(This is part two of two, you can read the first half of the official Sunday Cycle Rebuilding Plan here)
Many (a couple) of you checked in to last week’s Sunday Cycle where I outlined the first half of my plan to rebuild the players. Last week, we covered the six players I’d like to see the Brewers trade right now (one of whom, Aaron Hill, is already gone), and the six players I’d be fine parting ways with.
This week, I cover the players I’d like to see in a Brewers uniform after this season, albeit for varying amounts of time.
Wait and see: players with no current trade value, but who are worth keeping around for the time being.
Domingo Santana: He’s got lots of power and even more swagger, but he’s also been caught playing lazy baseball on multiple occasions this year. He’s got the talent to warrant sticking around, but there is no place for laziness on a championship caliber team. Injuries have cut his time on the field short this season, but I think Santana’s upside makes it worth being patient with him, at least for now.
Hernan Perez: Perez has quietly had a very impressive season for the Brewers. His numbers were so good that Craig Counsell moved him to right field just to make a spot for him in the lineup. Given all of the players that made a fuss about switching positions (Matt Garza, Rickie Weeks, and yes, even Jonathan Villar), it was a breath of fresh air to see someone willingly move out of the infield just to get an opportunity for more at bats. That’s the kind of attitude the Brewers need.
Others: Yadiel Rivera, Jake Elmore, Michael Blazek
Trade them next year: players with current trade value, but may be worth more (or make more sense) next year.
Ryan Braun: Because Ryan Braun remains one of the best all-around players in the major leagues, he seems to be the subject of nearly every trade rumor involving the Milwaukee Brewers. While I’ve been a big supporter of shipping Braun out of town, I think he might actually be more valuable next year, assuming he can continue to perform at a reasonably high level. 2017 could be the perfect time, as his contract liability would be about $20 million less than it is today. He’d also be another year removed from the back injury that plagued him during the 2015 campaign, and from his PED scandal (because time heals all wounds, right?). I also think Braun could be a valuable asset from a player development standpoint. I mean, the guy has been through it all, right? While you run the risk of his numbers dipping over the next year, I think the Brewers might actually get the return they’re expecting for Braun if they wait another year.
Scooter Gennett: Gennett has been a slightly below average second baseman for the Brewers ever since he came up to the majors a couple of years ago; but as of late, he’s started to show signs of improvement in some of his trouble areas (hitting against lefties, hitting with RISP, and his ability to make tough plays in the infield). As I’ll cover below, I believe Jonathan Villar has given the Brewers every reason to believe he could be a part of the future for a long time, but he will have to switch positions in order to do so. The Brewers number one prospect, Orlando Arcia, is about two months removed from the major leagues, and his calling card has always been his defensive ability as a short stop. Villar will need to shift to second base if the Brewers want to keep him and Arcia in the lineup, removing the need for Gennett altogether. I’d like to see the Brewers part ways with him next year.
Others: Will Smith, Chase Anderson
Keep for the rebuild: members of the 2019 World Series Champion Milwaukee Brewers
Jonathan Villar- The biggest surprise of the 2016 Milwaukee Brewers has to be the sudden rise of 26-year-old Jonathan Villar, who has been about as good as anyone could have asked given his inconsistent and untested career prior to arriving in Milwaukee. It’s worth noting that Villar has played more games this season than any of his team mates, and has earned every minute of playing time he’s been given. Villar leads the league in stolen bases with a whopping 31. He leads his team in walks with 43, and on base percentage at .378. That is exactly what leadoff hitters are supposed to do: find ways to get on base. Villar’s aggressiveness on the base pads reminds me of Carlos Gomez, and it has gotten him in trouble on a couple of occasions. What impresses me most is that his occasional foolish-aggressiveness does not carry over to his at bats. He looks at a ton of pitches, waits for his spot, and finds a way to get to first base. It’s been an absolute pleasure watching him in a Brewer’s uniform, and I’d love to see the Brewers sign him to a long term deal before the season ends.
Jimmy Nelson- In the midst of his longest slump as a big leaguer, Jimmy Nelson still enters the All Star break with a 3.62 ERA and one of the Brewer’s best starting pitchers. It’s been tough to watch Nelson struggle with what he’s typically been so dominant with- locating pitches. His current struggles aside, the Brewers have no business trading away young(ish) starting pitching talent.
I like Jimmy Nelson a lot. Even when he’s not on his game, he’s been very good at keeping games close and not allowing himself to implode even after allowing runs to score. I think he’s just in a slump, and he could still return to his dominant self before the end of the year. And while Nelson may never develop into the ace that many were hoping he would become, he could still be a dominant number three or four pitcher on a championship caliber team. The Brewers have all sorts of payroll space available to lock down Nelson for the next 3-5 years, and coming off of a subpar year, the price may be right for the Brewers to make that move.
Craig Counsell: I don’t know if the Brewers could have picked a better guy to get this ball club through a rebuild. First of all, he’s a hometown guy, which scores brownie points in baseball’s smallest market city. Secondly, he’s a two-time World Series Champion, and he became a champion by playing his role on teams that had their fair share of star power. Counsell was a lifetime .255 hitter, and yet he remained in the league for over 16 years by doing his job and knowing his role on various ball clubs.
Counsell’s influence on this team is very easy to notice. Last year, the Brewers ranked 25th in the majors with 412 walks. This year, they rank 5th with 319. And while the Brewers still lead the majors with a whopping 821 strikeouts, the casual observer of this team will notice that they’re at least striking out on pitches in the zone, something that is new for this team. I like how Counsell holds players accountable in his post-game interviews, and how he does not use the rebuild as an excuse for losing. The Brewers are 38-49, but 19 of those losses were decided by two runs or less.
I never got the sense that Craig Counsell was just going to be a placeholder manager for the Brewers to ship out of town as soon as they started winning. I think the Brewers have tasked him with the long term project of turning the Brewers into a winning organization with a winning mentality, and that’s a long process. I hope CC continues to keep his team motivated as the Brewers start to ship their stars out of town, and continues to make every day decisions that put the Brewers in a position to win in the long term.
Other: Zach Davies (as a middle reliever), Keon Broxton (SPEED), Ed Sedar (duh)
There you have it, folks! After a first half of baseball that can only be categorized as “more exciting than I thought it would be but ultimately still disappointing”, I’m excited to sit back and watch the All Star game unfold in San Diego before taking my annual one-week break from the Sunday Cycle. I’ll be back in two weeks when the trade rumors will be hotter than ever, and will stick it out with you through the rest of the season regardless of how many impact players get traded away at the end of July.