The Brewers head into the 2022 season with plenty of options in the outfield. While the team lost Avisail Garcia to the Miami Marlins and Jackie Bradley Jr. to the Red Sox, they’ll bring back Christian Yelich, Lorenzo Cain, and Tyrone Taylor. They also added Hunter Renfroe and Andrew McCutchen. It’s also possible we’ll see Keston Hiura play in the outfield, as Craig Counsell has utilized the second basemen in left field at times this spring. Let’s preview the Brewers’ options for the year.
Yelich is coming off of a second straight disappointing season, but he did show some improvement in the second half of the season. While the power numbers were not there all year, Yelich had a strong August before a disappointing September. In August, he hit .313/.359/.470, somewhat returning to his 2019 form.
Baseball Reference expects to see another mediocre year for the 30-year-old outfielder, projecting a .261/.369/.467 batting line. They do, however, predict improved power numbers with 21 home runs. Yelich has also provided hope in spring training with a .300/.333/.400 batting line in 21 plate appearances. He’ll be the starter in left field and probably get some playing time as the DH to give him defensive rest this year.
Cain enters the final year of his contract as the starting center fielder. After opting out of nearly the entire 2020 season and facing injuries for most of 2021, it’ll be interesting to see if he can return to his 2018 All-Star form this season.
He’s consistently one of the best defensive outfielders in the league, but his offensive numbers in 2021 were underwhelming, to say the least. Cain batted just .257/.329/.401 across 78 games. While his WAR was still 2.2, much of that can be attributed to his six defensive runs saved. Cain will likely get time at DH in addition to center field, especially if he is hampered with injuries again.
Renfroe was brought over from the Red Sox in a trade for Jackie Bradley Jr. Coming off of a strong year where he batted .259/.315/.501 with 31 home runs and 96 RBIs, the Brewers are hoping he can reproduce those numbers at right field this season. Known as a power hitter, he’ll add some much-needed pop to the outfield after the loss of Avisail Garcia.
While Renfroe isn’t a great fielder, he’ll be crucial offensively and the Brewers can slot him in at DH if he becomes a liability. After a poor showing in spring training, Baseball Reference is projecting a .234/.301/.464 line with 27 home runs this season. Side note: Renfroe has a .274/.375/.726 line against the Brewers in his career with seven homers and 16 RBIs. That .726 slugging percentage is his best against any opponent except the Marlins (.750).
McCutchen, who was signed on a one-year deal just after the MLB lockout ended, is a longtime Brewer killer. In 159 career games (basically a full season) against the Crew, he’s totaled 36 home runs, 34 doubles, and 98 RBIs to go with a .275/.349/.520 batting line. Two silver linings for the Crew: 1) He’s especially good at American Family Field, where he has a .289/.350/.581 batting line with 23 homers and 61 RBIs in 77 games. 2) He’s played just as good against the Cubs. His totals against the Cubs in 166 games are 25 home runs, 40 doubles, and 98 RBIs with a .301/.400/.508 batting line.
Besides his solid numbers against NL Central teams (he has a .850 OPS against the Reds), McCutchen was consistent in 2021 with the Phillies. While he only hit .222, he had a .334 OBP and a .334 slugging percentage to go along with 27 homers and 80 RBIs across 144 games. The Brewers currently list McCutchen as the backup left fielder and backup right fielder, as well as the starting DH. Between the outfield and DH, it’s likely that McCutchen will get plenty of playing time this season.
Many — including myself — have argued that Tyrone Taylor is deserving of a starting job. But with four proven veterans in front of him, it’s hard to see Taylor starting in this outfield until next season. He has played extremely well in limited opportunities during his three seasons in the majors, including a .247/.321/.457 line with 12 homers and 43 RBIs across 93 games in 2021.
He’ll likely reproduce something close to those numbers this year, albeit with more opportunities with the introduction of the DH in the NL. Hopefully, the Brewers will consider him for a starting position next season, otherwise the team might have a similar situation to Khris Davis a few years ago. With Cain and McCutchen set to become free agents after this season, it’s possible Taylor — who is still pre-arbitration — could get the starting job next season.
Besides the five options mentioned above, the Brewers also have options in Keston Hiura, Jonathan Davis, David Dahl, and Corey Ray, all of whom have had opportunities to play in spring training.
Should the Brewers try to bring back Lorenzo Cain after 2022 or focus their attention on Tyrone Taylor?
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