Tag Archives: Jonathan Lucroy

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.

Offseason goals for the Milwaukee Brewers

I recently turned 24, and in those 8760 days, the Milwaukee Brewers have made the playoffs just twice. They were the National League Wild Card in 2008 (I spent my high school homecoming watching them play the Phillies instead of dancing with my girlfriend) and they were crowned NL Central champs in 2011. Other than that, my life as a Milwaukee Brewers fan has been without reward.

However, they’ve never really “rebuilt” during my lifetime. Despite having only two winning seasons in the 90s, the Brewers failed to get younger through trades and, for the most part, were miserable when it came to drafting players. The early 2000s were spent replacing terrible players with other terrible players amidst 90+ loss seasons, although they did find some gold pieces in the draft. Without drafting the likes of Ryan Braun, Prince Fielder, J.J. Hardy and Rickie Weeks, there would be no 2008 playoff appearance. Yet that was the last draft success story for the Brewers front office. Since then, it’s been a mess.

For the first time in decades, the Brewers are undergoing a massive rebuild, and for the first time in decades, they are acknowledging the team won’t be competitive for at least a few years. And I just have one thing to say about it: FINALLY.

It’s about time the Brewers start over. Too long have they been a bad-to-average team. Too long has their fan base been disappointed. A clean, fresh start is a necessity, a conclusion owner Mark Attanasio has ultimately come to. In early October, Attanasio told Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, “In my thirst to compete, maybe we ended up in the middle a little too often.” I smiled when I read that quote.

New general manager David Stearns has the franchise reins now, and from everything he’s said and everything I’ve read about the man, he seems like the right guy for the job. His focus is centered on giving the organization young prospects whom can be molded into big-league talent. That’s the definition of rebuilding.

That mission begins this offseason, and I have a few ideas on how to start the long-awaited process.

Trade Lucroy, Braun and Rodriguez

Trading the team’s best three players will be no small task, and the average fan will likely throw a tantrum, but this is a move that’s in the best interest of not only the Brewers, but the players themselves.

Jonathan Lucroy and Ryan Braun are in their primes, but by the time Milwaukee’s rebuild is complete, they won’t be anymore. Let them play out their good years on a competitive team instead of wasting away in a Brewers uniform. Plus, the prospects the Brewers would get back for them would be top-rated ones, just like the ones they received in the Carlos Gomez/Mike Fiers trade. Lucroy’s contract is dirt cheap and he’s one of the best backstops in the game, so trading him shouldn’t be difficult. Braun. on the other hand, is just beginning a five-year, $100 million contract extension. Finding a team to take on that contract won’t be easy, but at least Braun’s 2015 season (129 wRC+)  boosted his value again.

Now, while Francisco Rodriguez‘s days of throwing in the high-90s are long gone, he proved in 2015 he can still be a dominant arm out of the bullpen. The Brewers no longer have a need for a veteran closer who costs $7.5 million, so trading him for a can of pickles would be worth it. Freeing up that money is the most important thing. Plus, I can just bet Scooter Gennett loves pickles.

Acquire a 3B prospect

Aramis Ramirez did a fine job holding down the third base fort for the past two and a half seasons, but during that time, the Brewers failed to prepare for his departure. Right now, they have Hernan Perez* (-0.8 career WAR) and Elian Herrera (0.5 career WAR) as possible third-base options. However, neither of those players are long-term solutions, and there’s no one in the minors who is remotely ready for a promotion to the bigs. The Brewers, without a doubt, need to solidify the hot corner.

When/if the Brewers trade any of the players I mentioned above in my first point, a third base prospect will surely be a point of prominence in any trade discussion.

*Has since been made a minor league free agent.

Add as much young pitching as possible

Teams with depth, particularly pitching depth, are usually the ones who have the most success. Just look at two World Series teams this year in New York and Kansas City. Stearns has already spoke about the importance of pitching depth, meaning going out and grabbing as many young pitching prospects as he can is already on his mind.

The Brewers like the young pitching they have (Jimmy Nelson, Taylor Jungmann), but the depth isn’t there, and to be honest, neither is the talent. Their history of draft picks spent on pitchers reads like a bad novel, but hopefully the new front office regime will have a little more luck.

Find a cheap centerfielder

The outfield as it currently lines up is Khris Davis in left field, Domingo Santana in center field and Ryan Braun in right. There’s only one problem; Santana has no business being in center as he belongs in a corner spot. Unfortunately, the Brewers have no true center fielders on the roster, which makes acquiring one a must.

That, however, will cause a traffic jam in the outfield, a problem that can easily be solved by trading Braun. Davis will most likely stay put because he’s cheap and under team control, and I don’t see Stearns giving away someone like that.

Santana will need to be in the lineup everyday in order to get as many plate appearances as possible, but that may mean he’ll need to tough it out in center until a reliable replacement comes along.

The projections: What I got wrong

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.

My projections were purely guesses, but I still hit some right on the nose. I did, however, swing and miss on quite a few. Here are the projections I bombed:

Jonathan Lucroy

Avg HR wOBA wRC+ OBP ISO K% BB% WAR
Projection .303 11 .362 129 .377 .159 10.3% 11.4% 4.6
Season Stats .264 7 .313 93 .326 .127 15.4% 8.7% 1.1

After an MVP-caliber season in 2014, I had no doubt in my mind Jonathan Lucroy would follow it up with another stellar escapade at the plate. Way to make me look like an idiot, Jon. He went from a 6-win player to a 1-win player. Talk about astonishing.

Lucroy just wasn’t the same hitter. He dealt with a toe injury, but he also struggled with pitch selection (29.7 O-Swing%), had most of his power zapped and was unusually unlucky when he made contact with the ball; he posted a .297 BABIP after averaging a ,311 BABIP during his first five seasons in the bigs.

Aside from his bat’s disappearance, Lucroy’s defense also wasn’t Lucroy-worthy. According to FanGraphs’ Defensive Runs Above Average (DEF) stat, which measures a player’s defensive value compared to league average, Lucroy’s value plummeted faster than Meek Mill’s rap career. Last year, he ranked sixth among catchers. In 2015, he was down in the gutter at 37th.

2016 outlook: In hindsight, the Brewers should have traded him immediately after his superstar year. Now, interest in the catcher will surely be down a bit.

Carlos Gomez

AVG HR wOBA wRC+ OBP ISO K% BB% WAR
Projection .287 22 .366 131 .350 .193 22.1% 7.7% 5.3
Season Stats .255 12 .315 96 .314 .154 21.2% 6.5% 2.6

Carlos Gomez went through one roller coaster of a season in 2015, whether it was injuries, being fake traded to the New York Mets or being for real traded to the Houston Astros. And to top all of that off, he was a disaster at the plate.

I knew the Brewers were destined for the bottom of the standings, but no way did I think Gomez would contribute in a negative way to their offensive output. Like Lucroy, I thought he had a chance to compete for the MVP award; instead, he wasn’t even a league-average hitter. His helmet and the ground got pretty friendly, though.

2016 outlook: Trading Gomez was necessary and a fantastic move by Milwaukee’s brass, and I’m on-the-edge-of-my-seat excited for the prospects Houston sent over. In order for the trade to look respectable for the Astros, however, Gomez will need a big bounce-back season. And I think it’s in the cards. He’s my pick for 2016’s Comeback Player of the Year.

Michael Blazek

ERA FIP xFIP SIERA HR K% BB% GB% WAR
Projection 4.22 4.03 3.90 3.89 7 21.3% 11.3% 42.0% -0.1
Season Stats 2.43 3.17 3.85 3.60 3 21.2% 8.1% 47.4% 0.6

Michael Blazek was a hard player to project. Before 2015, the right-handed reliever had just 17 innings of major-league experience, making projecting his first full year a crap shoot.

As it turns out, Blazek was one of the best relievers the solid Brewers bullpen had, ranking fourth in WAR. He waited all the way until August 2 before allowing his first home run. He didn’t strike out many. but he still managed to hold hitters to an extremely low batting average on balls in play (.243).

2016 outlook: It wouldn’t shock me to see Blazek get a shot at the starting rotation next season. The Brewers are rebuilding, and his arsenal and pitching style are more suitable for a starter, anyway. Why not give him a chance?

Francisco Rodriguez

ERA FIP xFIP SIERA HR K% BB% GB% WAR
Projection 3.72 4.22 3.15 2.62 11 25.9% 8.8% 42.0% -0.1
Season Stats 2.21 2.91 2.63 2.42 6 28.7% 5.1% 46.4% 1.0

Francisco Rodriguez was horrible in 2014, and I didn’t expect the Brewers to bring him back. I was wrong. I also didn’t expect Rodriguez to be remotely decent out of the ‘pen. I was wrong. This was, by far, the worst of my projections. Apologies, K-Rod.

Rodriguez did a wonderful job of cutting back on his walks and increasing his K rate, but what’s gone mostly unnoticed is his groundball percentage. His 46.4 GB% is the second-best mark of his career and the highest since 2011. Rodriguez’s plethora of grounders is a main reason why his home run totals were almost sliced in half.

2016 outlook: Once again, Rodriguez will be used as a trade chip by the Brewers. Kudos to Milwaukee for hanging on to him for another season in order to get his value back up.

 

***Even though I was very, very wrong about their performances, I didn’t include Kyle Lohse or Matt Garza on this list. I think we saw enough of them over the season as it is. Nobody wants to read anything more about them.

What’s up with Jonathan Lucroy?

Last season Jonathan Lucroy was one of the front runners for the National League MVP award. Aside from his usual defensive prowess, he got on base at a great rate and showed a tremendous amount of gap power. When it was all said and done, Lucroy finished with the ninth-best WAR in Major League Baseball, and I was sure he was going to follow that up with another phenomenal season (projected 4.6 WAR).

But now, at the midway point of August in 2015, Lucroy has been no better than a replacement player. His WAR sits at 0.1 and his on-base percentage is reminiscent of Yuniesky Betancourt‘s. His isolated power is down 58 points, and instead of being an above-average hitter in terms of creating runs, Lucroy’s wRC+ is down in the gutters at 78. He’s gone from a major threat at the plate to a player who’s no threat at all.

So what’s happened? First, let’s compare his batted ball profile in 2014 to his profile this season.

GB% FB% LD%
2014 42.1% 35.7% 22.3%
2015 47.3% 28.8% 23.9%

Lucroy is hitting more line drives and less fly balls, and for someone who doesn’t have much home run power, that’s obviously a good thing. But his ground ball rate has soared, and that’s something that needs to be talked about.

Part of the reason Lucroy’s offense is struggling is because he’s hitting a lot more ground balls than he did in 2014 and is having way worse luck on those ground balls. Last season, Lucroy hit .258 when he put the ball on the ground, while the rest of the averaged just a .239 mark. In other words, Lucroy overachieved on grounders. This year, not so much, as his groundball BABIP is at a lowly .155. League average, by the way, is .234. As a result, Lucroy’s overall BABIP of .267 is the seventh-lowest mark among National League hitters (min. 300 PA). To sum up, Lucroy had great luck a year ago, but is enduring a season of rotten lock in 2015.

His loss of power is also quite astonishing. He ripped 53 doubles last season, but has only 14 to his name after 311 at-bats. Now, obviously there was no way Lucroy was going to duplicate 53 doubles again, but to have only 14 is a bit surprising. This can probably be explained by his inability to hit the fastball, something that wasn’t the case last year.

Lucroy has seen 544 four-seam fastballs this season, and is hitting .250 with an isolated power of .095 on those pitches. During his MVP-caliber year, however, he hit .324 with an isolated power of .229. Twenty-five of his 53 doubles came off the four-seamer. This year he has just three.

The Brewers catcher is nowhere near the same hitter he was last season because he’s putting a career-high number of balls on the ground and because he’s having a tough time making good contact with the fastball. Both of these things are correctable, but as Milwaukee starts to rebuild, Lucroy may find himself correcting his issues on a different team.

 

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.

Grade the game (June 29, 2015)

This is the inaugural article of “Grade the Game.” 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?

Jimmy Nelson (4.34 ERA/4.33 FIP/) took on the Phillies’ Sean O’Sullivan (5.34 ERA/6.28 FIP) in a battle of Major League Baseball’s worst teams. Nelson lasted just five innings (77 pitches), giving up four runs on six hits. He struck out three and walked two. O’Sullivan gave up a whopping 12 hits and six earned runs. The Brewers somehow racked up 16 hits on their way to a 7-4 victory. Adam Lind (133 wRC+) drove in two runs, Jonathan Lucroy had four hits and Cesar Hernandez (.325 wOBA) collected two hits for the Phillies. Oh, and Hernan Perez continued his hot streak at the plate. Some sloppy defense from Milwaukee led to two Phillies runs in the first inning.

The play that made the game worth watching: A first-pitch two-RBI double by pinch hitter Aramis Ramirez to give the Brewers a 5-4 lead. The Brewers never looked back.

My grade: B

The defense wasn’t stellar and neither was Nelson. But the offense did everything it could with closer to 30 hits than 0.