2) Christian Yelich
Christian Yelich did not rebound in 2021.
It was a frustrating season in which he hit just nine home runs and missed a lot of time with a back injury early in the season. The Brewers have openly stated multiple times that Yelich’s back was not an issue, but from a fan’s perspective it was hard to ignore his occasional stiff appearance in the batters box and hesitancy to fully run or lay out for balls in the outfield.
Contrary to that, there were times that he was moving very fluid and running the base paths like a gazelle, which is a thing of beauty to watch.
Another perceived issue with Yelich in 2021 was that he was hitting more ground balls. Despite popular belief, his 55.7% ground ball rate in 2021 was not too far out of the ordinary for his career average is 54.7%. However, his quality of contact (exit velocity) was poor on ground balls this year which may have lead to this perception.
All that aside, the main issue is that Yelich did not provide enough production in 2021 by his or our standards. His .248 batting average and 99 OPS+ were significant decreases from his career averages, which includes his playing days with the Marlins. One positive was that for the second consecutive season he continued to reach base via the walk and was one of the best in the game at laying off pitches outside of the zone.
A big point of emphasis this off-season will be figuring out how to get Yelich back on track and closer to the player he has been throughout his career.
Final 2021 season grade: D+
3) Lorenzo Cain
After essentially missing the entire 2020 season, we did not know what to expect from the 35 year old Lorenzo Cain in 2021. Unfortunately, quad and hamstring injuries requiring lot of rehab and patience kept him consistently away from the Brewers until the end of July.
Upon returning, Cain proved time and time again that he did not miss a beat defensively. From home run robberies, crashing into the wall, and making the saving catch to preserve the Brewers no-hitter, Cain proved to be super valuable defensively again.
From an offensive standpoint, his final slash line read .257/.329/.401/.729. In just 78 games played, he managed to lead the Brewers in stolen bases with 13. It is worth noting that throughout the final month of the season, Cain hit for a .275 batting average while slugging .473. Had Cain been healthy in 2021, he likely would have put together a very solid season.
Cain is now entering the final year in his 5 year, $80MM deal. Hopefully health and injuries will not hinder him in 2022 because this year he proved that he still is a great ballplayer in his limited games played.