After a strong full season in 2022, Rowdy Tellez enters 2023 with first base as his position to lose. But the depth behind him is up in the air, as the Brewers have several options they can turn to in Owen Miller, Keston Hiura, Luke Voit, and Josh VanMeter.
Let’s take a look at Milwaukee’s options at the cold corner heading into the season.
Entering his age 28 season, Tellez had a breakout campaign in 2022, leading the Brewers in homers (35) and finishing second in RBIs (89) with an OPS+ of 115. Being a left-handed hitter only adds to his value, as putting him in the lineup allows Craig Counsell to potentially alternate righties and lefties all the way down the order.
With the new shift rules in 2023, it’s possible Tellez could find even more success this season, although that remains to be seen. If he can stay healthy again, it’s possible he can play in 150-plus games between first base and designated hitter just as he did last season, giving the Brewers some much-needed consistency on the infield.
A Wisconsin native, Miller was acquired by the Brewers in December from the Guardians for a player to be named later. Starting at first base in nearly half of Cleveland’s games last year, Miller offers versatility with the ability to play all over the infield.
He slashed .243/.301/.351 with six homers and 51 RBIs across 130 games and he rated as a slightly-above-average defender in 2022. As a new piece of the puzzle, it’ll be interesting to see how Counsell utilizes him this season, as he enters spring training as No. 2 on the depth chart behind Tellez and ahead of Hiura.
Hiura had a bit of a return to form in 2022, although he still wasn’t the same player that he was in his rookie 2019 campaign. He slashed .226/.316/.449 with 14 homers and 32 RBIs across 80 games, 33 of which came at first base.
Like Miller, he offers versatility with the ability to play at second base and in the outfield, although he’s a below-average defender. Baseball Reference projects him as being much the same player as he was last season, slashing .220/.301/.399 with 14 homers and 40 RBIs. Still just 26 until August, we’ll see if he can unlock some of his potential in limited reps this year. Otherwise, it’s possible Milwaukee looks to flip him as he’s arbitration eligible until 2026.
One of the two newest Brewers as of Tuesday afternoon, Voit signed on a minor league deal after splitting time between Washington and San Diego in 2022. He slashed .226/.308/.402 with 22 homers and 69 RBIs last year and led the league in homers in 2020 with 22.
With a strong performance in spring training, it’s possible the Brewers pair him with Tellez for a power-hitting lefty-righty platoon at first base or try to utilize him in a DH role, where he played 96 of his 133 games last year.
VanMeter has underperformed up to this point in his career, slashing .206/.293/.347 in four seasons between Cincinnati, Arizona, and Pittsburgh. It seems likely he won’t crack the opening day roster with the four guys in front of him at first base, but he has the potential to be a depth player later in the season due to his ability to play at any position, including three appearances as a pitcher and one inning as a catcher last season.