The Brewers have a stunning lack of power bats all throughout their organization.
In a stadium like Miller Park, where power plays extremely well, especially left-handed power, the Brewers have had a stunning lack of focus on acquiring more power bats throughout their organization.
They’ve made some additions at the big league level in recent years, including Travis Shaw, Eric Thames, Yasmani Grandal, Mike Moustakas, and of course Christian Yelich. But now all of those players are gone except for Yelich.
The Brewers had nine different players hit 10 or more homers in 2017, with three players hitting 30 or more. In 2018, they had six players with 10 or more long balls and three of them hitting 30 or more.
This team was built around the long ball, and it was the strength of their offense, knowing that anyone 1-8 in the order could go deep. Now, that strength is gone.
The Corner Infield
If you look at the names mentioned above, you’ll notice that most of them were corner infielders. Gone are the 30 homer days of Shaw, Thames, Moustakas, and also Jesus Aguilar. Now who do the Brewers have to fill in at the corner infield spots? Nobody.
The Brewers have not been able to adequately replace their corner infielders with internal options simply because there are no internal options. Since taking over the Draft, the Brewers have only spent four picks in the first 10 rounds on natural corner infielders. Two have been released, one was traded, and the other, Lucas Erceg, lost his ability to hit after reaching Double-A and couldn’t even get a look in the Rule 5 draft.
Stearns and scouting director Tod Johnson haven’t drafted a corner infielder in the first 10 rounds since 2017. Three drafts have come and gone without an early pick being spent on a corner guy. These spots are barren in the farm system, as we’ve also discussed on our Cold Brew Podcast with Robert Murray.
You reap what you sow, and since the Brewers aren’t sowing anything in the corner infield, they aren’t reaping anything.
The Brewers have placed a higher emphasis on adding up-the-middle players, and there’s nothing wrong with that by itself, but there has to be some balance to fill out the rest of the roster. They’ve drafted seven catchers in the first 10 rounds in the same amount of time and only four at first base and third base combined.
Since Stearns has taken over in Milwaukee, the Brewers have been willing to blur the line with traditional roles and roster construction. This has been most prevalent with the pitching staff, but it’s also shown up with the position players.
For example, Luis Urias is capable of handling third base defensively, as was Eric Sogard. But neither player hits for much power. Any home runs from them is just a bonus, it’s nothing expected. Third base is traditionally a power hitter position where you can expect 25+ homers a season.
Despite the Brewers’ willingness to buck tradition, there is a reason some of these things have remained traditions for so long and have stuck around the game. It’s because they’ve been an extremely successful formula.
Current Power Hitters
What do the Brewers have for power hitters on the current roster? There’s Yelich, then Keston Hiura has pop, and Daniel Vogelbach can hit 30 homers. But will he be in the lineup enough to hit that many?
That’s about it. Avisail Garcia has some power, but he’s likely a max 20 homer a season guy, same with Omar Narvaez. Both had down years in 2020 and we’ll likely see more from them in 2021 but their power ceilings are limited.
What about on the farm system? Surely they must have some power hitters in the minors. Tristen Lutz is a power hitting outfielder, which doesn’t help the first and third base issues. Mario Feliciano has some power. Garrett Mitchell has some untapped power, but he’s a hit-over-power guy anyways. Corey Ray hasn’t been able to make enough contact to use his power. Both Ray and Mitchell are also outfielders.
The one guy who could help out in the corner infield with some big power is Thomas Dillard. He’s a catcher by trade, but the Brewers have been playing him at first base and corner outfield as well. He’s got pop but hasn’t played above Low-A.
This looks like it’s been a glaring oversight by the Brewers front office over the past few years. They have not prioritized the position in the Draft, relying primarily on free agent and trade acquisitions to fill the big league holes. They’ve done that successfully over the last three years, but all those players have now left.
Once again, they’re going to be shopping in the corner infield market this winter. They’ll likely only be able to find one year stopgap solutions in free agency at both spots. They can make a trade for someone else’s blocked prospect or player with several years of control to get a long term fix, but that’ll be costly.
In all likelihood, the Brewers will be in the market for both a first baseman and a third baseman once again in the 2021 offseason. These positions are too important offensively to continually have this kind of turnover and lack of production.
The best and cheapest way to find long term stability at any position is to draft and develop talent at those spots. Milwaukee hasn’t done that, but will have to in 2021 and beyond unless they want to continue searching the Clearance section at Walmart for their corner infielders year after year.
The Brewers faced a similar situation with left handed pitching a few years ago, lacking any throughout the organization. Then in 2019, they placed a heavy emphasis on drafting LHPs and the fruits of that labor should be showing up soon. Corner infield bats can rise through the minors far quicker than pitchers normally do. This should be their next emphasis in the 2021 Draft.
But, for now, they need to find some major league solutions to the corner infield problem, whether it be by trade or free agency.