As we left the weirdest of baseball seasons behind in 2020, most Brewers fans knew there were big questions to answer at the infield corners. We had watched a plethora of players at 1B/3B, platooning eight players at first and five at third in a 60 game season. Craig Counsell wanted options, but platoons of that size create issues in team stability and with most of those players – Smoak, Holt, Healy, Morrison, Gyorko and Sogard released either during or at the end of the season, the question remained.
But while most of us were looking at the corners, David Stearns went out and did what he does best. He surprised us all by strengthening second with the signing of double gold glove winning infielder Kolten Wong. A great signing without doubt and with Lo Cain returning this season we look very strong defensively down the centre.
But what about the corners?
At first inspection it seems like folly to bolster second with our corners so obviously exposed. But, maybe it was an act of genius.
First Base – Re-Shuffling the Pack
The signing of Wong means we need to find a new position for Hiura. Most would agree we need an in-form Keston on the team for his offense and even though his .212/.297/.410 season last year was not good, we know that form is temporary but class is permanent. So where do we play him?
The answer – play him at first. Anybody who has watched knows that Keston has struggled at 2B. His erratic arm contributed to a DRS of -8 last season to accompany his -5 from 2019. So, in truth, he is somewhat of a defensive liability at second.
Playing him at 1B could be the change he needs. Some have said that at 6’ 0” he is too small to play the position. Maybe being tall could be an advantage, but Anthony Rizzo is only a couple of inches taller and he’s made the position his own, so height shouldn’t faze us too much. With Ryan Braun’s retirement pretty much assured, the only other logical option at 1B is Daniel Volgelbach. Even though his .328/.418/.569 brought some much needed offensive bite last year, I don’t see Dan playing a full season at 1B.
This could be the start of something beautiful for Keston.
Platoon in the Hot Corner
In the opposite corner, nobody can fault the ambition of Stearns for attempting to land Justin Turner with a lucrative three year deal. As predicted, the deal fell through when Turner returned to the Dodgers, making a four man platoon for 3B likely for 2021.
The (re)signing of Travis Shaw certainly helps fill that gap. Fangraphs predicts he will get the majority of starts at 3B (39%) with Arcia (21%), Robertson (19%) and Urias (12%) the other candidates. If we get the Shaw of 2017 (OPS .862) then that $1.5M + could prove to be a great deal. At the Blue Jays his offense showed signs of recovery with an OPS .717 from 180 plate appearances, following the dismal .551 he returned in 2019 for the crew.
Urias was brought in to challenge for shortstop and with a predicted start in that position of around 46%, Arcia will probably move across the diamond to supplement the hot corner. Daniel Robertson forms a potentially exciting new addition too.
What we can expect is average performance at 3B. Urias and Robertson both have a DRS of 0, with the Mayor’s +2 recorded at Toronto last season pushing us just above league average. (For note, Justin Turner has a DRS of 0 too!)
So are we covered at the corners? I think so. I’m excited to see how 1B develops this season and the options we have at 3B give us some depth.
It’s going to be a great watch.
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