The best overall player and the best starting pitcher on the Milwaukee Brewers are no longer on the Milwaukee Brewers. Both Carlos Gomez (1.7 WAR) and Mike Fiers (1.7 WAR) were shipped off to the Houston Astros in exchange for four minor league prospects. The rebuilding and retooling has officially begun in Milwaukee, and it’s a glorious thing. Sure, seeing Gomez, a fan favorite, and Fiers, my personal favorite, leave is tough to deal with as fans, but knowing it’s for the greater good makes it easier to handle.
Other than Jonathan Lucroy, Gomez was the most highly valued hitter and fielder on the Brewers. Gomez been worth 17.9 WAR over the past three and a half seasons and has saved 88 runs defensively. He becomes a free agent after the 2016 season, and the Brewers had little chance of re-signing him (he is a Scott Boras client after all). Trading him now was absolutely the right move.
The Astros also received a solid pitcher in Fiers. He’s actually been the 43rd-best starting pitcher in 2015, meaning he’s been more valuable than Mike Leake, who was just traded to the San Francisco Giants, and Yovani Gallardo, who’s name came up in multiple trade discussions. Trading Fiers came as a bit of a surprise to some because he’s a cheap pitcher who is under team control for basically forever. However, if the Brewers didn’t include Fiers in the deal, the Astros never would have sent the star prospect of the trade, Brett Phillips, to Milwaukee.
So, let’s break down each of the four prospects the Brewers received as we get excited for the future of the organization.
OF Brett Phillips
Phillips was Houston’s No. 2 prospect coming into the 2015 season. He’s now Milwaukee’s No. 2 prospect, according to MLB.com. A lot of knowledgeable people around baseball believe he’s a future All-Star. He has a cannon for an arm out in center field, but most of the hype that surrounds him is because of his bat. Phillips absolutely obliterated baseballs in High-A ball this season (15 home runs and a .417 wOBA) before being promoted to Double-A. The power hasn’t shown up there yet (just one home run), but a .372 OBP has contributed to a 133 wRC+. Like the recently departed Gomez, Phillips also has great speed and could be a 15-20 stolen base guy in the majors. Phillips is exactly the kind of player you want to build your team around.
While everyone is smitten over Phillips, Domingo Santana is the guy who I’m most excited about. If everything goes right, I think he can turn into one of the best players in all of baseball. Yeah, you read that right. Mark it down. He has all the talent to make it happen. In 75 games in Triple-A this season, Santana posted an insane on-base percentage of .426. And that’s with striking out almost 28% of the time. He has power and draws a fair amount of walks. The only problem with Santana is his lack of contact, which is why he’s being considered as a wild card and a player who’s difficult to project. Santana made contact on just 71.6% of pitches inside the zone. That’s not good. At all. His contact problems are very worrisome as he enters the big leagues. But if he can start putting the bat on the ball with more consistency, watch out. He’s 23, so don’t be surprised if you see him up with the Brewers in September, and starting in 2016.
LHP Josh Hader
Josh Hader has put together a very nice season in Double-A this year, posting a 3.17 ERA and 3.46 FIP. He’s also struck out 9.51 batters per nine innings. He has a decent fastball and changeup, but his slider isn’t as effective as it should be. If we’re talking about upside, I see Hader as a back-of-the-rotation guy. His strikeout numbers are, of course, promising, but he has control issues and isn’t an overpowering pitcher. But similar to Fiers, Hader hides the ball well, making his fastball, which usually sits in the low 90s, look much faster.
RHP Adrian Houser
By his minor-league numbers alone, there’s not much that excites about Adrian Houser. He’s really struggled during his short time in Double-A, mainly due to the fact he can’t keep the ball in the park and walks far too many hitters while not striking out enough. At the very best, Houser will be an OK reliever if and when he reaches the big leagues. But don’t expect to see him in Milwaukee any time soon. He has a lot to work on.
This was a tremendous trade for both organizations, but for the Brewers, it makes a weak farm system considerably better. Both Phillips and Santana are top-5 prospects, and the potential is there with Hader and Houser. Doug Melvin deserves a pat on the back.