Milwaukee Brewers: Solving the Riddle at the Keystone

MILWAUKEE, WI - AUGUST 12: Eric Sogard
MILWAUKEE, WI - AUGUST 12: Eric Sogard /

Heading into the 2017 season, the Milwaukee Brewers were all but set at second base. However, it didn’t take long for Jonathan Villar to regress to a below average second baseman.

Villar had a breakout 2016 campaign for the Milwaukee Brewers, batting. 285 and stealing a league high 62 bases. He also chipped in 19 home runs while playing solid defense at the keystone. However, 2017 did not fare well for him at all.

Over the first month of last season, Villar hit a ghastly .206 in 116 plate appearances over 26 games. His woes didn’t stop at the plate however, as he also committed five errors in the same span. Villar was expected to be the catalyst for the top of the Brewers lineup, but he failed miserably.

Enter Eric Sogard, signed as insurance in December of 2016. Sogard didn’t make his Brewers debut until May 12th, but by early June he had supplanted Villar at second. Sogard helped solidify the middle infield for the Crew.

Until injuring his ankle in early July, Sogard looked like yet another gem unearthed by the immortal David Stearns. In 43 games before the injury, he hit .331 and committed only one error. Sogard’s presence in the line-up helped keep the Milwaukee Brewers afloat until they found an adequate replacement.

That replacement was former Pirates and Mets second baseman Neil Walker. Walker’s steady veteran presence was in stark contrast to the erratic play of Villar. Walker endeared himself to the Miller Park faithful last season, and is someone most fans would like to see come back in 2018. However, that’s not likely to happen.

What does the future hold at second base?

The Milwaukee Brewers made the smart move of bringing back Sogard. He’s well liked in the clubhouse, and brings a ton of energy to the field each day. He will figure heavily into the rotation at the keystone. He’s not an All-Star level talent, but the man gives everything he has for his team to succeed.

Villar is a lock to be involved in the second base conversation as well. He is still extremely young and gifted, and deserves every opportunity to bounce back from his feeble 2017 season. His speed, combined with his range in the field, make for an enticing second baseman. With a background at shortstop, he has the glove to succeed, but it seems he needs to tighten up his mentals to achieve further success.

The Brewers could easily still add a player at the position, and I personally know a few fans that hope they acquire Wit Merrifield from Kansas City. He stole 34 bases while hitting .288 and 19 home runs for the Royals in ’17, showing perennial All-Star abilities. Merrifield would be a huge get for Milwaukee, but the price for him is too high for the Crew to pay. Especially when you consider the talent that is currently on the cusp of the Big Leagues for the Brewers.

The prospects

One of those players, Isan Diaz, is a slick fielding middle infielder who projects more for his glove than his bat. Acquired from Arizona in the Jean Segura trade, Diaz has proved worthy of consideration. He was the Milwaukee Brewers Minor League Player of the Year in 2016. His profile has only risen from there.

As good as Diaz has been in his two seasons, Mauricio Dubon looks primed to get his opportunities with Milwaukee in 2018. Across two levels of the minors this season, Dubon walked only 36 times in 545 plate appearances. That can be a little disconcerting, however his on base percentage was a respectable .330 to go along with a .274 batting average.

Dubon doesn’t walk, but he finds his way on base consistently. He is a legitimate threat on the basepaths, and could be the leadoff hitter this team needs. Although his defense hasn’t been spectacular, this 23-year-old is still becoming the player he will be.

So who’s playing second for Milwaukee in 2018?

The best bet to open the season at second is Villar. The 26-year-old is still young with multiple years of team control remaining. Hérnan Pérez will undoubtedly see some action at the keystone, along with Sogard, but none of these three will be the long-term answer.

The future lies in the hands of Dubon. If Villar struggles out of the gate it would not surprise me at all to see Dubon get his chance early. As good as Sogard is, he’s a complementary player, not an everyday guy.

Next: The Next, Next Great Young Outfielder

I hope, as I’m sure the Milwaukee Brewers do as well, that Villar re-discovers his 2016 magic. However, I’m not holding my breath on that happening. I’ll be counting down the days until Dubon arrives to save the keystone.