As Jeremy hinted at in the opening installment of Redleg Nation’s Milwaukee Brewers preview series, the race for fourth in the National League Central between the Rebootin’ Reds and the Rebuildin’ Brewers illustrates a philosophical dichotomy between the two clubs and how they are each approaching the refurbishment of their rosters. While each organization has been busy trading some of its more recognizable names, the Reds are targeting returns with players closer to reaching the majors, and the Brewers seem to be valuing the most talented players regardless of age or advancement.
At his introductory press conference in September, new Brewers general manager David Stearns was asked how long it would be until the Brewers are “competitive” once more.
“I am a big believer in not setting limits for any team, for any year,” said Stearns, a Harvard-educated former assistant GM with the Astros. “This is a game with a tremendous amount of variability, and we’re going to take each decision as it comes. We’ll make the decision in the interest of the overall health of the organization, and the product on the major league field is certainly a large component of that.” (MLB.com)
So, if Milwaukee’s roster is specifically tailored to favor development, what do Brewers fans have to look forward to in 2016?
Well, there should be additional shipping off of more established big leaguers in favor of young players, for one. After removing veterans Jonathan Broxton, Neal Cotts, Khris Davis, Mike Fiers, Carlos Gomez, Adam Lind, Aramis Ramirez, Francisco Rodriguez, Gerardo Parra, and Jean Segura from its roster over the past year, Milwaukee could submit Chris Carter, Aaron Hill, and Jonathan Lucroy to the chopping block this summer. It’s also possible that Matt Garza, who is owed $12.5 million in 2017 and owns a vesting option for 2018, could be moved under the right circumstances.
By selling off a considerable amount of major league talent, the Brewers have in turn significantly upgraded their youth ranks. Milwaukee’s farm system was ranked as the 21st-best in the majors by Baseball America in 2015, but after spending the better part of the last calendar year flooding their system with young talent, the Brewers rose to ninth in those same rankings in February.
The crown jewel of that refurbished farm system is a slick-fielding 21-year-old shortstop by the name of Orlando Arcia. Arcia, ranked as Milwaukee’s top farmhand by Baseball America, Baseball Prospectus, FanGraphs, MLB.com, and SB Nation, exploded onto the prospect scene in 2015 by slashing .305/.347/.453 with an adjusted run creation (wRC+) of 126 (100 is league average) at Double-A Biloxi.
Outfielder Brett Phillips — who is now internet famous because of his highly awesome/contagious laugh — is generally regarded as the Brewers’ No. 2 prospect. Phillips, who came over from the Astros in last July’s Fiers-Gomez trade, slashed .309/.374/.527 across a 2015 campaign roughly split between High-A and Double-A. In a broad sense, Phillips is essentially the Brewers’ Jesse Winker.
In any case, the Brewers appear to be playing the long game, having embraced more of a pure ‘rebuild’ than the Reds, who seem to believe they can return to relevance in 2017. So, instead of worrying about Milwaukee’s unremarkable lineup, ‘blah’ pitching staff, and already injury-riddled bullpen, Brewers’ fans are probably better off focusing on the progression of Arcia and Phillips, the underdog stories of Keon Broxton and Colin Walsh, and the future in general.
Happy Rebuilding, Milwaukee.