Brewers fans may be seeing a fresh face in left field this year. It’s expected that the new acquisition, Christian Yelich, will take over the starting spot for the 2018 season. This means that Ryan Braun will be ceding his spot in left to move to God-knows-where.
Yelich was the big fish that the Brewers reeled in this offseason. Grabbing a respected outfielder in his prime as a result of Miami’s fire sale screamed contention. But is he worth the package Milwaukee gave up for him? That remains to be seen.
The former center fielder has been nothing short of solid. He’s posted WARs of 4.5 in three of the last four years and has been an above average hitter since entering the league. His .290/.369/.432 career slash line has provided solid offensive production in the past. However, there is worry about if he’s reached his ceiling when it was expected to be higher than this.
The 26-year-old has not topped 21 home runs nor 21 steals in his four full seasons in the majors. Yelich was expected to provide more pop and speed as he was coming up. Thus, he has arguably fallen short of expectations those in Miami had for the promising outfielder.
Yelich has a chance to reach that potential as he enters his prime. He has averaged nearly 20 home runs the last two years after not coming near that mark before. He also gets to call Miller Park his home now instead of the pitchers’ paradise in Miami. Yet the left fielder is plagued by a part of his game that this won’t fix.
Looking at Christian Yelich’s batted ball numbers is a horror movie in itself for Brewer’s fans alike. The former Marlin is suffering from the Eric Hosmer disease as he recorded the sixth highest groundball rate in the league last year. Moving into a new ballpark and reaching his prime won’t completely fix the lack of power he has.
Yelich must fix his swing path to reach the heights he can get to. 30-home run, 20 steal seasons with a .380 OBP aren’t completely out of reach for the new Brewer. That kind of production the next few years, along with amazing corner outfield defense, would be worth the package. Yet if he continues to stay in 20 homer purgatory while Lewis Brinson and Isan Diaz succeed, then this trade wasn’t worth it. He is still a very valuable asset to have, however, the organization didn’t pay for that, they paid for an elite, franchise player.
The main option aside from the former Marlin in left field seems to be Ryan Braun returning to his former position. Braun, however, is poised to move elsewhere on the diamond for the upcoming year, but will still get reps in left.
Other than Braun, the Brewers are stacked with guys that can rotate in and out of almost every outfield spot. In left, Milwaukee has the opportunity to play Domingo Santana, Brett Phillips, or *gulp* Keon Broxton. Considering that would mean they’d all be playing out of their natural position, Braun makes the most sense. Therefore, Yelich will get the regular reps, spelled by Braun when necessary, and another outfielder filling in at right. While having six competent outfielders for three spots is a problem, it is the best problem the Milwaukee Brewers could ask for.