an uphill battle for a guy who stands only 5’6” and throws in the 80’s, but with solid command and two terrific off-speed pitches, he has a chance. The org clearly likes him if they’re giving him as much run as he’s gotten in big league camp this spring.
What is the next conventional wisdom for analytics to break?
Once started, everyone jumped on batter evaluations, then almost as easily adopted defensive shifting. Now with our own local 9 adopting the retirement of the front line(High Dollar FA) starter and utilizing openers it seems like pitching has now fallen in line to analytics as well. While acknowledging that not all teams have gone away from the traditional starting rotation methodology, what is the next frontier for analytics to attack?
I think Milwaukee’s commitment to their new sports science facility within the Maryvale upgrades portends to the org looking to make major advancements on the medical and injury prevention fronts. That’s why I am extremely interested in seeing how the Brett Lawrie experiment plays out. The front office acknowledged taking on a medical risk like Lawrie, who will spend all of Spring Training working on getting his body in shape after receiving an in-depth physical and biomechanical check up, wouldn’t have been possible without the new digs. If the Brewers can figure out how to create training and throwing programs tailored individually to helping players avoid injuries based specifically on analyses of their bodies, I think that would be pretty incredible.
Thanks for the great questions this time around, everyone! Here’s hoping that the Maryvale Nine can continue their recent winning ways and make up the 3.5 game deficit they currently face in their quest to defend the Cactus Cup.