Wednesday, May 29, 2024
AnalysisMilwaukee BrewersMLBNational LeagueNL Central

Brewers 2020 Offseason Outlook (So Far)

The Milwaukee Brewers have had a busy offseason trying to replace key players while adding depth to a very shallow and depleted starting pitching staff and bench. Let’s take a look at a recap of the Brewers’ offseason so far while looking at player profiles of the current roster.

Payroll Outlook

2019: $135,889,019 (Per Spotrac)

2020 Estimate: $107,000,000 (includes salary arbitration estimates with current roster as of 1/19/20, Per Fangraphs)

Left in Free Agency (FA)

Yasmani Grandal: Declined $16M 2020 mutual option, received $2.5M buyout

Mike Moustakas: Declined $11M 2020 mutual option, received $3M buyout

Drew Pomeranz: $491,965 (‘19 adjusted salary – remaining salary the Brewers had to pay on his 2019 contract after they traded for him)

Jordan Lyles: $694,386 (‘19 adjusted salary)

Matt Albers: $2.5M (‘19 salary)

Gio Gonzalez: $2M (‘19 salary)

Released

Eric Thames: $6M (’19 salary), received $1M buyout

Cory Spangenberg: $1.2M (‘19 salary), arb eligible


Traded Away

Chase Anderson ($5.5M ’19 salary)

Trent Grisham (League minimum)

Zach Davies ($2.6M ’19 salary)

Adam Hill (Minor league salary)


Non-Tendered

Jimmy Nelson ($3.7M ’19 salary)

Junior Guerra ($2.225M ’19 salary)

Travis Shaw ($4.675M ’19 salary)

Tyler Saladino ($.8875M ’19 salary)


Outrighted to Minors (and elected FA)

Hernán Pérez: ($2.5M ’19 salary, was arbitration (arb) eligible)

Tyler Austin (League Minimum ’19 salary, was arb eligible)

DFA’d

Jake Faria (League minimum ’19 salary)

Signings

SP

Josh Lindblom (3yr/$9.13mil)

Brett Anderson (1yr/$5mil)

1B

Justin Smoak (1yr/$5M with ’21 club option)

Ryon Healy (League minimum)  

Logan Morrison (Minor-league contract)

3B

 Eric Sogard: (1yr/$4.5M with ’21 club option)

 Jedd Gyorko: (1yr/$2M with ’21 club option)

OF

Avisail Garcia (2yr/$20M with ’22 club option)

Keon Broxton (Minor-league contract)

Acquired via Trade

Ronny Rodriguez

Omar Narváez

Luis Urias

Eric Lauer

Chad Spanberger

Player Profiles by Position

Depth Chart

C
Omar Narváez: At first glance, it seems as if Narváez had a great 2019, hitting to the tune of a 119 wRC+ in 482 PA, which ranks 4th out of all catchers with at least 350PA. However, his defense was absolutely atrocious. According to Baseball Prospectus, Narváez was good for -4.3 blocking runs (ranking 110th of 113 catchers), -8.2 framing runs (ranks 105th out of 113 catchers), and -1 throwing runs (ranking 111th out of 113 catchers). This becomes even more problematic considering the fact that Yasmani Grandal, who signed with the White Sox this offseason, ranked 2nd in framing runs, 14th in blocking runs, and 80th in throwing runs. Furthermore, his peripherals don’t lend much hope to him repeating his offensive performance with a .324 xwOBA (.345 actual wOBA), .422 xSLG (.460 actual SLG), and 8th percentile average exit velocity and hard-hit rate. Hopefully, he is able to repeat his offensive production in 2020 while becoming better defensively, but his peripherals say not to expect much. However, the Brewers must see something to have traded for him.
2019 WAR: 1.8
2020 Projected WAR: .5

Manny Pina: Though he was only limited to only 179 PA, he ranked 15th in the majors in framing runs with 6.4. His bat leaves something to be desired (87 wRC+ in ’19), but it’s close enough to average for a defensively oriented position, and his defense more than makes up for it (2 blocking runs and -.1 throwing runs). He’ll be splitting time with Narváez, and hopefully, the tandem can come close to equaling Grandal’s production.
2019 WAR: 1.1
2020 Projected WAR: 1.2

1B
Ryan Braun: The Ryan Braun 1B experience was tested in 2018 when he logged 109.1 innings at the position, but it wasn’t carried over into 2019. Braun expressed the struggles of learning a new position along with the extra toll it took on his lower back for the reasons for staying in left. However, his defense, once considered average, is now well below that mark. He accumulated -2 DRS (Defensive Runs Saved) and -8 OAA (Outs Above Average) during the 2019 season in left field. And with the emergence of Ben Gamel as a roughly league-average player (perhaps slightly worse) on a rate basis, the signing of Avisail Garcia, and the staples of Lorenzo Cain in CF and Christian Yelich in RF, perhaps it’s time for Braun to be exclusively at first and act as a reserve outfielder. He’s thirty-six years old and not getting any younger. UPDATE: It’s been reported that Braun’s primary position in 2020 will be at 1B.
2019 WAR: 1.9
2020 Projected WAR: 1.1

Justin Smoak: A quick look at Smoak’s WAR and you can pretty much tell that his ’19 season was less than ideal. He did underperform (.322 actual wOBA vs. .366 xwOBA), and does have a 15.8% walk rate. However, his 45% pull rate leaves him easily defensible, and his wOBA while shifted is .286. Furthermore, his defense is roughly average depending on your metric, with +2 OAA and -3 DRS. He’ll be splitting time at 1B with Braun and possibly Healy, or whichever player from the slew of signings happens to make it through spring training.
2019 WAR: .2
2020 Projected WAR: 1.2

Logan Morrison: His last full season in the majors was in 2017 when he slashed .246/.353/.516 with a 131 wRC+ and a .363 wOBA. However, his 2018 with the Twins was disappointing with a 75 wRC+, and his 2019 showed no signs of turning it around when he had a 69 wRC+. Coupled with poor defense, his potential role is very limited, and he has a high likelihood of being released before spring training.
2019 WAR: -.1
2020 Projected WAR:0 (Projects for only 7PA)

2B
Keston Hiura: A stud at the plate, but not so much in the field. During his rookie year, he finished fifth among qualified rookies with a 138 wRC+ but had -7 OAA in only 679 innings in the field and a -18.9 UZR/150. Truly awful. Assuming he doesn’t drastically improve on his horrid defense, his projected WAR for his first full season barely eclipses his ’19 totals. His hit tool is elite, but to reach his ceiling, he’ll need a full defensive overhaul, which isn’t impossible, considering he’s only 23 years old and entering his first full season.
2019 WAR: 2.1
2020 Projected WAR: 2.4

3B
Eric Sogard: While it may not have been the Josh Donaldson signing Brewers fans were hoping for, the signing of Sogard does provide 3B stability, seemingly eliminating a huge question mark. Sogard had an excellent year in 2019 with a 115 wRC+ while accruing +5 OAA (4 at 2B and 1 at 3B). However, he did tremendously outperform his expected stats (.307 xwOBA vs. 342 actual wOBA). Furthermore, a 2.1% barrel rate and a .373 xSLG in a year that featured record-breaking HR totals and exit velos at all-time highs are very concerning. Ultimately, he provides consistency. Whether or not he will continue to overperform or perhaps make improvements will have to be seen once the season gets underway.
2019 WAR: 2.6
2020 Projected WAR: .7

Jedd Gyorko: After signing for $2M with a club option for ’21, it’s safe to assume that Gyorko will be given a full opportunity with the Brewers to prove he’s capable of platooning and/or being a backup. He was abysmal at the plate in ’19 with a 36 wRC+ but did have +4 OAA at 3B in only 110.1 innings at the position. Less consistent playing time could have been a factor in his struggles, so hopefully, a clearer role will lead to more success in 2020.
2019 WAR: -.7
2020 Projected WAR: .7

Ryon Healy: A rather curious signing, Healy has failed to be even replacement level in his career with the exception of his rookie year in 2016. Terrible defense (-5 OAA at 3B and 0 at 1B in ’19) with a bat that projects to be roughly average at best (career .319 wOBA and .326 xwOBA), it seems like Healy will have to showcase seem serious improvements in Spring Training to make the team, considering the added competition of Smoak at 1B and Gyorko at 3B.
2019 WAR: -.1
2020 Projected WAR: .1

SS
Luis Urías: Once baseball’s No. 23 overall prospect, Urías has briefly fallen from grace in his very limited stints in the majors, which is what led to the Padres trading him to the Brewers for Grisham (among other players involved on both sides). Though he hasn’t been able to produce quite yet, he’ll be entering his age-22 season with ample playing opportunity, something he wasn’t given in San Diego. He is young and has plenty of time to develop at the major league level. And even if he’s barely above replacement level in 2020, it will still be an improvement from his also young predecessor, Orlando Arcia. UPDATE: Urías out 6-8 weeks with fractured hammate bone, will likely start season on IL.
2019 WAR: .1
2020 Projected WAR: 1.4

Orlando Arcia: Having played 479 games at the major league level with only a 68 wRC+ and .2 WAR to show for it, the Brewers have given him plenty of time to become what they thought he could be to no avail. He’ll be entering his age-25 season, so he’s still young, but I’d imagine that patience is wearing a bit thin. Even moreso considering that his glove, once considered his strength, was a weakness last year (-4 OAA and -1.2 UZR/150). A rebound to roughly league average would be a plus for the 2020 season.
2019 WAR: -.4
2020 Projected WAR: .2

LF
Avisaíl García: García was one of the three best moves that the Brewers have made this offseason. While his WAR and 112 wRC+ may not jump out at you, he provided +4 OAA last year in RF, and it should be a relatively easy adjustment to LF. García provides 90th percentile sprint speed coupled with above-average expected hitting numbers across the board, giving the Brewers a consistent bat in the lineup and consistent glove in the field.
2019 WAR: 1.8
2020 Projected WAR: .8

Ben Gamel: In 2019, Gamel was mostly delegated to being a bat off the bench and a depth piece. In 356 PA, he provided an 87 wRC+ with high strikeout totals and a lack of quality contact being the root cause of his offensive woes. However, he did provide +2 OAA while roaming the outfield and was an above-average baserunner with +2.5 Base Runs (BsR). Ultimately, his role in 2020 should be roughly the same barring any major shakeups or injuries.
2019 WAR: .9
2020 Projected WAR: 0

CF
Lorenzo Cain: After finally winning a gold glove, Cain is looking to have an offensive rebound in 2020. His drop-off in production from ’18 to ’19 is worrisome, though it’s not the first time his offensive production has drastically fluctuated year-to-year. From ’15 to ’16 his wRC+ dropped from 128 to 99 which is similar, though less drastic, to his current drop from 124 in ’18 to 83 in ’19. Cain was also dealing with major thumb issues throughout the season, which could be a contributing factor. On the plus side, both his hard-hit rate and barrel rate went up in ’19, which says that the ability to drive the ball is still there. He also ran into some bad luck as he had a twenty-eight-point difference between his wOBA and xwOBA (.302 and .330, respectively). His wRC+ was also much closer to average during the second half of the season at 98, showing better signs of his true-talent production. His defense is still top-five in CF, and if the bat can at least be average, like his underlying metrics and second-half production say it should have been, he can still be one of the best CF in the game.
2019 WAR: 1.5
2020 Projected WAR: 2.8

Corey Ray: After a breakout 2018 of sorts in the minors in 2018 belting 27HR, the 2016 first rounder took a massive step back, slugging .329 with only 7HR at the offensive happy AAA level. He was added to the Brewers 40-man roster to protect him from the Rule-5, and hopefully, he can rebound and eventually hit to the ability the Brewers believe he can.
2020 Projected WAR:0 (Not projected to debut)

RF
Christian Yelich: I don’t think much needs to be said about Yelich. His 174 wRC+ was third in baseball, and his expected stats say he only slightly overperformed (.442 actual wOBA vs. .421xwOBA). His defense was below average last year (-1 DRS and -4 OAA), but that’s not much of a concern considering he’s a right fielder. While his knee injury seems concerning and may affect his sprint speed (which was 88th percentile at 28.7 ft/s), neither the Brewers nor he expects it to have any effect on the upcoming season, and he is slated to be ready for spring training.
2019 WAR: 7.8
2020 Projected WAR: 5.7

P
Brandon Woodruff: Though he only threw 121.2 innings last season, Woodruff established himself as the number one starter on the team. A 29% K rate, 3.01 FIP, 92nd percentile velocity, 91st percentile hard-hit rate, and an 80th percentile xwOBA all point to Woodruff being able to repeat his limited success from 2019, barring any recurring lat problems or any other nagging injuries. Steamer isn’t as high on Woodruff, but a 5-win season seems well within his grasp given a full year of innings.
2019 WAR: 3.3
2020 Projected WAR: 3.3

Josh Lindblom: After two years in Korea and being named the KBO MVP, Cy Young, and gold glove in 2019 with the Doosan Bears, Lindblom makes his way back to the U.S. With an average fastball velocity of 91MPH last year and a devastating splitter, Lindblom looks to be more of a finesse pitcher, with 189 strikeouts and only 29 walks in 194.2 innings. Lindblom’s contribution is a total question mark, but it’s hard to imagine him being worse than league average in MLB after being the best pitcher in the KBO. Only time will tell, and it will be a great story to watch.
2020 Projected WAR: 2.2

Adrian Houser: When he wasn’t puking on the mound, he seemed to be doing rather well for himself. Though he wasn’t great or elite by any means, he sported slightly above average K% (25.3%), BB% (8%), ERA (3.72), FIP (3.88), and DRA (3.61). A possible concern would be that all his offspeed and breaking pieces were all below average with their underlying metrics (xwOBA of .322 or worse on all three). His 4-seam and sinker both performed well though, producing a SLG% below .400 on both and, by expected slugging, actually slightly underperformed. If he can further develop another offering and can curb his HR problem, it wouldn’t be insane to say that he could have a ceiling of a 4-win pitcher.
2019 WAR: 1.6
2020 Projected WAR: 2

Eric Lauer: One of the rankings below is Eric Lauer and the other is Zach Davies, the two pitchers that the Brewers and Padres swapped in the Luis Urías trade at the beginning of the offseason. Which one would you rather have? I ask because I don’t know, as they have fairly similar profiles. Lauer (on the left) does seem to have more upside with the higher K% but does have a much worse hard-hit rate. However, as a whole, his pitch mix performed much better than Davies’ did, which leaves room for more upside. Ultimately, each team saw what they wanted to, and Davies’ reliance on contact will play better in Petco than it did in Milwaukee. This move more than likely provides equal value for both teams.
2019 WAR: 2.3
2020 Projected WAR: 1.4

Brett Anderson: Coming off his first full season since 2015, Anderson is looking to make thirty starts in back-to-back years for the first time in his career. A 12.1% K-rate, 4.57 FIP, and poor peripherals point towards a much worse season on the horizon, but hopefully he can remain healthy enough to be a solid starter and be able to shift roles when needed.
2019 WAR: 2
2020 Projected WAR: 1.7

Brent Suter: After coming back late in the year from Tommy John, when the Brewers needed him most, he decimated opposing lineups with his 87.5MPH fastball. Suter struck batters out at a rate of 23.1%, and walked them only 1.5% of the time. Batters had a wOBA. of .159 against his 4-seamer and .211 against his changeup, allowing him to pitch to a .49 ERA and a 2.45 FIP in 18.1 innings. His role will most likely stay the same while making spot starts along the way. UPDATE: The Brewers have made the announcement that Suter will stay in the pen, they will work to lengthen him to cover multiple inning outings.
2019 WAR: .5
2020 Projected WAR: .5

Corbin Burnes: Elite velocity and elite spin: the perfect combination for a major league pitcher. However, a quick glance at the rankings below tells a different story. Though Burnes’ fastball featured elite spin, its been noted that the pitch had low spin efficiency due to a less than ideal spin axis, causing the pitch to cut rather than “rise,” helping it run into a few more barrels and a lot less catcher’s mitts. Furthermore, his fastball location was than ideal, with a lot of red in the middle of the zone. Not ideal. Improved command and improved spin efficiency on his 4-seamer can turn him from a disgraced former top prospect to absolute weapon.
2019 WAR: -.3
2020 Projected WAR: .9

Freddy Peralta: Peralta bounced around between the starting staff, bullpen, and minor leagues. Ultimately, his role was bullpen piece and spot starter when needed. Much like Burnes, Peralta is able to strike batters out at a high rate, but often lacks command and was not spared from the HR surge, giving up 15 dingers in only 85 innings. Much like the rest of the bullpen, Peralta has plenty of potential, but needs refinement and better command to reach his ceiling.
2019 WAR: .9
2020 Projected WAR: 1.4

Bobby Wahl: Bobby Wahl was the key piece in the trade that sent Keon Broxton to the Mets in the 2019 offseason. However, before he could step foot onto the field for the Crew, he tore his ACL and was sidelined all of 2019. Wahl had elite strikeout rates throughout his minor league career, and the former 5th-round looks to make a major splash in the Milwaukee bullpen in 2020.
2019 WAR: -.2
2020 Projected WAR: .2

Taylor Williams: While his 9.82 ERA looks frightening, his 3.90 FIP suggests he may have underperformed. Williams features 82nd percentile velocity and 77th percentile spin on his 4-seamer. Though his fastball was hit hard in ’19 (.394 xwOBA and .464 actual wOBA), his slider showed promise with a .235 wOBA and a .284 xwOBA. Perhaps a change in repertoire may be beneficial, though it’s difficult to say in such a small sample size.
2019 WAR: .1
2020 Projected WAR: 0

Ray Black: 99th percentile velocity and spin can make for a deadly combo, but not if you don’t know where the hell the ball is going. Black sported a 12.9% walk rate, good for 3.3% higher than the average major league reliever. His walks make his K% of 25.7% look more pedestrian but, if he can have more command of his fastball (coupled with a slider with lots of potential and a .269 xwOBA), Black – much like most of the relievers – could be a force to be reckoned with.
2019 WAR: -.4
2020 Projected WAR: .5

Josh Hader: Hader replicated his 2018 success almost to a tee, albeit at much higher stakes with a 21.4 HR/FB rate. His 40.9% whiff rate on his 4-seam was elite, and his 47.8 K% led all baseball among pitchers with at least 50 innings. His slider is also an elite offering, with a .101 wOBA and 46.3% whiff rate. He did become predictable later in the year with his fastball usage, forcing a slightly heavier reliance on his slider, and his inability to control his slider led to his demise in the Wild Card game as the Nationals ganged up on his fastball. Assuming he can curb his HR rate in 2020, there’s a good chance he could become the best reliever in baseball, considering his WAR was third-best for relievers in both ’18 and ’19.
2019 WAR: 2.3
2020 Projected WAR: 1.5

Corey Knebel: A dominant force in 2017 and the back half of 2018, Knebel underwent Tommy John surgery on April 3rd, missing all of 2019. I’d imagine that his recovery will cause him to miss at least two months in the first half of 2020 but, barring any setbacks, there’s no reason to think that he shouldn’t return to form and bolster the back end of the bullpen with Hader and whichever starting pitchers get delegated to the pen.
2020 Projected WAR: .6

Organizational Stance

Strengths
Depth, weak NL Central, and the bullpen has potential and is projected to fairly well.

Weaknesses
Lack of “good” depth in the lineup, lack of an ace, and SP is average across the board pending further success of Woodruff and Houser development.

Despite what projects to be a slightly above-average year for the Crew – Fangraphs projects them at 89 wins and a second-place finish in the division – the front office feels comfortable with where they’re at. Overall, the NL Central is a relatively weak division, so the Brewers still have a great chance to win it, but another second wildcard seems to be the more likely the outcome. It’s a bit annoying that there seemed to be no real push to acquire any major free agents or trade pieces (especially Corey Kluber given the incredibly low offer the Indians accepted), but the payroll situation does allow for more offseason or mid-season acquisitions if injury or opportunity arises. However, pickings are fairly slim now that all the top names in the free-agent market have signed.

2019 TEAM POSITION PLAYER WAR: 24.2
2019 TEAM SP WAR: 8.7
2019 TEAM RP WAR: 4.1
2020 Projected TEAM POSITION PLAYER WAR: 21
2020 Projected TEAM SP WAR: ~11
2020 Projected TEAM RP WAR: ~6

Note: All WAR calculations are Fangraphs WAR unless otherwise stated, and all projections are Steamer projections taken from Fangraphs. Photos courtesy of Baseball Savant Player Pages

GLOSSARY

Arbitration
Adjusted Salary – Amount of salary a team needs to pay for after they’ve traded for a particular player. For example, Jordan Lyles was traded to the Brewers on July 29th. The Pirates were paying his $2.05mil salary, but when the Brewers traded for him, they agreed to pay the rest of his salary for the year. So the adjusted salary is the remaining payments on Lyles’ contract that the Brewers had to pay for the last few months of the 2019 season.
wOBA
xwOBA
Buyout
Defensive Runs Saved
Outs Above Average
Rule 5 Draft
BsR (Base Runs)

Aaron Plotsky

Aaron is a college student who loves baseball, writing, and learning. The game has been with him ever since he first threw a ball at the age of three, and his love for it has only evolved since. Aaron is currently an instructor and travel baseball coach at Pitch 2 Pitch South in Burnsville, MN. He is married to his beautiful wife, Jessalyn, and they share their home with their cat, Louise, and their dog, Buddy.