Brewers: Offseason Additions to Blame for a Struggling Offense?

Justin Smoak, Milwaukee Brewers (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Justin Smoak, Milwaukee Brewers (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) /

Last offseason brought a ton of new faces to the Brewers. Several of those were position players, who have not quite lived up to expectations.

The Brewers went through a major roster overhaul in the offseason leading up to the 2020 season.  Gone are major offensive contributors Mike Moustakas, Yasmani Grandal, and Eric Thames.

Joining the Brewers are players Avisail Garcia, Eric Sogard, Brock Holt, Justin Smoak, Jedd Gyorko, and Omar Narvaez.  How have these players performed so far?

Avisail Garcia

Garcia was coming off a year in which he set a career high with 20 home runs as a Tampa Bay Ray. While never a big power guy, Garcia had always been able to bat for a respectable average and make contact. His career batting average throughout nine MLB seasons is .272.

While it is early yet, Garcia has had little success at the plate. Through 15 games, his average is .245 and he has contributed just one home run and 4 runs batted in. For a guy who often hits near the top of the order, and also in the 4th or 5th spot, this is not great.

Throughout his career, Garcia has hit primarily in the 4th, 5th, and 6th spots of the batting order, so he is no stranger to where Craig Counsell has elected to place him in the batting order this year. In 13 chances this year with runners in scoring position, Garcia has delivered just two hits. That is equivalent to a .167 batting average. While the sample size is small, it is fair to say Garcia has not delivered to expectations so far this year.

Eric Sogard

Sogard, too, was signed from the Tampa Bay Rays this offseason. He split time between the Blue Jays and Rays in 2019, but overall had a career season with a slash line of .290/.353/.457/.840. It was fair to expect a regression to the mean for Sogard entering the 2020 season.

What is Sogard’s mean exactly? His career slash line is .248/.319/.341/.660. So far in 2020, Sogard’s batting average has been poor and his slugging percentage is dreadful. However, he has been good at getting on base. As the Brewers leader in walks through 15 games, Sogard has been thrust into the leadoff role versus right-handed pitchers. He has shown the ability to fight off pitches and make pitchers work. Those are good traits for a lead off hitter.

Although Sogard’s stats do not reflect it, he has not performed all that poorly offensively in 2020. It seems likely that the Brewers will continue to lean on him as the leadoff hitter and hopefully he can continue to deliver by getting on base.

Brock Holt

The Brock Star was a late spring signing for the Brewers. Holt was a fan favorite in Boston who was used on a limited basis as a utility infielder. Craig Counsell’s plan for Holt entering the 2020 season was to use him as a platoon hitter and play third base.

2020 has been off to a disastrous start for Holt. With just two hits on the year, Luis Urias has begun to get a few starts versus right-handed pitchers despite being a right-handed hitter himself. If Holt can’t turn it around quickly, he may find it hard to get more consistent playing time.

Justin Smoak

Smoak played through an injury in 2019 and overall had a disappointing season despite mashing 22 home runs. The Brewers signed him in the off-season with the hope that he could return to the player who hit 38 home runs in 2017 and 25 home runs in 2018 with a respectable batting averages in those seasons.

Through 15 games this year Smoak is just hitting over the Mendoza line and is striking out at a career high near 40%. The Brewers paid Smoak a good chunk of change and it seems unlikely they will move away from him this early in the season. If I had to guess, he likely will have until the halfway point of the season to turn things around before the Brewers look at other permanent options at first base.

Jedd Gyorko

Gyorko, a former Brewer killer while in a Cardinals uniform, had an injury-filled 2019 season as Dodger.  He, too, was poised for a bounce back season in 2020.

Gyorko has had mixed results so far in 2020. He is getting at bats primarily against left-handed pitchers, which have been few and far between when compared to righties. He has shown an ability to be clutch with a recent go-ahead, two-run home run versus the Twins.

All in all, Gyorko just has not had enough opportunities so far this year, but he has been productive when in the lineup. For a player who has the flexibility to play first base, I would expect him to get more chances to contribute offensively in the future.

Omar Narvaez

Heading into 2020, the biggest question mark around Narvaez was his defense. But to date, he is also being outperformed offensively by Manny Pina.

Narvaez is currently sporting a .158 batting average and a .184 slugging percentage. It’s fair to say that we have not gotten what we expected out of Narvaez at all, and it may be time for a move to get his bat going.

The Brewers acquired these veteran players with the expectation that not all of them would pan out, but for almost all of them to be under performing expectations is crazy and a huge reason why the Brewers offense can not get it going.

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While it is unfair to expect the combinations of Garcia, Sogard, Holt, Smoak, Gyorko, and Narvaez to replace the production levels of Mike Moustakas, Yasmani Grandal, and Eric Thames, we do still have to hope that a few of these players can turn things around from an offensive standpoint.