After the Brewers traded Hunter Renfroe to the Angels back in November, they guaranteed themselves a new-look outfield on opening day in 2023. Milwaukee has several up-and-coming outfielders, including Garrett Mitchell, Sal Frelick, and Joey Wiemer, three of the team’s top prospects. Craig Counsell also has veteran options in Christian Yelich, Jesse Winker, Tyrone Taylor, and Brian Anderson. Blake Perkins will also compete for playing time, as he is already on the team’s 40-man roster, unlike Frelick and Wiemer.
Without further ado, let’s take a look at Milwaukee’s outfield situation entering 2023.
I, like many, have all but given up on Yelich returning to his 2018/2019 form in the future. Past his prime at age 31, Yelich is now a serviceable, slightly above-average outfielder. The good news is that he played in his most games as a Brewer in 2022. His 111 OPS+ mark was also his best since 2019, albeit no where near his 179 mark that season.
He’s no longer as much of a home run threat as he once was, but he’s still an everyday player, whether that be in the outfield or as the designated hitter. Baseball Reference projects him to slash .242/.345/.383 with 14 homers and 54 RBIs, close to his .252/.355/.383 line with 14 homers and 57 RBIs from last season.
Mitchell may be Milwaukee’s center fielder of the future, especially after a promising performance down the stretch in 2022. Still only 24, Mitchell slashed .311/.373/.459 with two homers, nine RBIs, and eight steals in attempts across 28 games to close out the season.
With Tyrone Taylor out to start the season, Mitchell is expected to be the team’s starting center fielder at least until Taylor can return. His speed and defensive ability make him a solid late-game replacement even on days he doesn’t start.
Winker could be a major X-factor for Milwaukee this season, especially given his poor performance with Seattle last season. After an All-Star season with the Reds in 2021 where he hit .305/.394/.556 with 24 homers and 32 doubles, Winker fell off a cliff in his lone season with the Mariners, hitting .219/.344/.344 with 14 homers and finishing with a negative WAR (-0.3) for the first time in his career.
He’s projected to just about average out between those seasons, with a line of .253/.355/.436 with 19 homers and 60 RBIs. One promising stat for Winker: he’s had strong career numbers at American Family Field, slashing .344/.440/.591 with five homers across 32 appearances while with the Reds.
Taylor will begin the season on the injured list after undergoing a platelet-rich plasma (PRP) injection in his elbow at the end of February. He’s expected to miss at least the first month of the regular season, giving younger players like Mitchell and Frelick the opportunity for playing time early in the season if Craig Counsell so chooses.
Taylor has been an above-average hitter each year of his career, finishing with a 104 OPS+ in 2022 after slashing .233/.286/.442 with a career-high 17 homers and 51 RBIs. Once he returns, he’ll likely split most of the centerfield duties with Mitchell, giving Milwaukee a solid righty/lefty tandem in the outfield.
Perkins is another candidate for playing time in the absence of Taylor. At 26, he hasn’t yet broken into the big leagues, but he’s bounced around minor league systems since being drafted in the second round back in 2015. A career .234/.339/.346 hitter across all levels of the minors, he hit .244/.384/.419 with three homers in 30 games with the Yankees’ AAA affiliate last season.
A switch hitter, Perkins has just one hit in 12 at-bats so far in spring training, although that one hit happened to be a three-run homer. He’ll likely start at AAA Nashville with an opportunity to make the big-league roster later in the season.
Anderson was arguably Milwaukee’s biggest free agency pickup this offseason, joining the Brewers after six seasons with the Marlins. While he hasn’t appeared in more than 100 games since 2019, he’s a versatile player who hits above average. With a career slash line of .256/.341/.410 with 57 homers and 233 RBIs, the Brewers are hoping to tap into some of the success he enjoyed in 2018 and 2019 with Miami.
Despite his primary position being third base, he’ll likely get some reps in the outfield, especially while Taylor is out. In 2022, he primarily played in right field, appearing in 36 games for Miami. Baseball Reference projects him to have a solid campaign, hitting .237/.319/.375 with 11 homers and 42 RBIs in his age-30 season.
Frelick has yet to appear in a major league game, but he seems more ready for MLB action than any of Milwaukee’s other prospects. He quickly advanced through the minors in 2021 and 2022, finishing at AAA Nashville last season. With the Sounds, he slashed .365/.435/.508 with four homers, 25 RBIs, and nine stolen bases in 46 games. Even if he doesn’t start with the Brewers on opening day, he’ll likely get the call early in the season.
He’s also excelled at spring training so far, hitting .400/.400/.500 with four hits and two stolen bases in 10 at-bats. As Milwaukee’s No. 2 prospect and a consensus top 40 prospect overall, there are high expectations for the soon-to-be 23-year-old contact hitter.
Beyond the names listed above, the Brewers have several other players who may get outfield reps this season. Keston Hiura played in five games as an outfielder in 2022, and he’s been placed in the outfield at various times during spring training each of the last two years. Tyler Naquin, who was added on a minor-league deal early in camp, has a chance at making Milwaukee’s opening day roster. Joey Wiemer, another one of Milwaukee’s top prospects, will likely start the season at AAA, but he could get the call later in the season, especially if he can keep his strikeout numbers in check with the Sounds, as he did down the stretch in 2022. Monte Harrison, a former second-round pick of the Brewers, rejoined the team in the offseason and may have a chance at some big-league action. He broke into the big leagues for limited periods each of the last three seasons with the Marlins and Angels, and he’ll look to do the same in his return to the Brewers organization.