Tag Archives: Will Smith

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.

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.

Should we be worried about Will Smith’s second-half slump?

For the first couple months of the 2014 season, Will Smith was one of baseball’s best arms out of the bullpen and quickly became Ron Roenicke‘s go-to-guy in high leverage situations. He struck out nearly 30% of batters he faced and boasted a 3.09 ERA in 43.2 innings. He failed to allow an earned run in May (13 IP), diced up lefties and was able to put down righties on a regular basis. His dominance made the news that Zach Duke was signing with the Chicago White Sox a little easier to hear.

But then the calendar turned to July, and Smith’s ERA grew like Pinocchio’s nose. Of the 27 total earned runs Smith allowed last season, he gave up 14 of them in July. Here’s a look at his ERA month-to-month.


Although the months of July and August clearly weren’t friendly to Smith, his peripherals didn’t change all that much, which is why we shouldn’t be worried about his second-half “slump”.

Nothing drastically changed. In the first half of the season, Smith had a 3.11 FIP. In the second half, he had a 3.45 FIP. Different, but not substantially. He actually struck out more and walked less, and his opponent’s batting average and on-base percentage were nearly identical from the first three months. Smith allowed a higher batting average on balls in play, but just by a little, and was still able to keep the ball in the yard. So what contributed to his high ERA?

The biggest problem Smith had was keeping runners from scoring once they got on base.

First half: 78.6 LOB%

Second half: 64.8 LOB%

Once Smith allowed a runner to get on, he couldn’t make them stay put.That’s because Smith almost completely stopped forcing ground balls, and as a result, balls started to take flight which meant more base hits and less outs. Take a look at this:

First Half 50.0% 21.8% 28.2%
Second Half 32.1% 24.5% 43.4%

It’s no wonder his ERA took a climb. He did a heck of a job conjuring ground balls and limiting balls in the air during the first half of the campaign, but completely lost his touch during the last few months of the season. A pitcher with a devastating slider, like Smith (5.1 wSL), will most likely be ineffective if he can’t get the ball on the ground. However, Smith’s second half trend of lack of grounders shouldn’t continue into 2015, as his career ground-ball rate is 42.8%. I expect it to normalize.

Smith was overused in the first half (43.2 IP) and underused in the second half (22 IP), as this was due to Roenicke’s mismanagement of the bullpen. With any luck, Roenicke will make smarter decisions on when to use Smith. A set-up man by committee might be the best option with Smith facing lefties and Jeremy Jeffress getting the ball versus righties, but regardless, there’s really no reason to worry about Smith. He finished the year with a fantastic ERA/FIP/xFIP line (3.70/3.25/3.08) and was worth 0.5 WAR as a middle innings reliever.

Take away the month in which Smith gave up 14 runs in 8.2 innings, and Smith is one of the best relievers in baseball.