Monthly Archives: July 2015

A little Gerardo Parra perspective

Gerardo Parra is going to be traded. There’s little doubt about that. He’s going to be moved because he’s the hottest hitter on a terrible baseball team. That’s as simple as logic gets.

But for some reason, there are Brewers fans out there who think Milwaukee should sign the outfielder to an extension. First of all, I can’t believe there’s more than one person who thinks this, but there is, just look on Twitter. Second of all, I can’t believe people think his production this season is actually sustainable.

Therefore, it’s time for a little Gerardo Parra perspective.

Despite what his fielding stats say in 2015, Parra is a top-tier outfielder. He won a Gold Glove in 2013 and can play every outfield position with the best of them. The majority of his career WAR total comes from his defense, because, up until this season, Parra’s offense has been suspect. Before the season commenced, Parra owned a career .326 on-base percentage and an 89 wRC+ as a six-year major leaguer. His only above-average season came in 2011, which is the only time he ever posted a wRC+ over 100. With a lack of power and too many ground balls, Parra has never been a “good” hitter.

Enter 2015.

Parra ranks 26th in wRC+ (135) and 23rd in wOBA (.371). His .193 ISO is by far a career high, and with two more home runs, he’ll also break another career mark. Parra’s BABIP is also a best, sitting at .360. When putting everything together, Parra has been one of the very best hitters in all of Major League Baseball. That’s right. Gerardo Parra, the player the Brewers got in exchange for a very fringy outfield prospect in Mitch Haniger and Anthony Banda, has been a better hitter than the likes of Michael Brantley, Kris Bryant and Adam Jones.

Does anyone really think Parra suddenly turned on a switch and became a top-30 hitter in baseball? To sane people, the answer is obviously no, but the people with brains in their heads aren’t who this article is targeted at. It’s directed at the insane. In other words, I’m hoping insane people read this.

2015 has been an amazing offensive season for Parra, but it won’t last. And even he probably knows this. We have six years of sample size to determine this, and even though Parra, who just turned 28, has entered his prime, thinking his prime is that of an amazing hitter is crazy talk.

He’s been really, really good for 326 plate appearances this season, but in all likelihood, Parra will revert back to an amazing outfielder but just an OK hitter when 2016 hits. His performance will earn him a bigger free agency contract than originally thought, but it won’t be that of a perennial All-Star. And it shouldn’t be.

Parra will be traded by the Brewers, and it is absolutely the right decision.

Who are the Brewers getting in Yhonathan Barrios?

And the Milwaukee Brewers rebuild has begun.

On Thursday, the Brewers sent third baseman Aramis Ramirez to the Pittsburgh Pirates in exchange for right-handed relief pitcher Yhonathan Barrios. The Pirates are also taking on $3 million of Ramirez’s remaining $5.74 million contract.

Trading Ramirez was basically a given for Milwaukee. They needed to shed some money off his large contract, and since he’s retiring at the end of the season, there was no reason to keep him in a Brewers’ uniform. The Pirates, who were in desperate need of a third baseman with injuries to Josh Harrison and Jordy Mercer, was an ideal fit for both Pittsburgh and Ramirez. Ramirez gets to go back to the team he began his career with and has a legitimate chance of making the postseason. Good for him.

But who are the Brewers getting in Yhonathan Barrios?

Barrios is a 23-year-old reliever who stands at an undersized 5’11”. He originally started out as an infielder out of Colombia, but since his bat never found its groove, the Pirates shifted him to the bullpen. The results have been a little better, but nothing too noteworthy.

The (minimal) excitement that surrounds Barrios is his action fastball. It sits in the 94-98 mph range and can hit 100 mph. He also throws a changeup to offset his power pitch, with a slider mixed in there as well.

Barrios’ stats (1.46 ERA and 3.89 FIP) in Double-A were good enough to earn him a promotion to Triple-A this season, but he was helped tremendously by a low batting average on balls in play of only .211. His luck has changed since the promotion, and as a result, so has his numbers. In 15.2 innings out of the Triple-A bullpen, Barrios has a 4.50 ERA with 3.56 FIP. His ERA got worse but his FIP, which tells a better story than ERA, improved. That’s due to a small uptick in strikeouts and the fact he hasn’t given up a home run yet.

When Barrios started out in Pittsburgh’s minor league system, he threw like a strikeout pitcher. In 2013, he struck out 23.8% of batters in 11 innings in Rookie Ball before moving to A ball a season later. He was just as effective at getting the K there (20.7 K%). But once Barrios was promoted to High-A, the strikeouts suddenly dropped, and they have yet to re-emerge in Double-A or Triple-A. Combining his numbers from AA and AAA, Barrios has set down just 12.3% of batters via the strike out. Walks are also a huge problem for the young righty. His walk rate was over 11% in Triple-A before the Brewers made the trade.

Barrios is a guy who doesn’s strike out batters and walks too many of them. Why would the Brewers want someone like him? It’s simple, really. Barrios is the type of player a team gets in return when it ships off an old hitter with just two more months left of his career. He didn’t make any notable top prospect lists and barely squeezed in on FanGraphs’ top 31 Pirates’ prospect list. Not many think that highly of him.

If anything, Barrios is a lottery ticket. And because he’s a lottery ticket, Brewers’ fans should be excited. Buying lottery tickets is fun! With his fastball speed and movement, he has upside as a future reliever/closer. But if you’re expecting him to transform into a starter, well, that’s just not going to happen.

Predicting who gets traded and who stays

We are now at the All-Star break, and for teams sitting at the bottom of the standings, like the Milwaukee Brewers are, it’s a welcome furlough. The four-days off is also usually the beginning of trade season, as teams are either getting ready to stack up for a postseason run or start shedding veterans in order to ignite the rebuilding process. In case you don’t know anything about anything, the Brewers will be doing the latter. At 38-52, they have the second-worst record in Major League Baseball. They are officially sellers.

Milwaukee is currently in possession of a handful of players who contending teams should be calling about. They have veterans with expiring contracts, but they also have players who are on the cusp of their primes, making them extremely coveted.

The Brewers won’t trade their entire roster (even though I’m not against the idea), but it’s safe to say they’ll be sending a few players out of the city known for its beer. So let’s make some predictions.

Players who will get traded

OF Gerardo Parra – Numerous teams are in need of outfield depth (see Kansas City), and with the way Parra has performed offensively, his name is one of the hottest on the block. Of outfielders with at least 300 plate appearances, he has the 13th-highest wRC+, not to mention his on-base percentage of .344 would be his best mark since 2011. Parra is as good as gone.

SP Kyle Lohse – I know his ERA and everything else you can possibly look at is downright terrible, but I still have this feeling that a team is going to take a flyer on him, for the right price, of course. The Brewers won’t get much back and they’ll probably to have pay some of his remaining salary, but with Lohse being a free agent after the season, why wouldn’t a team in need of a back-end starter go after him?

3B Aramis Ramirez – Every team needs hitting and Ramirez can still provide that at 37 years old. He’s a notorious slow starter and this season was definitely no exception. His numbers are finally beginning to improve, however. After producing a .272 wOBA in June, he crushed the ball in July and finished the month with a .366 wOBA. He, like Lohse, is in the last year of his contract (and career). He’s a rental who a team will trade for.

1B Adam Lind – He’s been the best player on the Brewers in 2015 and is probably the best hitter on the market. He’s already put up 2.1 WAR while creating an impressive 43% more runs than league average. Lind could bring back a fairly decent haul, especially compared to the other guys I listed above. If a team is looking for a high OBP player who hits home runs, Lind is the man for the job.

RP Francisco Rodriguez – I’ll admit I was wrong about Rodriguez. I thought he would be equally as bad as he was in 2014, but as it turns out, he’s been lights-out. His strikeout rate (30.8%) is back in line with his career norms and he’s no longer getting bit by home runs. He would be a very valuable add to a bullpen in need of a high-leverage reliever. The only thing stopping a team for making a play for him is his big contract. He’s owed $7.5 million in 2016 with a $6 million club option in ’17 ($2 million buyout). That’s a lot of money for a closer who’s been up and down in the past few seasons. Still, I think the Brewers will trade him yet again, but this time, there will be no reunion between the two.

Players who won’t get traded

OF Carlos Gomez – The Brewers should trade him, but I think they’ll wait another year. They need to be able to sell tickets in 2016, in spite of the talent-less roster they’re sure to put together, and people will pay to see Gomez. I feel like that is a terrible reason not to trade someone, especially since his value now is higher than it will be next year, but it’s what the Brewers will presumably do.

C Jonathan Lucroy – Lucroy’s going to stay in Milwaukee as well. The Brewers will have to be unbelievably blown away in order to trade a great catcher with a team-friendly contract like Lucroy. I think Lucroy will be involved in a mid-season trade next season, but not this one.

RP Jonathan Broxton – Making the playoffs and doing well once you’re there is nearly impossible without a quality bullpen. Basically everyone is looking for bullpen depth. By old-school numbers Broxton has been less than quality in 2015, which is why I don’t see him being moved. The Brewers would get next to nothing in return for him. so maybe their mindset is, why bother?

SS Jean Segura – I struggled with Segura. I can easily see him being traded, seeing as how Orlando Arcia is coming for his job. But which team is going to give up what the Brewers demand for him? That’s the big question here. Segura is a young and defensively talented shortstop who hasn’t hit much to date. What’s he really worth? Because that’s unknown, I think Segura stays put.

Could a Jean Segura for Steven Matz trade happen?

Before I start, let me just say I highly doubt a Jean Segura for Steven Matz trade will happen, so please don’t think I’m delusional. It would be an unbelievable trade for the Brewers and a less than stellar one (to put it nicely) for the Mets. There’s a very small chance that New York’s front office would ever green light a trade of this nature. However, even though there’s a small chance, there’s still a chance. And the Mets don’t really have a history of making the smartest acquisitions. Furthermore, they apparently already have interest in Milwaukee’s young shortstop.

According to Jon Morosi of Fox Sports, the Brewers and Mets have engaged in trade discussions centered around Segura and third baseman Aramis Ramirez.

Morosi makes no mention of Matz, so this is just pure speculation on my part. I’m honestly just curious if a trade of this magnitude is plausible.

Let’s start with Milwaukee’s side of this trade.

The Brewers are hopefully about to begin a massive rebuild. I mean, if they had any sense at all, they’d trade as many players as possible on the current 25-man roster. Things are bad in Milwaukee, and the next few years will be nothing to smile at either. The time to start over is now. And starting over begins with acquiring young players who can make an impact in the future.

Teams can’t win without pitching, and the Brewers farm system, in terms of arms, is weaker than my pinky toe. The few pitchers I’m excited about, like Kodi Meideiros, are a years away from sniffing the major leagues, which is fine, considering the Brewers are now looking to the future. But the need to load up on young arms is crucial, and Matz (24 years old) could be one of those arms. If it’s going to take the Brewers three years or so to finish the rebuild (three years is on the short side), Matz will just be entering his prime years and his value will be through the roof.

Baseball America ranked left-handed Matz as the Mets’ second-best prospect behind Noah Syndergaard entering the 2015 season. He made his major league debut on June 28, and before going on the disabled list with a partial tear in his left lat muscle, he was doing quite well for a rookie hurler. In his two starts, he struck out about 27% of batters and allowed just a .167 batting average on balls in play. That played into a 1.32 ERA, but a 4.25 FIP and 3.97 xFIP. He walked quite a few hitters and gave up two home runs in his 13.2 innings.

But because his major league stats screams “small sample size,” we can’t and shouldn’t put too much merit into them. Instead, we need to look at how he performed in the minors. In 90.1 innings in Triple-A, Matz pitched to a 2.19 ERA and a 3.44 FIP. Like in the majors, he issued too many free passes (8.6 BB%), but that was really his first run-in with a plethora of walks. He walked just 14 hitters in 71.1 innings in Double-A in ’14, so it’s a bit too early to know if he’ll have control problems as a major-league pitcher.

Matz features a plus fastball and a plus changeup with a curveball thrown in there. When he threw his changeup, he made hitters swing-and-miss 14.3% of the time while up with the Mets. The Brewers would love to have someone of his caliber launch the rebuild.

As far as Segura goes, the Brewers shouldn’t really have a problem unloading him. They have stud shortstop Orlando Arcia, who is figured to be one or two years away, waiting and killing Double-A. And because Segura has not hit a lick with the Brewers (.296 wOBA and 83 wRC+ in his career), I wouldn’t be surprised if the Brewers are ready to move on from him.

Clearly, this trade favors the Brewers, but there are a few reasons why the Mets might want to take the risk and ship off one of their best prospects for a former highly touted prospect in Segura. The first one being that the Mets are already stacked with top-notch pitchers. They have Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler, Jacob deGrom and Syndergaard. Not to mention they have a high-strikeout guy in Rafael Montero in the minors.

New York has pitchers to spare, but what they don’t have is a shortstop. When comparing Segura and current Mets’ shortstops Ruben Tejada and Wilmer Flores, there’s not much difference in their hitting profiles. They’re all below-average hitters who don’t get on base all that often. However, Segura is the superior defender at short over Tejada, has more upside despite being the same age as Tejada and older than Flores, and comes at a very cheap contract price with three more years of club control.

And who knows? Maybe the Mets believe that Segura will turn into a league-average hitter. He did hit consistently well in the minors, and 2014 was a lost season because of the death of his infant son, so we have to take his lackluster performance with a grain of salt. Segura still has a lot of time to live up to his billing. Upside is the keyword here.

If the Mets did send Matz to Milwaukee, my guess is that New York would demand more than just Segura in return. And they’d probably want more than just a throw-in player. Maybe a player like Tyler Thornburg or Corey Knebel would be enough for them, although I doubt the Brewers would part with a young, high upside guy like Knebel. But if the Brewers want someone like Matz, they’ll need to part with a player similar to who I just mentioned.

Segura alone won’t be enough.

A quick look at Mike Fiers’ BABIP

If you’re a regular reader of this site, you know I have an unhealthy obsession with Mike Fiers. And you probably know that even though his season didn’t start off overly well with his high ERA and all, I maintained my position; Mike Fiers is quite good.

Much of Fiers’ poor performances had to do with his bad luck. Yes, I’m blaming luck. The guy is a strikeout pitcher, meaning he should generate weaker contact than a pitcher who doesn’t rack up the punch-outs. Weaker contact means less base hits. But up until his last handful of starts, hitters were finding holes everywhere, and Fiers’ BABIP was through the roof. Now, however, it’s starting to normalize, and his stats are starting to take notice.

Capture

His bad luck wasn’t going to last forever, but if there’s still doubters out there who refuse to jump on my Fiers’ bandwagon, I’ll leave you with this.

Grade the game (July 2, 2015)

After each (most, at least) weekday game, I’ll write a short but of course exciting recap of said game. Then, you the reader, will have the opportunity to give the Brewers a grade based on their performance. Simple enough, right?

Free baseball! Matt Garza (5.52 ERA/4.99 FIP) and the Milwaukee Brewers went for a four-game sweep against Chad Billingsley (6.75 ERA/5.21 FIP) and the Philadelphia Phillies on Thursday. Garza gave up his 17th home run of the season, but even though he allowed double-digit hits (10) and four runs, he still managed to finish six innings. Plus, he fared a bit better than Billingsley, who was pulled after five. Jean Segura (2.7 BB%) knocked in two runs while collecting two hits. The Brewers bullpen blew a 7-4 lead in the seventh inning as Jonathan Broxton‘s high BABIP (.373) plagued him again. He managed to get just one out and was pegged for two runs. The game played 11 innings, but the Brewers squeaked out an 8-7 victory.

The play that made the game worth watching: Gerardo Parra makes a terrific sliding catch to rob Maikel Franco of a hit.

Stat of the day: Carlos Gomez was the only starting position player on the Brewers without a hit.

My grade: C

Garza wasn’t on his game (again) and Broxton struggled, but the offense never let up. It was a nice four-game sweep.

 

 

Grades so far (beginning on June 29)

A: 1

B: 2

C: 0

D: 0

F: 0

Grade the game (July 1, 2015)

After each (most, at least) game, I’ll write a short but of course exciting recap of said game. Then, you the reader, will have the opportunity to give the Brewers a grade based on their performance. Simple enough, right?

Kyle Lohse (6.28 ERA/5.09 FIP) actually won a game, beating out Aaron Harang (3.56 ERA/4.00 FIP). Harang could barely get an out as he gave up eight runs on 14 hits in five innings. In all, the Brewers accumulated 17 hits, and found out there is actually a team they’re better than. Milwaukee won the game 9-5, their fourth-consecutive victory. The top four hitters in Milwaukee’s lineup combined to go 9-for-19 with seven runs batted in. Scooter Gennett (.246 OBP) led the way with two doubles and a triple, but had another fielding error.

The play that made the game worth watching: Adam Lind mashes a two-run homer in the first inning.

Stat of the day: Lohse went 3-for-5 at the plate, raising his wOBA from .106 to .183.

My grade: A

Lohse actually pitched OK and the offense destroyed Harang. Give ’em an A.

 

Grades so far (beginning on June 29)

A: 0

B: 2

C: 0

D: 0

F: 0