Monthly Archives: August 2016

The Santana/Nieuwenhuis situation

This will be one of my shorter posts, but there’s something I just need to get off my chest.

I’ve never really had a problem with Craig Counsell as a manager before. Sure, he sometimes uses his bullpen in explicable ways, and yeah, he puts Scooter Gennett in his lineup, but for the most part he’s fine. But now that Domingo Santana is back from a long DL stint, I have an issue with the young manager.

For some reason,  Counsell has been penciling in Nieuwenhuis’ name into the lineup just as often as Santana’s. Since Santana was reinstated from the disabled list on Aug. 19, he’s had just 25 plate appearances. Nieuwenhuis has 27. And that just doesn’t make sense to me.

The Brewers are rebuilding, right? They don’t care about winning in 2016, right? They’re focused on prospect development, right? Then why in the hell isn’t Santana starting every single game?

Nieuwenhuis isn’t by any means in Milwaukee’s future plans. He’s 29 years old and has been worth just 3.5 WAR in his career. There’s a very high chance that 2016 will be the former Mets’ outfielder only season in Milwaukee. The same cannot be said for Santana. He was just acquired last year in a blockbuster trade for Carlos Gomez and Mike Fiers and figures to be a fixture in the Brewers’ outfield for many years to come.

Santana’s development was already stalled because of his prolonged DL trip, and Counsell placing him on the bench is furthering that. He needs at bats. He needs to see major league pitching, He needs work in the outfield. Having him ride the pine in favor of Nieuwenheis is prohibiting all of that, which makes me wonder if Counsell has any idea how to manage a rebuilding team. And why hasn’t David Stearns stepped in and demanded that Counsell act like a rebuilding skipper?

All of this seems fishy to me.

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Who are the Brewers getting in Lewis Brinson and Luis Ortiz?

It happened. It finally happened.

After Jonathan Lucroy vetoed deal that would’ve sent him to Cleveland, the Milwaukee Brewers were able to strike a deal with the Texas Rangers that shipped him, along with closer Jeremy Jeffress, to the Lone Star State in exchange for OF Lewis Brinson, RHP Luis Ortiz and a player to be named later. It had been long speculated that both Lucroy and Jeffress were going to be traded, but David Stearns cut it close, with reports of the move not surfacing until within minutes of the trade deadline. Multiple sources claimed highly touted prospect Joey Gallo was the centerpiece of the deal, but that obviously never came to fruition.

Lucroy upped his value this season and re-entered the conversation of best MLB catcher after a forgettable 2015. The 30-year-old catcher has been worth 2.8 WAR already (third among qualified catchers) and has created 20% more runs than league average. His hitting ability and defensive wizardry is a big get for the Rangers, who have lacked a capable backstop all season.

Texas also acquired Jeffress, who has turned into a shut-down closer after resurrecting his career in Milwaukee. He saved 27 games in 28 chances, if you’re a fan of that sort of thing, and posted a 2.22 ERA and 3.16 FIP along the way.

But this is a Brewers website, so we know all that. Let’s talk about who Milwaukee is getting in Brinson and Ortiz.

Lewis Brinson is a talented and powerful outfielder who has the potential to be a star. MLB.com ranked him as baseball’s 21st-best prospect when they released their midseason prospect list, and despite his poor showing in Double-A this season (.277 OBP/98 wRC+), the 22 year old has real promise. Some in the industry think his bat is capable of hitting 30 home runs with his plus bat speed if he can stay healthy, which has been a big issue for Brinson during in his minor league career. The outfielder also rates as a top-notch defender with a strong arm and excellent speed. It’s no mystery why so many are high on this kid. The disappearance of his walk rate this season is something to keep an eye on going forward, though.

Like Brinson, Luis Ortiz was a highly regarded prospect not only in Texas’ system, but in baseball as a whole. Ortiz is MLB’s 63rd-ranked prospect and enters Milwaukee’s ranks at No. 5. He owns a plus fastball with an above-average slider that could evolve into a devastating pitch in time. The 20-year-old righty has put together a solid first season in Double-A — in nine games (eight starts) he’s accumulated a 4.08 ERA with a 3.32 FIP. What’s most impressive about this youngster is his control as his BB/9 has remained under two in each level of minor league ball with the exception of Triple-A, and that’s only because he has yet to pitch in Triple-A.

Ortiz projects as a mid-rotation arm who isn’t too far away from making his debut. Give him maybe two or three more years to polish his stuff in the minors, and he just might be ready to be an impact player for the Brewers.

Since taking over the team, David Stearns has made great deal after great deal, and this is no exception.

Who are the Brewers getting in Phil Bickford and Andrew Susac?

About two hours before the 3 p.m. MLB Trade Deadline, Milwaukee Brewers left-handed reliever Will Smith was dealt to the San Francisco Giants in exchange for their No. 1 prospect RHP Phil Bickford and C Andrew Susac. This was the first of two trades the Brewers would make Monday, the other one being the trade of Jonathan Lucroy and Jeremy Jeffress to Texas.

Even though I predicted the Brewers would keep Smith for another year, I knew there was a strong possibility he was a goner, and from the looks of it, Milwaukee made out like bandits. Smith, compared to past seasons, is having a somewhat down year. His ERA is up a full run from 2015, and his FIP is up nearly two — not to mention his velocity has been noticeably lower as well. To get a potential top-of-the-rotation arm and an offensive-minded catcher, both of whom have been ranked among the top 100 in prospect lists at one time or another, is a big win for the organization. FanGraphs called giving them up a “steep price to pay” for the Giants, while Baseball America echoed the notion.

But who exactly are the Brewers getting in Bickford and Susac?

We’ll start with the exciting one. In MLB Pipeline’s midseason top 100 prospect list, Phil Bickford, a first-round pick in 2015, landed at #67. Among Brewers’ prospects, he enters as the sixth-best in the system.

The big righty stands 6’4″, 200 lbs with an excellent slider and deceptive fastball that at one point could hit triple digits. His velocity has decreased significantly this season, with reports claiming he sits between 90-94 with his heater. Even so, that hasn’t stopped Bickford, who’s only 21, from having success in the minors. After he posted a 2.70 ERA with an even more impressive 2.45 FIP in Class-A this season, Bickford was promoted to High-A where he’s put up a 2.73 ERA and 3.96 FIP. He’s struck out almost 10 batters per nine innings but has had some trouble with his control since his promotion (3.27 BB/9). By no means is that worrisome by itself, but it’s a significant bump from the 2.25 BB/9 mark he put up in Class-A.

Bickford’s ceiling is probably a No. 2 starter — especially if he can get his velocity back — with his floor being somewhere around a high-leverage reliever like the player he was traded for. Watching his progression in the minors will be fun, and he should be ready for the majors when the Brewers are finally set to compete.

Andrew Susac has appeared in 87 major league games over his career (mainly as Buster Posey‘s backup), and in that small sample size, he’s been worth 1.0 WAR and owns a .309 wOBA and 106 wRC+. He’s not a prospect anymore, and at 26, he doesn’t seem to fit into Milwaukee’s future plans after the rebuild is complete. The former second-round pick will report to Triple-A Colorado Springs and is more of a depth grab for Milwaukee than anything else. Susac is, however, an offensive-first catcher who could start for the next few seasons if Martin Maldonado continues to not hit. But as far as catchers go, the Brewers are biding their time until Jacob Nottingham is ready.