Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
TOM HAUDRICOURT AND TODD ROSIAK’S 2019 MILWAUKEE BREWERS PLAYER GRADES
ORLANDO ARCIA, SS – Arcia’s defensive skill set is what every team wants – great range, strong arm, good hands, tremendous instincts. Yet, he became so lax at times in the field over the first half that he was given a timeout with utility player Tyler Saladino called up to see action at shortstop. That wake-up call resulted in improved play in the field over the second half and a final rating of three defensive runs saved for the season, a low number for a player with Arcia’s talent. The real rub is that Arcia has not shown improvement at the plate in 31⁄2 years in the majors. He tied his career high with 15 homers and drove in 59 runs, not horrible for a No. 8 hitter, but still lacks the plate discipline you’d like from an everyday player. He doesn’t get on base enough (.283 OBP), grounds into too many double plays (16) and swings at too many pitches out of the strike zone (33.3%). Grade: Cminus.
KESTON HIURA, 2B – The Brewers expected the bat of Hiura, a first-round draft pick in 2017 out of UC-Irvine, to carry him quickly through their system and that’s exactly what happened. He was called up in mid-May, sent back down for a few weeks, then recalled in late June and installed as the everyday second baseman. Hiura displayed great pop (19 homers, .570 slugging), especially to the opposite field, but was overaggressive at times at the plate (25 walks, 107 strikeouts). Hiura has a chance to be a special hitter but needs to work hard at improving his defense (16 errors in 84 games), in particular his throwing. He had an elbow issue coming out of college, so merely getting more reps at second base should improve his defense. Grade: B.
MIKE MOUSTAKAS, 2B/3B – “Moose” rejoined the Brewers at the outset of spring training on a $10 million deal and volunteered to move to second base to accommodate the team. He started 40 games there before shifting to third base to replace slump-ridden Travis Shaw, settling in to the position he has played throughout his career. Moustakas batted .254 with 35 homers and 87 RBI, the latter two figures the secondbest of his nine years in the majors, while setting a career high with a .845 OPS. He handled left-handed pitching with a .276 batting average and .876 OPS. His numbers dropped in the second half and he was rated an average player at both second and third, with zero defensive runs saved. He played in 143 games (134 starts) and avoided the injured list despite suffering a fractured finger, badly bruised hand and sore elbow. Once again a free agent, the 31-year-old still fits in well with the Brewers. Grade: B-plus. HERNÁN PÉREZ, UTIL – Pérez contributed so little off the bench that he was designated for assignment in late June,. He cleared waivers, was outrighted to Class AAA San Antonio and worked his way back to the majors in early August. Pérez’s value is in the number of positions he can play, in the outfield and infield, while also serving as the No. 1 emergency pitcher. His offensive contributions declined, however, including his OBP (.262). Pérez lost playing time to others during the Brewers’ September surge. Grade: C-minus. TRAVIS SHAW, 3B – Shaw began the season in a horrible slump, showing none of the power he displayed while slugging 63 homers the previous two seasons. Shaw was given a long leash, but when he didn’t snap out of the skid he was sent down three times, including once on minor-league rehab with a minor wrist issue. He got going in the minors but it never translated back to the majors. Shaw brought a career slugging percentage of .475 into the season but it plummeted to .270. He went from 32 homers and 86 RBI in 2018 to seven and 16 this season. His .157 batting average was nearly 100 points below his career norm. Failing grades aren’t given lightly but there’s only one letter that describes this horrible performance. Grade: F.
CORY SPANGENBERG, UTIL – He failed to make the opening day roster and was designated for assignment May 14 to open a spot on the 40-man roster but continued to play well at Class AAA San Antonio and finally debuted with the Brewers on Aug. 24. He batted .232/2/ 10 in 32 games, with 14 of his 24 starts at second base. Spangenberg also started games at shortstop, third base and left field after playing every position but pitcher and catcher in the minors. His versatility, speed and ability to do the little things, such as bunting, puts him in line for a possible utility job next season. Grade: C.
ERIC THAMES, 1B – If you weren’t paying close attention, you might not have noticed how steady Thames was as an offensive contributor, playing mostly against right-handed pitching, with a slight dip in production in the second half. He remained a constant threat to knock the ball out of the park, with 25 homers in 459 plate appearances. As with most sluggers, Thames strikes out a lot (140 times) but walks enough (51) to post a decent OBP (.346) and has a knack for hitting big home runs. He is rated as a neutral fielder but doesn’t hurt the team on defense (three errors). The Brewers hold a $7.5 million club option on Thames for 2020 and likely will exercise it. Grade: B-minus.
YASMANI GRANDAL – Grandal has a reputation as a streaky hitter and that was evident in July and August, when his power switch was flipped off. But, to his credit, he continued to draw walks and get on base, though he often trusted the umpires too much and took called third strikes on what he thought were balls. His batting average was low (.246) but forget that and concentrate on his career-high 28 homers, 77 RBI, 109 walks – by far a career best – and .380 OBP. Grandal also played in a career-high 153 games. Allowed to play more against lefties, the switch-hitter posted a .926 OPS from the right side with 11 HRs, both career bests. Known as one of the better catchers at framing pitches and calling games, Grandal threw out 27% of runners attempting steals, close to his career norm. He committed eight errors, a career high, but kept his passed balls (eight) under control, which had been an issue in the past. Grandal certainly met expectations of the Brewers, who paid him $18.25 million on a free-agent deal. He will be nearly impossible to replace if he leaves through free agency. Grade: B-plus.
MANNY PIÑA – The affable veteran saw his role reduced significantly after Yasmani Grandal was acquired and made just 38 starts, down from 84 in 2018 and 83 in 2017. A hamstring string in May and concussion in September also reduced his availability. Piña was especially valuable against left-handed pitching, batting .319/4/10 with a .965 OPS, allowing Grandal to rest his legs at first base. His real value remained on defense, where he was credited with six runs saved. The pitchers compiled a 3.87 ERA when he was behind the plate. Piña’s ability to frame pitches got his pitchers strike calls at a 52.2% clip, eighth-best in the majors. He still has a strong arm but caught only six of 27 base stealers (22.2%). Grade: C-plus.
RYAN BRAUN, LF – . The soon-to-be 36-year-old played in 144 games, most since his runner-up NL MVP season of 2012 (154 games) and started 113 (most since 130 in 2016). Braun responded with his best statistical line – .285 average, 22 homers, 75 RBI, .849 OPS – since earning his last all-star nod in ’16. He tied a franchise record with a six-hit game against the Mets on May 4. Changes made to his bat path in the off-season paid off as his batting average on balls in play jumped from .274 to .325, launch angle rose from 5.8 degrees to 7.1 and hard-hit rate rose to a career-best 45.7%. Braun’s best run production came in September, when he compiled 18 RBI in 20 games and finished at .290 with a .934 OPS with RISP. He still ran well enough to steal 11 bases but his defensive runs saved dropped from four in 2018 to minus-2. Braun is no longer an MVP-type force but remains a productive player with one season remaining on his five-year, $105-million extension signed in April 2011. Grade: B.
LORENZO CAIN, CF – Cain’s offensive production was down across the board, in particular his on-base percentage, which plummeted from .395 in 2018 to .325. But health issues were a contributing factor for his struggles at the plate, beginning with a nerve issue in his right thumb that left him barely able to hold the bat at times. In the later stages of the season, Cain suffered knee and ankle injuries on his left leg but continued to insist on being in the lineup as often as possible. The fact he played in 148 games was a testament to his willingness to play hurt as well as his role as a leader on the team. His OPS+ fell from 119 to 81, a sign of his diminished impact on offense. But he remained a force in center field, as evidenced by his 20 defensive runs saved and handful of home-run robbing catches. Much has been made of Cain not having a Gold Glove in his career; if he doesn’t get one this year, he never will. Grade: B-minus.
BEN GAMEL, OF – Viewed only through statistics, the Brewers fared worse in the trade that sent Domingo Santana to Seattle last December for Gamel and a minor-league pitcher. Santana hit 21 homers with 69 RBI, while Gamel hit .248/7/33 in a career-high-tying 134 games. But Gamel, 27, a speedy lefthanded hitter, gave the Brewers what they wanted by playing all three outfield spots with a minor-league option that remains intact for 2020. He delivered in some big spots, including a game-winning homer in the 10th inning in Atlanta on May 19 that helped the Brewers avert a three-game sweep; a walk-off double to beat the Giants on July 13; and a two-out, two-run single in the eighth that beat the Cubs on July 26. Oddly, he hit lefties better than righties (.902 OPS to .657) but wasn’t effective as a pinch-hitter (.194, .583 OPS). Gamel made 36 of his 65 starts in left field and graded out with five defensive runs saved overall. Grade: Cplus.
TRENT GRISHAM, OF – Grisham’s fielding gaffe in the eighth inning will be remembered from the Brewers’ heartbreaking 4-3 wild-card loss in Washington but shouldn’t overshadow what the 22-year-old accomplished in rising from Class AA Biloxi to Class AAA San Antonio to a major-league debut Aug. 1. He batted .231/6/24 with a .738 OPS in 51 games (36 starts), his overall numbers falling by closing the season in a 1for-25 skid. Grisham tied a rookie record with a five-hit game Sept. 9 at Miami. He is something of a throwback player, with plate discipline and speed that could make him an ideal leadoff hitter in time. Grisham made 14 starts in center, 13 in right and nine in left, and was credited with five defensive runs saved. He lost his rookie status by exceeding 130 at-bats but is still considered the organization’s top prospect and was named the Brewers’ minorleague player of the year. Grade: Cplus.
CHRISTIAN YELICH, RF – Yelich, 27, bristled in the spring when questioned about living up to his 2018 MVP status, then went out and delivered a performance that might have been better across the board before his season ended prematurely on Sept. 10 by a broken kneecap. Combined with a balky back, he was limited to 130 games but still is expected to receive strong MVP consideration. He won his second consecutive batting title with a .329 average, boosted his homer total to 44 and led the league with a .671 slugging percentage and 1.100 OPS. Yelich batted .327 with a 1.155 OPS with runners in scoring position and his average exit velocity of 93.1 mph led the league. He stole a career-high 30 bases, destroyed right-handed pitching (.358/1.189 OPS) and dominated at Miller Park (.347/ 1.209). The only blemish came on defense, where he had minus-1 defensive runs saved. Grade: A-plus.
MATT ALBERS, RHP – No reliever was the target of more angst from Brewers fans than Albers, who did have a penchant for surrendering costly homers. It didn’t help that he pitched much worse at home (6.52 ERA) than on the road (3.82 ERA). The 36-year-old Albers ran out of steam after a solid first half (3.65 ERA, 1.081 WHIP), posting a 7.54 ERA and 1.853 WHIP after the break. He was barely used in September (41⁄3 innings) when expanded rosters provided more options out of the bullpen. Opponents batted only .239 against him over 67 games but still did too much damage when it counted. Grade: D-plus. CHASE ANDERSON, RHP – Anderson made changes to his delivery in the spring but was still shunted to bullpen duty to open the season. He made five relief outings before returning to the rotation, where he made 27 starts and went 7-4 with a 4.19 ERA, with the team going 14-13 in those games. Anderson completed six innings only three times, and the constant quick hook limited him to 139 innings, fewest since his rookie season with Arizona in 2014. He finished 8-4 with a 4.21 ERA in 32 games, with a 1.270 WHIP and strikeout rate of eight per nine innings. Anderson threw his four-seamer a career-high 43.2% of the time with an uptick in velocity (93.5 mph average) and also threw his changeup more than ever (24.8%). Reverse splits saw righties hit him at a .280 clip with an .885 OPS vs. .189/.609 for lefties. The club has a $8.5 million option on his contract for 2020. Grade: C-plus.
RAY BLACK, RHP – When Black was acquired from the Giants on July 31, he came with a reputation for two things – being injured and throwing hard, as in 100 mph hard. Manager Craig Counsell began giving Black more chances with games on the line and he made some contributions, but he also blew up a couple of times – Sept. 15 in St. Louis (three runs, two homers in two-thirds of an inning) and Sept. 27 in Colorado (three batters, three runs). Those outings inflated his final numbers and Black finished with a 5.14 ERA and 1.286 WHIP in 15 outings while holding opponents to a .200 batting average. Grade: C-minus.
CORBIN BURNES, RHP – No pitcher on the staff had a bigger fall from 2018, when Burnes was 7-0 with a 2.61 ERA in 30 appearances. He was given a chance to be a starter, as he was in the minors, but quickly pitched his way out of the rotation by allowing 11 homers in 172⁄3 innings. It got so bad that Burnes was shut down for a period in the minors and sent to the team’s “pitching lab” in Arizona for repairs. But he never stopped giving up runs and homers, finishing was an 8.82 ERA in 32 games (four starts) and an alarming .330 opponents batting average. Burnes struck out 70 batters in 49 innings, showing he has the stuff to succeed, but who knows what the Brewers have in him, or whether his future is in starting or relieving. Grade: F.
ALEX CLAUDIO, LHP – The Brewers dealt the 39th overall pick in the 2019 draft to Texas at the winter meetings to acquire Claudio, a soft-tossing relief specialist. His overall numbers – 2-2, 4.06 ERA, 1.31 WHIP – weren’t particularly impressive but he did lead the major leagues with 83 appearances, tying the club record set by Ken Sanders in 1971. Once Craig Counsell saw that Claudio couldn’t be trusted to face right-handed batters regularly and began using him strictly against lefties, he responded with a 2.88 ERA over his final 54 appearances. He limited lefties to a .218 average and .680 OPS but they also homered off him four times, same as righties. Durability is Claudio’s calling card, not velocity (85.7 mph average), and the ball is going to be put in play, so solid defense is essential to his success. Grade: C-plus.
ZACH DAVIES, RHP – Davies quietly put together a solid season in the rotation, bouncing back from an injury-plagued 2018 to post a career-best 3.55 ERA. He struggled in the middle of the season but finished strong, going 2-0 with a 2.31 ERA in five September starts. Davies topped the staff with 1592⁄3 innings but still fell short of being a qualifying pitcher in league statistics. He relies greatly on hitting his spots, as evidenced by both the 20 homers allowed and 14 groundball double plays induced. Davies compiled a 2-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio and respectable 1.290 WHP. Grade: B.
GIO GONZALEZ, LHP – After failing to
get a call to the majors by the Yankees, Gonzalez signed with Milwaukee on April 27 and helped fill a big void in the rotation. He made 17 starts, piggybacking twice behind Brandon Woodruff, and used his veteran guile to go 3-2 with a 3.50 ERA and 1.29 WHIP, with 78 strikeouts in 861⁄3 innings. He limited opponents to a .234 average, with lefties batting only .147. Gonzalez spent seven weeks on the injured list with arm and shoulder weakness, and with an average fastball of 89.7 mph, used his changeup a nearly one-third of the time, a career high. Grade: B-minus. JUNIOR GUERRA, RHP – The Brewers decided in the spring to move the 34year-old Guerra from a starting role to relief, and it couldn’t have gone much better. He was second on the club with 72 appearances, tied for eighth in the NL, and evolved into a reliable highleverage reliever. Guerra surrendered a mere 58 hits in 832⁄3 innings, holding opponents to a measly .194 batting average. He was prone to home runs at times (11 overall) but finished 11 games, accumulated 20 holds and issued only 36 walks while logging 77 strikeouts. He scuffled a bit in the middle months but was solid down the stretch, posting a 2.67 ERA in 25 outings in August and September. Grade: B-plus.
JOSH HADER, LHP – Though his season ended with a couple of duds, including the wild-card loss to Washington, Hader turned in another dominant season for the most part. He logged a careerhigh 37 saves (nine of two or more innings, tops in the majors) with 138 strikeouts in 752⁄3 innings (most among big-league relievers), 0.806 WHIP and a second straight all-star berth. He averaged a career-best 95.5 mph on his fastball, but his reliance on the pitch – he threw it a remarkable 84.1% of the time – and occasional command issues led to 15 home runs allowed and seven blown saves. He turned the corner in an Aug. 17 appearance in Washington, when he began using his slider more to keep hitters off-balance and clicked off 12 saves in a row before blowing one in the final series in Colorado. Five of the 15 homers allowed were hit by lefties, who managed just one against him over his first two seasons. As overpowering as he can be at times, Hader learned he must be less predictable with how he attacks hitters, especially those looking to ambush first-pitch fastballs. Grade: A-minus.
ADRIAN HOUSER, RHP – Houser pitched brilliantly in relief after coming up from the minors in early May, going 4-0 with a 1.47 ERA in 17 games with a 0.946 WHIP. Despite that success, injuries made it a necessity to move him to the starting role he had while pitching in the minors. After some early hiccups, he picked up the pace considerably in August, going 2-1 with a 2.54 ERA in five starts. Houser was more erratic in September (0-2, 4.44 in six starts) and finished with a 2-7 record and 4.57 ERA in 18 starts. The bigger need moving forward could be as a starting pitcher, and Houser has considerable promise after allowing only 26 walks with 84 strikeouts in 802⁄3 innings in the rotation. He was far more effective against right-handed hitters (.617 OPS) than lefties (.825). Grade: B-minus.
JAY JACKSON, RHP – After pitching three years in Japan, the 31-year-old journeyman signed with the Brewers at the outset of spring training but was designated for assignment May 5. Jackson earned his way back to the majors and was pitching in high-leverage situations by season’s end despite having just six games of big-league experience before 2019. Throwing his slider 55.3% of the time, Jackson was particularly effective against right-handed hitters and finished with 47 strikeouts in 301⁄3 innings (14 per nine innings, third-best on the staff). He finished with a 4.45 ERA in 28 appearances, holding opponents to a .202 batting average. Grade: C-plus.
JORDAN LYLES, RHP – The rest of the baseball world paid scant attention when the Brewers traded in late July for Lyles, and for good reason. In his final seven outings for Pittsburgh, he was 0-5 with a 10.00 ERA, making folks wonder what Milwaukee saw in him. But Lyles was one of the best starters in the league over the final two months, going 7-1 with a 2.45 ERA in 11 outings. He began using his curveball more, pitched up in the strike zone effectively with his fastball and benefited from working with veteran catcher Yasmani Grandal. The Brewers went 10-1 in his starts and
Lyles was a guiding force in the team’s September surge to the playoffs. Having traded minor-league pitcher Cody Ponce for Lyles, the deal rates as one of the most masterful and effective by president of baseball operations David Stearns. Grade: A.
FREDDY PERALTA, RHP – Peralta is 23 and far from a finished product, but so far at the major-league level he has been more effective as a reliever (5-1, 4.01 ERA in 31 games in ’19) than a starter (2-2, 7.07 in eight games). Much of that has to do with his reliance on his fastball, which he threw 78% of the time this year compared to 20.5% usage of his curveball. “Fastball Freddy” logs a lot of strikeouts (12.2 per nine innings) but also gives up a lot of home runs (15) and too many walks (37 in 85 innings) to get through lineups multiple times. He was hit much harder and more often (.343 batting average on ball in play) this year, another sign of his difficulty hitting spots. Peralta has a good arm and at times can be dominating. He also can be very erratic. Grade: C-minus.
DREW POMERANZ, LHP – “Big Smooth” was 2-9 with a 5.68 ERA as a starter with San Francisco before being shifted to the bullpen not long before the trade deadline. The Brewers thought he could succeed in that role and sent infielder Mauricio Dubon to the Giants for Pomeranz and hard-throwing Ray Black. Pomeranz pitched at a different level for the Brewers, striking out hitters at a remarkable rate (15.4 per nine innings) and posting a 2.39 ERA and 0.911 WHIP over 25 outings, pitching scoreless ball in 18 of his final 20 games. He became the primary setup man and even recorded a pair of saves on nights the closer was unavailable. With his velocity up, Pomeranz’s four-seam usage was his highest (52.3%) since 2015 and his curveball also got swings and misses. Now able to market himself at age 30 as the “new Andrew Miller,” he should do well on the free-agent market. Grade: A-minus.
BRENT SUTER, LHP – One of the most pleasant surprises in the Brewers’ September surge to the playoffs was the contribution of Suter, who had Tommy John surgery on July 31, 2018 and was ready to pitch again in the majors during that final month. There was no way to expect that he’d be ready to contribute in high-leverage situations, but Suter continued to perform well and earned NL reliever of the month honors for September by allowing only one run in 181⁄3 innings over nine outings, going 4-0 with a 0.49 ERA and .156 opponents batting average. Again relying on pace and deception rather than velocity, he fit in perfectly with the “bullpenning” style that allowed the Brewers to again make the postseason. Grade: A. BRANDON WOODRUFF, RHP – Woodruff was the sole survivor of the plan to put three young starters in the rotation, with Corbin Burnes and Freddy Peralta quickly flaming out. Woodruff only got better, using a high-90s fastball to go 9-0 with a 3.06 ERA in 13 first-half starts, earning his first all-star nod. He was en route to a 200-inning, 200strikeout season when he strained his left oblique in a July 16 start in Arizona, leading to a two-month stint on the injured list. Woodruff returned in late September, made a pair of two-inning starts and was tabbed to start the wildcard game in Washington, allowing one run in four innings. He finished with an 11-3 record, 3.62 ERA and 1.142 WHIP in 22 starts. He topped the Brewers in wins and strikeouts (143), and his 1212⁄3 innings ranked third despite the twomonth absence. Woodruff also is a threat at the plate, batting .267 with four doubles and four RBI. Woodruff will be 27 next season and already is the budding ace of the staff. Grade: Aminus.
TRADED OR RELEASED
1B Jesús Aguilar RHP Jhoulys Chacín RHP Jeremy Jeffress
REST OF THE CAST
1B Tyler Austin RHP Jacob Barnes INF Maurcio Dubon RHP Jake Faria C/INF David Freitas RHP Deolis Guerra LHP Donnie Hart RHP Jimmy Nelson C Jacob Nottingham RHP Jake Petricka INF Tyler Saladino RHP Burch Smith OF Tyrone Taylor RHP Aaron Wilkerson RHP Devin Williams RHP Taylor Williams RHP Alex Wilson