Brewers Farm Update

Revisiting the Yelich Trade

The Milwaukee Brewers defeated the Colorado Rockies last night, 3-2 in 10 innings, and once again the presumptive National League MVP came up with significant contributions in big moments. Christian Yelich got the Cream City Nine on the board first in the third inning, launching a two-run blast to left center field. Later on after the Rockies had tied the game and forced extra innings, Yelich led off the 10th with a walk against Adam Ottavino. He then motored to second base on a wild pitch, advanced to third on Curtis Granderson’s fielder’s choice, and scored the winning run when Mike Moustakas lined a single to right field.

Milwaukee would not be in the position that they are without Yelich, who was a stud for the Miami Marlins before fashioning himself into a bonafide superstar during the 2018 campaign. His .326 batting average /.402 on-base percentage /.598 slugging percentage slash line earned him the National League batting title (Milwaukee’s first ever) and he was this close to the first NL Triple Crown since 1937, tallying 36 home runs and 110 runs batted in (Yelich finished behind Nolan Arenado and Trevor Story in home runs, and Javier Baez for runs batted in). His superlative performance yielded a .356 True Average (TAv) and 7.7 Wins Above Replacement Player (WARP) in his age-26 season, and he’s become the odds-on favorite to capture the league’s Most Valuable Player award.

Thinking back to January 25th, 2018, not everyone was thrilled when Slingin’ David Stearns signed off on the trade that sent four prospects to the Little Havana neighborhood in Miami. At the time, he gave up Milwaukee’s number one, three, and six prospects (according to Baseball Prospectus) along with a pitcher who Stearns himself had called one of his favorite arms in the organization. So as we bask in the glow of the first playoff victory our local club has produced in seven long years, let’s take a moment to check in on the guys that Stearns have up to help get us here:

OF Lewis Brinson
For most fans, Brinson was the player that stung most to lose. He was considered top-25 talent league wide, a potential five-tool center fielder who offered a few glimpses of his potential during a brief MLB trial in 2017. Miami handed Brinson a regular role at the big league level to begin the year, and he responded by putting together one of the least productive campaigns of any player in 2018. Brinson hit only .199/.240/.338 in 109 games and 406 plate appearances, good for an anemic TAv of .220. He did pop 11 long balls (including a mult-homer game against Milwaukee) and tallied 3.0 FRAA, but on the whole he was valued as a sub-replacement level player, tallying -0.3 WARP.

OF Monte Harrison
After a breakout season in 2017 between Appleton and Carolina, Miami tasked Harrison with one of the toughest challenges a minor leaguer will face: the jump from Class-A Advanced to Double-A. His slash line for Jacksonville of the Southern League wasn’t too bad at .240/.316/.399, which translated to a better-than-average .272 TAv on the pitcher-friendly circuit. Harrison again showed off his tantalizing power/speed combination, swiping 28 bases to go along with 19 dingers in 583 plate appearances. But the outfielder was also by far the league leader in strikeouts, whiffing an astonishing 215 times, or 37 percent of his trips to bat.

2B Isan Diaz
Like Harrison, Isan Diaz was assigned to Double-A Jacksonville to begin his time in the Marlins organization after finishing 2017 in Class-A Advanced. Diaz had a fair amount more success in the Southern League, however, producing a nifty .245/.365/.418 slash with 10 homers and 10 steals for a .294 TAv. After 83 games he earned a promotion to Triple-A New Orleans, and his numbers cratered at the highest level of the minors. In 36 games and 155 plate appearances, Diaz could manage only a .204/.281/.358 slash (.217 TAv). Strikeouts remain a concern for the infielder as well, as he whiffed a total of 140 times in 119 games between the two affiliates.

RHP Jordan Yamamoto
Yamamoto was stung by the injury bug this season, not taking the mound until late May and then missing another month of action between July and August. As a result, the righty made only 13 appearances and tossed 68 and 2/3 innings on the year, split between rookie ball, Class-A Advanced, and Double-A. In those innings, however, he put together a sparkling 1.68 ERA. Batters hit only .176 against the Hawaiian right-hander, and he struck out 84 (11.14 K/9) versus just 14 walks (1.83 BB/9). The profile is still more smarts and guile than it is pure stuff, leading to questions about how his game will play at the highest levels. Of the four prospects in the deal, though, Yamamoto is the only one who surely improved his stock heading into 2019, and the Baseball Prospectus team cited his ability to change speeds as one reason for rising prospect stock.

So, given these reports, have you been talked into a do-over on the trade? 

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1 comment on “Revisiting the Yelich Trade”


These trades really even out over time… in the short term they often benefit the “buying”/non-“rebuilding” team who gets the MLB talent/veterans. In the Brewers context, I loved the Greinke and Sabathia trades within a year or two after they were completed (2011–2013 and 2008–2010, respectively). As we got into 2013–14 or so, I liked each trade significantly less given Brantley’s breakout (plus, who’s to say Matt LaPorta’s bat wouldn’t have played in Milwaukee) and the Royals’ rise centered around Cain/the return for Odorizzi (and others, of course).

Granted, Yelich has been as impactful or perhaps moreso than either of CC or Greinke, and is under team control for longer. It’s obvious the Brewers have won the trade in the short term. However, I feel pretty confident that at least two of Brinson/Diaz/Harrison/Yamamoto will be impactful MLBers, and won’t be surprised if Brinson further develops into an All-Star caliber player (admittedly, I’m a big Brinson fan. I think he may have been a little rushed, and liken him a bit to Byron Buxton). So I can’t make a determination on this trade for a couple more years at least, but if I had to bet, I’d say the Brewers are still looking good in that time based on the likelihood Yelich has similar seasons to 2018 in the next 4 years. By then I do expect 2 or 3 of the prospects traded for him to be Marlins fixtures, and I probably will be wishing Jordan Yamamoto was in the rotation or Isan Diaz was manning second, like I was hoping in 2016.

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