Milwaukee Brewers and “Futility Players”


There are just six games remaining in the regular season for the 2015 Milwaukee Brewers, and perhaps mercifully the season will finish up this Sunday at Miller Park. The season has been a significant disappointment in light of the competitive expectations coming in, but even at 66-90 the Brewers managed to take some big steps and begin a rebuilding process in earnest.

Just because the Brewers may have accomplished some great feats off the field, i.e. the hoard of prospects they got at the trade deadline and the hire of incoming General Manager David Stearns, doesn’t mean it was easy to watch the team on the field. The Brewers were battered by injuries for most of the season, leading to significant playing time for several of the organization’s depth players.

Wins Above Replacement (WAR) is by no means a perfect way of measuring a player’s performance, but it does help provide a good picture of the total value a player provides. This season, the Brewers had six players that received more than 200 plate appearances, yet contributed less than 0.5 WAR, according to Fangraphs’ leaderboard. These so-called futility players are:

IF Elian Herrera
277 PA || .242/.290/.395 || 7 HR || 3 SB || 80 wRC+ || 0.3 fWAR

Herrera was outrighted to AAA twice during before this year’s All-Star break, but after the Brewers’ flurry of trades he found himself as an everyday player as a part of two platoons, at second base and third base. As far as utility players, you could do a lot worse than the numbers the 30 year old Herrera put up this season, but he shouldn’t be viewed as an everyday player or long-term solution anywhere on the diamond.

C Martin Maldonado
234 PA || .209/.287/.299 || 4 HR || 0 SB || 55 wRC+ || 0.2 fWAR

Maldonado received only 126 PA in 2014, but when Jonathan Lucroy went down early in the season, he was pressed into everyday action behind the plate. Maldy has a habit of only hitting in even numbered years, and 2015 was no exception as he struggled to stay above the Mendoza line for most of the season. Martin is an excellent defensive catcher behind the plate and does tremendous work with the Brewers’ pitching staff, but doesn’t provide the offense needed from an everyday player. If he could get his OPS even somewhere in the range of .650-.700 with consistency, it’d make it a lot easier for Milwaukee to move Lucroy, who is arguably their most valuable trade piece.

SS Jean Segura
565 PA || .259/.283/.333 || 5 HR || 25 SB || 62 wRC+ || 0.2 fWAR

Many (myself included) were hoping from a bounceback year from Segura at the plate, but he was even worse in 2015 than he was last season. Segura is an example of why batting average is an empty statistic: he’s hovered around .260-.270 for most of the season, a respectable figure, but his lack of power an inability to draw walks (2.3% BB rate this season) left him as a significantly below average offensive contributor. Segura is at least a stolen base threat and a plus defender (Baseball Prospectus rates him as the league’s best defensive shortstop), but with top prospect Orlando Arcia knocking at the door, it’s likely we could see Segura moved this winter.

2B Scooter Gennett
367 PA || .261/.292/.386 || 6 HR || 0 SB || 76 wRC+ || 0.1 fWAR

The Brewers were probably misguided in trying to make Gennett an everyday player to start the season, given his obvious deficiencies against left handed pitching. No one could have predicted Gennett’s awful start, and he missed time with a freak injury and was banished to AAA early in the season. Scooter returned to the big leagues on June 11 with a renewed work ethic, and in 298 plate appearances since then he is hitting a much more respectable .286/.312/.429. While the idea that Scooter is anything more than a platoon player is probably over, he can still provide value as the left handed hitting part of a second base platoon.

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IF Hernan Perez
221 PA || .262/.271/.364 || 1 HR || 3 SB || 64 wRC+ || 0.0 fWAR

Perez was once a top prospect in the Tigers’ organization, but never really got a fair shot during parts of four seasons in Detroit and came to Milwaukee via waiver claim back in June. Perez started off hot with the Brewers, but has just a .531 OPS since the All-Star break. Perez hardly walks at all (just 3 times in a Brewers uniform) and has very little power, but he’s a decent defender at the hot corner and is still just 24 years old. He could be a utility option going foward, but shouldn’t be starting games consistently.

OF Shane Peterson
214 PA || .253/.319/.326 || 1 HR || 0 SB || 74 wRC+ || -0.2 fWAR

Peterson was another Brewers’ waiver claim, ending up with Milwaukee after being DFA’d by the A’s and Cubs last offseason. He was called upon as the Brewers’ fourth outfielder in June, and saw his playing time increase after Gerardo Parra and Carlos Gomez were dealt in July. Peterson demonstrated a good eye at the plate (8.9% walk rate) though he couple that with just a .074 Isolated Power mark. Peterson’s below average work in a decent sample size in center field is likely what dragged his fWAR so much, as he posted above average defensive marks in the corners. Capable of playing all three outfield positions and providing a decent OBP, Peterson would be a solid option as a fourth outfielder on most teams but definitely shouldn’t be considered a starter.

The Brewers are in year one of their rebuild, and it remains to be seen how much more tearing down David Stearns will do during his first winter as the helm in Milwaukee. What we can be almost certain of is that we will see at least some of the above listed “futility players” in a Brewers’ uniform next season, holding spots for the prospects that will be honing their craft down on the farm. We could very possibly see another 90 loss season in 2016, but rest assured that it is all a part of the process that should lead to competitive, sustainable baseball for the Milwaukee Brewers. The key is to be patient and let the process play itself out. Right, Cubs fans?

Next: Jason Rogers Should be a Bigger Part of 2016