Happy Friday, everyone, and welcome to this week’s edition of the Brew Crew Ball Mailbag!
Let’s jump right into this week’s questions.
Two part question. Please predict:
1. Who among Renfroe, Taylor, Mitchell, Wiemer, Frelick and Ruiz will NOT be in the Brewers’ organization next year?
2. What’s the Brewers’ starting OF next year - or rotational 4, if you prefer?
I imagine the Brewers think highly of their young outfield prospects and are committed to a youth movement in the outfield. I think they’re more likely to trade Tyrone Taylor, who is out of options and could net some pitching depth after posting a 2 WAR season. We could see a starting outfield of Sal Frelick in left, Garrett Mitchell in center, and Hunter Renfroe in right on Opening Day next spring. Christian Yelich will get plenty of at-bats at DH and serve as a backup option in left.
Do the Brewers have their 1B of the future in Rowdy, or should they be looking for an upgrade?
One could argue that the Brewers should consider upgrades at every position this winter. While they’re on pace for their best offensive season of the David Stearns era, they lack a high-level bat. Much of the Brewers lineup consists of similarly average offensive players, and they shoehorn most of their hitters into roles for which they are imperfect fits.
That includes the team’s best bats. Hunter Renfroe’s 122 wRC+ is the highest on the roster among qualified hitters, and Tellez has the best DRC+ at 119. Those are solid numbers, but those two would be batting fifth and sixth in most contending lineups rather than third and fourth.
However, Tellez looks like a strong breakout candidate for next season. He scorches the ball, ranking in the 89th percentile in barrel rate, the 86th percentile in average exit velocity, and the 81st percentile in hard hit rate. This loud contact comes without concerning swing and miss, as Tellez’s strikeout and whiff rates are slightly worse than the league average.
Poor luck on balls in play has put a damper on Tellez’s slash line this year. His .219 BABIP is tied for the second-lowest among all qualified players. He entered this season with a career .281 BABIP, so this year’s mark looks like a fluke.
Tellez may benefit from restrictions on infield shifts more than any other Brewer next season. Opponents have shifted against him in 78.9% of his plate appearances this season. Tellez has hit 135 ground balls to the right side or the middle of the field with the shift on, which leads the team by a wide margin. He’s hit .119 on those batted balls.
His spray chart on such plays reveals that Tellez has hit a ton of groundouts to infielders standing in short right field and several more up the middle.
The shift restrictions should allow more of those ground balls to turn into hits. Tellez’s average exit velocity on these grounders is 91.3 mph. If he continues hitting the ball hard to these same locations next year, they will not find gloves.
While the Brewers should always look for improvements around the diamond, Tellez could emerge as a big bat next season. Even if the Brewers were to add another first baseman, they could still offer him plenty of at-bats as a designated hitter. His job should be safe for next year.
What are the galaxy brain options involving Sir Christian Yelich? DH? Trade? Will the shift ban really help the poor soul?— Steve Pelischek (@stevepeli) September 28, 2022
With Andrew McCutchen likely to depart in free agency and the organization’s crop of young outfielders emerging, Yelich figures to spend a good chunk of his time at designated hitter next season. He has a full no-trade clause and an unappealing contract, so a trade is doubtful.
While the new positioning rules could work wonders for Tellez, Yelich may not experience the same level of benefits. He doesn’t pull the ball nearly as much and hits softer ground balls that often do not get past the dirt. In other words, his profile is far more compatible with defensive alignments that will still be legal next season.
Here is Yelich’s spray chart on pulled and middle ground balls against the shift this season.
Yelich will pick up quite a few hits up the middle, so he’ll get a decent boost to his batting average, but the shift restrictions will not turn him back into a star.
Would you excersize wongs option? He has struggled defensively but been consistently good all season at the plate (since April at least). He has certainly been a worth the money. I was against it until recently given how productive he has continued to be in one way or another. The problem with keeping him is we use up some money we could use for an impact bat and I can realistically see urias outperforming him in 2023 given their stages in their careers. So it migjt make it harder to actually improve our infield and/or DH. This is a tough call but I think the value is there.
A few weeks ago, my answer would have been a firm no, but Wong has made it more of a coin flip with a strong September. I still lean slightly toward the Brewers exercising the buyout for a couple of reasons.
Wong is a glove-first player who has been dreadful in the field this season. MLB.com’s Mike Petriello dove into these struggles last week, and the numbers confirm what the eye test indicated: for some reason, Wong hasn’t been able to handle the baseball.
.. that holds up when I split OAA into 'range to ball' and 'completes play.' His range is down from peak, but it's still perfectly fine.— Mike Petriello (@mike_petriello) September 16, 2022
It's the other stuff. This isn't just 'arm,' for him, it's mostly "he gets to the spot just fine but then can't cleanly get it." pic.twitter.com/ODv9ftuN3R
Maybe this is a fluke, but it’s a bit concerning that a formerly elite defender can no longer complete plays that were once routine for him. Wong has dealt with a plethora of lower body injuries in his two seasons in Milwaukee, which could contribute to poor footwork. If health is behind his struggles with the glove, it arguably creates even greater concern.
While Wong has had a career year at the plate, his .307 xwOBA and 105 DRC+ point to some overperformance. Milwaukee’s internal projection of his 2023 output may not justify picking up the option in their eyes, especially in the wake of the defensive concerns.
It could go either way, but I think it’s more likely that the Brewers cut Wong loose to see if they can achieve similar production for a slightly lower cost.
hey Jack. what do you envision the brewers doing at catcher next year?— AMABAL Fan Account (@ONABAMfan) September 28, 2022
Omar Narvaez will depart as a free agent, and the Brewers will stay in-house for a replacement. They can hang onto Victor Caratini through arbitration if they wish and ease Mario Feliciano into the big leagues by assigning him to the shorter side of a platoon. Pedro Severino has swung the bat well in Nashville and has another season of control left. If he makes more progress defensively, the Brewers could give him another look.
Max Walker asks:
Has BCB management considered adding
“No baseball/no prospects” to the existing commenting guidelines?
We’ll have to review it. Answering all of these questions about this baseball thing is getting tiresome.
Why Topa and not Cousins?
I suspect it had to do with availability. The Brewers optioned Cousins on September 23, and he didn’t get into a Triple-A game until Wednesday night. Perhaps there was a travel issue, or he did not respond well to pitching three times in four days before the Brewers optioned him. Meanwhile, Topa appeared in two games since returning to Triple-A.
Favorite and least favorite Halloween candy.
Favorite: 3 Musketeers. Least favorite: Milk Duds.
Thanks for your questions this week! Depending on how the next week shakes out, we could either be looking ahead to the postseason or starting up offseason talk by the next mailbag.