September is always a great time for a team with struggles on offense to call up a hot-hitting, big name prospect as part of MLB roster expansion. The Brewers have had a prospect who perfectly fits that description in outfielder Sal Frelick.
Frelick was Milwaukee’s first-round pick just over a year ago and currently is the team’s second-best prospect according to MLB Pipeline. He also happens to already be with their Triple-A Nashville Sounds team and absolutely killing it.
After starting the season with a quick 21-game stint at High-A Wisconsin, Frelick moved on to his next stop at Double-A Biloxi. It only took another 52 games for the organization to realize another promotion was in store and on August 2nd, he was headed to Nashville.
Amazingly, Frelick has looked better at Triple-A than he has at any level since he first started off at the Arizona Complex League and Low-A last season. Through 43 games, the 22-year-old is slashing .362/.433/.508 with four homers, seven steals, 10 doubles, and more walks (18) than strikeouts (16).
He has been exceptionally consistent as well. Frelick has 21 multi-hit games in his 43 Triple-A games and his homer in Wednesday night’s game extended his on-base streak to an impressive 38 games.
So why hasn’t hot-hitting No. 2 Brewers prospect Sal Frelick been called up to the team yet?
Though MLB rosters already expanded back on September 1st, changes can still be made along the way. And while the Brewers offense hasn’t been bad per se, it has been inconsistent at times and found itself sometimes lacking the timely hit when needed. Isn’t there a chance Frelick could help in that regard?
There are two main reasons Frelick hasn’t gotten the call up yet, the first being fellow outfield prospect Garrett Mitchell. When rosters expanded to start the month, it was the team’s No. 5 prospect and 2020 first-round pick who got the call to make his MLB debut.
Mitchell was having a fine season at Nashville in his own right before his call to the majors with a .343 average and .901 OPS in 20 games with the Sounds. And though the results haven’t been perfect (.205/.296/.308, 7 runs scored, 45.4% strikeout rate), he has provided a spark at times that has aided the team in pulling out some extra wins.
The other reason is Tyrone Taylor. He took over a majority of the playing time in center field for the first time in his career after veteran Lorenzo Cain was designated for assignment earlier this season. Unfortunately, the increased playing time hasn’t resulted in better numbers.
Taylor has already played in a career high 108 games for the Brewers this season. With that playing time, he currently is setting career lows in batting average (.228), OBP (.283), and slugging (.729) as well as a career high in strikeout rate (25.8%).
The problem is that Taylor has no minor league options remaining, so the only way he is going anywhere is if he is DFA’d, which the Brewers are unlikely to do with two weeks remaining in the season. In Mitchell’s case, Milwaukee is equally unlikely to decide to give up on him for the year this late in the season and cut some of his development short.
So, with those two sticking around, they combine with Christian Yelich, Hunter Renfroe, and Andrew McCutchen to form a five-man outfield. Adding Frelick to the mix would push that squad to six, which is something the Brewers don’t generally do and would make it tough for the team to actually give Frelick playing time.
Even if they did, who would you remove from the bench? Mike Brosseau? Jace Peterson? Keston Hiura? You would start to seriously squeeze the infield depth by taking any of those three out of the picture.
Thus, the reason Frelick hasn’t been called up yet is just an issue of roster math. It may be frustrating that a player putting up those numbers can’t find a spot on the team, but when Mitchell was the one given the first crack at the big leagues, that combined with the Brewers’ other outfielders’ statuses pretty much sealed Frelick’s fate.
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When the Sounds’ 2022 season finishes, Frelick’s probably will as well. But Brewers fans should feel good that when the 2023 season kicks off, there’s a good chance they’ll get to see Frelick in a Milwaukee uniform relatively quickly.