The reports are that Christian Yelich has signed a 9-year extension with the Milwaukee Brewers worth around $215 million. This contract is a slam dunk, homerun, touchdown and every other possible success pun you can possibly think of. The 2018 MVP is now the face of Brewers baseball for the foreseeable future and Milwaukee got him at a discount in today’s market.
Let’s look at what got us to this point. The Brewers had to make a move to compete with the 2018 off-season that saw the St. Louis Cardinals add Marcel Ozuna and a Cubs team that had been in control of the central division for two years. Milwaukee gave up a handful of prospects highlighted by Lewis Brinson (#13 overall at the time). The group also included Monte Harrison, Isan Diaz and Jordan Yamamoto. Brinson has been below average, Yamamoto is nothing special and Isan Diaz is still TBD. The Brewers gave up a core of mediocre prospects to get a guy that could be the best player in baseball behind Mike Trout for the next ten years.
We look back at the three headed monster that was once the Florida Marlins outfield and we all knew that there was a historically great player there, we just didn’t pick the right one. No one was listening when Team USA manager Jim Leyland was telling everyone that on this team of great players Christian Yelich was going to be the future batting champion. We laughed when he was put into the leadoff spot. It was a look into the future, Yelich was quietly proclaimed the next big thing. The world just seemed to ignore it.
Yelich is the player of the analytics era combined with the classic tools. Yelich has a 14.7 offensive WAR over the last two seasons. He has led the league in OPS the last two seasons. He was the fourth best base runner in the league last season. He has the classic power numbers and stolen base numbers. Yelich is 28 years old, this contract will take him into the decline of his career. Milwaukee is a small market team that made this move because they have seen how quickly things can change in Major League Baseball. Prince Fielder left them for free agency, Ryan Braun stopped juicing and went into immediate decline. Players like Yelich are not found every day. In the case of the Brewers they made a smart move and got the diamond in the rough known as Miami. Despite still having three years of control over Yelich making this move allows the Brewers to build for the future around him and their young second baseman Keston Hiura.
Milwaukee may not like this contract in six years. Contracts like Joey Votto, Miggy Cabrera and Albert Pujols are examples of guys cashing in during the prime of their careers. Yelich deserved this money. The Brewers fans deserve to have this guy be the face of their franchise. It is a good move for the organization right now.
The Milwaukee Brewers made it to the National League Wild Card game in 2019 thanks to a dominant second half of the season. The Brewers went an amazing 42-29 in the second half propelling them into the playoffs and nearly catching the St. Louis Cardinals for the division lead. What made this even more amazing is that they had much of their success without the league’s MVP Christian Yelich.
Position Players: Yasmani Grandal, Mike Moustakas, Travis Shaw, Eric Thames and Trent Grisham
Pitchers: Jordan Lyles, Chase Anderson, Zach Davies, Drew Pomeranz and Junior Guerra
Position Players: Luis Urias, Jedd Gyroko, Omar Narvaez, Avisail Garcia and Ryon Healy
Pitchers: Eric Lauer, Josh Lindblom and Brett Anderson
How do you replace Yasmani Grandal?
Yasmani Grandal signed a bargain deal with Milwaukee in 2019, he paid off his price giving the Brewers a 5.2 WAR, ranked just second behind JT Realmuto. Grandal was a major reason that the Brewers were able to handle the loss of Yelich providing stability in the middle and sometimes top of the order.
With Grandal out the Brewers went out and added Omar Narvaez. LOVE this move. Narvaez is the perfect replacement on the offensive end for Grandal. Quietly one of the best upcoming offensive catchers in all of baseball, Narvaez smashed 22 homers last season in Seattle and was able to produce a comparable slash line with Grandal
Narvaez doesn’t bring the pitch framing that Grandal does but he is serviceable and will be a perfect split with defensive minded Manny Pina in 2020.
Whos on the corners?
Milwaukee will have to replace all of their corner infield players in 2020. Ryan Braun will be moving to first base a position he has little experience playing while third base projects to be a mix of the returning Eric Sogard, Luis Urias and Jedd Gyroko.
Eric Sogard is coming off of a career season splitting time between the Blue Jays and Rays, providing both teams with a consistent bat finishing with a 2.8 WAR. Sogard will likely be primarily a 3B/SS option for Milwaukee as they have established Keston Hiura as the face of the franchise along with Christian Yelich.
The Brewers would love for Luis Urias to take over 3rd base. Urias could see time at shortstop if Orlando Arcia is not able to hit at the major league level. Picking up Urias was a great move by the organization, adding a guy that was recently a top 35 prospect. Arcia has shown the ability to be a defensive force but the offense has not had an impact on the major league level. I could see Urias being the full time shortstop by the end of the 2020 season.
Does the rotation have enough to compete?
Milwaukee has found success without the need of a strong rotation for two years. They have found a way to piece together wins by getting the most out of the starters they have and utilizing a stellar bullpen. 2020 will see a similar approach. The rotation will be headlined by 2019 All Star Brandon Woodruff. Woodruff was establishing himself as the ace of the staff before an oblique injury sidelined him for most of the second half of the season. With Woodruff the Brewers have a starter that they can build their rotation around. The organization moved on from mainstays Zach Davies and Chase Anderson in the offseason to open up spots for a few question marks.
The projected rotation at the moment according to ESPN and Rotochamp would be Brandon Woodruff, Adrian Houser, Josh Lindblom, Brett Anderson, Eric Lauer and Brent Suter. If you were counting that would be six names for five spots. The Brewers will most likely go with a five man rotation but outside of Woodruff the pitchers behind him have not been known for their ability to pitch long into games.
The most intriguing players that will be given a chance would be former Padre Eric Lauer, 25, has the most potential of the projected starters. Lauer is still young and was able to provide a terrible Padres squad with a 2.4 WAR in 2019 but his xFIP was pedestrian at 4.77. If Lauer can handle the smaller confines of Miller Park he should be a valuable piece in the long term for Milwaukee.
Josh Lindblom is an interesting piece to the puzzle. 2019 saw a revitalization of his career while pitching in the KBO, receiving the Most Valuable Player award. Lindblom has spent time in the majors with four different clubs most recently with the Pirates in 2017. Can he have similar success as pitchers like Miles Mikolas have had after seemingly reinventing themselves in other leagues? Only time will tell.
The Brewers rotation will be the biggest question as they head into spring training. Their success beyond just the division will be determined by their health and progression.
The Brewers made a lot of changes in the offseason. Players like Avisail Garcia and Omar Narvaez should thrive in more hitter friendly atmospheres. A full year of Keston Huira and Christian Yelich being healthy for opening day should also be a spark to the offense. Josh Hader and company will be great as they have been for the last few years. It’s about the rotation, if the rotation can take big strides in 2020 Milwaukee will be a force in the central again.
If the Brewers find themselves in need of help going into the trade market they will have some problems as they have depleted what was once a very promising farm system. Currently they rank 29th in baseball according to Bleacher Report. This team is built to compete right now, they are young and have a terrific manager in Craig Counsell. I would project them as a clear contender for a Wild Card spot heading into the season, anything past that would be a surprise.
Pitcher Spotlight- Jack Flaherty, St. Louis Cardinals
Jack Flaherty is priced at just $9,000 versus the Kansas City Royals, making him the seventh highest price pitcher on the slate. At such a low-price Flaherty is a bargain for all DFS players. Jack has been on another level since the All-Star break. Flaherty has totaled over 18 fantasy points in seven straight starts, including his two most recent starts where he scored 35 and 36 versus the Chicago Cubs and Los Angeles Dodgers.
One of Flaherty’s biggest problems has been giving up power which the Royals as a team don’t bring a lot of those concerns. As a team they only have an ISO of .160. If Flaherty can avoid the power of Jorge Soler and Hunter Dozier he should be ripe for another high scoring outing.
Potential Stacks- Milwaukee Brewers, St. Louis Cardinals, Los Angeles Dodgers and Los Angeles Angels
The focus for my stack will be on the Milwaukee Brewers. Martin Perez has become the Martin Perez of the last few seasons over the last three months his ERA has ballooned to a 6.67ERA during the second half of the season. Perez has given up a ton of power to righties the entire season, a .459 slugging percentage has led to a lot of short outings. Perez combined with the struggles of the Minnesota bullpen should put the Brewers in nice spot for a four-man stack. I am going to build my lineup around Keston Huira, Ryan Braun and Mike Moustakas can all be affordable along with some plays from the Dodgers against the regression of Jordan Yamamoto.
Sneaky Stack- Philadelphia Phillies
Attacking the struggling Jose Quintana is a great option for underpriced power. Rhys Hoskins is underpriced at just $4.1K, if you pair him along with Jean Segura and Scott Kingery at the top of the lineup you can stack some top-level pitching with the stack.
P: Jack Flaherty, St. Louis Caridinals, $9,000
P: Joe Ross, Washington Nationals, $5,500
C: Yadier Molina, St. Louis Cardinals, $3,000
1B: Max Muncy, Los Angeles Dodgers, $4,700
2B: Keston Huira, Milwaukee Brewers, $5,000
3B: Mike Moustakas, Milwaukee Brewers, $4,400
SS: Corey Seager, Los Angeles Dodgers, $4,000
OF: Cody Bellinger, Los Angeles Dodgers, $5,400
OF: Lane Thomas, St. Louis Cardinals, $4,300
OF: Ryan Braun, Milwaukee Brewers, $4,700
The Cardinals schedule to start the season was not ideal. Opening up in Milwaukee with a group of young starters in a hitters park is not going to turn out well no matter how much talent you have. The Brewers are who we though they were a potential offensive juggernaut that has limitations everywhere else of the field. Nevertheless that Cardinals were one blown save away from a split to start the season. The scheduling god seemed to continue their cruel joke forcing the Cardinals to make as second trip to Milwaukee just two week later following a trip to Monterrey, Mexico. The Cardinals were able to salvage the final game of the series, starting the season just 2-5 against the defending Central Division Champs. The third series versus the Brewers may only be a beginning of the week late April showdown but this could be a defining moment in the race for the Central crown. The Cardinals need to come out and take advantage of a Brewers team that is dealing with serious pitching injuries. Let’s breakdown how and why the Cardinals must win this series.
Pitching matchups favor the Cardinals in 2 of 3.
Jack Flaherty has been tagged by the Brewers in two early starts giving up 9 runs and 16 hits in seven innings. Ryan Braun and Lorenzo Cain in particular have crushed Flaherty with a combined average of .492 over 23 at bats this season. Flaherty has been great at home this season in two starts with a 0.82 ERA in two starts. The Brewers will have Adrian Houser on the mound making his first start of the season. Since this is Houser’s first career start he will most likely dominate for the first 4 innings or so until the Cardinals unleash the second time through.
Zach Davies who is what you would call the opposite of a Cardinal Killer, in particular Matt Carpenter has owned Davies to a .455BA in 22 career plate appearances. Davies will most likely be opposed by Daniel Ponce De Leon taking the spot of the injured Michael Wacha. Ponce De Leon has only faced the Brewers in relief where he pitched in relief successfully striking out two on 14 pitches. Ponce De Leon is going have a big night. This is soley based on the fact I believe the Cardinals will jump out early and give him the confidence to dominate.
There was a time where Jouhlys Chacin would have dreaded a potential matchup with the St. Louis Cardinals, owning an 0-7 mark in nine career starts up until last June. Since then Chacin has won his last three starts against the Redbirds including a great opening day start where his struck out seven. Chacin will face off against Adam Wainwright whose been the definition of up and down during the start of the season. Waino will have to have his curve working against the powerful Milwaukee lineup. If not his 89 MPH (being gracious) fastball will be put on a tee for the power bats of Milwaukee.
Brewers coming off of 4 game sweep in LA
You always want to kick a team while they are down. The Brewers are coming off of an abysmal series in LA losing all four games to the 2018 National League Champs. Milwaukee has been dealing with a lot of injuries in the rotation which has caused them to force a few starts from guys they were not expecting including Chase Anderson and the game one starter Adrian Houser, injuries in their bullpen have also forced the hand of manager Craig Counsel putting guys in positions that they will not be successful.
Why the Cardinals have to win this series.
It is time for the Cardinals to show that they are the class of the NL Central. In game one, the Cardinals have their presumed “ace” on the mound in Jack Flaherty which should set the stage for the rest of the series. The key to victory is very simple, don’t pitch to Christian Yelich, take a advantage of the weakend Brewers starting pitching and take advantage of your home field. The Cardinals will not have any excuses if they are unable to win this series.
As the MLB season winds down it is time to find out which teams are prepared for a playoff push or just to get pushed. There are five teams on the outside of the National League playoffs that will need contributions from players that can give them that push. Who are they?
St. Louis Cardinals- Paul DeJong
The St. Louis Cardinals have lacked a power bat in their lineup since the departure of Albert Pujols. Marcell Ozuna was supposed to be that player but has not shown the power of his previous season in Miami. DeJong’s productions can be a huge contribution to a St. Louis order that tends to struggle to put runs on the board. During the month of August his contributions have been minimal despite the Cardinals beginning to show life winning nine straight games at one point.
As the Cardinals continue to fight their way to a potential wildcard they will need the productions from one of their most powerful forces in the lineup. Being a player that put his name on the map in 2017 with a ridiculous .333 ISO he has the potential to make a serious impact in the middle of the St. Louis order. If he can’t pickup the power statistics St. Louis will have a problem scoring runs down the stretch, especially if MVP candidate eventually comes back down to earth.
Milwaukee Brewers- Cory Knebel
The Milwaukee Brewers added a lot of power during the trade deadline. They didn’t however address one of the needs many thought they would, their starting rotation. Instead the Brewers will look to get what they can from the rotation and have their strong bullpen figure out the backend. All-Stars Josh Hader and the reborn Jeremy Jefferess have done their part to keep the Brewers in the race.
2017 breakout Corey Knebel has not found his form during the second half of the season. He currently holds a second half ERA of 6.75 and has become a liability on the mound. Knebel has not only had issues with walks but players are have been hitting him hard with a hard hit percentage 11% higher then 2017. For the Brewers to find their way into the playoffs they will have to rely on their bullpen for 3+ inning most nights. Knebel returning to his All Star form is the key to their success.
Colorado Rockies- Wade Davis
Positive, Wade Davis has 35 saves in 2018. Negative, Wade Davis has a 4.99ERA. The biggest off season signing for the Rockies has had an up and down first season with Colorado but his playoff experience is going to be huge for the young club over the final few weeks of the season.
Davis has seemed to find his way over his last five appearances picking up 3 saves and not giving up a single run in that span. Those appearances brought his August ERA down to 9.82. He has to build off of those games as the Rockies have little to no room for late inning blow ups down the stretch. Davis and the other Rockies bullpen arms have to hold on to leads in order to make them a real threat in the both the wild card and the division hunt.
Los Angeles Dodgers- Walker Buehler
With the lose of Kenley Jansen for an unknown amount of time the Dodgers will have need someone to step up at the backend of the bullpen. They will also need their starters to step up for more innings down the stretch. With four veterans Clayton Kershaw, Rich Hill, Kenta Maeda and Alex Wood in the rotation the one guy that will need to give them a little more length is star prospect Walker Buehler.
Over his last three August starts Buehler has shown the promise that Dodgers brass have banked on coming into the season going 2-0 with a 1.47ERA. He has also given six innings per start which is all you can ask of a young pitcher down the stretch. If Buehler can continue to produce solid outings the Dodgers could be in a great spot to overtake the unproven Arizona Diamondbacks in the West.
Philadelphia Phillies- Carlos Santana
Carlos Santana was a surprise offseason signing from the young and thought to be rebuilding Philadelphia Phillies. His defense and power seemed like a perfect fit for a time on the rise in the NL East. To the surprise of many in the baseball world the Phillies have been in the thick of the race the entire season.
Santana will have to be the force in the order that the fighting Phils thought they had signed in order to make the playoff push. With Rhys Hoskins taking on the role of offensive leader, it will be up to Santana to produce enough to force pitchers to throw to Hoskins or pay the consequences. While Santana has provided some power with 18 homers on the season, the Phillies need to have more consistency day to day. A .218 average from your four hole hitter will not scare teams enough to pitch to the hotter bats in the lineup. If Santana can’t find a way to produce the lineup depth for the Phillies ends very quickly.