The Milwaukee Brewers opened the 2017 season at home with an underwhelming 2-5 record and faced a difficult road trip. Currently, they sit at an even .500 record by winning 6 out of 9 games away from Miller Park. With 16 games completed, it’s time to buy or sell three early season headlines.
Eric Thames will lead the National League in home runs
Eric Thames entered the season as one of the Brewers biggest question marks. Through 16 games, Thames has been an exclamation point at first base. He is the current NL home run leader with 7 which is tied for first in the MLB. The 30 year old first baseman spent the last three years of his professional career in Korea, where he slashed numbers only seen in video games. In those three seasons, Thames launched 124 home runs while sustaining a .348 batting average. Also, Thames tied a Brewers franchise record by homering in five consecutive games. The story of Eric Thames has been one of the brightest headlines in baseball, and he has shown that his home run power is here to stay.
Jonathan Villar and Keon Broxton will continue to struggle
Jonathan Villar experienced a breakout 2016 season. Villar proved that he belonged in the MLB last season by swiping a MLB best 62 steals and posting a .285 batting average. However, he has struggled mightily to begin the 2017 season. The Brewers second baseman has a whopping 26 strikeouts and is hitting a miserable .138 in 16 games. Combine that with the three errors he’s made on defense, and Villar has had a rough two and a half weeks of baseball. Villar is just 25 years old and may be putting too much pressure on himself after turning down a contract extension in the offseason. If Villar relaxes at the plate by cutting down his strikeouts and makes contact with the ball, hits will start to fall for him like last season.
In the first half of the year last season, Keon Broxton looked lost at the plate which resulted in back and forth trips to AAA. By dropping his hands, Broxton found success and never looked back in the second half of last season. Broxton hit .317 in spring training, picking up right where he left off. However, Broxton is currently hitting .119 and has 21 strikeouts. Similar to Villar, youth is on Broxton’s side. By experiencing the ups and downs of a full MLB season, at 26 years old, Broxton knows how to bounce back from a minor slump.
Broxton’s slow start may be due to a 93 mph fastball he took off the face against the Rockies on April 6.
Both players haven’t had ideal starts to the season, but the mistakes they’re making seem to be mental and can be fixed. Brewers manager, Craig Counsell, expects Villar and Broxton to turn around their seasons by being patient.
Keon Broxton is going to play his way through this. Jonathan Villar, too. Counsell makes the case for patience: https://t.co/Jxh46ruajq
— Adam McCalvy (@AdamMcCalvy) April 19, 2017
Jacob Barnes will become the Brewers closer
Brewers current closer Neftali Feliz has converted 5 saves on 6 attempts to begin the year. Feliz suffered his first blown save to the Chicago Cubs Wednesday, but it appears that Feliz has regained the velocity on his fastball.
— Matt Kelly (@mattkellyMLB) April 12, 2017
Touching 101 mph with a fastball and making a former AL MVP in Josh Donaldson look silly, will certainly raise some eyebrows from GM’s across the league, which makes Feliz a perfect trade piece for Brewers GM David Stearns to add more young talent to an already stacked minor league system. If Feliz is traded, expect Jacob Barnes to assume the closer’s role. Standing at 6’2″ and weighing 220 pounds, Barnes features a fastball that can touch triple digits and a wipeout slider.
— Brewers Prospects (@BrewerProspect) April 18, 2017
In 9.1 innings this season, Barnes has yet to give up a run and has struck out 11 batters. Barnes has an electric right arm that will be finishing games for the Brewers in the future.