The Houston Astros and the Milwaukee Brewers are closely linked. The Astros and Brewers pulled off a blockbuster trade with Carlos Gomez, Mike Fiers, Brett Phillips and Domingo Satana. Then former Astros assistant general manager David Stearns joined the Brewers at the end of the 2015 season. Putting the icing on the cake, former Astros Chris Carter and Jonathan Villar made the Brewers major league roster.
TCB talks with Brew Crew Ball's manager Derek Harvey about the 2016 season and prospects:
Things appear to be a transition time with the Brewers. What are Milwaukee fans excited about this season? What are your expectations for the Brewers in 2016?
I think it depends on which part of the fan base we're talking about. You have the most casual fans who don't really get what the rebuild is all about. And then you have the fans that follow baseball more closely who are in favor of the rebuild. It's hard to get a read on the former group. A lot of them are just upset that the Brewers traded a lot of their good players from last year (K-Rod, Adam Lind, Carlos Gomez, etc.). I think a subsection of that group has convinced themselves that all that separates a playoff team from one with a losing record is willpower. So those fans are clinging to that hope.The latter group is really excited to follow the better prospects in the system. And for this year, they're looking forward to seeing guys like Orlando Arcia, Michael Reed, and Jorge Lopez (to name a few) get their first extended looks at the major league level. There's also a lot of interest in the players that might be categorized as "post-hype sleepers" like Domingo Santana, Jonathan Villar, and perhaps Chase Anderson to a lesser degree.
My expectations for the major league team are not concerning their win-loss record. I just want to see guys like Villar, Santana, Keon Broxton, Ramon Flores, Garin Cecchini, etc get extended looks throughout the year and hope that one or two of them prove they can be an average regular or better. I'm also hoping to see growth from players like Wily Peralta, Jimmy Nelson, Taylor Jungmann and others. Having them take a step forward will go a long way towards helping the Brewers build a contending team down the road.
Astros assistant general manager David Stearns has taken over the GM for the Brewers. I assume Milwaukee brought him to replicate what he helped do in Houston. Do you want the Brewers to pull a full-Astros fire sale of assets like Houston did under Jeff Luhnow? Or can the Brewers build on players like Lucroy and Braun for the future?
I adhere to the philosophy that any player is available for the right price. And I think that's probably how Stearns will operate. We've seen already that he's willing to move anyone and everyone. And I expect that to continue. However, I don't see the Stearns led Brewer rebuild to take the extreme route the Astros took. I don't really believe any team "tanks." That just doesn't work in baseball. At least, it wouldn't work now. We've seen Stearns trade a lot of major league players, but we've also seen him bring in tons of talent too, including MLB-ready players (Villar, Broxton, Anderson, Carter, Flores, Nieuwenhuis, Walsh, several relievers). I think he's casting a wide net. He's brought in 16+ players (not all major leaguers). If even an eighth of them prove to be starting caliber players, that's two or more long-term assets the Brewers didn't have before. And the actual number is likely to be higher. And that's a huge part of Stearns' rebuild. To be more precise, I think it's a more important part of the rebuild that trying for the number one pick in a given draft.
With respect to players like Lucroy and Braun, it's going to be a case by case basis. With Jonathan Lucroy, it's not a matter if "if" he'll be traded, but "when." He's under contract through 2017 and the Brewers aren't going to be able to compete for that quickly. It might also not make sense to extend a catcher into his mid-30's with where the Brewers are in their franchise cycle. They won't be competitive before 2018 and might not be truly competitive until as late as 2020. Braun is different though because he's under contract through 2020 with a mutual option for 2021. But more importantly, given the PED suspension, the thumb issue, and now coming off back surgery in the offseason, he may simply be untradeable. And even if he can be moved, teams are going to want the Brewers to eat money and (give his history) probably still try to buy low. I'm not sure Stearns will go for that. Any trade will have to make sense and I just don't see a team giving up fair value, even acknowledging the damaged nature of the goods.
How is Brett Phillips doing? The entire TCB minor league staff misses him as a prospect.What have you thought of him so far in the short time he has been with the Brewers?
Brewers fans (myself included) love Maverick. He didn't finish his minor league season quite as strongly as he started it. So some fans are kind of panicking that his power was an illusion. But most understand that 1) It was never a huge part of his game to begin with and, 2) Most projections still give him a chance for near average game power. He went to the Brewers AFL affiliate but exited early to play for Team USA in the Premier 12 tournament. I believe he performed quite nicely there.
He received an invite to major league spring training, but suffered an oblique strain early on and didn't get to play until the last few games. In fact, I think the only games he got into were the exhibition games against the Astros right at the end of camp. Off the top of my head, I think he hit a home run and gunned someone down at home plate. So he made a nice impression despite playing in very few games.
He'll begin the season with the Brewers AA team (Biloxi Shuckers) but I expect him to receive an early promotion to AAA Colorado Springs. I'm not sure when he'll make his major league debut. My guess would be in September at the earliest, and I wouldn't rule out some service time games where he doesn't get called up until after the Super Two cutoff next year. I could be wrong though and I'd love to see him play for the Brewers this year. I know Kieth Law has said he thinks he'll be up by mid-season. Crazier things have happened (The Brewers intentionally acquired Yuniesky Betancourt twice after all).
My personal opinion of his is a good one. The only way he doesn't become the Brewers long-term answer in center field is if a better player comes along (perhaps via the inevitable Lucroy trade). But then I would expect the Brewers to move him to right field where I still think he'd be an above-average regular. So I'm pretty excited for his MLB arrival.