Everyone knows the Milwaukee Brewers are in a rebuilding process. Trading away five key players in exchange for minor league prospects before last week’s non-waiver deadline should have emphasized that point quite clearly.
In terms of the future of the franchise, wins and losses don’t matter right now. The Brewers are currently on a five-game losing streak after getting swept at Miller Park in a four-game series with the Chicago Cubs. Milwaukee has a 2-10 record since July 22, and more than half of those losses came while still employing Carlos Gomez and Gerardo Parra.
Don’t expect it to get any better anytime soon either.
Parra had been the Brewers’ best hitter in batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage. He’s in the midst of a career year, one that will conclude as a member of the Baltimore Orioles.
Gomez, despite his numbers being significantly down from what he accomplished at the plate in 2013 and 2014, was still fourth on the team in the three main hitting categories.
What happens when an offense subtracts its best and fourth-best batters from a team that was already 20-plus games out of first place in the division? More losing.
It’s going to be painful for diehard fans to endure what’s about to happen in August and September this year. The earned-run average of Milwaukee’s pitching staff is 24th in the major leagues. With Mike Fiers – who had the second-best ERA of Brewers starting pitchers this season – joining Gomez as new members of the playoff-chasing Houston Astros, it certainly shouldn’t expected that Milwaukee climbs up those ranks over the final 60 games.
For the rest of the season, the Brewers will be counting on the talented but young arms of Jimmy Nelson (26 years old), Wily Peralta (also 26) and Taylor Jungmann (25) to start the majority of games. Statistically worse (5.17 ERA) and older (31), Matt Garza will likely continue to make a start every fifth day. However, it sounds like there could be a change coming for struggling veteran Kyle Lohse, who at age 36 and with a team-worst 6.31 ERA is clearly not a part of the rebuilding process. That could mean more starting opportunities for another young arm, 26-year-old Tyler Thornburg.
Perhaps nothing will be more important for Milwaukee over the next two months than the development of Nelson, Peralta, Jungmann and Thornburg. If at least three of them can comprise the future of the Brewers’ starting rotation, that could be one of the better young staffs in the majors.
In the meantime, it’s not like the Brewers will give up so few runs that it will make up for an offense that is ranked 22nd in team OPS (on-base plus slugging).
Milwaukee has three players in its every-day lineup who would start on most contending teams: Ryan Braun, Jonathan Lucroy and Adam Lind. Unfortunately for the Brewers, Braun (31 years old), Lind (31) and Lucroy (29) represent a better picture of the present than of the future. Lind is almost surely to be gone by 2017, so any positive production he puts up for the rest of this season won’t help Milwaukee in the long-term. Braun and Lucroy could still be around and serve as the veteran leaders of a team that general manager Doug Melvin hopes is competing again by 2017.
But it’s for those reasons that the acquisitions of outfielder prospects Brett Phillips and Domingo Santana from the Astros is so key. According to the MLB Pipeline, Phillips is now rated as the Brewers’ second-best prospect, while Santana is fourth.
General manager Doug Melvin deserves praise for being able to walk away with high-quality young players like Phillips (21) and Santana (22) at the deadline. Both could evolve into starting outfielders for Milwaukee by the time the 2017 season begins. And by then, the Brewers will know more about what they have in a starting pitching staff with Nelson, Jungmann and Peralta.
While that plays out in the minors, the reality for the 2015 Brewers is that the recent losing streak is likely to continue. Even a 22-34 record over Milwaukee’s final 56 games this season might be too optimistic.
A bright future could be ahead. But for now, Brewers fans, it’s best to plan for losing and look for minor victories in the process.