Milwaukee Brewers: Should Jesus Aguilar start at first base?

DENVER, CO - AUGUST 20: Jesus Aguilar
DENVER, CO - AUGUST 20: Jesus Aguilar /
Milwaukee Brewers
Milwaukee Brewers /

Milwaukee Brewers first baseman Jesus Aguilar ranks among the best pinch hitters in the National League. Why isn’t he starting?

Milwaukee Brewers first baseman Jesus Aguilar lost the first base competition in Spring Training to Eric Thames. Since then, he’s ridden the pine, and taken advantage of the few opportunities he’s been given. Is it time for him to force Eric Thames into the outfield or onto the bench everyday?

What Does Aguilar Do Well?

Aguilar absolutely slaughters left-handed pitching. In 85 plate appearances against left-handers, Aguilar owns a .320/.388/.560 slash line with four homers and 14 RBIs. He’s received more opportunities against right-handers, and has a few more home runs against them. However, he isn’t nearly as consistent. His slash line against righties is .247/.314/.506. He’s capable of smashing lefties and holding his own against right-handers.

What Does Aguilar Struggle With?

The .506 slugging percentage sticks out, but it comes with a 39.3% fly ball rate and a 23.8% HR:FB ratio. He hits a ton of fly balls against righties, and he’s had quite a few find the cheap seats.

He also doesn’t defend particularly well for a first baseman. In 426 innings at first base, he’s made 10 plays outside of his zone. Aguilar also owns a UZR/150 of -6.4. For comparison sake, Eric Thames has made 17 plays outside of his zone in 686 innings at first. Thames has a -2.4 UZR/150. Neither will win a Gold Glove any time soon, but Thames is clearly the better option.

Even with Aguilar’s recent power surge in Colorado, Eric Thames is technically having a more productive second half. Aguilar has five homers after the weekend and Thames has only four, but the other metrics aren’t quite as kind. Aguilar has a .206/.286/.444 slash line after the All-Star Break. Thames is slashing .239/.325/.431 in a much larger sample size.

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While Aguilar has enjoyed success in limited doses for the Milwaukee Brewers, he’s not the full-time answer at first base. Aguilar deserves to start against lefties. He is also the first bat off the bench, However, he hasn’t really earned a starting role. Thames should continue to see the majority of at-bats at first, while sitting against tough lefties.