Log Jam Forming in the Brewers’ Outfield

OF Christian Yelich at-bat during an important Milwaukee Brewers game
MILWAUKEE, WI - SEPTEMBER 18: Christian Yelich #22 of the Milwaukee Brewers bats in the ninth inning against the Cincinnati Reds at Miller Park on September 18, 2018 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)
MILWAUKEE, WI – SEPTEMBER 18: Christian Yelich #22 of the Milwaukee Brewers bats in the ninth inning against the Cincinnati Reds at Miller Park on September 18, 2018 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)

Anyone attending a game at Miller Park during the 2019 season could expect to see a combination of Christian Yelich, Lorenzo Cain, Ryan Braun, or Ben Gamel roaming the outfield in the top half of each inning.  A substantial amount of the Brewers’ offense came from these players, with a heavy emphasis on Yelich.  The Brewers retooled their roster in the offseason. They now look to improve on this core of outfielders who averaged hitting .285 and totaled 84 home runs and 253 RBI.  With the addition of free-agent outfielder Avisail Garcia (.282/20/61) and the emergence of young talent from the minor league system, a log jam is forming in the Brewers outfield.

Yelich a Fixture in Left

If there ever was a lock to play, it would be Yelich. The 2018 NL MVP was raking in 2019 until a fractured knee cap in early September put him on the injured list for the remainder of the season. While the Brewers have consistently played Yelich in right field, Garcia looks to take over that spot, shifting Yelich to left field. Garcia is no liability in the field. Scouted with an above-average arm and sound defensive ability, Garcia looks to improve upon his solid 2019 numbers in the hitter-friendly confines of Miller Park.

Cain is Gold in Center

Centerfield will be well-tended to with the 2019 Gold Glove-winning Lorenzo Cain. Last season, he wowed fans with his highlight-reel defense. Stealing home runs from beyond the outfield wall seemed to be a nightly occurrence with Cain in the lineup. However, his offensive numbers took a dip in 2019. At 33 years-old, Cain still has plenty left in the tank. Yet, he could also benefit from the occasional night off. Cain endured thumb, knee, and ankle injuries in 2019, which no doubt affected his production.

Braun to Platoon

Manager Craig Counsell has shown he is not afraid to rest his starters. This will benefit the aging Ryan Braun, who turned 36 in November. Braun has shown he still has the ability to hit for productive average and power.The loss of corner infielders Eric Thames and Mike Moustakas to free agency leaves an obvious gap at first base. Counsell will look to fill this need with a combination of Braun and the recently-signed Justin Smoak. This scenario provides for more playing time for Braun in the infield, which he has some familiarity with. He began his major league career as a rookie in 2007 as a third baseman. The platoons of Garcia/Braun in right field and Braun/Smoak at first offer needed amounts of both playing time and rest for all three.

Gamel a Victim of the Log Jam?

Fan-favorite Ben Gamel thrived in the role of the fourth outfielder in 2019. While his offensive numbers weren’t staggering (.248/7/33), his role provided much-needed rest without sacrificing defense. Gamel played in 70 games in left field, 22 in center, and 23 in right in 2019. These splits indicate he has the versatility to fill-in got regular starters if need be.

Yet it may be Gamel who is on the outside looking in when the Brewers break camp in April.  2016 fifth overall pick Corey Ray looks to improve his sliding minor league offensive numbers. Touted as a five-tool left-handed hitter, Ray has underperformed offensively in recent years.  2012 second-round pick Tyrone Taylor showed promise with his limited time in the big league in 2019. However, a recent wrist injury and surgery will sideline him for all of Spring Training.  The Brewers do have the ability to retain Gamel, with a minor league option, should they choose to send him down.

Add into this mix newly-signed utilityman Brock Holt, who also has the experience and skill to play the outfield, this leaves Counsell and General Manager David Stearns with some tough decisions to make.

Look at the log jam forming in the Brewers outfield as a good problem to have. Better to have too much talent than not enough. 

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