Let’s see which members of the Milwaukee Brewers got gifts this year and which ones got coal in their stockings.
The first member of the nice list is OF Ryan Braun. Even though some might believe that Braun is a lifer on the naughty list after his involvement with PEDs, he actually made the Nice List this year. His production reminded Milwaukee Brewers fans of the 2011 MVP Ryan Braun instead of the oft-injured Ryan Braun of late. His .903 OPS and 30 home runs were his best marks since 2012. Braun earns the first spot on the Nice List after his resurgent year.
The next player on the nice list is P Junior Guerra. Guerra came out in a big way this year and Santa took notice. The 31-year-old rookie posted a 2.81 ERA and a 9-3 record in 20 starts. He has a shot to be the opening day starter for the Milwaukee Brewers come April. Guerra had a very strong 4.0 WAR in 2016. Going forward, he figures to be a key cog in Milwaukee’s starting rotation unless he’s traded. There have been rumors that other teams are interested in acquiring the cheap right-hander.
The final member of the nice list is OF prospect Lewis Brinson. Brinson is currently rated as the top prospect in Milwaukee’s farm system. Few players in the Minors can match Brinson’s combination of power and speed. After he was acquired by the Brewers in the Lucroy-Jeffress trade, Milwaukee quickly promoted him to AAA. Brinson exceeded all expectations in PCL ball. In 23 games, the 22-year-old hit .382 and posted a 1.005 OPS. Brinson figures to be a mainstay in the Brewers’ outfield for years to come.
The first member of the naughty list is P prospect Phil Bickford. Bickford earned this spot after he was suspended for 50 games due to a failed drug test. This is the second time Bickford has tested positive for a drug of abuse (marijuana). Braun’s inclusion on the nice list even after his drug use in the past was because of his excellent production. Bickford, however, doesn’t have any gaudy numbers to hide behind. He has just a 7-8 record across his two seasons in the Minors. With that being said, Bickford does have potential to be a key contributor for the Brewers at the Major League level. He is consistently rated as a Top 10 Prospect in the system. Bickford has a fastball that consistently hits 98 mph to go along with a plus slider. If he doesn’t work out as a starter he has the stuff to become a lights-out closer for the Crew.
The player that received the most coal this Christmas was OF Kirk Nieuwenhuis. Nieuwenhuis had no shortage of opportunities in 2016. His 392 plate appearances were the sixth most on the team. What makes him the most sure member of the naughty list was the fact that Nieuwenhuis did next to nothing with those 392 plate appearances. He posted a lowly .209 batting average and struck out 133 times (third most on the team). The worst thing that Nieuwenhuis did, even worse than his embarrassing batting average and high strikeout total, was stealing playing time from the young guys. Nieuwenhuis took starts away from Keon Broxton and Domingo Santana, two of the most promising players at the big league level for the Crew. Nieuwenhuis undoubtedly received a stocking overflowing with coal this Christmas.