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  • Who Should Emerge as the Brewers' Top Outfielders in 2024?

    Matthew Trueblood

    We have a pretty good idea of who will play left field for the 2024 Brewers. The other two spots seem fairly wide-open, though, and the huge number of credible candidates for those jobs illustrates that the team really doesn't have a solution yet.

    Image courtesy of © Michael McLoone-USA TODAY Sports

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    Obviously, in a perfect world, Jackson Chourio would simply hammer big-league pitching next spring training. Were he relentlessly competent and dominant enough, he could force his way onto the Opening Day roster as the center fielder, leaving the team with clarity at two of the three outfield positions. (Christian Yelich, of course, is locked in as the left fielder.)

    We don't live in a perfect world, though, and in the deeply flawed one we do call home, Chourio is an untested prospect. He showed plenty of flashes of his future stardom in 2023, but a dearth of chances even to prove himself at the Triple-A level made it impossible to project how he'll do in MLB in 2024 with any confidence. He's unlikely to debut before May, and even less likely to earn an everyday role and play like a star when he does get his shot--as the up-and-down rookie campaigns of prospects like Joey Wiemer and Sal Frelick just demonstrated to us.

    We're very likely to see a trade shipping out some young outfielder this winter. Be it Frelick, Wiemer, Garrett Mitchell, Tyrone Taylor, or Blake Perkins, someone is getting moved. The first move the front office made this offseason, more or less, was to add outfielder Chris Roller to the 40-man roster. That only exacerbated their logjam in center and right, and made clear that the team sees at least Perkins and Taylor as potentially fungible. It was a smart and necessary move. After getting Roller in a minor trade this summer, they needed to do this in order to prevent him from hitting minor-league free agency--the same roster mechanism by which Perkins became available last winter, at which point the Brewers pounced with an unusual guaranteed deal.

    Frelick seems like the surest bet to stay and to play. His outfield defense is tremendous, in center or in right, and he controls the strike zone very well. However, his lack of power during his time in the big leagues this season was troubling. If he continues to get the bat knocked out of his hands, he'll lose playing time, or at least need to hit at the bottom of the lineup.

    The biggest problem, in this area of the roster, is that the rest of the group's outlooks each rhyme with Frelick's. Wiemer has much more raw power, but strikes out too much and saw his defense slump badly late in the season. Mitchell has the power missing from Frelick's profile, but strikes out even more than Wiemer. Taylor is the most well-rounded of the group, but runs hot and cold at bat and doesn't seem able to stay healthy over a full season. Perkins was almost a pure defensive asset last year, but came up with a couple of big hits. This is a big group of deeply incomplete players, and they don't complement each other as nicely as one might prefer.

    Milwaukee will probably only be able to carry five outfielders. Modern roster construction doesn't allow for more. There's value in versatility, such as what Frelick and Taylor bring by being able to play center field well and to hit enough to be right fielders if needed. There's also value in depth that provides a high floor, in case of catastrophic injury or failure. Carrying Yelich, Frelick, Taylor, Wiemer, Perkins, and Mitchell is impossible, though, and even if it weren't, the latter half of those players aren't good enough to merit all the trouble it would cause.

    Carrying Perkins as a defensive specialist worked very well for the 2023 Brewers. Doing that again, with Yelich, Frelick, and Taylor as the regulars and Wiemer spelling all three in the right turns, seems like the best use of all of these resources to me. Mitchell is the one with the most volatile skill set, and that might dent his potential trade value, but he still has the upside necessary to be part of a package for a good player. Frelick is too good to trade; Taylor and Wiemer wouldn't fetch enough. Mitchell feels like the sweet spot, and once you remove him from the picture, everything falls into place. The handedness of the various options makes sense. The offensive picture starts to take shape.

    Who would you move in order to clarify the Crew's outfield for next season? Would you tender Taylor a contract? Whose bat do you believe in, in this motley bunch? Let's talk through this fascinating collection of rough-edged talent.

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  • Brewer Fanatic Contributor
  • Posted

    Thank you for this write-up.

    Someone said that art/beauty is in the eye of the beholder. What appears like a crammed MLB outfield to us may look like a menu chock-full of service time manipulation options for Matt Arnold, e.g. if Super-2 manipulation is the goal:

    • Keep Mitchell in AAA in ~116 days
    • Keep Wiemer in AAA for ~74 days
    • Keep Perkins in AAA for ~37 days

    In that manner, Yelich, Taylor and Frelick would remain on the MLB roster all season, while Mitchell, Wiemer and Perkins yo-yo between MLB and AAA.

    Of course, I may be misunderstanding something fundamentally important in the service time rules, so feel free to correct me if I'm materially wrong.

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    Yelich is the issue to me.  He isn't going to stick in the outfield much longer, and in reality, doesn't provide anything defensively that the others don't.  It seems obvious to me that now is the time to either move him to 1B (something I've only seen fans suggest) or move him to full time DH, only playing LF when it's really necessary, possibly due to injuries to the young guys.

    Chourio IS going to push the issue, maybe it won't be in spring training, maybe it won't be until May, but he is coming, and once that happens, decisions will have to be made.  I'd rather they prepare now by realizing that Yelich is not going to remain in the OF for long, and now is the time to get him used to that idea.

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    Chourio is obviously going to be the top priority in this OF. I think you put him in CF from the moment he makes his debut.

    Frelick is probably then the safest bet with the bat. His best fit imo is in LF, which would obviously require a shift of Yelich to 1B or DH.

    RF is then up for grabs between Taylor, Mitchell, and Wiemer. Something like a Mitchell-Wiemer platoon would probably be the most ideal. But they also have more questions with the bat than a guy like Tyrone Taylor who was a huge part of why we ended up running away with the division in September. Eventually, I think you trade him, but for now I think he's gotta be the starter. Wiemer starts the season in AAA. 

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    Chourio is obviously his own tier.

    I’ve got the next tier ordered as Wiemer (power potential) Frelick (highest floor) Mitchell (injury issues)

    I’d imagine Arnold & associates will probe different teams valuations of these three, and pounce if they find an offer they like.

    Perkins and Taylor are both solid 4th OF options, so I’d guess one of them is moved in a more marginal trade if the FO can’t find a bigger deal for one of the three younger prospects.

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    Taylor earned a full time OF job to start 2024 with the excellent second half numbers he put up (.854 OPS).  His performance down the stretch cannot be overstated.  His poor first half could be explained by his missing all of spring training.  I've always been a Taylor fan and felt if he ever got 550 plate appearances, he'd hit 20-25 home runs and knock in 75-80 runs.  The "he runs hot and cold label" is overstated.  Every player runs hot and cold to some degree.  Taylor also brings tremendous value with his defense and base running ability.  Taylor is an above average fielder at all three outfield positions.  In 300 major league games he has yet to make an error.  Sure that's an old traditional measure but it does say something about reliability in that phase of the game.

    It's an absolute no-brainer that he should be tendered if his expected salary is a mere $1.7 million even as the 4th outfielder.  Besides, Yelich, Mitchell and Frelick are all left-handed hitters and of the 2023 rookies and Weimer seems to be most in need of more seasoning at AAA.  Taylor gives them some balance.


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    I have pushed a Weimer for young starting pitcher idea (Gavin Stone). That would make our OF situation easy.

    1st 30-60 games

    LF Yeli, CF Frelick/Mitchell, RF Taylor/Mitchell

    When Chourio come up, LF Frelick CF Chourio RF Taylor/Mitchell, DH Yeli

    I would love to see Yeli attempt to learn 1B, he is athletic enough and after picking up fielding ground balls 1B isn't crazy difficult to figure out. However I feel like that would have been brought up/eluded to at some point if the club seemed inclined to do that. I am still for trading him but I don't know if he waves his no trade except for Cali (maybe a big money contender). 

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    Frelick is a natural lead off hitter.  If I were to include one of my 3 young outfielders in a trade (Weimer, Frelick, Mitchell) Frelick would be off limits.  The guy I would quietly be trying to move is Yelich.   Adames and Burnes need to go, and the return for the two of them big.  Of course, what drives a trade involving any of them is return in the end.  Not enough return, no trade. 

    With no Burnes and Woody in the lineup next year for us we need to bring back Miley to go with what we already have in the mix (or will have) (Peralta, Houser, Gasser, Ashby, Rea) and add a proven veteran starter.  And a slugger, if we are to compete next year.

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