With Opening Day less than one week away, Brew Crew Ball continues to preview which players figure to spend time at each position for the Brewers. Next up: third base.
Urias will miss the first couple of weeks of the regular season as he continues his slow recovery from a quad injury sustained in spring training, but he will be the clear-cut starter at the hot corner once he returns.
The Brewers initially acquired Urias in anticipation that he would be the long-term solution at shortstop, but offensive and defensive struggles prompted them to trade for Willy Adames. The new plan was for Urias to bounce around the infield in more of a utility role, but Travis Shaw’s shoulder injury opened the door for him at third base.
The 24-year-old thrived after the position change. He finished the year with a .249/.345/.445 slash line, good for a 111 wRC+. After hitting no home runs in the shortened 2020 season and just six in 124 big-league games, Urias left the yard 23 times.
Being fully recovered from a wrist injury certainly helped in that regard, but Urias also benefitted from changing his stance and approach. He started leaning back before pitches as a mechanism to keep his shoulders level, and he dramatically increased his fly ball rate and average launch angle. Urias also demonstrated newfound patience, drawing walks at an 11% clip.
Defensively, the former prospect took to third base far better than he did to shortstop. He racked up six defensive runs saved in just 68 games, putting him on pace for 14 DRS in an entire season’s worth of games.
Urias still saw some time at shortstop down the stretch, particularly when Willy Adames was nursing a quad injury. In addition to being the starter at third, he is also Milwaukee’s next option at shortstop when Adames is unavailable.
Jace Peterson and Mike Brosseau
We’ve talked about these two before when previewing other infield positions. Peterson and Brosseau are likely to form a platoon in the utility role, meaning that both will see some time at third base throughout the season. Peterson has solid plate discipline, while Brosseau carries more power potential, particularly against southpaws.
Reyes is another utility option for the Brewers, and he appeared in 53 games for the Crew last season. While his offensive production is a bit below what Peterson and Brosseau can provide, he is arguably the best defensive player of the trio, especially at the hot corner. Since he and Brosseau both bat right-handed and have options remaining, the two could be swapped out for one another depending on the team’s needs at any given time during the season.
In what is becoming a running theme, we’ve also talked about the versatile Mathias before when discussing other positions. The 27-year-old faces an uphill battle for playing time with the Brewers after missing the 2021 season due to injury and being outrighted off the 40-man roster.
Statistics courtesy of FanGraphs and Baseball-Reference.