Welcome to Part Three of my 2020 N.L. Central Summer Camp series. Part One on the Chicago Cubs is here, and Part Two on the Cincinnati Reds is here. Today, we examine the Milwaukee Brewers, who lost star Christian Yelich late in the year to injury, came up just short last year for the division title after a couple of late-season losses, then lost the Wild Card game by one run.
40-MAN LOSSES FROM 2019
ARTICLE XX-B FREE AGENCY (6 or more years of MLB service)
RHP Jay Jackson, LHP Gio Gonzalez, RHP Jordan Lyles, RHP Matt Albers, LHP Drew Pomeranz, 3B Mike Moustakas (declined mutual option), C Yasmani Grandal (declined mutual option), 1B Eric Thames
3B Travis Shaw, SS Tyler Saladino, RHP Junior Guerra, RHP Jimmy Nelson
OUTRIGHTED TO MINORS
UT Corey Spangenberg, 1B/OF Tyler Austin (elected free agency in lieu of accepting the assignment), RHP Jake Faria, IF Hernan Perez (elected free agency in lieu of accepting the assignment)
OUTRIGHT ASSIGNMENT WAIVER CLAIM
RHP Deolis Guerra (by Philadelphia Phillies), RHP Taylor Williams (by Seattle Mariners)
RHP Chase Anderson (to Toronto Blue Jays for a minor league first baseman), RHP Zach Davies and OF Trent Grisham (both to the San Diego Padres for LHP Eric Lauer, IF Luis Urias and a Player to be Named Later)
** Of the subtractions, only Spangenberg and Faria remain in the organization
40-MAN ADDITIONS FOR 2020
CONTRACTS PURCHASED FROM MINORS
LHP Angel Perdomo, CF Corey Ray, IF Mark Mathias, RHP J.P. Feyereisen
OUTRIGHT ASSIGNMENT WAIVER CLAIM
RHP Eric Yardley (from San Diego Padres), IF Ronny Rodriguez (from Detroit Tigers)
IF Mark Mathias (from Cleveland Indians for a minor league catcher). Third round draft choice of the Indians in the 2015 draft. Was traded to the Brewers and immediately added to the 40-man roster on the day of the deadline to file reserve lists for Rule 5 draft protection. This was a move for infield depth, given all the 40-man roster subtractions in the infield. Mathias has played all over the infield, but is believed not to have the arm for the left side. He has decent patience at the plate with a career walk rate of around 11% in the minors (10.7% last year in his first season at AAA), good contact skills and doubles power. Has yet to make his major league debut.
C Omar Narvaez (from Seattle Mariners for a minor league pitcher and a Competitive Balance Round B draft choice in the June 2020 draft). Narvaez originally signed with the Tampa Bay Rays as a 17-year old undrafted free agent out of Venezuela. After 5 seasons where he topped out at Short-Season A Ball, the Chicago White Sox drafted him in the minor league phase of the December 2013 Rule 5 draft. He still hadn’t made it out of A ball as of 2016, but was invited to spring training that year, started in AA, moved to AAA, then had his contract purchased in July when another catcher got injured. He has remained in the majors ever since. The White Sox traded him to the Mariners straight up for RHP Alex Colombe before the 2019 season, where Narvaez established himself as one of the best offensive catchers in the game (123 DRC+). Interestingly, his 22 HRs last year were more than he had in his entire professional career before that combined. While Miller Park will be more conducive to Narvaez’s offensive game, he is one of the worst defensive catchers in the game, especially when it comes to framing. The Brewers hope he is the answer to Yasmani Grandal, and they also hope that Narvaez doesn’t have to catch a preposterous 41 different pitchers like he did last year. Eligible for arbitration for the first time, he signed a 1-year, $2.725 million deal to avoid it.
IF Luis Urias (from San Diego Padres with Eric Lauer for RHP Zach Davies and OF Trent Grisham). The younger brother of former Cards’ farmhand Ramon, Urias was originally signed by the Padres as a 16-year old undrafted free agent out of Mexico in December of 2013. He was added to their 40-man in late August of 2018, and has seen time at both 2B and SS in the majors. Had always shown elite contact and on-base skills, and busted out in AAA as a 22-year old last season with a .315/.398/.600 slash line and 19 HRs over 339 PA. But it seems like everyone hit in AAA last year. His strikeout percentage has risen sharply in recent years, and at least in his brief time in the majors (about a half-season’s worth of plate appearances), it hasn’t translated into power, and he hasn’t hit the ball hard there, or really very much at all. The Brewers are supposedly going to start him at short, where he’s an offensive upgrade, but a big defensive downgrade from Orlando Arcia because his best position is second base. Still has less than 1 year of MLB service time.
LHP Eric Lauer (from San Diego Padres in the same Urias trade). Lauer was one of 3 first round draft choices the Padres had in 2016, and by April of 2018 he was in the major league rotation and the club’s opening day starter last year. He doesn’t throw hard, but throws a cutter, slider, curve and change, so he gives hitters a lot of different looks. None of those pitches is above average. He looks to compete for the 5th starter’s job. He’s never been optioned before, and if he sticks on the active roster for most of the year, he will be eligible for arbitration in the offseason as a Super Two.
FREE AGENT SIGNINGS
LHP Brett Anderson, Article XX-B free agent. Signed a 1-year, $5 million deal, with performance bonuses based on innings pitched that could provide an extra $2 million. Originally drafted in the 2nd round of the 2006 draft by the Arizona Diamondbacks out high school, he was traded to the Oakland Athletics in the Dan Haren deal in December of 2007. By opening day of 2009, he was a member of the A’s rotation as a 21-year old. Then the injuries started. Tommy John surgery in 2011 that cost him most of 2012, a sprained ankle that cost him 4 months in 2013, and a broken finger and lower back strain that cost him another 4 months in 2014 after he was traded to the Rockies. It got so bad that the number of days he spent on the disabled list was greater than his number of innings pitched. After a healthy 2015 with the Dodgers, he was only able to pitch 17 games across the 2016-2017 seasons. Reunited with his original organization in 2018, he pitched for the A’s the past two years, and last season was able to log at least 20 starts and 120 IP for only the 3rd time in his career, with his second-highest innings total ever. Anderson is a Dave Duncan pitch-to-contact dream, striking out only 4.6 men per 9 innings in 2019, which was last in the majors among qualified starters by a lot. But the 6’4”, 230-pounder survives with a low walk rate and keeping the ball on the ground, which he has done at a 57% clip over his career, and was third in baseball among qualified starters last year. The problem is the Brewers’ park is not as friendly, and their infield defense isn’t as good.
RHP Josh Lindblom, international free agent. Originally drafted by the Dodgers in the 2nd round of the 2008 draft, he was a closer in college and made the majors as part of the Dodger bullpen in May. Starting in 2012, he bounced from the Dodgers to the Phillies and then the Rangers, Athletics and Pirates organizations, and was out of the majors by the end of the 2014 season with just 110 games and 6 starts over 4 years. Seventy-four of that total was in 2012. He went to Korea for 2 years, struggling in his final year. In this interview with Jay Jaffe of Fangraphs, he revealed that his newborn daughter was going to have open heart surgery, so he decided to come home and signed a minor league deal with the Pirates in 2017 because their AAA Indianapolis club was located about an hour from his house. He had his contract purchased in early May, but was DFAd in late June and outrighted to AAA after only 4 appearances. He then went back to Korea for 12 games. But it was in the KBO with the Doosan Bears club in 2018 that he reinvigorated his career, winning the award for the top pitcher in the league for the last 2 years coupled with the league MVP in 2019, while doing it all as a starter. He flirted with a sub-2.00 ERA all last season, and had 189 SO to just 29 BB. Although he’s 6’4” and 240 pounds, he doesn’t throw that hard. But he ditched his sinker for a four-seamer and gets away with throwing it high in the zone because of its elite spin. He pairs it with a cutter that induces weak contact and a split-finger, both of which made him highly effective against lefties. The KBO does not have a reserve rule in terms of a number of years, and thus Lindblom was able to sign with anyone after his contract expired. Lindblom has just turned 33, and parlayed his success in Korea into a 3-year, $9.125 million deal that calls for a $2.75 million salary each year. The deal included an $875,000 signing bonus and performance bonuses based on innings pitched that could add an extra $3 million if he maxes out and matches his KBO levels. Lindblom is out of options, and has only 1 year and 151 days of MLB service time, but like the deal Miles Mikolas signed with the Cards, he also has a clause in his contract that makes him a MLB free agent after this contract expires.
1B/3B Ryon Healy, outrighted to the minors by the Seattle Mariners in late October 2019, but elected free agency in lieu of the assignment. Originally drafted by the A’s in the 3rd round of the 2013 draft, Healy had his contract purchased in July of 2016, and has been in the majors ever since. He was traded to the Mariners before the 2018 season, and his 2019 season was shut down in late July due to nagging back and hip injuries. He had hip surgery in the offseason. Healy was a third baseman, but was moved to first base when he proved to be awful defensively. He did, however, man third base last season. Healy’s stock has been trending downward since his rookie year as his offense has gotten worse every year. He’s got the power to hit over 20 homers, but has absolutely no patience at the plate, and no real value on defense. A DRC+ in the 90s isn’t going to cut it at either corner position, although he was a little unlucky with his BABIP last year. He signed a 1-year split contract that calls for a $1 million salary in the majors and $250,000 in the minors and although he hasn’t played in the minors on anything other than a rehab assignment since 2016, he has all 3 minor league options remaining. Can earn another $1 million in the majors with performance bonuses based on plate appearances. Arbitration eligible.
RF Avisail Garcia, Article XX-B free agent. Signed a 2-year, $20 million deal ($7 million for 2020) with a $500,000 signing bonus and a club option for 2021. Garcia was originally signed by the Detroit Tigers as a 16-year old undrafted free agent out of Venezuela in 2007. The Tigers purchased his contract in November of 2011 and called him up in August of 2012. He was sent to the Chicago White Sox at the trade deadline as part of a 3-club deal that involved Jake Peavy. Up until 2017, Garcia had not done much of anything, but that year he exploded out of nowhere at age 26 with a .330/.380/.506 slash line, 126 DRC+ and 3.7 WARP. While has has always had good speed and a strong arm, he had never even been average offensively before that. Folks were skeptical based on the fact that he swung at everything, hit a lot of ground balls and led all qualified hitters in the game with a .392 BABIP. After an injury-filled season that limited him to 93 games in 2018, the White Sox non-tendered him, leading to his signing a 1-year deal for 2019 with the Tampa Bay Rays. He settled in as a slightly above average everyday player. He hit a career-high 20 homers and stole 10 bases for the first time in his career For someone 6’4”, 250 pounds, Garcia is super fast and in the 90th percentile of sprint speed. Garcia just turned 29, and it looks like he’s the favorite for the right field job, with Yelich moving back to left. He could also log some time at DH.
1B Justin Smoak, Article XX-B free agent. Signed a 1-year, $5 million deal with a club option for 2021. His salary is actually $4 million and he has a $1 million buyout on the option. Smoak was the first round draft choice of the Texas Rangers in 2008, and rocketed his way up to the majors by April of 2010 before being the centerpiece of a trade with the Mariners for Cliff Lee. For the first seven seasons of his career, the switch-hitter didn’t do much, and his numbers were not impressive at all for a first baseman, the only position he has every played. The Blue Jays claimed him on waivers in October 2014, and he’s been there for the last 5 seasons. Smoak’s WARP value was negative over the first 7 seasons of his career, but he had a breakout age-30 2017 season, where he logged a career-high 38 homers with a 135 DRC+ and 3.6 WARP. The 33-year old Smoak hasn’t had a season approximating that since, but has maintained the plate discipline he showed that season. Only hit .208 last year thanks, in part, to a 70 point drop in BABIP.
IF Eric Sogard, Article XX-B free agent. Signed a 1-year, $4.5 million deal with a club option for 2021. His salary is $4 million with a $500,000 buyout. Drafted in the 2nd round by the San Diego Padres in 2007, Sogard was traded to the Oakland A’s in January of 2010 and had his contract purchased that September. He didn’t get much playing time until 2013, when he got the majority of the playing time at 2B for the next 3 years. His entire 2016 season was lost to a shoulder injury and knee surgery, and he was outrighted to the minors that October. He ended up signing a minor league deal with the Brewers in 2017, had his contract purchased that May and had an above average offensive season for the first time in his career, while playing all around the middle infield. The Brewers released him in July of 2018, but kept him in the organization on a minor league deal. Last season, he split time with Toronto and Tampa Bay, and hit 13 HRs, despite only hitting 11 in his professional career thus far. The Brewers have brought him back because of familiarity and positional flexibility. He never has hit well, and the high on base percentages he showed in the minors (career .382) has rarely translated to the majors (career .318). Except last year, the 34-year old had the best offensive season of his career in terms of DRC+. He’s not the best option defensively anywhere in the infield (has not been rated as positive by Baseball Prospectus’s Fielding Runs Above Average since 2015), but the 34-year old can stand anywhere. Despite all this, he’s the favorite to serve as the long side of platoon at 3B.
IF Jedd Gyorko, Article XX-B free agent. Signed a 1-year, $2 million deal with a club option for 2021. His salary is $1 million with a $1 million buyout. Gyorko doesn’t need any introduction for Cardinal fans. He started his career in San Diego, came over in 2016 in a trade for Jon Jay, showing home run power and good glove work, especially at 3B and 2B, and even filling in at shortstop. He seemed to break down under frequent use and actually struggled against right-handed pitching. His 2019 was mostly lost to injuries, and his placement on the injured list helped launch Tommy Edman’s career. Traded to the Dodgers in a paperwork transaction at the trade deadline, he got into 24 games for them without doing much. Now 31 years old and hopefully healthy, he looks to form the short side of a platoon with Sogard at 3B.
RHP David Phelps, Article XX-B free agent. Signed a 1-year, $1.5 million deal with a 2021 club option. Phelps is from St. Louis and went to Hazelwood West High School, earning a baseball scholarship to Notre Dame. He was drafted by the New York Yankees in the 14th round of the 2008 draft. The club purchased his contract in November of 2011, and he made his major league debut that April, alternating between the rotation and bullpen. He was traded to the Miami Marlins for the 2015 season and pitched there for 3 seasons. Although he had been a swingman who was starting more and more every year, the Marlins moved him to the bullpen in 2016. Miami flipped him to Seattle at the trade deadline in 2017, but he was only able to pitch for 10 games and was shut down by the 1st of September. Although he signed his most lucrative deal to avoid arbitration for 2018, he blew out his elbow in sporing training, had Tommy John surgery and missed the whole 2018 season. Phelps signed an incentive-laded free agent deal for 2019 with the Toronto Blue Jays, returning to pitch in June for a little over a month before the Jays sent him to the Cubs in another deadline deal. The Cubs declined his 2020 option. Phelps throws a cutter in addition to a sinker and four seamer, but he doesn’t throw very hard. The 33-year old Phelps’ peripherals including walk rate and home run got worse last year, while his strikeout rate stayed about the same.
UT Brock Holt, Article XX-B free agent. Signed a 1-year, $3.25 million with a club option for 2021. His salary is $2.5 million with a $750,000 option buyout. Holt was originally drafted in the 4th round of the 2009 draft by the Pittsburgh Pirates. The club purchased his contract when rosters expanded on September 1st, 2012. The Pirates traded him to the Boston Red Sox in December of that year in a multi-player deal involving Joel Hanrahan and Mark Melancon. He has been with the Red Sox ever since as a fan favorite and super-utility sub. He’s played at least innings 200 in the field at 6 different positions, and another 75.2 innings in center field. He was selected as a backup for the 2015 All-Star Game, being the first player ever to have made the squad while starting at 7 different positions during the year. He’ll have the Boston fans’ hearts forever after hitting for the cycle in Game 3 of the 2018 ALCS against the Yankees even if it was a 16-1 route, and even if he hit the homer off of the backup catcher. He won’t overpower anyone with the bat, but he did have a career-high OBP of .369 last year, with a career mark of .340. The 32-year old will provide a lot of versatility for Craig Counsell.
FIRST SPRING TRAINING
The Brewers opened the first spring training in February with a roster of 60 players, which included a full 40-man roster and 20 non-roster invitees.
3/9/20: Optioned OF Corey Ray and RHP Trey Supak to AAA San Antonio. Assigned 3B Lucas Erceg, C Mario Feliciano, C Payton Henry, LHP Clayton Andrews, RHP Jesus Castillo, RHP Thomas Jankins, RHP Drew Rasmussen, RHP Miguel Sanchez and LHP Ethan Small to minor league camp. 49 in camp (38 40-man roster players + 11 NRIs).
3/18/20: Optioned 1B/3B Ryon Healy, IF Mark Mathias, IF Ronny Rodriguez and C David Freitas to AAA San Antonio. 45 in non-existent camp (34 40-man roster players + 11 NRIs).
3/26/20: Optioned RHP J.P. Feyereisen to AA Biloxi. Optioned LHP Angel Perdomo, C Jacob Nottingham, RHP Bobby Wahl and RHP Eric Yardley to AAA San Antonio.
5/28/20: San Antonio Missions released IF Andres Blanco.
6/27/20: Optioned OF Tyrone Taylor to AAA San Antonio.
By this point, spring training had been cancelled, and the roster for a non-existent camp was at 38, which consisted of 28 40-man roster players and 10 NRIs. The NRIs left over were RHP Justin Grimm, OF Keon Broxton, UT Jace Peterson, 1B Logan Morrison, C Tuffy Gosewich, RHP Jake Faria, RHP Aaron Wilkerson, RHP Zack Brown, RHP Mike Morin and RHP Shelby Miller.
BREWERS ANNOUNCE 45-MAN SUMMER CAMP ROSTER
Like the Cardinals, the Brewers only named a smaller number of players to their Club Player Pool, all of whom have been invited to Summer Camp. That leaves 15 spots open for their Alternate Training Site, which will take place in Appleton, Wisconsin, the home of the club’s Class A Wisconsin Timber Rattlers. Appleton is about 1.5 hours north of Milwaukee up Interstate 41.
The players listed in italics below are non-40-man roster players. The pitcher’s handedness is listed in parentheses. Also in the parentheses is the number of minor league options remaining, if the player is on the 40-man roster. If there is no number in parentheses for a 40-man roster player, that indicates he is out of options. If “N/A” is in parentheses, that means that he technically has minor league options remaining, but because he has 5 years of more of MLB service time, he may not be assigned to the minor leagues without his consent.
SUMMER CAMP ROSTER
Brett Anderson (L, N/A), Ray Black (R), Zack Brown (R), Corbin Burnes (R, 2), Alex Claudio (L, 1), Jake Faria (R), J.P. Feyereisen (R, 3), Justin Grimm (R), Josh Hader (L, 2), Adrian Houser (R), Corey Knebel (R), Eric Lauer (L, 3), Josh Lindblom (R), Shelby Miller (R), Mike Morin, Freddy Peralta (R, 2), David Phelps (R, N/A), Drew Rasmussen, Brent Suter (L, 2), Bobby Wahl (R, 2), Devin Williams (R, 3), Brandon Woodruff (R, 1), Eric Yardley (R, 3)
David Freitas (1), Omar Narvaez (3), Jacob Nottingham (1), Manny Pina
Orlando Arcia (1), Jedd Gyorko (N/A), Ryon Healy (3), Keston Hiura (2), Brock Holt (N/A), Mark Mathias (3), Logan Morrison, Jace Peterson, Ronny Rodriguez (2), Justin Smoak, Eric Sogard, Luis Urias (2)
Ryan Braun (N/A), Keon Broxton, Lorenzo Cain (N/A), Ben Gamel (1), Avisail Garcia (N/A), Christian Yelich (N/A)
ROSTER ANALYSIS AND NOTES
*Only 4 40-man roster players have so far been excluded from camp: LHP Angel Perdomo (last played in AAA), RHP Trey Supak (AA/AAA), OF Corey Ray (AA/AAA) and OF Tyrone Taylor (AAA/MLB). Perdomo and Ray just had their contracts purchased this past November to protect them from the Rule 5 draft. Mathias, Healy, Frietas, Rodriguez, Wahl, Yardley, Nottingham and Feyereisen have all been brought back to camp, and I am treating them as being recalled.
*There are no new players on the summer camp roster that were not invited to the first spring training. RHP Drew Rasmussen was the only NRI that was cut from the first spring training that the Brewers brought back to summer camp. Of the 10 NRIs that were left over when spring training was cancelled, only C Tuffy Gosewich and RHP Aaron Wilkerson have been left off of the CPP so far. Gosewich is 36 years old and has 5 years of MLB experience, last playing for the 2017 Arizona Diamondbacks. With 4 catchers on the 40-man roster, Gosewich has been signed as emergency depth. Wilkerson spent pitched in 14 games over the 2017-2019 seasons with the Brewers and was outrighted off of the 40-man roster last September.
*The Brewers are the most revamped club in the division, having ditched about half of their 40-man roster in one way or another from the previous season. They have a new catcher, an overhauled infield and bench and a new starting rotation. Brandon Woodruff and Adrian Houser are the only rotation mainstays left over from 2019, and will be in the starting 4 with Brett Anderson and Josh Lindblom. The 5th spot is currently a battle between Eric Lauer, Freddy Peralta and Corbin Burnes. The DH opens up some interesting options for the Brewers, who no longer have to play Ryan Braun in the field if they don’t want to. They also have a truckload of new infield options to mix and match. The novelty of the club makes it one of the most interesting in the division and the front office has signed many players on cheap 1-year deals with club options instead of making huge splashes in free agency. Thus, the club has a lot of control over its roster next year, as well.