Brewers Top 10 Prospects – Midseason Report

Its been an up and down year for the Baby Brewers (that’s my nickname for the Minor League System). Compiling data from my network of scouts is exhausting work, but I’m happy to present my top 10 prospects from 2014:

1. Nick Ramirez – 1B, Huntsville – Has been IBB’d 6 times already this year in the MINOR LEAGUES. You know how many times Barry Bonds got IBB’d in the Minor Leagues? ZERO. Now we here at RRSMB aren’t saying Ramirez is the next Barry Bonds, but the feedback from opposing Southern League managers suggests he is feared more than Bonds was at the same level. 

2Andy Hillis – Pitcher, Arizona – His K rate of 22.0 per 9 is more than double that of Felix Hernandez (9.6). Has a unique delivery where he snaps it like a football long snapper. We’ll see what happens as he moves up the ranks, but rookie ball hitters are having a hard time picking up his release point.

3. Hector Gomez – SS, Nashville: After leading Huntsville with 16 sac bunts last year, Gomez has focused on HBP this year, getting drilled 6 times already in 2014. His 80 grade HBP tool translates well in my MLE projection system.

4. Juan De Los Santos – OF/1B/2B, DSL Brewers – Bit of a sleeper here, he’s run into shockingly bad luck this year. 7.8% of the balls he has hit in play have resulted in GIDP. That sort of GIDPBABIP can’t continue, so look for him to shoot up the prospect rankings in the next few years. His heat map is just a huge burnt orange blob, that’s the type of potential we’re talking about here.

5Chris Razo – Pitcher, Wisconsin: Flashes a plus plus screwball, a plus knuckle curve and fringe-average eephus. He’s struck out 11.1 K/9 thus far, better than Felix Hernandez (9.6)

6. Milan Post - Catcher and DH, Arizona – Best Dutch prospect in the organization. Despite wearing wooden cleats at all times, he’s hit two doubles in 2014.

7. Nathan Orf – OF, Nashville – Leads the Org with 4 sac flies in 2014. With the struggles the MLB team has had with runners on 3B and less than two outs, expect a possible call up later this year. His Sac Fly ability has the potential to actualize at the MLB level and we see him as a 2nd division starter.

8. Tom Gorzelanny – Pitcher, Nashville: Made his triumphant return to the minors, giving up only 2 runs in 15.2 IP this year, spliting time between Nashville and Brevard. Prospect to keep an eye on.

9. Tommy Toldeo, Pitcher, Huntsville – Fun fact, NOT from Toledo. Carries a 39 K / 1 IBB ratio. He has finished 10 games without a save due to his strong belief that closers aren’t things.

10. Natanael Mejia – Catcher, Helena: Has hit 10 more minor league HRs than I have. A guy tried to steal on him earlier in the year and he got him out. Has a 21/7 BB/GIDP ratio, which projects out to a .897 OPS at the major league level once his tools actualize.

 

 

 

Brewers Base Running

There are certain things fans of every team think their favorite team is bad at – driving in the guy from 3rd with less than 2 outs, hitting with runners in scoring position, moving runners over, striking out in big situations, overall defense (most teams), terrible bench guys, and base running.

The last one is relevant in the Brewer world as they had a rough go of it on the base paths last night. Carlos Gomez was picked off 2B early in the game. Jean Segura was thrown out by 30 feet trying to go from 1st to 3rd on a single after getting a terrible jump and perhaps fatally, Logan Schafer got nailed at 3rd trying to advance on a ball hit to the SS in the 8th inning.

So of course last night the Brewers were the worst base running team on the planet, but are they any good at base running overall? Are they terrible?

Things the Brewers seem good at to the casual fan (aka me):

  1. They do a good job of grabbing the extra base when there is a play at the plate. Its almost automatic that if a there is a play at the plate on a single, the guy who hit the siingle gets to second base.
  2. Carlos Gomez is amazing on the base paths. He will have the occasional high profile mistake (like last night) but the amount of extra bases he’s able to grab is great. Earlier this year, from second base, I saw him watch a grounder to 3B, wait for the 3B to throw it to 1B and sneak over and take 3B anyways. Incredible.
  3. They had a rough start to the year stealing bases, realized the SBs weren’t happening and have picked their spots better, going 25-31 since June 1st.
  4. I feel like most Brewer fans would disagree, but I like Ed Sedar’s work at 3B. He generally does a good job of knowing the game situation and realizing the value in trying to scoring a guy from third with 2 outs. I’m often surprised at how many people would rather hold a guy at 3B and take a chance with the next guy getting a base hit rather than challenging the defense to make multiple good throws in order to get a guy out at home. You never remember all the times a player scored from 3B or when it easily worked because someone missed a cut-off or wasn’t close on the play at the plate.

Things the Brewers are terrible at to the casual fan:

  1. It seems like they get thrown out way too much on dumb mental mistakes. I’m fine making the occasional aggressive play, trying to score from 3B and getting thrown out happens, but running from 2B to 3B on a ball hit to the SS or taking off for home on a grounder directly to the drawn in 3B is enough to drive a man crazy.
  2. Gomez and Segura are very fast, the rest of the team is painfully slow. Overbay, Reynolds, Ramirez, Injured Braun and Davis are super slow, Lucroy is sorta slow and Weeks/Scooter are OK. They do what they can but with slow guys they’re only able to put so much pressure on the defense with aggressive base running.
  3. They’re not prolific base stealers. Segura and Gomez will take the occasional base but that’s about it. With Gomez getting older and better at hitting he’s taken fewer chances. Segura struggles to get on base, Braun struggles to get on the field and exchanging Aoki for Davis has limited the damage they’ve been able to do on the bases in past years.
  4. The contact play seemed like it hurt them earlier in the year but RRR has cut down on it, or maybe its just working and I’m not noticing.

They actually have base running stats to track a lot of this stuff. These stats account for SB success and taking extra bases via Sac Flies, advancing on ground balls, etc.

Baseball Prospectus has the Brewers rated 2nd overall in the majors at this stat and Frangraphs has the Brewers as the 4th best team in baseball. The TOOTBLAN database is pretty awesome and brings up bad memories, but hard to draw any conclusions from it.

It’d be fun to point out how wrong those stats are, but outside of the broad parameters of them its hard to tell the exact formula – how context is accounted for, game score, inning, etc. They run into the same struggles defensive metrics do, not every “ground ball, RF” is created equal. My guess is a lot of the context is left out, but that’s true of most stats.

We can look at previous years. The Brewers were 15th last year and 14th the year before that in the BP rankings. They were 20th and 5th in the Fangraphs ratings during the same time.

The smaller sample of 2014 seems to be a bit of an outlier from past years with personal you wouldn’t expect an outlier from, so perhaps their looks (ie Aramis lumbering around the bases) and the occasional high profile misadventure distract from what is a great base running team. I suspect they’re probably not as good as the rankings, yet not nearly as bad as you would have thought had you checked Brewers Twitter last night.

That said, it can and has cost them games, or at minimum substantially hurt their odds of winning individual games. If Khris Davis drops a routine fly ball in the 8th inning that allows a run to score, we’d justifiably blame that for the reason they lost. I’m fine doing that with dumb base running (hi Logan) when applicable. Some mistakes aren’t done trying to be aggressive or gain an advantage, they’re just dumb mistakes.

Speaking of base running, it relates to my favorite Brett Lawrie story I heard a while back that I’m choosing to believe is true: back in 2009 during his first spring training they had every minor league player from all levels on the field together and instructors were going over base running basics, saying stuff like “Macha likes when you do this, Macha wants guys to focus on that, etc” Lawrie speaks up, in front of everyone, and says “who the fuck is Macha and who gives a shit what he thinks about base running?” Like I said, I’m choosing to believe this is true.

Bullpen Watch 2014

We had a look at the devastating effect Wei Chung Wang has had on bullpen usage a few weeks ago. With the official halfway point of the season upon us, a look at where the bullpen is projected to be at by the end of the year using the RRSMB patented formula: current innings x 2.

K-Rod – 80.2 IP
Will Smith – 75
Zach Duke – 62
Brandon Kintzler – 60
Rob Wooten – 50

Again for reference, the 2011 team:

Axford – 73
Loe- 72
K-Rod 71
Bunch of other guys with less innings

K-Rod is certainly up there this year, which is fine because we don’t care about K-Rod.

Will Smith is on the high end as well, probably something to keep an eye on. The rest of the bullpen looks about average in terms of usage.

We’re through 81 games with an empty roster spot with 56 more to go until rosters expand and the Brewers finally have room for both Fiers and Figaro instead of just one of them, or maybe Logan Schafer can bring his good looks back to Miller Park. The possibilities of marginal players available for the Brewers to bring up are endless..

This concludes the mid-season BULLPEN WATCH.

Power Ranking the Wall of Honor Attendees

Ranking my excitement level for the former players in the house tonight. Bonus points if the players haven’t been back much or if they played during the 90s. Negative points if they were responsible for destroying the team during the 90s.

  1. Hank Aaron
  2. Bob Uecker
  3. Ben Sheets
  4. Teddy Higuera
  5. Greg Vaughn
  6. Rollie Fingers
  7. BJ Surhoff
  8. Geoff Jenkins
  9. Sixto Lezcano
  10. Robin Yount
  11. Charlie Moore
  12. Mike Caldwell
  13. Cal Eldred
  14. Bob Wickman
  15. Cecil Cooper
  16. Moose Haas
  17. Ben Oglivie
  18. Ted Simmons
  19. Jim Gantner
  20. Don Money
  21. Richie Sexson
  22. Mike Fetters
  23. Daryl Hamilton
  24. Bill Wegman
  25. Fernando Vina
  26. Gorman Thomas
  27. Dan Plesac
  28. Jamie Navarro
  29. Ken Sanders
  30. Jeromy Burnitz
  31. Jim Slaton
  32. Johnny Briggs
  33. Bill Travers
  34. Jim Colborn
  35. Bud Selig
  36. Craig Counsell
  37. Mark Loretta
  38. Bill Castro
  39. Jerry Augustine
  40.  Sal Bando

Good Teams Bad Players -The Forgotten Brewers

Last night a discussion broke out on Twitter over random, bad, former Brewers. What started with Irving Falu spiraled into a Chris Magruder, Trent Durington and Brandon Boggs discussion. This got me thinking, what would an all-bad Brewer team look like?

Couple parameters – to be eligible this player had to have been on an at least moderately successful Brewer team (we’ll set the bar at 80 wins) because otherwise we’d just list the entire 2002 roster. I’m also going to limit this to the last decade or so, since I’m more familiar with that era than earlier “successful teams.”

Edit – A response on Twitter got me thinking about other parameters -this player could not have been a non-injury related full time starter (sorry Yuni) nor have enough value that he could have been traded for something (Chris Dickerson)

C –  Wil Nieves – Nieves saw 54 PAs on the 2011 team. He broke camp with the team due to a Jonathon Lucroy injury and even stayed on the team for a couple weeks after Lucroy returned as the Brewers decided they had to keep him and his .140/.189/.180 slash line around as part of a 3 catchers rotation.

He was then traded to the Braves for $1. I wish I was making this up.

Runner up: Yorvit Torrealba – does anyone remember he was on the team?

1B – Brad Nelson – He only played 2 innings at 1B as a late game fill-in for Prince but that’s enough to make the list. Poor Brad Nelson. He went 0-21 to start the 2009 season and was never heard from again.

2B - Scooter Gennett, Hernan Iribarren –  Hernan actually put up a pretty good line as a 23 year old in Hunstville in 2007 (.307/.363/.430), fell off a little bit in AAA the next year but got the call up for the 2008 Brewers. He had 29 ABs over the next two years, hit .185 and was never heard from again.

Runner up – Eric Farris

SS – Irving Falu – He has more game crushing GIDPs than hits so far in 2014.

Runner up – Edwin Maysonet

3B – Brooks Conrad – Conrad saw one game at 3B on the 2012 which is enough to make the list. Brought in because he could switch hit (or something) he went 3-40 at the plate during his short time with the team.

Runner up: Trent Durrington

OF – Mel Stocker – I loved Mel Stocker, a poor man’s Herb Washington. Brought up to be a Pinch Runner in September of 2007, he went 0-3 at the plate but appeared in 7 games strictly as a PR, going 4-4 on Stolen Base attempts.

OF – Erick Almonte – Almonte had a good spring training in 2011 and the Brewers rewarded him with a roster spot. He rewarded them by going 3-29 at the plate and was promptly cut, never seeing the majors again.

OF- Elian Herrera – He’s just as bad as most on this list, yet has 55 PAs and counting. He’s hit a robust .226/.241/.264. He does look like a smaller version of Yuni so that’s something I guess. We’ll forget all about him the moment he is gone.

Runner ups: Chris Magruder, , Chris Duffy, Jason Bourgeois, Corey Patterson

With these parameters in place, who’d I miss?

Brewers Bullpen Usage

After the top bullpen guys pitched seemingly every single day in April there was a lot of worry about usage, the “on pace for 124 games” and the like. With the season officially a third of the way done, a look at where the top guys stand.

K-Rod is on pace for 81 IP
Thornburg – 75 IP
Smith – 75 IP
Duke – 63 IP
Bunch of other guys projected for less

Compare that to the 2011 team, which I’ll use since it was the last competitive team where the bullpen would be pushed to the max and top guys would be needed frequently to close out games.

Axford – 73
Loe- 72
K-Rod 71
Bunch of other guys with less innings

So its slightly over, but nothing huge. K-Rod is on pace for a lot, but he’s only pitched 11 innings in May, even recently coming into a non-close game because he needed work. Plus I think we’re all fine with burning him out this year while he’s going good and long term isn’t really a concern.

Brewers Schedule so far

Early season usage gets somewhat tricky because there are oftentimes a lot of weather related postponements and unscheduled off days.

The Brewers however, haven’t had many of those (thanks Miller Park!). They’ve played 54 games already. Two teams have played 55, and 19 teams have played 53 or less. The Tigers amazingly have only played 49 games.

Extra Innings

Another key factor on usage is extra innings. Bullpen is obviously going to be huge for that. The Brewers have had to cover 17.2 extra innings. For comparison, they averaged 26 innings per year from 2011-2013. This team is either going to have LOT of extra innings to cover this year, or the first third of the season is an outlier and we’ll have much fewer of them the rest of the year.

Close games

They have played 18 one run games (multiply that out, 54 one run games). They averaged 49 one run games from 2011-2013. Is this team destined to play a ton of one run games due to the offense being less than it once was? Perhaps, though their 33% percentage of one run games is already very high, and much more than that seems like a reach. As others have pointed out, the offense has been better and creeping back up to previous levels.

What the above is getting at:

They have played an above average number of one run games. They’ve had to cover an above average amount of extra innings. They haven’t had many off-days (scheduled or otherwise) for breaks.

With all that in mind, the top of the bullpen can probably expect less work in the final 2/3rds of the season vs the first third.

There is the factor of September when pitchers may be asked to pile on the innings when games become literal must-wins. In 2011 Axford only pitched 11 innings, K-Rod 11.2. This might have been an outlier, just how the games fell, but even if its the most extreme usage needed I’m not sure it will be able to match the pretty high usage of this April.

Even projected out the first third, with above average extra innings, close games and few off days, the pitchers STILL aren’t projected for a crazy amount of innings. At most it seems like they’ll end up in the low to mid 70s in IP and while high, certainly seems do-able.

wang

 

WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAANNNNNNNNNNNNNGGGGGGGGGGG

So I’ve made it this far in a post about bullpen usage without mentioning everyone’s favorite pitcher. Unbelievable I know.

Even with him taking a roster spot, the top tier bullpen guys aren’t on a Dusty Baker path to destruction with IP and it seems completely do-able at this point.

They may have gotten through the worst of the schedule/close games/extra innings where they’d be needed. When rosters expand in September and games really start to matter (fingers crossed) he’ll be a non-factor anyways.

Flexibility with options and injuries

The other nice thing about the Brewers pen, in addition to everyone being pretty good is that they have options and depth. Figaro, Hand, Nelson and Fiers are sitting in AAA, a phone call away. Wooten will probably join them when/if Henderson is ready. If they need help after a 12 inning game, taxing doubleheader or an injury, they have the guys ready to go.

This team seems like an ideal fit to bury a guy. A solid bullpen where everyone other than Wang has a sub 3.50 ERA, lots of options if needed in an emergency and a good starting pitching staff that averages over 6 innings per start.

There is of course the risk that they get into a 14 inning game and have to use Wang in a close game, but the rarity of that situation, plus Wang still being an MLB pitcher (3 of his 6 appearances have been scoreless, so you never know!), makes it worth the risk of keeping him around.

Brewers Job Opening – Laundry Assistant

Last Thursday the Milwaukee Brewers updated their website’s Job Opportunities page. I’m grossly unqualified for stuff like “Architect- Baseall systems” or “Developer- Baseball systems” and moving to Milwaukee to be a ticket operations intern probably wouldn’t sit too well with my wife.

However I was intrigued by the Laundry Assistant position, I do the laundry at home so actually had some skills for it, or so I thought. Boy was I wrong.

Behold the job description:

Reasonable accommodations may be made to enable individuals with disabilities to perform the essential functions.  Other duties may be assigned.

  • Loads articles into washer and adds specified amount of detergent, soap, or other cleaning agent.
  • Turns valve/ Start buttons to fill washer with water.
  • Starts machine that automatically washes and rinses articles.
  • Lifts clean, wet articles from washer and places them successively into driers for measured time cycles.
  • Sorts dried articles according to identification numbers or type.
  • Folds and places item in appropriate storage bin.
  • Clean drier of lint and debris.
  • Sorts and counts articles to verify quantities on laundry lists.
  • Soaks contaminated articles in neutralizer solution for stain removal and washing.
Qualifications:

To perform this job successfully, an individual must be able to perform each essential duty satisfactorily. The requirements listed below are representative of the knowledge, skill, and/or ability required.

  • Must be able to regularly lift and /or move up to 25 pounds.
  • Must be comfortable working on an independent basis during night time hours.

Education and/or Experience

High school diploma or general education degree (GED); and three to six months related experience and/or training; or equivalent combination of education and experience.

Computer Skills

To perform the job successfully, an individual should have knowledge of Microsoft office software including Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Access, Outlook, and Internet Explorer.

Hours vary according to the game and event schedule.

Work Hours

Hours vary according to the game and event schedule.  Work hours will vary with the game schedule.  This position starts at the completion of each home game until all laundry is completed (estimated 5-6 hour shift).  For example, hours for a 7:10 p.m. game would be approximately 9:30 p.m. to 4:00 a.m.; for a 1:00 game, the hours would be approximately 4:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m


 

Immediately a couple things jump out – why does this person need to know how to use Microsoft Access or Powerpoint? I’m convinced Microsoft Access is actually made up. I had a line in my resume about being qualified in Microsoft Access even though I have no earthly idea what it is.  Why are the Brewers using Internet Explorer? What kind of organization is Mark A running? Good God this is a mess.

More important, what sort of laundry machine are the Brewers dealing with? It has multiple start buttons and a valve, and its unclear if that even gets it to turn on?

To help clear up the confusion, I’ve put together my best representation of the Milwaukee Brewers laundry process

brewers washing machine

 

My hope is this clarifies what the laundry process for any potential applicants. I expect this position to go unfilled for most of the summer, because it is impossible.