Though the starting outfield for the Brewers is set, their primary backup from the last two seasons was let go at MLB’s non-tender deadline.
Last week’s non-tender deadline saw three players get non-tendered on top of one non-tender candidate getting traded minutes before the deadline. Among the players who left was backup outfielder and fan-favorite, Ben Gamel.
Gamel saw plenty of playing time over his two seasons with the Brewers, playing in 174 of 222 games with 96 starts and the ability to play all three outfield spots. But projected to make $1.7MM to $2.2MM in arbitration by MLB Trade Rumors, Milwaukee decided to non-tender him last week.
This means that the Brewers need a new primary backup outfielder and they just so happen to have a few candidates already on the roster. Here are three who could step into the role for the 2021 season.
1. Tyrone Taylor
Still on the team’s Top 30 prospect list per MLB Pipeline at No. 21, Tyrone Taylor got a good amount of playing time toward the end of last season. He ended up playing in 22 games, slashing .237/.293/.500, finishing with an above average 108 OPS+, and hitting the first two home runs of his MLB career.
Taylor wasn’t originally regarded as having much power with MLB Pipeline even recently giving him just a 40 grade in that department. But he did hit 34 bombs in his most recent two minor league seasons combined, so there may be some untapped potential there.
Taylor has the fact that, like Gamel, he can back up all three outfield positions working in his favor and he happened to do exactly that in his limited time in 2020. With 55-grade defense and a 50-grade arm according to MLB Pipeline, he probably holds the edge from a defensive standpoint alone.
2. Billy McKinney
Brewers fans are still waiting to see what they have in new outfielder Billy McKinney. Originally a first round pick by the Oakland A’s back in 2013, McKinney was a part of three pretty large trades in seasons since then before Milwaukee claimed him off waivers from the Blue Jays last September.
McKinney has slashed just .231/.291/.437 in his short MLB career so far but also, with 18 career home runs, has hit a homer every 20.7 at bats (that would have been fifth best among Brewers regulars last season, for reference).
While McKinney is more of a corner outfielder and isn’t much of an option for center, he does provide the ability to play first base, though he hasn’t done it much in his career (just ten games in the majors). With first being a position of need for the Brewers, it could give them more of a reason to keep McKinney on the active roster in 2021.
3. Mark Mathias
Unlike the other two, utility man Mark Mathias isn’t a pure outfielder by trade. He had been an infielder before the Brewers traded for him in 2019 from the Indians but Milwaukee out him to work in the outfield immediately in last season’s Spring Training.
And when the Brewers called him up from the Alternate Training Site in early August for his major league debut, it was as an outfielder. Though his debut came as a pinch runner, Mathias had a hit in each of his first four games after that, finishing 2020 with a .278/.278/.361 slash line in 16 games.
The Brewers happened to lose some utility in their infield as well when Jace Peterson was non-tendered along with Gamel. So there is a good chance that Mathias makes the 26-man roster in 2021 one way or another, it’s just a question of whether it’s as a utility infielder or outfielder.
Of course there’s always the chance that the Brewers either go external to fill the role or use a combination of the three players. If history says anything, though, it’s that one of these three will be the one to primarily fill the role.