The Milwaukee Brewers lineup is especially intriguing with the recent addition of Mike Moustakas.
The Milwaukee Brewers new lineup put up six runs on Johnny Cueto and the Giants in its debut in a notorious pitchers park. Yet, there is more to come with the type of offense scattered from one through eight.
In the midst of an otherworldly tear, Yelich is justifying the package sent for him this past offseason. He is currently on pace to set career highs in home runs, on-base and slugging percentage. His wRC+ is at 141, putting him in the top 20 of all hitters.
Yes, his BABIP and ground ball rates are still a little concerning. But his line drive rate is back to 2016 levels with a significant rise in hard contact rate. These are signs of growth. He’s in the middle of a breakout season at 26 years old and is signed through 2022. The All-Star outfielder is establishing himself in Milwaukee as a threat at the leadoff position.
Following Yelich is the re-return of an old friend, Lorenzo Cain. He’s consistent and that’s all that needs to be said. He is putting up the quality defensive numbers he always does, while being a solid hitter out of the two-hole. Cain, in his age-32 season, is also running more than usual. He’s swiped 19 bags in his 380 plate appearances.
Cain’s power has been sapped a bit by a worrisome ground ball rate. However, if he can manage more loft in his swing then he could ride a career high hard contact rate to a post all-star break power surge. Even without the power, Cain is still a consistent presence at the top of the lineup, setting the table of the power threats to drive in. Maybe a move to the leadoff spot is coming, where Cain’s lack of pop makes a little more sense than Yelich at the moment.
The Middle of the Lineup
Here is where things get interesting. Nobody thought the 2018 Milwaukee Brewers would be featuring a 1-2 punch of Jesus Aguilar and Mike Moustakas. Yet, fresh off the All-Star break, here we are. The middle of the lineup currently consists of the son of the baseball gods, a player who’s giveaway consisted of antlers, and a mayor.
Aguilar, like Yelich, is in a breakout season. He is top 10 in many hitting categories, including slugging percentage, isolated power, and wRC+. Along with that, he comes in tied for second in home runs in the National League. He is leading this new look Brewers offense after all of the offseason fireworks David Stearns set off this year. His strikeout rate of 26% is a cause for concern. Yet Aguilar is an MVP candidate if he can stave off the home run derby curse and finish the year strong.
Behind Aguilar sits newly acquired Moustakas. Coming from Kauffman Stadium, a proverbial hell for hitters, the “Moose” is loose. It won’t come as a shock if Moustakas ends the year on a tear. All of his peripherals are nearly identical to what they were last year when he launched 38 home runs in one of the worst hitters parks in the league. Oh, and his hard contact rate is up by 13%. And he now plays in one of the best home run environments in the league.
What is the line for the Moose on rest-of-the-year home runs? Five? 20? 100? Does it matter? Moustakas is set up perfectly to finish the year on a tear and Stearns got him for a player that was blocked and Jorge Lopez. Absolutely brilliant.
Holding onto the fifth spot in the lineup is another steal, Travis Shaw. Shaw has become much more than his nickname “Mayor of Ding Dong City” has led fans to believe. The future second baseman has slashed his strikeout rate while raising his walk rate. Oddly enough, while his batting average plummeted this year, his OBP and wRC+ nearly match his 2017 output. Not only that, he increased his hard contact rate from his breakout season last year. Seeing as his BABIP is a full 40 points below his career average, Shaw is another guy who could end the year on a hot streak.
Following that lethal top five hitters comes a few options at number six. The Milwaukee Brewers will most likely flip between the likes of Ryan Braun and Eric Thames, depending on pitcher handedness and recent performance. To flip between two hitters who featured a 30-homer season within the last two years at the six spot is absurd. Yet Milwaukee is flush with above average hitting coming from that corner outfield spot.
Braun has struggled a bit at the plate this year, seemingly hitting a steep decline in the aging curve. His wRC+ of 81 is a far cry from what he was two years ago and things don’t seem to be getting much better. However, his performance against lefties is bound to get better.
The former star currently features a walk rate almost identical to his strikeout rate at 13% against left-handers. Not only that, his isolated power sits at .188, nothing to write home about but still a serviceable number. That number would put him above Scooter Gennett and Brian Dozier, players that most wouldn’t mind slotting in at the six hole. Additionally, Braun’s BABIP is currently a full 130 points below his career average. With a little better luck and a healthy diet of lefties, Braun could be a solid platoon option for the Brewers down the stretch.
From the other side of the plate comes Thames. He exploded onto the scene early last year and ruined Cincinnati’s 2017 season. Unfortunately, after a few injuries and breakouts from other players, Thames’ role has been reduced to a platoon bat. His numbers on the other hand scream for more.
The lefty power hitter has provided a lot of pop when healthy. Thames has 13 home runs and a .536 slugging percentage in a little over 200 plate appearances. Projected out to a full season’s worth of at-bats, that would put him at 39 home runs and in the top 15 in slugging percentage. The arguments that he strikes out too much and his batting average is frightening are valid. But, his on-base percentage of .332 is above league average and frankly that’s enough to justify leaving him in for the slugging potential.
The Milwaukee Brewers have a lot of power to sap into near the bottom of the order with Thames and his wRC+ of 125 is more than enough to make up for his defensive deficiencies. The possibility of four straight legitimate 30-40 home run threats from 3-6 is an unreal lineup to trot out each day.
The Back End
The seven and eight options aren’t too pretty, a dilemma that most teams face. However, the defense that the options offer is what keeps them in the lineup.
At the seven spot is either of the two backstops, Erik Kratz or Manny Pina. Both don’t scream “offensive catcher” at first look, but they don’t need to. The reason for keeping them in the lineup is their glove and ability to help a middling pitching staff.
Kratz provides a little more offense than Pina yet is still below league average in wRC+. On the other hand, Pina offers up better defense according to Fangraph’s defensive metrics, a necessity at this position. Milwaukee is best served sacrificing offensive production from this spot to keep a defensive stalwart in the field.
From the eight spot comes young Orlando Arcia, another glove-first player that should stay in the lineup. With Shaw moving to second base there is more than enough need in the middle infield for an exceptional glove. Yet Arcia provides potential for a solid option from the eighth spot.
If the 23-year old can get back to his 2017 numbers when he cracked 15 home runs and swiped 14 bases, then this position in the lineup isn’t a complete wash. Even being able to turn the lineup over a third of the time with the kind of firepower at the top of the order would be more than enough for Milwaukee. None of this is a huge ask from the young shortstop who did this last year and showed improvement at the plate when demoted earlier this season.
The Milwaukee Brewers sacrificed a lot when dealing for Moustakas. Ironically, the team gave up a phenomenal defensive outfielder to most likely significantly hurt their infield defense. However, the offensive ceiling this team has with this lineup will more than make up for the loss in defense.