Brewers Future Highlighted by Jimmy Nelson


After a season that ended in a thunderous crash, the Milwaukee Brewers have had one of the quietest and headline-free offseasons in baseball. The Brew Crew spent 150 days in first place before a 9-22 skid to end the season ensued after its offense went cold: post-All-Star break, the Brewers scored 227 runs, good for 28th in baseball, and hit .239, good for 25th; this after scoring 423 runs (sixth) and hitting .257 (ninth) pre-All Star break.

If one looks at the season as a whole, the Brewers were a paragon of mediocrity, finishing 82-80 and ranking among the middle of the pack in seemingly every category, whether it be offensive or pitching; 17th in team ERA (3.67), 13th in WHIP (1.25), 15th in scoring (650) and 15th in offensive runs per game (4.01).

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The pitching staff was consistent and the bullpen generally held on to games, as evidenced by Francisco Rodriguez’s 44 saves, his most since earning 35 in 2009 as a Met. The offense, on the other hand, was essentially two different teams. They were a top 10 offense to start off the season and one of the worst down the stretch.

So what did the Brewers do to address their needs? Surprising little. Pitcher Marco Estrada was sent to Toronto for first baseman Adam Lind and Yovani Gallardo was traded to Texas for shortstop/second baseman Luis Sardinas and some pitchers including Corey Knebel . Lind will platoon at first base and Sardinas is insurance for Jean Segura, who suffered mightily in the second half of the season. The bullpen currently lost Rodriguez but the Brewers did sign Neal Cotts.

A quiet offseason means the Brew Crew are going after the N.L Central with the same core of players—Segura, the emerging Khris Davis, a hopefully healthy Ryan Braun, defensive wizard Carlos Gomez, MVP-candidate Jonathan Lucroy and an aging Aramis Ramirez—and hoping those players don’t repeat their catastrophic regressions.   Some bad news is that Lucroy will miss most of spring training with hamstring issues.

The core is there to win what looks to be a competitive division.  The Cardinals have starting pitcher questions, the Cubs got a lot better and the Pirates have a ton of talent and even more on the way.

If this team doesn’t compete now, the Brewers could be getting reinforcements over the next few years which is good, because Ramirez (2015), pitcher Kyle Lohse (2015), Lucroy (2016), Gomez (2016) and pitcher Matt Garza (2017) all will become free agents in the near future. While none of the players in the minors are billed as superstars (ESPN’s Keith Law doesn’t have a single prospect in his Top 50 and has the highest rated Brewer at No. 88), but they should fit in nicely with the young core that will be in Milwaukee until at least 2019:

Pitcher Jimmy Nelson
Nelson dominated Triple-A in 2014, going 10-2 with a 1.46 ERA, 0.92 WHIP and 3.56 K/BB. When he was summoned to the majors, it didn’t go as well: a 1.456 WHIP and 82 hits in 69.1 innings made for a long couple months. The supposed downfall of Nelson was his inability to get lefties out, but lefties hit .275 and righties hit .309 against him, so that wasn’t the issue. He just got hit in general.  The Brewers will need him to fill the roles left by Estrada and Gallardo if the Brewers are to be successful.

Shortstop/Second baseman Orlando Arcia
Segura won’t become a free agent until after the 2018 season, so Arcia will either take his place (Arcia will be a better defender than Segura) or move to second base to form a great combo up the middle. Arcia made great strides offensively in 2014:

  • 2013: Single-A – .251 AVG / .314 OBP / .333 SLG / .268 BABIP / .303 wOBA
  • 2014: High-A – .289 AVG / .346 OBP / .392 SLG / .326 BABIP / .303 wOBA

Arcia’s 2014 numbers bear a lot of similarities with the Blue Jays’ Jose Reyes when Reyes was at High-A/Double A in 2002:

  • Arcia 2014 – .289 AVG / .346 OBP / .326 BABIP / 11.9 K% / 7.6 BB%
  • Reyes 2002 – ..288 AVG / .343 OBP / .320 BABIP / 12.3 K% / 7.4 BB%

The only difference is Reyes had a lot more extra base hits than Arcia, although Arcia is starting to develop some power.

Outfielder Tyrone Taylor
In 2014 Taylor put up almost the same numbers as he did in 2013. He is a great athlete and is the Brewers’ best prospect according to some publications. At the very least, Taylor is a solid platoon outfielder who murders left-handed pitching—he hit .323 with a .367 OBP against southpaws but was .263/.319 against righties. Taylor doesn’t strike out much (11.5 percent of plate appearances in 2014) and is still only 21, so he has time to even out his left/right split.

Catcher/Outfielder Clint Coulter
Coulter is following a similar path as Houston Astros catcher/outfielder/probably designated hitter Evan Gattis. Coulter was moved to the outfield in 2014 to fast-track his bat to the majors, and as Reviewing the Brew’s Kyle Lesniewski says, Coulter has become a sleeper prospect.  Coulter hit 22 home runs in 2014 and dropped his at bats per home run to 19.5 after being above 30 in 2013. Coulter strikes out a lot just like Gattis, but the Brewers will love the power numbers.

After those three, there are pitcher Wei-Chung Wang, who the Brewers picked up off waivers from the Pirates in 2013’s Rule 5 Draft, and 2014 second-round pick Monte Harrison. Wang was stellar in the minors but struggled as a reliever in 2014 at the major league level. Given some time to settle into a role, he could be a very effective reliever. Harrison is an incredible athlete who was recruited to play wide receiver at Nebraska, and in a small sample size had a decent half season in 2014, hitting .261 with a .348 BABIP in 50 games. Devoting his athleticism to baseball could turn him into a very productive major leaguer.

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