The Brewers used this offseason to tweak some things. Replacing the departing Chris Carter with Eric Thames could be a risk and swapping Tyler Thornburg for Travis Shaw (among others) with the Red Sox should provide the Brewers with an insurance policy at first base if Thames doesn’t pan out.
The free agent signing of Neftali Feliz looks to have shored up the 9th inning for Milwaukee, but gaping holes’ loom in the rotation and bullpen.
3B Villar / Shaw / Perez
2B Gennett / Villar
1B Thames / Shaw
SS Arcia / Villar
Top Draft Picks (Studs)
Only 4 outfielders ended the year above Ryan Braun (OF) on the ESPN Player Rater (behind Betts, Trout, Blackmon and Marte and technically Kris Bryant but he was drafted as a third baseman). However, Braun is considered an unsexy pick with the emerging young talent across the Majors.
Seemingly far away removed from his 2013 “troubles”, his power looks intact (19, 25 and 30 in the last three years), the batting average has a very nice floor (only dipping below .285 once in his career) and you can expect a good amount of runs and RBIs in the heart of that lineup (235 runs and 256 RBIs in the last three years). The steals may not reach 20 again, but there’s still enough to contribute, despite only playing between 135 – 140 games since 2013.
Speaking of guys finishing behind only 4 others, Jonathan Villar (SS/2B/3B) finished 2016 5th overall on the ESPN Rater (behind Betts, Altuve, Trout and Scherzer). Villar’s speed was on display in Houston, but a lack of playing time scuppered his chances of relevance.
In a time where stolen bases are diminishing and home runs are hit more freely, having a guy with Villar’s speed is huge. Pair that with his positional flexibility and you’ve got the makings of a star.
Then sprinkle in a dozen or so home runs, a batting average topping the league average and scoring close to 100 runs, drafting Villar early will pretty much set you on your way for steals the remainder of your draft. And unlike some stolen base guys, shouldn’t hurt you anywhere else.
High Upside (Sleepers)
If you’re looking for that late in the day pick to guide you to glory, look no further than Keon Broxton (OF).
At 26, he’s no young kid anymore so will most likely fly under the radar as your fellow league-mates look for that shiny new toy to play with.
But Broxton hit 9 homers and stole 23 bases in 244 plate appearances last year. Simplistically, that translates into 22 homers and 56 stolen bases across a season of 600 plate appearances.
Broxton possesses a power/speed combination similar to Villar (maybe a bit more power and bit less speed). His batting average is what will limit Broxton’s value as he was a .255 career hitter in the minors. But his OBP of .334 in the minor leagues shows last year’s .351 OBP is not a fluke. His speed shouldn’t be hampered by a lack of opportunity.
High Downside (Busts)
Outside of Braun and Villar you’re likely not drafting a Brewers inside the first 15 rounds so it’s unlikely you’ll be hurt too much by anyone in Milwaukee. But Eric Thames (1B) has the potential to bite you on the rear.
Thames’ huge numbers in Korea was enough to tempt Milwaukee to sign him and people will look at his 40+ homers in the KBO as reason to view him as a trendy sleeper pick.
But consider this; in his two years as a Major Leaguer before heading to Korea; Thames hit 21 homers in 684 plate appearances with a .250 average. Hardly setting the world alight. Those of you who drafted Byung Ho Park last year will not need reminding.
If you miss out on one of the first base stars and want to wait in drafts, look elsewhere.
Neftali Feliz (RP) should start the season as the Brewers closer. Whether he finishes 2016 that way is unlikely as if he succeeds in the role, he will likely be traded. If he fails, he’ll lose the job pretty early you would imagine.
But his 2015 abomination was sandwiched between two good years in relief and he’s got closer experience, which MLB managers seem to cherish. If you want a stash or handcuff, Corey Knebel (RP) looks most likely to step in to replace Feliz as closer.
Impact Minor Leaguers
Part of the deal which saw Lucroy and Jeffress head to Texas, Lewis Brinson (OF) was the key part of the return for the Brewers. A coveted prospect who MLB Pipeline currently ranks Brinson as the 14th best in all of baseball (and 4th amongst outfielders).
He’s got a combo of power and speed the Brewers seem to be coveting and his defense is more than good enough to help him stick while the bat adjusts. The Brewers look like they want Brinson to be their center fielder but he has the quickness and the arm to play in either of the corner sports.
Also, keep an eye out for Josh Hader (SP) this Spring. Hader’s fastball/slider repertoire has the potential to strikeout a considerable number of hitters from both sides of the plate. If he can solidify his changeup and limit the walks, he should make the Brewers rotation to start the year and will be a nice late pickup in your drafts.
To put into context how historically good Villar’s 2016 was, only one other player has hit 19+ home runs and stolen 62+ bases in the last 25 years. And that was Jose Reyes’ 2006 season when he went 19 HR’s & 64 SB’s.
No one has ever achieved that feat scoring less than the 92 runs Villar did in 2016.
Article written by Jaime Steed for TheFantasyFix.com.