This season was supposed to be the coming out party for Milwaukee Brewers’ second baseman, Scooter Gennett. Longtime keystone incumbent Rickie Weeks had finally left town via free agency, opening up an everyday opportunity for the 25 year old lefty. After all, Gennett was one of the lone bright spots to come from what’s been a poor Brewers’ farm system over the last few seasons, so why not give the kid the job (despite obvious platoon splits)?
As Milwaukee got off to their worst start in franchise history, however, Scooter played a major role in the free fall due to his non-existent production. He missed time on the disabled list after slicing open his hand in the shower, and managed to produce only a putrid .154/.203/.200 batting line through his first 21 games of the season. Scooter slugged only one extra base hit (a home run), struck out a whopping 27.5% of the time, and his -2 wRC+ was the worst mark in the league among qualified hitters. On May 18th, the Brewers one-time “second baseman of the future” found himself demoted to AAA.
Gennett was at what could have been a major turning point in his young career. Milwaukee has several other talented middle infield prospects coming up through their system, and Scooter could have easily gotten passed up on the depth chart had he failed to perform. The trip to the PCL seemed to reinvigorate Gennett, however, and he posted an .848 OPS with 10 extra base hits in 17 games for the Sky Sox. With an attitude adjustment and renewed vigor, Scooter was back in the Major League lineup on June 11th.
Gennett has been on a torrid pace in 21 games since being recalled. He boasts a .304/.333/.565 line in his last 72 plate appearances, slugging three home runs among ten extra base hits. Scooter’s frenetic pace of an .899 OPS, .379 wOBA, and 142 wRC+ over that time have helped power a team that has suddenly won six games in a row.
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The difference for Gennett has been a more disciplined approach at the plate. In the early part of the year, Scooter swung at nearly 50% of pitches thrown outside the strike zone while swinging at only 68.8% of pitches inside the strike zone (more than four percent below his career average). His swinging strike rate of 9.3% was an increase of nearly 2% over 2014, leading to 19 strikeouts in his first 65 at-bats. Since his return to the show, however, Scooter has reduced his swings at pitches out of the zone by more than 6%, has increased his aggressiveness at pitches within the zone by 11%, and has cut his swing-and-miss rate down to 8.7%. As a result, Gennett has seen his strikeout rate fall to 15.3% since being recalled, much more in line with his career mark of 16.4%. Gennett has made more contact as well as more hard contact, with an increase in the quality of batted ball helping contribute to a .327 BABIP, nearly his exact career average. Though never a particularly patient hitter, Scooter has also increased his walk rate back to career norm levels. On the season, Gennett is now hitting .231/.270/.388 in 141 plate appearances and continues to climb his way back to respectability.
Gennett has settled nicely back into a platoon role with the Brewers, splitting time with waiver claim Hernan Perez of late (who has recently been white-hot himself). Scooter still struggles against lefties, getting just two hits in 20 plate appearances off southpaws this year, so the strong side of a platoon is the role we should expect to see him in going forward. He still boasts an above average hit tool against righties, and has graded out about average in the field and on the bases over the course of his career. Though he’s unlikely to ever be an All-Star, Scooter Gennett is doing his best to prove he can still be useful player for the Milwaukee Brewers as we move towards a likely rebuild over the next few seasons.