Most Improved Player: Keston Hiura
This award could be given to a number of players, but I am going to go with Keston Hiura as my preseason pick because of the multitude of ways we could see him get involved this season. With no starting spot guaranteed, look for the Brewers to move Hiura around as a utility player. Originally brought up as a middle infielder, we saw the Brewers slot him at first base and second base last season. This season, expect to see him get some time back at first, DH and in the outfield, where he took added reps during Spring Training. The biggest question mark surrounding him going into the season is will we see his performance at the plate return to where it was during his rookie season? This spring saw a new look at the plate for Hiura. With the elimination of a toe tap and a reduced leg kick, production improved during the shortened Spring Training. With a new approach at the plate, I expect to finally see some improvement in production for the 2022 season.
Breakout Star: Rowdy Tellez
Rowdy joined the Brewers last July via the Blue Jays and instantly became a fan favorite. In just 56 games with the Brewers, Tellez slashed .272/.333/.481 with 7 home runs. With no real competition at first base, Tellez should be the everyday starter. An increase in plate appearances should only help his production in 2022. I think if he can continue with the same trend that we saw last year, Tellez can become a premier first baseman in the National League. Average exit velocity and hard-hit % were career highs last year, and his ability to spread the ball all over the field could make him a tough out in 2022.
Newcomer of the Year: Hunter Renfroe
Acquired on December 1st right before the lockout began, Renfroe brings some much-needed power to the plate. Coming off a season where he slashed .259/.315/.501 with 30 home runs, look for Renfroe to bolster a lineup that ranked 23rd in slugging last season. The 30-year-old outfielder is coming off a career-best season with the Red Sox. Renfroe also has some success against left-handers, an area where the Brewers have struggled, ranking 23rd in OPS against left-handed pitching last year. The addition of the universal DH also gives the Brewers some flexibility if they don’t want to make him the everyday right fielder.
Don’t sleep on his fielding abilities, though, as he has a cannon for an arm.
Team MVP: Christian Yelich
This selection feels like a necessity if the Brewers want to have a realistic chance at going to the World Series. After winning the National League MVP in 2018 and having arguably a better season in 2019, Yelich has experienced a significant dip in production. Even with a disappointing last two years, there were some signs of hope towards the end of the season. Yelich saw an increase in numbers after the All-Star Break, which included the month of August when his slash was .313/.359/.470. I expect to see that kind of improvement continue into this season. Yelich doesn’t have to return to MVP form to be the team MVP. An average Christian Yelich is still one of the most productive players in baseball, the only question is will we see that player this season? Let’s hope.
Who do you think will be the Milwaukee Brewers MVP in 2022?
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Statistics courtesy of FanGraphs, Baseball Reference and MLB.com