Milwaukee Brewers: 5 Internal Options to be the Designated Hitter
By Eric Treuden
When you take a look at the 2022 depth chart for the Milwaukee Brewers, most positions are probably relatively set at this point in the offseason. Of course, that’s not taking into account one final league change that is reportedly likely to still be made.
Last week, it was reported that the designated hitter is “assumed” to be coming to the National League on a full-time basis as soon as 2022. This report came via MLB Network insider Jon Heyman.
The Milwaukee Brewers have a plethora of internal options that could fill that role this upcoming season. Outside of the most recent couple seasons, the Brewers have often been more of an offense-oriented club and will try to make it the same story in 2022.
Let’s take a look at five internal options to be the Brewers designated hitter in 2022.
1. OF Christian Yelich
Christian Yelich is by no means a bad fielder. After all, he only committed a single error in just under 900 innings in left field last season. However, injuries have started to become something of a concern for Yelich and his body could be preserved by becoming the team’s everyday DH. Yelich has made a total of 13 appearances at designated hitter for the Brewers since joining the club in 2018.
Still just 30 years of age, Yelich has had a back injury nagging him for the past year-plus and it clearly was affecting his swing and mobility as a whole last year.
The Brewers have Tyrone Taylor on hand to replace Yelich in left field and is a passable outfielder. He put up higher Runs Prevented and Outs Above Average than Yelich while playing the field last year.
2. 1B/2B Keston Hiura
Keston Hiura was once viewed as a building block for the Milwaukee Brewers. He burst onto the big league scene in 2019, posting a 2.1 fWAR, 139 wRC+ and a .402 BABIP across 84 games. Hiura’s entire batting-line dipped in 2020, though, and then dipped even further in 2021.
Hiura, 25, struggled through off the field issues in 2021 and ultimately posted a -1.0 bWAR, 49 OPS+, 52 wRC+ and a near 40% strikeout rate in just under 200 plate appearances. On the defensive side of things, Hiura also lost his home to Kolten Wong, a move that prompted Milwaukee to try him out at first base.
With the acquisition of Rowdy Tellez and the presence of Daniel Vogelbach last season, Hiura was pushed out of the picture and optioned down to the club’s Triple-A affiliate. He split his time defensively between first and second base in the minor leagues to below-average results.
If (and that is a big “if”) Hiura is to find himself in the Brewers’ future plans, it may have to be at designated hitter, a spot he appeared at ten times in the COVID-shortened 2020 season, as he is currently without a very good defensive fit.
3. OF Tyrone Taylor
With the 2022 outfield picture largely set for the Brewers, there is not an everyday spot for last year’s surprise performer Tyrone Taylor. Taylor, 28, spent last season as an oft-used fourth outfielder and injury replacement when Yelich and Lorenzo Cain and missed significant time.
Taylor swings the bat from the right side and is capable of playing passable defense at each of the three outfield positions. Unfortunately for him, he is blocked by two former Gold Glove Award winners and newcomer Hunter Renfroe, who can hold his own in right field.
Taylor put up 1.6 bWAR last season in 93 games and 270 plate appearances. He hit a career-high 12 home runs and posted a 106 OPS+. He ranked in at least the 76th percentile in the league in regards to max exit velocity and sprint speed per Statcast.
Brewers fans would agree that Taylor needs to get a longer look as an everyday hitter in 2022. Designated hitter might be the best route to get him much needed at bats.
4. 1B Rowdy Tellez
Sweet-swinging lefty Rowdy Tellez would fit nicely into this Brewers’ lineup as the everyday designated hitter. After coming over to Milwaukee last season, Tellez hit both lefties and righties very well and has played his way into a guaranteed spot in the lineup for 2022.
Tellez was able to lower his strikeout% last season while ranking in the 94th percentile in maximum exit velocity per Statcast.
On defense, Tellez is very much limited to first base and he is not sharp on that side of the ball. Amongst qualified first basemen in 2021, Tellez ranked near the bottom in Runs Prevented and OAA. During his Toronto Blue Jays tenure, Tellez appeared in 79 games as their designated hitter in parts of four seasons.
5. OF David Dahl
Former All-Star David Dahl signed a minor league contract with Milwaukee back in December and will be the top option to replace an outfielder on the big league club should an injury arise.
Dahl, still just 27 years of age, spent last season as a member of the Texas Rangers organization and had one of his worst seasons in the big leagues. He will be looking to bring his value back up in Triple-A with Milwaukee.
Dahl can play decent defense at all three outfield spots but he ranked near the bottom of the league in defensive statistics in his last full season and carries the most value in his bat. His best season came in 2019 when he was selected to the All-Star game and hit .300 on the year as well as a career-high 28 doubles and an .877 OPS.
The designated hitter appears to be heading to the National League in 2022. The Milwaukee Brewers have a number of internal candidates that could fill that role and free up defensive positions in favor of glove-first options.