The 2017 Major League Baseball season is upon us! This is good! The Milwaukee Brewers, on the other hand, will not be good. This is not to say we should ignore the Brewers – far from it. The Brewers will be the rare combination of “bad” and “worth following.” Unlike the aimless Brewers teams of the 1990s, this team is building towards something.
General Manager David Stearns is doing an excellent job acquiring high-upside talent in every level of the Brewers organization, which will eventually translate to big league wins. Emphasis on “eventually.” Let’s take a look at five players that could help accelerate the rebuild.
Eric Thames – First Base. The Brewers have not had a sure-fire long-term solution at first base since Prince Fielder. While Eric Thames is far from “surefire” or “long-term,” he might be pretty darn good in his second Major League Stint.
A little backstory: Thames has not played in the majors since 2012. In 684 MLB plate appearances Thames hit 21 home runs, drew 38 walks, and batted a pedestrian .250. So why the optimism? Thames spent the last three seasons with the NC Dinos of the KBO League in South Korea and his numbers were terrific. From 2014 to 2016 Thames mashed 124 home runs, slashed .348/.450/.720 (BA/OBP/SLG), and drew 235 walks. If these numbers translate to the majors then Eric Thames will be the 2017 NL MVP. They won’t; but if they translate, say, 80% of the way the Brewers will have a very good first baseman on their roster. Or maybe Thames will be totally ineffective and get cut. Whatever happens, he’ll only cost the Brewers $15 million over the next three seasons.
Orlando Arcia – Shortstop. On the subject of long-term positional solutions, the Brewers have not had a franchise shortstop since Robin Yount. Most signs point to Orlando Arcia being that guy for the Brewers. I say “most signs,” because Arcia’s offense is a massive question mark. There’s little doubt that he will an elite defender, but last season he only hit .217 in 216 plate appearances with the Brewers. Moreover, he was never a power hitter or on-base machine in the minors. Even so, Arcia will be insanely valuable if he can manage to consistently hit .250 in the majors.
Zach Davies – Starting Pitcher. Hoo-boy! Starting pitching is going to be a problem this season. Davies is the most promising long-term option the Brewers have at the moment. Davies is only 24 years old and had a good 2016 season, tossing 163.1 innings with a 3.97 ERA. Davies will never become an ace because he’s a right-handed pitcher with a fastball that peaks at 90 MPH. The good news is that the Brewers don’t need an ace, they need starting pitching depth. Davies has a good changeup and enough in his repertoire to become a reliable #3/4 starter. If Davies can replicate his 2016 campaign the Brewers will have the early makings of a decent rotation.
Lewis Brinson – Outfielder. David Stearns is good at making trades. Acquiring Lewis Brinson for Jonathan Lucroy is a great example of this. Brinson is the top ranked prospect in the Brewers organization and one of the top prospects in all of baseball. His combination of power, speed, and defense gives him the potential to become one of the elite outfielders in the game. He’ll start the season at AAA Colorado Springs, but expect Brinson to receive a highly-anticipated call-up this summer.
Ryan Braun – Outfielder. The lingering black cloud of the Biogenesis scandal obscures how good Braun has been the past two seasons. Last season he officially returned to form by slashing .305/.365/.538 and hitting 30 dingers. Braun is worth watching because he’s one of the best players in the game, though I understand why some fans will never forgive his transgressions. Even if you loathe Braun, he’ll still be worth watching in a figurative sense this season. Braun was 20 minutes from being traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers for Yasiel Puig prior to last season’s waiver deadline. Given Braun’s production and reasonable contract, demand should still be high for the right fielder – even with his restrictive no-trade clause. For a team looking to stockpile young talent, Braun is a great trade asset.