Brewers Looking for Right Mix

The Milwaukee Brewers have been trading veterans for prospects hoping to find the right mix to get them another run at the playoffs. Their park favors hitters but pitching is what takes teams far into the playoffs. The Brewers are not ignoring the bats as they look for the arms. Currently the bats are their strength.

The two best bats patrol the outfield. Lewis Brinson could have some of the best tools in baseball. The bat hits for power and the legs run for speed. There are not a lot of players who can match him for both. Lewis will be that centerfielder who hits for power in the mold of Willie Mays and Mickey Mantle. Last year he struggled a bit in his major league debut for the Brewers, hitting .108 with 17 whiffs in 47 at bats. The Brewers will give him another opportunity and with a good spring the centerfield job is his in 2018. Time will tell if he can meet the hype.

Corey Ray is a little further away from his major league debut. The 2016 first round pick has a nice tool set hitting from the left side. It just falls a little short of Lewis. Defensively Corey has centerfield tools with an arm more suited for left field if Brinson takes center. Strikeouts are his big albatross with 156 in 112 games, resulting in a poor .238 average. More barrel of bat on ball contact can open up his game in the power category. He should start the season in AA and needs to put up good numbers to find himself wearing a Brewers uniform.

Triston Lutz is a third outfielder who was a supplemental first round pick in 2017. He also has some impressive tools with an arm that fits well in right. His speed is not as great as Ray or Brinson but he runs well. Last year the bat packed some power with 9 homeruns and a .559 slugging percentage in rookie ball. He also showed a good eye at the plate with a .398 OBA. Expect him to open the 2018 season in Low A.

A fourth outfielder who has the best arm in the group is Brett Phillips. He was a sixth round pick of the Astros in 2012 and acquired in the Carlos Gomez trade. His bat is not as polished as the other three outfielders, strikeouts being a problem (129 in 104 games). He did show the power to bury 19 homeruns and hit .305 and then added four additional homeruns in his major league debut. The Brewers have been trying to trade Ryan Braun but he may cede the right field position to Phillips in 2018.

The top pitcher is Luis Ortiz, who was acquired from the Rangers in the Jonathan Lucroy deal. Luis starred for the United States under 18 national team, leading them to a gold medal. His fastball sits in the mid-90s with a good slider to offset the hard stuff. The 6′3″ righthander needs to watch his weight. For a pitcher with his stuff his strikeout rate was poor (79 in 94 innings) but he did limit the opposition to a .227 average pitching the complete year in AA. A 4.01 ERA is evidence he may not be ready for the major leagues to begin the season but a good start to his minor league season will see him in the rotation by mid-season.

After that the pitching gets a little dicey. Freddy Peralta put up some good numbers in High A and AA (2.63 ERA), striking out 169 hitters in 120 innings. He stands only 5′11 and his power falls just a bit short of mid-90s. The opposition hit only .178 against him. If he does not succeed as a starter at the major league level he could always work out of the bullpen.

Kodi Medeiros is a lefthanded pitcher who was drafted in the first round by the Brewers in 2014. His control has challenged him to retire hitters. Last year was perhaps his best year with a 4.98 ERA and a .241 opposition average. He gets swings and misses with good velocity on his fastball, not a tool to ignore in a lefthanded pitcher.

Brandon Woodruff and Corbin Burnes are lower drafted pitchers who have done well. Woodruff was drafted in the 11th round in 2014 and made his major league debut last year. The numbers were not good in either the minors (4.31 ERA) or the majors (4.81). He should win a spot at the end of the rotation and at 6′4, 215 eat up some innings. Burnes was a fourth round pick in 2016 who put up good numbers (1.67 ERA), rising up to AA while limiting the opposition to a .200 average. If he can replicate those numbers in 2018 he should see some time in the Brewers rotation by the end of the year.

Most teams do not build playoff contenders with second baseman. The Brewers have a couple of good bats that play the position. Keston Hiura spent most of his season batting in the DH spot in college because of a bad elbow. His bat is potent (.371 average) enough to win batting titles. Keston was a first round pick of the Brewers in 2017. Left field could also be a landing spot for Hiura but a lot will depend on the health of his elbow. Isan Diaz has already won a batting title in the minor leagues (.360 in 2015) while playing for the Diamondbacks. Last year he struggled hitting .222 in High A. His only real tool is his bat so he needs to hit to see the major leagues.

Mauricio Dubon is a smooth fielding shortstop acquired from the Red Sox in the Travis Shaw trade. His bat is short on power but he has the speed to steal bases (38)and hit around .270. Those numbers should be good enough while he hits in the nine spot. Lucas Erceg is a good athlete with power who can play shortstop but is better suited for third. His speed falls a bit short, limiting his range at the outfield and middle infield position, but his arm is strong enough for right if third base should be filled.

Jacob Nottingham is the best bet to fit behind the plate for the Brewers in 2018. He’s travelled around a bit, from Houston to Oakland to the Brewers in the Khris Davis trade. Nottingham carries good power in his bat but still needs to elevate his defensive game. The arm is not weak but it won’t stop a running game.

Finally, myworld loves the tools of Nigerian born but Canadian bred Demi Orimoloye. Like Brinson, not a lot of players are blessed with his combination of power and speed. The Achilles heel is his inability to make contact. Last year the outfielder struck out 139 times in 125 games, limiting his average to .214. It will be a slow process as Demi advances one level at a time, with 2018 seeing his debut at High A. The Brewers hope at one of his stops the light bulb will turn on.

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