The Milwaukee Brewers got stellar production from Jesus Aguilar in 2018. But is he the long-term answer for the Brewers at first base?
When Eric Thames went down in late April with a thumb injury, Jesus Aguilar was thrust into the starting role. He filled in more than admirably as his first half performance not only earned him the Milwaukee Brewers full-time starting role, but also some MVP traction and a selection to the All-Star Game.
There’s no doubt that the Brewers would not have had the success they did in 2018 without Jesus Aguilar stepping up in a big way. But is he the long term answer at first base for Milwaukee?
Jesus Aguilar’s Second Half
Aguilar did struggle in the second half, to the tune of a .245/.324/.436 slash line with 11 homers. His .760 OPS was only a few points above league average, and for a middle of the order hitter like Aguilar, that’s not exactly strong production.
But his strong first half earned him some leeway with manager Craig Counsell and he was still a trusted bat in that lineup. It also helped that Eric Thames struggled mightily after returning from thumb surgery, meaning there weren’t any better viable options at the position.
The Future At First Base
Make no mistake, Jesus Aguilar is going to be the Milwaukee Brewers starting first baseman in 2019. He’s under team control through the 2022 season and is not yet arbitration eligible. For a power hitter that can spray the ball to all fields, has a patient approach at the plate, and is one of the best two-strike hitters in baseball, that’s a very team-friendly situation.
While some may be concerned about his second half struggles, he still was able to draw his walks and keep his balanced approach at the plate. It’s possible Aguilar was growing fatigued after finally getting his first full-time starting action at the big leagues in his career and the season wore on him, but we’ll never truly know.
Since Aguilar will be the starter for 2019, it’ll provide a great opportunity to see what the Brewers have in him. He was great in a pinch hitter role in 2017. He had a tremendous first half in 2018 followed by some regression in the second half. If he puts up a strong 2019 season all the way through, the Brewers will know they have their future at first base set in place.
Any First Base Prospects Coming?
But if Aguilar struggles in 2019, is there anyone in the minor leagues that could be ready to take over the position? There’s one that is definitely worth keeping an eye on, and that’s Jake Gatewood.
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Gatewood is the Brewers No. 10 overall prospect on MLB Pipeline, but he’s coming off a torn ACL suffered during the season. He should be ready to go during the 2019 season even if he’s not ready at the beginning of spring training.
2018 was Gatewood’s best season to date before the injury. He posted a .244 batting average with 19 homers, 59 RBIs, and a .767 OPS at Double-A Biloxi.
Gatewood doesn’t have a very strong hit tool, and he doesn’t spray the ball to all fields. He also strikes out a ton, which is another concern as the Brewers have shied away from all-or-nothing type hitters recently.
Is Jesus Aguilar The Future?
It appears Jesus Aguilar is the best option going forward for the Brewers. He’s under team control for the same amount of time as Christian Yelich and Lorenzo Cain, and he’s not going to be expensive.
While it’s entirely possible Aguilar struggles in 2019, it’s not very likely. Even during his hot stretch in the first half, Aguilar only had a BAbip of .331, which isn’t ridiculously high. His approach at the plate lends one to believe he’ll be a successful hitter and it’ll transfer from year to year.
During Aguilar’s worst stretch, he posted a .245 average. In what was Gatewood’s best season, he posted a .244 average. If the worst of Aguilar is around the best of what Gatewood can bring, the Milwaukee Brewers would be more inclined to stick with Aguilar and his higher potential to get on base.
Aguilar is not going to go anywhere. He’s the Brewers starting first baseman for 2019 and likely beyond that.
Obviously things can change at any point and if Aguilar struggles mightily in 2019 for some reason, they could move on. But with a lack of a better option in the farm system, and the success of Aguilar so far, it makes sense for him to be the future.