First baseman Jesus Aguilar continues to impact the Milwaukee Brewers roster. How does he compare to another first baseman who had a slow start to his career?
Making the 2018 Roster
On the surface, a comparison Jesus Aguilar to David Ortiz is not easily made. It’s crazy to even think of, much less type. Just a couple of months ago Aguilar was on the perceived bubble of not making the Milwaukee Brewers roster.
It was so tenuous, that I had a gentlemen’s bet with a co-worker that he would make the team. I thought there was no way the Brewers could cut someone who had that much value. In my mind, trading him to an American League team would have been the only other option.
Aguilar proved last year that he was worth more than just a roster spot. It was not just his overall stats, the pinch hits, or that monumental grand slam he hit against the Yankees in the Big Apple. It was his presence anytime he stepped in the batter’s box.
Aguilar vs Ortiz
Let’s get to the meat of the initial premise. Comparing a potential Hall of Fame hitter like Ortiz to someone still finding their way is a bit of a stretch.
They are both listed at 6’3″ and have a similar body type that helps baseballs travel a long distance. Ortiz obviously did his damage from the left side of the plate. Like the former Red Sox slugger, Aguilar plays first base just well enough for that to be his only true position. Aguilar has started one game at third base this season, and will likely do more of that when Eric Thames returns from injury.
They also have similar gregarious personalities that play well in the clubhouse. Teammates have credited both affable personalities for helping the overall culture of their teams. This dynamic can become fractured by different cliques, personalities, and backgrounds.
Finally, they both had slower starts to their careers–albeit in different ways.
Aguilar had 64 Major League at-bats with the Indians over parts of three seasons before his breakout 2017 campaign with the Milwaukee Brewers. He was already 27 years old. For comparison sake, Ortiz broke into the big leagues at the tender age of 21 with the Minnesota Twins.
In six seasons in the Twin Cities, Ortiz only reached 400 at bats twice. His 20 home runs in 2002 was his high-water mark before moving on to the Red Sox. If you throw out his 1999 season where he toiled predominantly in Triple-A, Ortiz averaged a healthy .813 OPS during his time with the Twins.
Big Papi certainly showed flashes of what was to come, but never consistently cracked the starting lineup in Minnesota. Ortiz was 27 years old when he started his transcendent run with Boston, adding more to the comparison.
Aguilar had great moments in the Cleveland system, as well, leading the International League in 2016 with 30 home runs. He was designated for assignment and deftly claimed by David Stearns prior to the 2017 season.
Regret in Minnesota
If the Milwaukee Brewers traded or cut Aguilar prior to this season, would they have the same remorse as the Twins? In the 2003 Rule 5 draft GM Terry Ryan picked shortstop Jose Morban, taking the roster spot of Ortiz who was famously released.
Morban never played for the franchise. In fact, he played only one season in the majors, receiving only 77 at-bats for Baltimore in 2003. Over the past season plus, Aguilar has only received consistent at bats through injury. Ortiz had the same problem that led to the now historically dreadful decision by the Twins. Starting to see the similarity?
We have talked power a bit for both players. Aguilar mashed 16 Home Runs in just over 300 at bats last season. He is up to seven already in just over 100 plate appearances in 2018, to go along with a very healthy .910 OPS.
Those stats only shows a portion of what is the strength of both burly first-basemen. Like Ortiz before him, Aguilar is becoming known for professional at bats that help the team win. The 13-pitch battle earlier this season that resulted in a home run against the Miami Marlins was the epitome of that. The quality of the at bat is what could make Aguilar special.
He shortens up when he needs to, and he tries to get on base in any way possible. Notice the batting average/on base splits from 2017 (.265/.331) and what he has done so far this season (.305/.368). He proved it again on Wednesday vs Arizona after getting behind 1-2 in the count. Aguilar punched a two-RBI single through the middle to take the lead for good.
As Seen on TV
The best compliment I can give Jesus Aguilar is that he is “DVRable” for me. This term comes from being a parent of two young girls trying to see every Brewers game. I am not always able to see them live, so I DVR each game and try to “catch up” after the kids go to bed.
I often slowly fast-forward the game until something starts to happen. There are only a few players that I will NEVER do that with. Aguilar certainly is at the top of that list. If I am at the game, I will also never leave my seat if he is about to hit. Why would I do that? You just never know what is going to happen when he steps into the box. Ortiz was similar, right?
The Aguilar Conclusion
Now, I hope everyone sees that I used “poor man” in the title for a reason. I am certainly not directly comparing him to a 10-time All-Star. There is not much of a chance for Aguilar to even approach a career like that.
However, as a fan, you can certainly dream that it could happen. You can appreciate the decision Stearns made to roster the big guy with depth at the position.
Milwaukee Brewers fans are now hoping Aguilar can be a middle of the lineup force for years to come . As a fan myself, I prefer to keep dreaming. As we know, this is the kind of dream that turned into a tremendous nightmare for the Twins. Will it be the same for the Indians?