The Crew looks to have a chance to extend that lead during their series with the Reds at American Family Field, July 24-26. In the National League Central, the division winner will likely be the only team to make the playoffs out of the division. Therefore, it is crucial to bring reinforcements to the Crew, who are looking to make the playoffs once again under Craig Counsell.
Most teams across Major League Baseball use the deadline to bolster their clubs. While the Brewers should be active in buying during this time of year, there is talent within the organization and returning to make an impact on both the pitching and offensive sides of the ball.
Brandon Woodruff is the best talent the Brewers have, returning to the organization after being sidelined since April 7th with a subscapular strain in his throwing shoulder. Woodruff made his first rehab start on Saturday with the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers and eyes a return to the big league club in early August to fortify his 1-2 punch with Corbin Burnes that was elite during the last two seasons. Before his injury, Woodruff was excellent, posting a 0.79 ERA and 12 Ks in two starts this season. He threw six innings and allowed only one run during a cold, windy day at Wrigley in early April that helped the Crew notch their first win of the 2023 campaign. One of the most impactful areas of Woodruff’s game is his ability to go deep into ball games. In 2022, Woodruff went six innings 15 different times, resulting in the third most innings pitched on the Brewers staff. While the starters have been successful in going deep into games, ranking sixth in innings pitched in baseball according to FanGraphs, fatigue will undoubtedly play a factor for guys down the stretch. Adding a healthy Woodruff will allow the rotation to take a breather, resulting in less of a workload for the bullpen, which has been at the top of its game all season. With Wade Miley on the 15-day IL, there is no better time for Woody to return to the club and push the Brewers into the postseason.
The young, hard-throwing left hander can also substantially impact the Brewers' playoff chances once he returns from injury. As reported by CBS Sports, Ashby suffered a labrum tear and shoulder impingement during the offseason, which required arthroscopic shoulder surgery. Luckily, Ashby will begin throwing in the Arizona Complex League in the near future and looks to return in a bullpen role, according to Curt Hogg of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. The lefty is signed a 5-year, $20.5 million extension that carries him through the 2027 season with club options in 2028 and 2029. He showed promise in his first season in the bigs striking out 126 batters in 107.1 innings and generating a 41.1% whiff rate on his slider last season. When Ashby was on top of his game, his slider was incredibly difficult to hit. The 25-year-old, who would be a great add as another lefty in the bullpen to contradict the crafty Hoby Milner, has to allow less traffic on the bases. According to Baseball Savant, Ashby ranked a solid 78 percentile in hard hit percentage against him, but he gave up too many free passes and ranked in the 23 percentile in walk percentage. The base on balls was devastating for Ashby; giving up 15 homers, the walks cost him from having a good outing to a poor one with the multi-run long balls. In 2022, Ashby’s four-seam fastball averaged 96 mph and gave up no home runs. He only threw the pitch 3% of the time, but it was beneficial up in the zone. Hopefully, he incorporates the pitch more in 2023 and helps solidify a bullpen that has already been terrific this season.
Keston Hiura has had buzz surrounding his name the entire season, even though he hasn’t played in one inning in the majors during the 2023 season. Hiura is out of options, limiting the Brewers' roster flexibility. Therefore if Milwaukee calls him up, he has to stay on the big league roster, or he’ll have to pass through waivers. However, Hiura has been raking in Nashville; through 53 games with the Sounds, he has a .972 OPS along with a .569 slugging percentage. While in the majors, Huira had reverse splits, meaning the right-handed hitter could hit right-handed pitching better than left-handed, while most of the league is better against opposite-handed pitching. The former first-rounder is learning to hit left-handed pitching well and posted a 1.062 ops against southpaws. Hiura would be a beneficial bat coming off the bench or getting spot starts this season against lefties because the team has a .680 OPS against left-handed pitching, which is second-to-last in MLB. An element of Hiura’s game that may come as a surprise is his defense. In Milwaukee, he was known as a liability on defense at second base, but in Nashville, he has transitioned to be a left fielder. He leads the Sounds in innings played at the position, and although he wouldn’t play the position with the Brewers, having the versatility is a plus. In over 100 innings played at first base, Hiura has yet to commit an error. If the Brewers call up Hiura and he starts hitting immediately, expect Huira to see significant time at the position.
At this stage in the season, the Crew have a variety of different ways they can bolster the roster. Woodruff and Ashby returning from injury can boost the pitching staff, returning the staff to elite status. Hiura can make an impact with the bat toward the end of the season to fill holes in the lineup. Whether the Brewers look for trades or turn to players within the organization, make no mistake, the Crew is gearing up with their eyes on a deep playoff run.
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