Tag Archives: Jeremy Jeffress

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.

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Brewers trade talk: Who stays and who goes?

Being a fan of a miserable team isn’t all that much fun. Attending games is less entertaining and watching your team lose time and time again on television eventually becomes a waste of time, not to mention beyond frustrating.  And yet, being a fan of a miserable team can have its perks, especially during the weeks leading up to the trade deadline. The trade deadline is a time when rebuilding teams can do just that — rebuild. They go out and acquire young talent while issuing farewells to long-time players, and although it may be sad, it’s for the good of the team.

That’s how Brewers’ fans are currently feeling. Aside from constant trade rumors, it’s been a rather boring year for Milwaukee fans, and they’re excited for the rumors to finally come to fruition. I know I am.

It should be a busy week and a half for the Brewers’ front office, and I’m sure David Stearns is on the phone right now trying to work a deal.

Let’s get to some predictions.

Players who will be traded

Jonathan Lucroy – If Lucroy’s still a member of the Brewers on Aug. 2, I’ll be absolutely shocked. He’s arguably the best player on the trade market, and with his defensive value and 123 wRC+, there’s multiple teams vying for his services.

Prediction: The Texas Rangers seem like the current favorite to land him, and they make the most sense, so I’m going to go with them. However, I have a feeling Boston will come just in the nick of time with a better offer, especially if they don’t believe Sandy Leon‘s current pace is sustainable. Spoiler: It’s not.

Jeremy Jeffress – Almost every contending team is in need of bullpen help, and the Brewers have a few to spare, including their closer. Jeffress’ strikeouts are down a considerable amount in 2016, but that hasn’t stopped him from running a 2.29 ERA and a 3.40 FIP. Teams will be drawn to him because of his mid-90s fastball that creates a plethora of ground balls. Jeffress probably won’t close on whichever team he’s dealt to, but he’ll no doubt make it stronger.

Prediction: The San Francisco Giants have been rumored to have interest, and I think that’s where he’ll land, maybe as a setup man to Santiago Casilla. Those two would make a dangerous 1-2 punch.

Junior Guerra – I’m in the minority on this one, but I really think Guerra will be moved. A team looking for a controllable pitcher who won’t cost much will find no better option than the Brewers’ 31-year-old rookie. He has an ERA that’s flirting with going below 3 and can hit 96 mph on the gun. At least one team will be attracted to him,

Prediction: Guerra seems like a perfect fit for the Rangers, who, by the way, are currently employing Kyle Lohse as a starter in their rotation.

Players who won’t be traded

Ryan Braun – If you would have asked me a month ago if I thought Braun would be on the move, I would have definitively said yes. Now I’m not so sure. His contract is huge, and his injury history is obviously worrisome. I thought his performance this season would negate all that. Then July hit. So far this month Braun has a 45 wRC+ and has yet to hit a home run. Can a team really take a chance that he’ll get his swing back over the last two months AND absorb his enormous contract?

Will Smith – Will Smith is receiving a lot of interest, so I could see him being traded. Then again, I’m a believer in David Stearns, and I think Stearns will wait until next year to sell Smith off after he regains some value. Smith has lost a little value this year because he’s not striking out hitters like he once did. His strikeout rate has fallen from 34.5% in 2015 to 22.7% in 2016. That’s essentially a 12% loss of strikeouts. Stearns might want to hold on to him a little while longer.

The projections: What I got right

As you know, baseball projections, or any projections for that matter, are never a sure thing, especially when they consist of nothing but educated guesses, as mine do. Projection systems like Steamer and ZiPS, which you can find on FanGraphs lovely site, are much more accurate, because they use complicated and in-depth formulas and models to make their decisions on players. As for me, I simply did some research and predicted the results on my own.

But even though my projections were purely guesses, I still had my share of correct calls. Here’s where I went right:

Adam Lind

AVG HR wOBA wRC+ OBP ISO K% BB% WAR
Projection .279 18 .353 122 .340 0.181 18.7% 7.8% 1.5
Season Stats .277 20 .351 119 .360 0.183 17.5% 11.5% 2.2

Not to pat myself on the back or anything, but I was dead on when it came to projecting LInd. Aside from his on-base percentage and walk rate, I was just one or two points off on every offensive statistic. His WAR was higher than I thought it’d be; credit that to his glove. His 5 Defensive Runs Saved at first base was far and away a career high.

Though it’s not saying much, Lind had one of the best offensive seasons on the Brewers in 2015. He got on base more than any Brewer not named Gerardo Parra, and he rediscovered his power swing after hitting just six home runs a year ago.

2016 outlook: Don’t be surprised if Lind is traded this winter. New general manager David Stearns already cleaned house with the coaching staff and has reorganized the front office. It’s only a matter of time before he starts moving player personnel.

Ryan Braun

AVG HR wOBA wRC+ OBP ISO K% BB% WAR
Projection .308 26 .368 140 .378 .220 18.2% 8.9% 4.5
Season Stats .285 25 .366 129 .356 .213 20.2% 9.5% 2.8

Okay, okay, I know there’s a huge discrepancy in Braun’s projected Wins Above Replacement and his actual WAR. I thought he was going to improve at least a little in right field since he had a whole year there under his belt. but he was just as pitiful as he was in 2014.

However, my prediction that he would transform back into one of baseball’s best hitters came true. Braun put up his highest ISO since 2012 and finished 29th in all of baseball in weighted runs created plus.

2016 outlook: With his extension just about to kick in, it’ll be tough to trade Braun, no matter how badly Stearns wants to. Nonetheless, Braun proved he can still hit with the elite, and he should continue that next season.

Scooter Gennett

AVG HR wOBA wRC+ OBP ISO K% BB% WAR
Projection .268 6 .310 95 .314 .125 17.0% 4.1% 1.4
Season Stats .264 6 .289 77 .294 .117 17.4% 3.1% 0.2

As regular readers know, I’ve never been a fan of Scooter Gennett. Every time I see him at the plate, I shed a tear for the departed Rickie Weeks. Sigh.

I knew Gennett was going to have a below-average season, which is why I’m counting this as a win for my projections. Yet, I didn’t expect him to be so abysmal that I was rooting for Hector Gomez to take over his second-base job. He played no better than a replacement player. Offensively, he was useless, and his defense took a big slide as well.

2016 outlook: Honestly, I can’t imagine Gennett having a major-league job next year. Oh wait. The Brewers are rebuilding, which means Gennett will absolutely be on the team’s roster, unfortunately. Unless Milwaukee is ready to give one of their younger prospects a try. I mean, why not?

Jeremy Jeffress

ERA FIP xFIP SIERA HR K% BB% GB% WAR
Projection 2.62 3.11 3.00 2.59 4 21.9% 9.6% 57.4% 1.0
Season Stats 2.65 3.22 3.00 2.85 5 23.5% 7.7% 58.2% 0.8

Before the season started, I wrote that Jeremy Jeffress would be MLB’s next top closer sometime in the near future, and after the stand-out numbers he racked together as the setup man in 2015, I’m even more confident in saying that. I called this one almost perfectly.

Jeffress is a strikeout and ground-ball pitcher, and he proved that over a full season for the first time in his career. He struck out almost nine batters per game and his GB% was the 17th-best among qualified relievers, mostly due to his power sinker.

2016: Jeffress will again be Craig Counsell‘s go-to-guy in high leverage situations next season, and he even could slide into the closer’s role if the Brewers choose to shed money and a veteran by trading Francisco Rodriguez.

 

You can check out my full list of projections here:

Hitters

Pitchers

Jeremy Jeffress is MLB’s next lights-out closer

Doug Melvin should be given an award or at least a major pay raise for a move he made back in April.

The Milwaukee Brewers general manager went out and signed reliever Jeremy Jeffress just a few weeks after he daringly elected his free agency from the Toronto Blue Jays. Jeffress, of course, was a first round draft pick by Milwaukee in 2006, but after multiple suspensions over marijuana use, was traded to the Kansas City Royals.

But enough with the history lesson. The point is, Jeremy Jeffress is destined to be the next big name in Major League Baseball’s bullpen.

If Francisco Rodriguez doesn’t return to the Brewers, which is likely, it’s fair to assume Jonathan Broxton will be the ninth-inning man in 2015. That gives Jeffress one more year to hone his skills before potentially being named closer. Jeffress should assume setup duties this year, a role in which he was used in from time to time last season. Jim Henderson is coming off shoulder surgery and it’s still unknown when he’ll be ready to pitch. That opens the door for Jeffress. If Jeffress can take the next step forward, 2016 will eventually be coined “The Year of Jeffress”.

Jeffress appeared in 29 games with the Brewers in 2014, and flashed a 1.88 ERA, 2.57 FIP and 2.59 xFIP. He struck out 21.9% of batters and had a phenomenal strand rate (85.9%).However, his strand rate is one of the reasons why we might see a bit of a regression from him next year; league average left on base percentage was 73.9% among relievers. But even if Jeffress does take a little backslide, there’s no reason to think it’ll be damning enough to halt his success.

As is typical with the closer position, teams covet a closer who can hit mid-to-upper 90s on the radar gun. Using a hard-throwing pitcher for just one inning makes it tough on hitters as they have no time to make adjustments. According to Brooks Baseball, Jeffress’ sinker, which he threw 345 times in 2014, averaged 97.3 mph. FanGraphs has it averaging 96.6 mph, but that’s just semantics. Either way, nobody in Milwaukee’s bullpen threw harder than Jeffress.

Batters did, however, hit .325 off Jeffress’ sinker, but only accumulated a .048 ISO against it. In other words, Jeffress allowed 23 singles but only four doubles. He needs to limit baserunners, yes, but singles aren’t going to kill him. Besides, he allowed a relatively high .321 BABIP, which should shrink somewhat next season. Another reason why this isn’t worrisome is because he forced a heck ton of ground balls (61.5 GB%), and a lot of those went through for hits meaning it was simply bad luck and/or he had poor defense behind him. The Brewers seemed to fault the defense as they fired first base coach Garth Iorg, who also served as the infield coach.

An underrated part of Jeffress’ repertoire is his curveball, which he uses to keep hitters off balance. He threw his curve 105 times in 2014 and allowed just two singles. Here’s his curveball in action, striking out Buster Posey.

Jeffress

Jeffress has the ability to be one of the game’s best closers. He gets ground balls, keeps the ball in the yard and can rack up the strikeouts with his blazing sinker or nasty curve.

The best thing about him for the Brewers right now is that he’s cheap, but if he pitches like I think he will, Jeffress will command a lot more in just a short while.