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Brew Crew Ball Mailbag #9: Do the Brewers have other ways to improve their lineup?

Answering this week’s questions for the weekly mailbag

San Diego Padres v New York Mets Photo by Adam Hunger/Getty Images

Happy Friday, everyone, and welcome to this week’s edition of the Brew Crew Ball mailbag!

The Brewers have shown some signs of life after a pair of frustrating series against the bottom-dwelling Pirates and Reds. The Crew swept the Rays in two games for the second time this season, securing the season sweep with a comeback win on Wednesday that ended on a Willy Adames walk-off single.

The Brewers are mostly locked into their current roster now that the trade deadline has passed, but a few of your questions this week focused on other moves they could make to improve their offense. Let’s dive in.

jorgejuliomachado asks:

Should the Brewers sign Michael Conforto by August 31 so they could potentially use him in September/October?

That’s an intriguing proposition. Conforto went unsigned last offseason after suffering a shoulder injury during the lockout that required surgery in April. He was initially expected to miss the entire season, but agent Scott Boras recently indicated that he could be cleared to hit in September.

Conforto has demonstrated serious pop in the past, hitting 33 home runs in 2019. However, he had a down year in 2021 and has not seen live pitching in almost a full calendar year. Add in the fact that he would likely be limited to a DH role and wouldn’t help Milwaukee’s struggles against left-handed pitching, and it doesn’t look like a great fit to me.

Dukbroh asks:

After seeing the reaction to the deadline, David Stearns decides to let Good BCB make a personnel decision. David decides to let Good BCB choose which of the four OF currently in Nashville come up to Milwaukee to replace Jonathan Davis on the roster and get the majority of ABs in center field for the Brewers for the rest of this season and postseason. David tells you that one of Esteury Ruiz, Sal Frelick, Garrett Mitchell or Joey Wiemer can be called up, which do you choose to call up and why?

Ruiz is the obvious answer. He’s the only one of the four who is already on the 40-man roster, already logged some big-league time earlier in the season with the Padres, and is the player I believe is most likely to succeed at this point in time. He’s been a line drive machine in the minor leagues this year with excellent plate discipline. His excellent speed can help him stretch singles into doubles and play strong defense in center field. Ruiz could be a lightning rod if he is able to continue the progress he has made this year.

Frelick comes in at a close second, though. I have concerns about whether he drives the ball enough, but his excellent bat-to-ball skills have enabled him to progress rapidly through the minor-league system and succeed at every level.

I don’t consider Mitchell and Wiemer as candidates for promotions. Mitchell still hits far too many ground balls (his grounder rate is nearly 60% this season between Double-A and Triple-A) and hasn’t made as much contact as I would like. Wiemer’s raw power is legitimate, but his strikeout rate has ballooned to over 30% this season. I could see big-league pitching eating him alive if he were promoted now.

metalmilitia844 asks:

Why is Hiura not getting more playing time? I understand the strikeouts but he’s still crushing righties with an OPS over 1000 and an OBP over .400. Isn’t this the kind of impact bat the brewers need in this lineup? I do wonder where he’ll play and who he’ll have to replace in the lineup but I thought CC was the best at creating playing time for those who deserve it.

I think you answered your own question. My guess is that Hiura strikes out so much that the Brewers don’t believe his production is sustainable.

You could argue that they should ride his hot streak until he flames out, but at this point, the Brewers don’t seem to believe that he is one of their nine best options to put in the lineup most days. DRC+, which emphasizes plate discipline more than other offensive metrics, seems to agree with such an assessment. Hiura’s 91 DRC+ is ahead of only Omar Narvaez among semi-regular Brewers players this season.

I know people don’t like to hear it, but the whiffs are still a significant concern for Hiura. Strikeouts don’t correlate much to offensive production, but the track record for players who swing and miss as often as Hiura does is not inspiring.

Duhawk Steve asks:

Have you, personally, ever been more excited about a Brewers minor league player than you are for Jackson Chourio?

I was only a couple of years old when players like Prince Fielder, Ryan Braun and Rickie Weeks were progressing through Milwaukee’s player development pipeline. That alone is enough for me to say that Chourio is the prospect I’ve been most excited about at any point while following the Brewers.

Let’s bring in a less biased opinion to be safe. Chourio checked in at No. 2 on Baseball America’s updated Top 100 Prospects list, the highest any Brewer has ever ranked in the list’s history.

Mtcunning3 asks:

Do you still consider the McCutchen signing a poor decision?

McCutchen has been fantastic since snapping his 0-for-32 stretch at the start of June, slashing .297/.380/.487. While he has been one of the best bats in the lineup over the past two months, that doesn’t undo the two months during which he was a black hole in the cleanup spot. His season-long wRC+ sits at just 104, including a 101 wRC+ against right-handed pitchers. McCutchen’s platoon splits have been far more neutral than I expected, but I still don’t think he’s been the legitimate middle-of-the-order bat that the Brewers hyped him up to be.

Again, the problem is not with McCutchen. He’s still a useful player, but the Brewers have cast him in a role that doesn’t suit him well. The season’s not over yet, so he still has time to prove me wrong.

Spaul149 asks:

How do you think the rotation ranks the rest of the year? They are currently #10 in ERA without FF/AH/BW for large parts of the year.

Same question with relievers (currently #19)?

I think both groups will improve quite a bit over the final month-plus of the season.

The Brewers rank 11th in starting pitcher fWAR at 8.7 this season while rarely having all three of Burnes, Woodruff and Peralta healthy simultaneously. ZiPS projects all three to be among the top 30 starting pitchers in fWAR for the remainder of the season. The Dodgers are the only other team in baseball to have three starting pitchers on that list. This is a top-five rotation when healthy.

In the bullpen, the additions of Taylor Rogers and Matt Bush add some depth in high-leverage situations, and the impending returns of Jake Cousins and Trevor Rosenthal figure to provide another boost. It won’t be enough to give the Brewers an elite bullpen, but I would put them in the top 10.

gbp4ever asks:

If the Brewers fall apart and are not even close to making [the] playoffs should Stearns get fired?

No. Stearns and his staff are responsible for the most successful era of Brewers baseball in franchise history. For that reason, he has earned significant trust from ownership. I don’t think the Brewers will fall apart, but even if they do, one disappointing season would not be enough to cost Stearns his job. It would take a more dramatic series of slip-ups that destroy the organization’s long-term outlook, and he hasn’t done anything like that.

Thanks for your questions, everyone! We’ll run it back at the same time next week.