Tag: Milwaukee Brewers

Neftali Feliz to Brewers: Latest Contract Details, Comments, Reaction

Free-agent closer Neftali Feliz is on the move once again, as he signed Thursday with the Milwaukee Brewers, according to Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports.

SB Nation’s Chris Cotillo confirmed Passan‘s reports and added that it is a one-year deal worth $5.35 million (with a max of $6.85 million with incentives).

Feliz has been no stranger to free agency.

He was granted free agency from the Texas Rangers in July 2015 and joined the Detroit Tigers, only to hit the market once again after that season.

He then signed with the Pittsburgh Pirates during the winter prior to the 2016 season. 

The 28-year-old has been unable to maintain the level of play that made him one of baseball’s best young arms out of the bullpen upon his arrival to the majors. 

During his second season in 2010 as a 22-year-old, Feliz posted a 2.73 ERA and 40 saves, earning his first and only All-Star selection. The following year would see him rack up another 32 saves as he was Texas’ closer during its run of two consecutive American League championships.

After undergoing Tommy John surgery in August 2012, Feliz was limited to just six games in 2013 before a strong return the following year. In 2014, he posted a 1.99 ERA in 30 appearances with 13 saves. 

Feliz saw his ERA swell to 6.38 in 2015 with the Rangers and Tigers as a setup man in what was by far his worst season in the majors. But he did manage to bounce back fairly well last year, cutting his ERA to 3.52 as a late-inning option in Pittsburgh. 

Now in Milwaukee, Feliz will have an opportunity to become the team’s go-to closer. In 2016, the Brewers had inconsistencies at that spot, as Jeremy Jeffress and Tyler Thornburg combined for 40 saves. 

However, the Brewers blew 22 save opportunities, which was tied for eighth-most in the majors. In an attempt to revamp their situation, they dealt Jeffress at the trade deadline to the Rangers as a part of the Jonathan Lucroy deal and traded Thornburg to the Boston Red Sox during the winter meetings.


Stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com

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Korean League MVP Eric Thames Could Be Surprise MLB Offseason Steal

There’s a video you can find on the internet showing Eric Thames wearing a crown made of flowers, just after he was named Most Valuable Player last year in South Korea.

Good luck finding anything like that from Kris Bryant or Mike Trout.

It’s a nice ceremony and a nice award, but it’s also a pleasant reminder of how different professional baseball is in South Korea, where the NC Dinos play in a ballpark with a center field fence just 381 feet from home plate and where the pitchers rarely throw upper-90s fastballs.

Baseball in South Korea is different, which is why it’s so tough to know what to make of Thames’ new three-year, $16 million contract to be the Milwaukee Brewers‘ first baseman. It’s either the biggest bargain deal for an MVP or the worst shot in the dark on a guy who hit .220 with six home runs in his last major league season.

But maybe, just maybe, Eric Thames can be Cecil Fielder.

Not Prince Fielder, the one-time Brewers first baseman whose career progressed the usual way, from first-round draft pick to major league All-Star. Cecil, Prince’s dad, went from a part-time player with the Toronto Blue Jays to a starring role with the Detroit Tigers, with a great season in Japan in the middle.

That sounds just a little like Thames, a part-time player with the Blue Jays and Seattle Mariners who went to South Korea and became a star. His numbers were almost hard to believe, with a .348 batting average and 124 home runs in 388 games over three seasons, including the first 40-homer/40-steal season in KBO League history.

“Cecil Fielder went to Japan and learned an approach that worked for him,” one longtime American League scout said. “What you’re betting on with Thames is he’s learned how to be a hitter.”

The AL scout saw Thames play in Korea and thinks it’s possible he has. He said the player he saw with the Dinos did a much better job recognizing breaking balls than the guy he watched with the Blue Jays.

“No one can deny that,” he said. “He’s got a plan now. Do I think he can play in the big leagues? No doubt. He can definitely play in the big leagues.”

But can the 30-year-old Thames be anything like the star he was in Korea? That question is so much harder to answer, and it’s why a low-budget team like the Brewers could sign him for what amounts to a $16 million lottery ticket.

It’s worth remembering many of the same questions were asked about Fielder when the Tigers signed him to a two-year, $3 million contract in January 1990. Fielder hit 38 home runs in just 106 games in his one year in Japan, but what did that mean when you translated it to Major League Baseball?


In his case, it meant 51 home runs in his first year back, the most homers any major league player had hit in 13 years. It meant back-to-back second-place finishes in American League MVP voting.

Fielder went to Japan at a time when there were no Japanese-born players in the major leagues. Thames comes back from South Korea at a time when nine South Korean-born players were active in the majors this past year alone. Players such as Jung Ho Kang and Hyun Soo Kim have been good enough to earn the KBO League some respect.

Kang and Kim were stars in South Korea, but neither put up numbers to match Thames’ 2015 season, when he had a 1.288 OPS and 140 RBI in 142 games.

The comparisons are useful because they played in the same league in South Korea, facing similar pitchers under similar conditions. But Thames is different because he grew up in the U.S. and has played in the major leagues before. The real question is whether the time overseas turned him into a better player.

C.J. Nitkowski thinks that’s possible.

Nitkowski works for Fox Sports and MLB Network Radio now, but in his previous life, he was a pitcher who left the major leagues to go to Japan and South Korea. He pitched four seasons in Asia toward the end of his career, and while it didn’t help him get back to the big leagues, he saw benefits.

“Sometimes there, you can relax,” Nitkowski said. “You’ve got guaranteed money, and you’re not worried about the ups and downs as much. Talent has a chance to shine.”

Nitkowski mentioned Colby Lewis, who was an up-and-down pitcher before going to Japan. After two good years there, he returned as a solid rotation piece for the Texas Rangers.

Lewis was 30 when he came back to the major leagues, the same age Thames is now.

There aren’t that many other examples because there just aren’t that many players who leave North America, become stars in Asia and then return to the majors. And there aren’t that many position players who try it.

Dan Kurtz of MyKBO.net, an outstanding website that follows Korean baseball, compiled a list of 30 players who left the major leagues to go to Korea, then returned and played at least one more game in the majors. All but four of the 30 were pitchers, and none of the four position players had a career track that resembles Thames’.

Maybe that fits because Thames has always been a little eccentric. His Twitter bio lists him as the “Enforcer for the NC Dinos and Sosnick Cobbe Sports (his agents). Meathead, gamer, weirdo and proud representative of the Thames clan.”

And he could add potential trailblazer. If his MLB-KBO-MLB path works as well as Fielder’s Japan detour did two decades ago, maybe others will be emboldened to try it too.


Danny Knobler covers Major League Baseball as a national columnist for Bleacher Report.

Follow Danny on Twitter and talk baseball.

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Eric Thames to Brewers: Latest Contract Details, Comments and Reaction

The Milwaukee Brewers added a potentially huge power bat Tuesday by signing first baseman Eric Thames to a three-year contract.

MLB.com’s Adam McCalvy was the first to report the move. Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel confirmed the signing and added there is a fourth-year option as part of the deal.

Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports shared the terms of the agreement:

Per ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick, Thames will make $15 million in guaranteed money.

Following the signing, the Brewers announced they designated first baseman Chris Carter for assignment.

While Carter hit 41 home runs and drove in 94 runs last season, he hit just .222, and McCalvy pointed out Milwaukee wanted more balance in its lineup:

The 30-year-old Thames has spent the past three seasons playing in the Korean Baseball Organization, where he averaged 41 home runs and 126 RBI per year. He also stole 40 bases in 2015 and posted an on-base percentage of .497.

Thames previously appeared in 181 MLB games over the course of two seasons with the Toronto Blue Jays and Seattle Mariners in 2011 and 2012.

The former seventh-round draft pick hit .262 with 12 homers and 37 RBI as a rookie before slipping to .232 with nine home runs and 25 RBI in his second campaign.

Thames is capable of playing both first base and the outfield, and he represents a major wild card for the Brew Crew.

While Thames’ production in Korea is undeniable, it is difficult to predict how it will project to Major League Baseball.

A recent similar case is that of Dae-Ho Lee, who slugged 44 home runs in Korea in 2010 before hitting 14 for the Mariners in 292 at-bats last season.

Thames will be hard-pressed to match Carter’s power production, but if he can cut down significantly on Carter’s strikeout numbers (206 in 160 games last season) and reach base with regularity, he could prove to be an upgrade even if the home runs drop.


Follow @MikeChiari on Twitter.

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Craig Counsell, Brewers Agree to New Contract: Latest Details and Reaction

After two seasons at the helm, manager Craig Counsell agreed to terms on a three-year contract extension through 2020 with the Milwaukee Brewers on Friday. 

The team announced the move ahead of what would have been the final year on his deal.

Counsell has led the Brew Crew to a 134-165 record, and they improved by 12 wins from 2015 to 2016 in going 73-89.

The 46-year-old Counsell had no previous managerial or coaching experience when he took the Milwaukee job in 2015, as he was a front office assistant and color analyst for the Brewers in the years following his retirement from playing in 2011.

Counsell played 16 MLB seasons as a utility infielder with the Colorado Rockies, Florida Marlins, Los Angeles Dodgers, Arizona Diamondbacks and Brewers.

The South Bend, Indiana, native attended high school in Milwaukee and spent the final five seasons of his playing career with the Brewers.

Counsell took over a Milwaukee team that went 82-80 in 2014, and although the Brewers regressed in his first season, they began to bounce back as a younger team in 2016.

Much of Milwaukee’s pitching staff is under the age of 30, while young hitters such as shortstop Jonathan Villar, outfielder Domingo Santana and utility player Hernan Perez made significant strides last season.

Milwaukee will be hard-pressed to compete for a National League Central title in 2017 with the likes of the Chicago Cubs, St. Louis Cardinals and Pittsburgh Pirates, but thanks to the progress made in 2016, Counsell afforded himself the opportunity to help the club take another step forward.


Follow @MikeChiari on Twitter.

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Keon Broxton Arrested: Latest Details and Comments on Brewers OF

Milwaukee Brewers outfielder Keon Broxton was arrested on Friday and charged with misdemeanor trespassing. 

Per Greg Auman of the Tampa Bay Times, Broxton was arrested in Tampa after refusing to leave an area following a fight. 

Auman noted the incident took place at 3:26 a.m. on Friday morning after Tampa police were dispersing a crowd following a fight. 

Per the arrest report Auman cited, Broxton was described as being “extremely intoxicated” with visible injuries to his face. As police were asking people to leave an area, Broxton started yelling “Y’all ain’t s–t behind your badges” and one of his friends took him from the area following another warning. 

The report then alleged police officers saw Broxton again a few blocks away, and he kept yelling at them, was issued another warning and walked back onto property he had been told to leave while still arguing with the officers, leading to his arrest.

Brewers general manager David Stearns issued a brief statement about Broxton’s arrest. 

“We are aware of the news regarding Keon Broxton and are currently gathering information,” Stearns said, per Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. We will defer further comment until we know more about the situation.”

The 26-year-old Broxton was born in Lakeland, Florida. He was originally a third-round draft pick by the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2009. Last season was his first extended opportunity in Major League Baseball, as he hit .242/.354/.430 in 75 games as the Brewers centerfielder.  


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Jonathan Lucroy Trade Rumors: Latest News, Speculation Around Brewers Catcher

Milwaukee Brewers catcher Jonathan Lucroy vetoed a potential trade to the Cleveland Indians, per MLB.com’s Adam McCalvy and Curt Hogg, but that may not stop the Brewers from dealing the two-time All-Star.

Continue for updates.

Rangers, Brewers Working on Deal

Sunday, July 31

Today’s Knuckleball’s Jon Heyman reported on Sunday that the Texas Rangers are looking at acquiring Lucroy.

The Dallas Morning NewsEvan Grant reported that the Rangers are hoping to get pitching help from Milwaukee as part of the Lucroy trade. Grant added that he believes the Rangers would prioritize a top-end starting pitcher over Lucroy if push came to shove. Heyman later reported that a relief pitcher could also be part of the package sent to Texas.

TR Sullivan of MLB.com added that third baseman Joey Gallo is “likely involved” in the Rangers’ talks with the Brewers.

Mets Drop Out of Pursuit for Lucroy

Sunday, July 31

According to Newsday‘s Marc Carig, the New York Mets were hoping to be in the Lucroy sweepstakes as well, but ESPN’s Jayson Stark reported they’re out of the running.

Lucroy Has Emerged as Desired Target Before Deadline

Unlike Cleveland, Texas and New York wouldn’t have to clear any more hurdles in the event either agreed to a deal with the Brewers. Lucroy’s no-trade clause only applies to eight teams, and the Rangers and Mets aren’t on the list, per ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick.

The appeal of Lucroy is clear. He has a .300/.360/.484 slash line along with 13 home runs and 50 RBI in 94 games this year. According to FanGraphs, only Buster Posey (19.3) has a higher WAR than Lucroy (13.4) among qualified catchers since 2013.

The 30-year-old also has a team-friendly $5.25 million club option for 2017, per Spotrac, so he’s not just a half-season rental.

The Brewers could hold onto Lucroy for the rest of this year and then look to move him either in the offseason or at the 2017 deadline. However, his value is unlikely to be any higher than it is now, so Milwaukee’s best move is flipping him ahead of Monday’s non-waiver deadline.

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Ryan Braun Trade Rumors: Latest News, Speculation on Brewers OF

Outfielder Ryan Braun would make a good trade candidate, especially with the Milwaukee Brewers squarely in sell mode before the August 1 non-waiver trade deadline, as he’s in the midst of another strong season.

Continue for updates. 

Brewers Reportedly Receive Lackluster Offer

Friday, July 29

Per MLB Network’s Jon Heyman, the Brewers did receive “at least one [offer]” for Braun that was described as “terrible” given his success in 2016.

There are two sides to the coin with Braun that would explain why a reported trade offer for him is not up to the standard Milwaukee might be seeking. 

On the one side, Braun is hitting .321/.383/.515 with 14 home runs in 85 games. A power bat like that would make a huge difference in the middle of a contending team’s lineup down the stretch in 2016. 

However, looking on the other side of this particular coin, Braun is 32 years old and hasn’t played more than 140 games in a season since 2012. He’s signed through 2020 with a mutual option for 2021 and is due to make $76 million over the next four seasons, per Baseball-Reference.com

If Braun were still 27-28 years old, making a deal for a player with that many years and that kind of salary left on his contract would not be as much of a problem. 

The Brewers have every incentive to try to get out from Braun’s contract. Their payroll decreased by nearly $41 million from 2015 to 2016, and Braun’s $20 million salary this season accounts for nearly one-third of Milwaukee’s $63.9 million payroll, per Cot’s Baseball Contracts

A team trying to rebuild its farm system cannot afford to be paying one player so much money over the next four years.

Catcher Jonathan Lucroy, who has been one of the most-buzzed about trade candidates, makes sense as a chip because he plays a premium position, has an OPS of .848 and has a team option for $5.25 million in 2017, per Baseball-Reference.com. He will net a huge return if the Brewers deal him because of his positional value and salary. 

It’s just going to be hard to convince a contending team in need of a bat that Braun is the answer when he is still owed so much money into his mid- and late-30s. 



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David Stearns Q&A: How MLB’s Youngest GM Is Building for the Future

In an era in which teams like the Chicago Cubs and Houston Astros have seen an organizational renaissance after overhauling their minor league systems, the term “rebuild” is thrown around as frequently as pie dough in a pizza kitchen.

David Stearns realizes as much, and in an interview with Bleacher Report, he tried to explain the nuances of how he is approaching it as the general manager of the Milwaukee Brewers.

The Brewers made Stearns Major League Baseball’s youngest GM when they hired him at 30 years old last season. Both Theo Epstein and Jon Daniels were hired by the Boston Red Sox and Texas Rangers, respectively, at 28 to lead those baseball operations departments.

Stearns addressed his philosophy, team draft strategy and the future of left fielder Ryan Braun and catcher Jonathan Lucroy, two highly sought-after veterans, as we approach the trade deadline.


Bleacher Report: Every “rebuild” has its nuances. What’s your philosophy as it pertains to turning this team into a contender?

David Stearns: We’ve been pretty consistent in what our overarching strategy is, and our overarching strategy is to acquire, develop and retain the best young talent we possibly can, and that is throughout the organization. Frankly, that’s not a cycle here that’s ever going to end.

We recognize that for us to remain consistently competitive—whether that’s now or in the future—our overarching organizational philosophy is always going to be to acquire, develop and retain the best talent that we can. At this stage of where we are, we’re doing our best to accelerate that process.

There are obviously a couple of different avenues by which you can acquire young talent: The draft is one of them, and obviously the trade market is another one. And so at this point, we think it’s in our best interest to explore all those avenues.

B/R: Do you feel like you have to decide from one season to another whether you are going to try to be competitive?

DS: I don’t think you ever really make that determination. I think you have a consistent philosophical strategy and you implement that strategy, and if the strategy is sound and it’s executed well, the amount of talent needed to compete will gather at the major league level.

Putting a time frame on that I don’t think is particularly wise because we’re not that smart. We don’t know exactly when that critical mass of talent is going to surface. But I don’t know that you ever want to get into a situation where you’re categorically saying, “Yes, we’re in. No, we’re not in.”

B/R: You’ve got some young talent playing well at the MLB level this season. Do you see things at least percolating?

DS: The more young talent that we have continuing to develop and take steps forward, the faster we’re going to be able to get to where we want to go. And so we’ve been pleased so far this year that we’ve had a number of young players take that step forward this year in their development.

We’ve been able to provide a number of our young players consistent playing time, and often that’s what these guys need to take that step. That’s certainly a part of it, and when you begin to see those pieces come together throughout your minor league system and at the major league level, it certainly leads to a degree of hope and optimism.

B/R: A bullpen seems like the most elusive thing in baseball. You draft a pitcher and their intentions are to come here and start. How do you think about a bullpen in building your organization?

DS: I think if you look at the history of very successful bullpens, they all seem to be constructed in a variety of different ways, and so trying to find concrete, discernible patterns and “this is the proper way to construct a bullpen” is probably not going to be a particularly fruitful endeavor.

So what we are looking to do from just an organizational standpoint is acquire pitchers who get outs, and if we acquire enough pitchers that get outs, we’re going to be able to get outs throughout all nine innings of a game. Clearly the majority of those, we hope, are going to come from the starting pitcher who goes late into games, and then you can complement that with a strong back end of the pen.

But we recognize where the industry is headed, and the industry is headed toward more specialization, where talented bullpens are able to pick up the last 12 to 15 outs in a game—and certainly that’s one way you can construct a roster.

B/R: You laugh. Is that because it’s the topic du jour?

DSI think it’s so elusive. It’s something that front offices, far long before I ever got into baseball, were trying to figure out, and I think each team has a slightly different philosophy of how to go about it. Clearly there are some organizations over the last couple of years that have put together historically dominant bullpens, and it’s led to a pretty good degree of success.

B/R: How much do you pay attention to what other sellers are doing in the trade market? We haven’t really seen it heat up yet. Does that affect when you act?

DSI don’t know that this year is necessarily any different pace-wise than other years. It generally doesn’t pick up too consistently until you get into July, and then historically, the majority of action is taken post-All-Star break.

My impression is that there’s plenty of conversation going on. There are a lot of informational calls. At this stage, everyone is trying to understand where team needs are and how we might fit with other clubs. It could really pick up at any time. It’s pretty tough to predict.

B/R: It’s sort of a tradition not to do business with anybody in your division. With the importance and emphasis on acquiring young talent, is there any shift in that philosophy?

DSI think you have to be open to dealing with all 29 other clubs. We made a deal with Pittsburgh in the offseason. We’ve had conversations with every club in our division. So we have to be open to it. We’d be foolish not to engage those clubs.

B/R: Lucroy and Braun are going to be sought after. The notion of whether or not you’re “shopping” somebody, is that overblown? I assume you’re getting phone calls.

DSGenerally, when you’re in a position that we’re in where we have some players, some veteran-type players, who have performed very well throughout the first half of the year—we’re a team that’s under .500 right now in a really good division—whenever those types of situations occur, you get calls about those players from teams that are higher up in the standings.

Certainly we’re no different, and we’re getting those calls. So along with that comes a whole lot of media speculation and reports of conversation and interest, and that comes with the territory. So we know that’s going to happen. I think both Braun and Luc know that’s going to happen and have handled it very well, and they understand the business aspect of this industry.

They understand from my perspective it’s my responsibility and obligation to see what is out there for any player on our roster, and so when another general manager calls and expresses interest, it would be foolish for me not to explore what we could potentially get back.

B/R: If you decide a guy isn’t part of your future, or you are too far away from contending, how do you weigh whether to deal a guy in July or wait until the winter?

DSI think you gauge what the return is that you could generate at any particular time, and certainly there is some benefit to doing deals now because there is more urgency on the part of other clubs. There’s also benefit to doing deals in the offseason, because, potentially, there are more suitors for a particular type of player as teams are formulating their entire roster.

So I think you set a return value on a particular player, and if that return value is met, you have to be comfortable making a move.

B/R: Do you think for you guys, or any team in your position, that the second wild card has generated more competition in a buyer’s market?

DSSo I like the second wild card for a variety of different reasons. I think it probably does lead to a little bit more action this time of year. It keeps more teams in the hunt, and it creates excitement down the stretch.

B/R: During the draft, did you go best on board?

DSOur philosophy is you take the best player available. Toward the end of the draft, you may have to deviate from that slightly as you need to fill out your lower-level rosters from a positional-need standpoint, but our goal for all our picks is always to take the best player available.

B/R: How do you evaluate a college or high school player metrically?

DSWhenever you’re evaluating players who are not facing a consistent level of competition in consistent environments, it becomes very challenging, and the error bars on whatever metric you’re using are going to be much wider, and we recognize that.

And it’s something that the entire industry deals with as we try to evaluate amateur players across the spectrum on more objective criteria, and so the club that can shrink those error bars as much as possible is probably going to have an advantage. We’re working hard at doing that, and I’m sure a number of other clubs are as well.

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Ryan Braun Trade Rumors: Latest News, Speculation on Brewers Star

Milwaukee Brewers star outfielder Ryan Braun is considered a prime candidate to be dealt to a contending team before the trade deadline.

Continue for updates. 

Giants Showing Interest in Braun

Monday, June 13

The San Francisco Giants have had “preliminary talks” with the Milwaukee Brewers about acquiring outfielder Ryan Braun, according to Bob Nightengale of USA Today, although “nothing [is] imminent.”

Interest in Braun, 32, is nothing new. In late May, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe wrote the following:

He’s the hot name out there,” said one National League scout. Braun is having an outstanding year, seemingly all the way back from PED disgrace and the subsequent reduction of his numbers. Which team could benefit from the righthanded, middle-of-the-order bat? The scout thought the Houston Astros, St. Louis Cardinals, Boston Red Sox, Philadelphia Phillies, New York Mets, San Francisco Giants, and Chicago White Sox were good fits. Braun is in the first year of a five-year, $105 million extension.

That contract might be an issue for some teams. Braun isn’t young, and there’s always the fear he will fail to live up to his huge deal as he gets into his late 30s.

Those aren’t the only concerns. As Zachary D. Rymer of Bleacher Report wrote, “Prospective buyers not only have to square themselves with his contract, but with his recent thumb and back woes. Also, nobody’s forgetting his performance-enhancing drug drama.”

Still, Braun is having an excellent season—he’s hitting .316 with 11 home runs, 36 RBI, 26 runs and five stolen bases in 52 games this season—and while he is no longer an MVP candidate, he’s a reliable bat that can solidify the middle of the lineup. 

For teams looking to bolster their offense without sacrificing much defense in the outfield, Braun would be an excellent addition so long as they’re comfortable absorbing his substantial contract.

Braun, however, will likely have the final say in where he lands. As Rymer noted, he can block trades to all but five MLB teams if he so chooses, another potential hurdle for the Brewers if they decide to unload him this summer.

On the other hand, if Braun wants to compete for a World Series title this season, a trade is assuredly his best chance of doing so. 

That increases the chances of his departure from Milwaukee, with more teams likely to inquire about his services before the August 1 trade deadline.


You can follow Timothy Rapp on Twitter.  

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Corey Ray: Prospect Profile for Brewers’ 1st-Round Pick

Player: Corey Ray

Position: OF

DOB: Sept. 22, 1994 (21 years old)

Height/Weight: 5’11”, 185 lbs

Bats/Throws: L/L

School: Louisville

Previously Drafted: 2013 (33rd Round, SEA)



Corey Ray was one of the breakout college stars of 2015, and after a strong summer with Team USA he entered his junior season as one of the premier players in the 2016 draft class.

After playing sparingly as a freshman, the Chicago native hit .325/.389/.543 with 15 doubles, five triples, 11 home runs, 56 RBI and 34 stolen bases in 44 attempts as a sophomore.

That strong performance earned him a place on the collegiate national team, and he went on to lead the club in OPS (.971), extra-base hits (9) and steals (11).

That was enough to make him a consensus top-10 pick when the college season kicked off, and he’s only further boosted his stock with a terrific showing as a junior.

Right now, if I had the top pick, I think I’d go with Ray,” Keith Law of ESPN wrote on May 17. “He can hit; he can run; he has some power. Although center field, where he plays part of the time for Louisville, is a pipe dream, he could develop into a capable left fielder. I think he goes among the top three picks.”

Ray is currently hitting .319/.396/.562 with 16 doubles, 15 home runs and 60 RBI, and he’s gone 44-for-52 on stolen base attempts.


Pick Analysis

The college crop of bats is fairly weak this season, but Ray was a clear standout with his combination of power, speed and an advanced hit tool.

He should move quickly through the minors, though his future defensively is still up in the air.

Baseball America had the following to say while ranking Ray as the No. 7 prospect in the 2016 crop:

Scouts have few concerns about his hit tool as they expect him to be at least an average hitter, especially after the refinement of his approach this spring. He has a short stroke and is balanced at the plate with a wide stance … Ray shows plus raw power and projects to hit 15-18 home runs as a pro.

He’s a plus runner with the eye for stealing bases–he’s topped 30 steals for a second consecutive year and he’s done it with an 85 percent success rate.

The questions with Ray revolve around his eventual defensive position. Scouts seems almost evenly divided over whether he’s a solid average-to-tick-above-average center fielder or a future left fielder. Even as a left fielder, Ray does enough things well to be a big league regular, but his eventual impact will be determined by whether he can stay up the middle.

That scouting report may not scream “perennial All-Star,” but the floor is very high with Ray, and he has a great chance of developing into an everyday player and steady contributor.


Pro Comparison: Ray Lankford

Tip of the cap to Keith Law for making this comparison; it’s a very fitting one.

Ray Lankford was a third-round pick by the St. Louis Cardinals back in 1987 and turned into a staple for the team in center field, where he played for over a decade.

When all was said and done, he put together a .272/.364/.477 career line with 1,561 hits, 238 home runs, 874 RBI and 258 stolen bases for a 38.1 WAR.

That mix of power and speed came from a similarly undersized frame as Ray’s, as Lankford was 5’11” and 180 pounds. That didn’t stop him from generating some impressive power numbers.

Lankford topped 20 home runs six different times in his career, maxing out at 31 in back-to-back seasons in 1997 and 1998 while playing alongside Mark McGwire.

On top of the surprising pop, Lankford also possessed plus speed, swiping 20-plus bases six different times, and was a serious speed threat early in his career with a respective 44 and 42 steals in his first two full seasons in the majors.

That being said, he was successful just 68.8 percent of the time in his career, so it’s reasonable to expect Ray to be a more efficient baserunner given his college track record.

Lankford was never a Gold Glove defender but was a capable everyday center fielder, and Ray will be given every chance to follow suit.

He may not have any 30-homer or 40-steal seasons in his future, but it’s not out of the question to think that Ray could settle in as a perennial 20/20 threat who hits for a solid average and gets on base at a solid clip as well.

That’s something every team would happily take with its first-round selection.


Projection: Everyday outfielder with 20/20 potential, capable defender in center field


Major League ETA: 2019


Chances of Signing: 99 percent

Ray had as much helium as any college player in the nation at the beginning of the spring, and he managed to back it up with a terrific junior season. Barring an unforeseen circumstance, he’ll be starting his pro career in 2016.


All college stats courtesy of The Baseball Cube, unless otherwise noted, and current through Wednesday, June 8.

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