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Milwaukee’s Other First Baseman

It’s funny how quickly we get spoiled by things, simply because we’re accustomed to them. As Louis CK once said, “everything’s amazing, and nobody’s happy.”

I’m as caught up in Thames-mania as anyone. (Do we have a better phrase for this yet? Seems like we should). But I think back to our expectations over the winter, and if someone told Milwaukee fans that their first baseman would be hitting (entering Wednesday night) .312/.343/.609 in May, they’d assume that David Stearns and company had somehow convinced Aaron Rodgers to pick up a bat.

That’s what Jesus Aguilar has produced through his first 67 plate appearances. It turns out that the Brewers have had two first basemen that have exceeded expectations, and we’d be remiss to not recognize the fun that has been Jesus Aguilar’s season just because Eric Thames has been a world (and especially Reds) beater over the first quarter of the season. Turns out, it’s pretty hard to garner much enthusiasm when you’re playing behind a guy nicknamed “God.”

Aguilar’s TAv has been a spectacular .320 to start the season. In a part-time role, he has been worth a half a win by WARP. His isolated slugging has been .297, second on the team to only Thames among players with more than 50 plate appearances.

Listed at 6’3” and 250 pounds, the slugging first baseman has two triples this season! That ties him with Keon Broxton and is just one behind Hernan Perez for the team lead. That’s fun, and we should have more Jesus Aguilar memes on twitter because of it.

Unfortunately for us, it doesn’t seem like there is as much to find that portends a sustainable breakout as we’ve seen with Aguilar’s first base tag-team partner in Milwaukee.

A .415 BABIP is the starting point of course, but the strikeouts and walks are more concerning. Through mid-May, Aguilar has struck out in 30 percent of his plate appearances and walked in just 4.5 percent. For what it’s worth, projection systems have those numbers trending in the right direction for the rest of the season, but it’s not the promising plate discipline start you’d look for in a breakout. The list of major leaguers who are striking out in more than a quarter of their plate appearances and walking in less than 10 percent of them, is unsurprisingly, not great for comps for Aguilar.

Name Team BB% K%
Tim Beckham Rays 4.60% 33.30%
Carlos Gomez Rangers 9.80% 26.80%
Wil Myers Padres 5.10% 25.60%
Willson Contreras Cubs 7.50% 29.20%
Giancarlo Stanton Marlins 9.80% 25.20%
Yasmany Tomas Diamondbacks 8.10% 25.90%
Trea Turner Nationals 4.00% 25.60%
Keon Broxton Brewers 6.10% 38.20%
Byron Buxton Twins 8.00% 34.80%
Ryon Healy Athletics 5.30% 25.70%
Tommy Joseph Phillies 9.20% 26.10%
Trevor Plouffe Athletics 9.00% 27.80%
Nick Castellanos Tigers 8.40% 27.70%
Randal Grichuk Cardinals 7.50% 28.10%
Javier Baez Cubs 4.10% 26.00%
Jonathan Villar Brewers 8.40% 29.80%
Danny Espinosa Angels 7.40% 33.80%
Dansby Swanson Braves 9.70% 26.20%
Hunter Renfroe Padres 7.00% 27.20%
Mike Napoli Rangers 5.80% 30.10%

Aguilar’s underlying numbers also aren’t too far off from his career averages so far, suggesting there aren’t any real fluky changes going on with his plate discipline:

O-Swing% Z-Swing% Contact%
2017 Brewers 37.0 64.9 72.3
Career Average 36.6 66.5 71.3

What maybe should be said, however, is that this is over only 67 plate appearances in 37 games. That’s a lot of irregular playing time, and almost all of his damage has come since he’s started playing regularly. Halfway through May accounts for all of his homers (and both of his triples)! Beyond that, even when looking at Aguilar’s “career” numbers outside of this season, we’re talking about a sample size of only 64 plate appearances. So there’s plenty of time for the 26-year old to grow in his approach and if we’re all lucky, add to his triples.

The story hasn’t been written for Aguilar’s career, so let’s enjoy the embarrassment of riches that has been Milwaukee’s first base situation so far this season. And more Jesus Aguilar triples memes, please.

Plate discipline data from Fangraphs

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