The Brewers and issues at first base: it’s a tale as old as sliced bread.
Or today’s average fifth grade student. Take your pick.
Milwaukee has had a different starting first baseman every single season since 2011. Eleven different opening day starters at one position is insane, but what’s even crazier is that Milwaukee has had 53 players at first base over the last eleven seasons.
53 players. That’s a ridiculous amount.
No one else has been able to stick around long enough to hold down the position. Will Rowdy Tellez be the first to do so in over a decade?
Tellez has Talent
As Brewers’ fans have come to know, Rowdy Tellez is no slouch. Tellez has shown his value on both sides of the ball this year with Milwaukee, and it could eventually lead to a permanent starting spot on the roster.
While Tellez struggled earlier this season with the Toronto Blue Jays, he has had a complete turnaround on offense with the Brewers. Since joining Milwaukee, Tellez has slashed .275/.344/.477 with six home runs. He also posts an 11.2% barrel percentage, which is the fourth best in baseball. He’s seen an increase in average exit velocity from last season and is posting a career-high 47.4% hard hit rate. These numbers are not flukes, either, as Rowdy has seen a steady increase in many offensive categories since his rookie season.
As for defense, Rowdy is having a career year. He’s never had a season with more than 0 defensive runs saved (DRS) in his career, but this season, he is hovering right around that mark. Tellez has always been a below-average fielder, but his ability to save bad throws from the infield and save runs has shown this year. Rowdy is improving on defense just as much as he is on offense, creating a recipe for success for the first baseman.
Favorable Contract Helps Small-Market Brewers
Tellez does not officially hit the Brewers’ budget space until this offseason. The 26-year-old is being paid by the Toronto Blue Jays through the end of the season, but is on a very team-friendly deal.
Rowdy is making slightly under $600,000 this season and will be arbitration-eligible this offseason. Tellez will most likely receive a raise next season, but not much higher than the $2-$4 million range. Being arbitration eligible also opens the door for a restructuring if ownership and Tellez can agree upon it. Players on friendly contracts and high levels of production have always been a focus for the Brewers’ management team. Thus, it makes sense that Milwaukee would pursue Tellez as a long-term starter.
If Not Rowdy, Then Who?
There is always the chance that Milwaukee and/or Rowdy choose to go separate ways in the future. In this hypothetical situation, plenty of names pop up as potential replacements for Tellez. Here is a quick list of potential future starters/gap-fillers at the position if Rowdy’s time in Milwaukee ends on a short note.
Vogelbach is under team control through 2024 and is currently playing in the minor leagues. Rowdy and Vogelbach are very similar players: both play first base, both are power hitters, and neither are the greatest defenders in the world. If Rowdy ends up not being the starting first baseman in April of 2022, Vogelbach could be suiting up for the position.
It is really unfortunate that Keston Hiura has not produced this season. Many expected a true breakout season from the infielder, yet it never came. That being said, that doesn’t mean Hiura won’t be in the first base conversation next season. He’s shown what he’s capable of in the majors in 2019 and in Triple-A this season. There’s no question that he can return to that level of production.
Ashton McGee may have the best swing mechanics in all of minor league baseball. His position versatility and excellent bat make him a prime candidate to play first base in the future with the Brewers. Click here to read more about McGee.
The Brewers got a steal of a prospect when they signed Ernesto Martinez out of Cuba in 2017. While he’s played more outfield than first base in his career, Martinez has played more first base this season, and is finally starting to break out as a hitter. Click here to read more about Martinez.
Oak Creek, WI’s finest has already made strides in rookie ball and at Low Class-A Carolina. He’s got plenty of time left to prove himself before he gets the call to the major leagues, but Binelas is already beginning to do that as is.
Free Agency/Trade Market
There are plenty of options in free agency if the Brewers decide to go that route. Names like C.J. Cron, Anthony Rizzo, and Greg Bird come to mind as the 2021 offseason approaches. Could Milwaukee go after a bigger fish such as Freddie Freeman? Possibly, but a more budget-friendly option is more than likely the route the Brewers’ pursue.
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