With the opening round of the playoffs featuring a maximum of three games, teams like the Brewers can be creative with their roster construction. With plenty of pitching in tow, they can look to ride the hot hand for an extra stick-swinging weapon on the bench. That guy is Brewers Minor League Co-Player of the Year Tyler Black (you were probably thinking of the other Co-Player of the Year, Jackson Chourio).
In 63 September at-bats with the Triple-A Nashville Sounds, Black owned a .413 average, .519 OBP and .683 SLG. That includes five doubles, three triples and two home runs to go with 14 RBI and 18 runs in 18 games.What he has done recently isn't a fluke; the man can flat-out rake. Black has 558 plate appearances this season between Nashville and the Double-A Biloxi Shuckers and does just about everything well offensively.
How fun would it be to see the Brewers roll the dice on their fifth-ranked prospect (56th overall, according to MLB.com)? Even better than watching Black tear up Triple-A in September or dominate Double-A earlier this season, his production was consistent between both levels.
His overall minor league stats in 2023:
- 18 home runs
- 25 doubles
- 12 triples
- 55 extra-base hits
- 105 runs
- 73 runs batted in
- 55 stolen bases
- 16 hit-by-pitches (I had to throw that beauty in there)
Black is an offensive Swiss army knife to deploy anytime in the game. He provides another left-handed stick to counteract the opponents' bullpen moves, fights his way to get on base however he can, delivers some pop off the bench, and gives Counsell another strong base running option. The 23-year-old corner infielder (mostly) is a perfect fit as a "bonus" player to carry in the playoffs.
The bonus refers to teams needing fewer pitchers on the roster in a short series. Out of the 26 active guys the Brewers will carry, they could run with only 11 hurlers instead of the usual 13. Which hurlers Milwaukee relies on will partly depend on the opponent, but the club only needs three starters and one or two long relievers. Plus, it isn't clear struggling lefty Andrew Chafin will get a spot. Regardless, it means more position players.
Of course, there are other bench options for the Brewers to consider:
- Outfielder Garrett Mitchell provides speed and quality defense as a left-handed hitting option.
- DH Jesse Winker offers veteran experience and the ability to reach base at a higher clip than almost anyone on the club.
- Utility man Owen Miller gives the team positional versatility and a right-handed option off the bench who rarely strikes out.
- Outfielder Joey Wiemer plays elite defense and has a high upside as a runner and potential power bat against lefties.
However, Milwaukee could use a few of these options and still include Black. There's no guarantee Brian Anderson will make the playoff cut since he has played just three times since Aug. 22. Also, Blake Perkins has delivered some value defensively, but he could be another currently active position player on the outside looking in. Once again, these uncertainties open the door a bit further for a Black appearance in the postseason.
He would certainly fit into this year's theme of the Brewers relying quite a bit on "The Freshman." Among the number of rookies making contributions to the Crew's division title, a handful have made a significant impact, much like Black could do come October. A few other potential obstacles could prevent this gutsy move from happening.
He has never played in an MLB game
It's extremely rare for a player to make his MLB debut in a postseason contest. The lack of experience, the increased pressure and the general uncertainty of a fresh rookie in the playoffs are all reasons it has only occurred five times in MLB history. It most recently happened in 2020 when Ryan Weathers (San Diego Padres), Shane McClanahan (Tampa Bay Rays) and Alex Kirilloff (Minnesota Twins) all took the leap.
Black would need to be added to the 40-man roster
In order to put Black on the Brewers' 40-man roster, someone would need to come off, which could mean they move to another organization. Depending on Milwaukee's plans for 2024, there could be some options that are easier to swallow. Mitchell, Winker, Wiemer and Miller are already on the 40-man and wouldn't require that additional move. Adding Black to the 40-man could also impact the Brewers' plans with him going forward, but that's a conversation for another time.
His hot hand cooling off
The Sounds played their last game on Sept. 24, so Black hasn't seen live action since then. Unless the Brewers made the sudden decision to get him some playing time in the next few regular season games, that's a decent layoff to the start of Game One on Oct. 3. Black was at American Family Field Tuesday night to be honored for his Co-Player of the Year Award, so it wouldn't be a stretch to get him a uniform and some playing time.
There haven't been any official rumors of an imminent move to bring Black to the club now or in the playoffs, but stranger things have happened. It would be a fun and fascinating storyline, even if it were just for a pair of Wild Card series games. Just imagine a tie game in the bottom of the 11th and Counsell calls on a kid to make his MLB debut with the winning run on second base and a chance to advance in the playoffs. That would be epic, no matter the outcome. The excitement alone is enough to want to see it happen.
Will the Brewers be so bold when the playoff roster for the Wild Card series is released Tuesday morning?
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