The Milwaukee Brewers have been one of the surprise teams of the first month in Major League Baseball. They currently hold a 5.5 game lead in the NL Central, but their success this season, or lack thereof, just may be based in their minor leagues.
While running the risk of sounding too cliche, the baseball season is long. Players won’t all stay healthy, and they will encounter slumps. The 25-man active roster is not the best way to judge a team’s chances, instead you need to look at the 40-man roster and beyond, which is where it gets ugly for Brewers fans.
Injuries have already struck in Milwaukee as Ryan Braun is out about a week after straining an intercostal muscle on the same day he clocked Jean Segura in the face with his bat. Any team would struggle if you take away two of the team’s top offensive producers, but they already are without their fourth outfielder, Logan Schafer, and have a team that lacks position flexibility.
The team has both Scooter Gennette and Rickie Weeks on the roster as pure second basemen, while Lyle Overbay and Mark Reynolds are holding down first base. Reynolds can help out at third when Aramis Ramirez (who is also currently banged up) needs a day off, but that is far from ideal.
With Jean Segura having needed a plastic surgeon put his face back together following the Braun clubbing, the Brewers will have to stick with Jeff Bianchi at short, a career 0.9 WAR guy, based on Baseball Reference‘s calculations, in about a full season’s worth of playing time.
The team also has Elian Herrera to fill in as the clubs only real utility man, who has played in just 78 games over three years and has an OPS of .653.
So time to look at minor league options. In Double-A and Triple-A, the Brewers have a grand total of three position players on the 40-man roster, two of whom are first basemen yet to make their big league debuts, Hunter Morris and Jason Rogers. The other position player on the 40-man roster is Caleb Gindl, who actually hit reasonably well in 57 games in 2013.
Before the season, almost every media outlet that ranked teams based on their farm system had the Brewers in the bottom three, and this is where it will shine through and bite them. according the the MLB.com list of the top 10 Brewers prospects, six are position players, but only two are at Double-A or higher. Hunter Morris is one, and the other is Mitch Haniger, who is off to an incredibly slow start and a triple slash line of .193/.278/.349 in 24 games with Huntsville.
Granted, the Brewers Double-A and Triple-A teams are a combined 27-22 early this season, but that has a lot to do with those teams being second and third in ERA respectively in their leagues. The Brewers most big league ready prospects are all pitchers, which is not currently a position of need.
The Brewers lead in the NL Central will likely slip away and they will miss the playoffs again this year, and if that is the case, the reason just may be a lack of quality position players within their minor league system.
Tags: Milwaukee Brewers