The organization has made some big moves this offseason already. With Winter Meetings over, what would the Brewers’ lineup look like if the season started today?
1. Jonathan Villar – 2B
Villar was Milwaukee’s leadoff man in 125 games during the 2016 campaign. In 679 plate appearances last year, Villar slashed .285/.369/.457. The 25-year-old has good power for a leadoff man as he hit 19 HRs last year. He gets on base at a high clip and showcases great patience with his strong 4.17 pitches per plate appearance. What makes Villar a truly special guy to have at the top of the order, however, is his ability to steal bases. Villar stole an MLB-leading 62 bases in 2016. In his new position at second base this year Villar should continue to do damage at the plate.
2. Keon Broxton – CF
Broxton finished the 2016 season with an unimpressive .242/.354/.430 slash line – not bad for a developing player but nothing to call home about either. However, after the All-Star Break, Broxton upped those numbers to .294/.399/.538 in 46 games. I know it’s a small sample size, but if his second half of 2016 is at all representative of how he will play in 2017 then the Brewers may have a budding star in centerfield. No matter what, Broxton is valuable near the top of the order because of his ability to get on base (.354 OBP) and his speed (23 SB). I believe 2017 will be Broxton’s breakout year.
3. Ryan Braun – LF
Braun has been a mainstay in the 3-hole for the Brewers since he was called up to the Majors in 2007. After battling injuries for a few seasons, Braun really turned back the clock in 2016. The 33-year-old hit .305 with an impressive .903 OPS. He even garnered some MVP consideration, finishing 23rd even though the Brewers were far from a playoff contender. Braun is still one of the best overall hitters in the league. His 30 HRs was his best mark since 2012. Even though his future in Milwaukee is uncertain, Braun is clearly the best hitter on this Brewers team and is deserving of the 3-spot in the order.
4. Eric Thames – 1B
Thames has spent the past three years playing for the NC Dinos in the Korean Baseball Organization. There are doubts to how his game will transfer to the MLB but his numbers in Korea were videogame-like. Thames hit .348 with 124 HRs in his three seasons overseas. Even if his gaudy home run numbers drop against MLB pitching, Thames will still likely be the best power hitter on the Brewers. He will have to prove himself but he is, without a doubt, the best candidate for the cleanup spot currently on the roster.
5. Travis Shaw – 3B
Shaw was recently acquired from the Red Sox for Tyler Thornburg. In two seasons with Boston, the 26-year-old third baseman slashed .251/.312/..442. Those numbers aren’t exactly eye-popping but they are definitely nothing to be ashamed of. Shaw has shown potential to develop into a pretty good home run hitter. As a rookie in 2015, Shaw hit 13 HRs in just 65 games. With a lack of power hitters on Milwaukee’s roster at the moment, Shaw slides into the 5-spot in the order almost by default. With that being said, Shaw should hold up as solid protection for Thames in the cleanup spot since Shaw’s home run numbers should increase with significant time spent at hitter-friendly Miller Park.
6. Orlando Arcia – SS
Calling Arcia’s 2016 stint in the Majors a disappointment is unfair but semi-accurate. The 22-year-old from Venezuela hit just .219 in 55 games for the Brewers. There is reason to believe he will be much more productive at the plate going forward, however. Arcia was the 8th best prospect heading into the 2016 season according to Baseball America. While this was largely due to his stellar defense, Arcia was also improving each year as a hitter in the Minors. Arcia showed this improvement in his time in the Majors as well, hitting just .189 in August but improving his average to .245 in the months of September and October. This young shortstop is a definite breakout candidate for Milwaukee this year and could jump up into the two-spot should he produce like he is capable of.
7. Domingo Santana – RF
Santana is another Brewer that finished the 2016 season on a strong note. After hitting just .234 in the first half of the season, the 6’5″ right fielder hit .280 after the All-Star Break to boost his batting average for the year to a respectable .256. Santana is just 24 years old and is still developing as a hitter. With 11 HRs in 77 games, he is a solid power hitter. The best part of Santana’s game might be his patience at the plate. His 11.4 BB% was above average. Santana’s numbers should improve as he steps into a bigger role in 2017.
8. Martín Maldonado – C
Arguably the weakest position on the Brewers’ roster at the moment, Maldonado gets the start at catcher by default. Known mostly for his ability as a defender, Maldonado isn’t expected to contribute too much offensively. He has a career batting average of just .217. His only saving grace offensively is his ability to draw walks at an extremely high rate (13.8%). Unlike some of the other younger players who put up less than awesome numbers in 2016, Maldonado has little potential to improve at age 30. I’ve always been a fan of Martín as a backup catcher but with Lucroy gone, maybe it’s time for Stearns to look to acquire some talent behind the plate.
9. Pitcher Spot
The Milwaukee Brewers really lack a bonafide ace at the moment. That makes predicting who Craig Counsell would choose to pitch if there was a game today quite difficult. I believe that it would be either Junior Guerra or Zach Davies since they had the strongest 2016 seasons.