We are one month into the 2023 Milwaukee Brewers season. Ranking the 26-man roster may be premature at this point, but this is not a player ranking, this is mainly performance based, but it will also factor in projected value for the season and will take into account what is expected out of the player.
Most would consider the first 30 days of the season a success to this point, The Crew sit at a 18-10 record and are 2nd in the NL Central behind the red hot Pirates. It is safe to say that they have caught the attention of the fanbase and the city for their performance in this first month of the season.
This season has seen a fresh wave of new faces, whether acquired in the off-season or home grown through the farm system, they have highlighted a must watch Brewer ballclub. The return of veteran players as well has helped contribute to the early successes of this team.
Manager Craig Counsell and General Manager Matt Arnold have impressed again with their ability to put together a competitive ball club worthy enough to win games at a consistent rate.
Now that we have a month to digest what we have seen from this team, let us take a look from top to bottom on the best April performances to start the 2023 season.
Ineligible for Ranking
This roster has had it’s fair share of shakeups to start this season. The Brewers were bitten by the injury bug in April and have seen lots of movement across their 26-man roster. For me, it would be unfair to throw players near the bottom of this list who I feel did not get a fair chance to represent themselves on this list. Therefore, I have six names (probably should have seven) that I am deeming “Ineligible” for this 26-man ranking.
- Jake Cousins (RHP)
- Elvis Peguero (RHP)
- Tyson Miller (RHP)
- Gus Varland (RHP)
- Garrett Mitchell (OF)
- Brandon Woodruff (RHP)
Woodruff, Mitchell, and Varland looked like they would have positive reviews to start 2023 in this ranking. Woodruff had Cy Young potential, Mitchell maybe Rookie of the Year, and Gus Varland had always found a way to get out of trouble that he found himself a part of.
Cousins, Peguero, and Miller have been arms that were added late because of injuries and I do not believe they have enough game time to really judge their performances with Peguero having the most innings of the three with only 4.1 (an impressive 4.1 if I do say so). This also acknowledges the quick appearances of Janson Junk, Alex Claudio, and Javy Guerra will not be represented either on this list (and thankfully no Matt Bush).
23. Blake Perkins
22. Jesse Winker
21. Colin Rea
20. Luke Voit
Perkins was the name I was considering not counting on this list as well, as he took over for Garrett Mitchell since he has found himself on the injured list. Perkins seems to be the first name to head back down when both Tyrone Taylor and Luis Urias are back and healthy, but he may be here to stay for the next month or so.
Winker has gotten off to a slow start, however, he was pretty messed up from his stint with bronchitis in the middle of the month. But of eligible “starters” Winker is the only one yet to go yard and has the second worse OPS on the team, 30% below league average. Not stats you are looking for from you designated hitter.
Colin Rea is another name that probably wouldn’t be up in the majors if it wasn’t for the unfortunate injury to Brandon Woodruff. While the expectations were not high for Rea, he has not blown anyone away with his stuff. Of the eligible starters, Rea has the highest walks per/9 (4.0) and lowest strikeouts per/9 (5.2). But an impressive start today against the Angels in which he notched 9 Ks.
Voit I think just unfortunately finds himself in this position on the list for a couple of reasons. His bat has not been what we were expecting from the righty. What has been the most alarming, his appearances against lefties. Voit has just one hit off a left all season and has a strikeout rate above 50% against southpaws. A rough stat line when the Brewers chose to roster Voit over Keston Huira in 2023. His defense however, has exceed expectations at first.
19. Joel Payamps
18. Brice Turang
17. Eric Lauer
16. Owen Miller
Payamps finds himself in some jams quite a bit. He allows a lot of traffic on the basepaths. On the surface, the 142 OPS+ looks great, and I don’t hate what we have gotten out of Joel in the first month of the season. His WHIP (Walks/Hit per Innings Pitched) is among the highest on the team as he gives up more hits per/9 than anyone on the roster. Since the injury to Matt Bush and the trade of Javy Guerra, Payamps may find himself pitching for his roster spot this season. But if he keeps up what he’s doing, he should be safe.
Turang started off hot this season and has been a plus defender this season at second base this season. His grand slam first career homer may be one of the biggest moments the Crew see all season. Since then, it has been less than ideal at the plate. He can’t hit lefties, he is still looking for his first knock versus one this season, currently sitting at 0-10 this season with 5 K’s. His OPS is lower than Winker’s but he gets the benefit of the doubt from his play versus righties and the stellar defense at the number four.
Eric Lauer may be in a favorable spot on this list for right now, he would be the first to tell you this has not been an ideal start for the lefty. Statistically, it has been two starts that have made Lauer’s numbers look worse this season, 6ER against St. Louis and 4ER against Boston. His velocity has been down almost 3mph (from 93 to 90) and his slider has been well down has well this season. Opponents hit .172 on the pitch last season and they hit .300 in April against it this year. Lauer has had some solid outings, but he is still waiting to get back to his form.
Miller has been a solid addition to the roster this year. The hometown kid from Fredonia, Wisconsin can play virtually anywhere when needed and has hit for average very well this season for the Brewers. I would give him a higher rating on this list if he was in the lineup more often. He is probably the team’s best platoon player and to have only given up “cash considerations” for the utility man, seems like a steal for Matt Arnold this offseason.
15. Christian Yelich
14. Joey Wiemer
13. Corbin Burnes
12. Freddy Peralta
11. Mike Brosseau
I know, I know attacking the poster child of Milwaukee baseball is controversial, but get serious, we cheer for walks from a guy who used to be a 1.000 OPS hitter. He is over the hill. There is plenty to be happy with for Yelich, he is playing phenomenal defense in Left Field this year, the Brewers currently lead the MLB in DRS (Defensive Runs Saved) after one month of play and Christian has contributed well to that. But his OPS is sitting nearly 20% below league average and even his OBP is sitting at a measly .316 with the most plate appearances on the team.
Wiemer, man I really want to put him higher on this list. I hope that if he plays everyday this year in Center Field he is seriously considered for a Golden Glove. Wiemer’s defense has been immaculate all season since taking over for Garrett Mitchell. He started off strong with his bat after being promoted from Nashville after the injury to Luis Urias. But he has floundered near the end of the month. His bat is very comparable to Yelich this season as his OPS sits 20 points higher. If this list was “favorite” players on this 2023 team, Joey would be much higher.
I have struggled going back and forth with Corbin and Freddy so I am just going to put them together. This season, Corbin has not had the same swing and miss stuff. His WHIFFS (Swinging Strikes) are much lower than usual in a handful of starts. He has more walks than Freddy and Freddy has more strikeouts in less innings of work. But they have the exact same K% and the same Strike% this season.
What is comes down to is FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching), a stat that focuses on the three true outcomes a pitcher can control, homers, strikeouts, walks. Burnes is a full point higher than Peralta from 3.14 to 4.16. I think in May we see both of these pitchers find their stride and explode for a big month of May.
Mike Brosseau needs to find another spot to play other than 3rd Base. I hold my breath whenever a ball is hit in his direction and a throw is needed to 1st. But his bat this year has been a pleasant surprise and hard to not put in the lineup. He has improved his approach against righties immensely and I would have him higher on this list if it wasn’t for his slower start to the season against the lefties this season. He was brought in to destroy southpaws and his splits have been reversed this season with an OPS .300 points higher against righties.
10. Hoby Milner
The Brewers have the best bullpen in the National League, 5th best in all of baseball in terms of ERA. The rest of this list you may see some bias in how I have valued the arms at the back half. Hoby Milner is the lone lefty in Arm Barn for the Crew and he is one of FIVE Brewer arms that have an ERA+ over 140 for relievers. He has been more a just a lefty specialist this season, he is an arm Counsell can rely on for outs.
He seems to be an elite arm for missing barrels and has gained movement on his sinker, curveball, and changeup this season according to BaseballSavant. With Bush and Guerra not with the team for the foreseeable future, expect to see a lot more Hoby in May.
9. Bryse Wilson
Cash considerations, that is what we had to give up for Bryse Wilson. He has been an absolute steal of an acquisition. A long relief role that can go multiple innings and a probable candidate if a spot start is needed, Wilson is another arm that has an ERA 98% higher than the average pitcher in 2023!
He has collected 16 innings of work, maybe he walks too many batters but he had a great month of April in which he pitched in 9 games for the Crew and helped save many of the arms for future appearances. I put him above Hoby on this list simply because of the expectations he amassed to start 2023.
8. Victor Caratini
After the bullpen, hard to argue that Catcher hasn’t been the 2nd most valuable position the Brewers have fielded this season. Caratini is the “vet” behind the dish in his second season with the Brewers and he has established himself as the man to catch when Corbin Burnes is on the bump.
Vic has had a completely different approach at the plate this season. He has a career high now in BAbip (Batting Average on Balls in Play) at .364 and has a K% 3 points lower than his previous career low. Even though he has only played in ten games in April, he eclipsed milestones such as a 4-4 game and a 3 walk outing and reached base in 8 of those games. He has been an excellent platoon option for Contreras all season.
(Via Baseball Reference)
7. Brian Anderson
The best off-season signing the Brewers had this year could very well be Brian Anderson. His bat has been one of the most consistent all season and his versatility to play Right Field and 3rd Base has helped the Brewers all season long and has showed off the cannon of an arm Anderson has. He is tied for the lead in Runs Batted In on the team and tied at the top for hits in April.
Anderson is on a 1-year deal with the Crew and if he were to continue at this pace it would be foolish for Milwaukee not to consider bringing him back. Anderson currently ranks second on the team in homers, second in doubles, and carries an OPS+ higher than the average big leaguer. He has been a steal of a signing thus far and my fourth best position player this season.
6. Peter Strzelecki
Say hello to your new Setup Man, Peter Strzelecki. This has been the best rookie this month by far. While Strzelecki had appearances last season for the Brewers, it was a small sample size of 35 innings. This year, nobody in the MLB has pitched in more games so far as Strzelecki and he owns an ERA at 0.66 right now, over 500% better than the average pitcher in the majors this season.
The confidence this guy has is unmatched right now too. He has been put in bad situations and he has come out calm, cool, and collected. There is a confidence in the team when he takes the mound. With just 1 earned run on the season, it isn’t a surprise that Strzelecki commands the bump whenever Counsell calls upon him.
5. William Contreras
Esteury Ruiz right now leads the majors in Stolen Bases and Hit By Pitches, other than that he has an OPS of .626. William Contreras has an OPS of .779 and a Batting Average nearing .300. Contreras has been a steal of a trade this off-season. When it is mapped out, you can say that Contreras is actually what the Brewers acquired for All-Star Pitcher, Josh Hader.
The best surprise from Contreras is the improvement in the defensive department for Contreras. He has been among the league’s best in framing pitches at the bottom of the zone and has a positive framing run rate to his name as well. Even if we were just to get his bat in the trade from the Braves this off-season he would be near the top of this list, the defense however has brought him much higher on the list.
4. Wade Miley
The highest ranked new addition on this first ranking is Wade Miley. Boy, what an exciting arm to watch on the mound when he goes every five days. Not that he has the most lights out fastball or the biggest break on his off speed, but if there is one starter that didn’t need a pitch clock implemented it’s Wade Miley.
Miley has the fastest tempo of any pitcher when runners are on base and the 6th fastest when there are no runners on. Miley has been the epitome of “pitcher” this season. Mind games, change of speed, and command of his pitches, Miley is rocking an ERA of 1.86 in 29 innings of work in April. He has been the Crew’s best pitcher in the rotation and the best off-season (re)addition to the club to start the season.
3. Rowdy Tellez
Rowdy by far has been the best bat this year. It took him a while to get started but once the Brewers went on that 10-day West Coast Road Trip Rowdy caught fire and has not slowed down. 8 Homers (1st on the team), 20 RBI (1st on the team), an .886 OPS (1st on the team), and .553 SLUG (1st on the team). Rowdy is a fan favorite and had a monster close to the month of April.
Should Rowdy keep this up we could be looking at a 35 Homer and 100 RBI season easy. This start that Tellez is on right now is miles better than the start he had in March/April last season with a slash line of .234/.300/.484 in the opening month last year and he finished with number very close to the ones I projected him to have, could we be looking for 40 homers this season?
2. Willy Adames
It is really hard to put anyone above Willy Adames on this list. Willy is the WAR (Wins Above Replacement) leader on team with 1.0 after the first month. He is the ultimate clubhouse guy and he truly seems like he is the “face” of the team right now. His defense is among the elite at shortstop and his bat is must at the top of Counsell’s order.
Perhaps the most impressive aspect that Willy has brought to his game this season is his ability to reach base. Willy leads the Brewers in Walks (18) this season and reached base safely in 26 games this season for the Brewers, the most on the team. He is due for an extension and a raise for his next contract, fans would be hurt if that contract wasn’t with the Milwaukee Brewers.
1. Devin Williams
Devin Williams is a DAWG! Taking over the closer role full-time now, Devin did not surrender a run all month long. I am not sure if there is a reliever of the month award, but Williams would have to be the recipient if there was. 10 games, 9.1 innings, 14 strikeouts, and a WHIP at 0.85 right now, his stuff looks unhittable.
Williams was one of the pitchers I was seriously worried about with the implementation of the pitch clock as he was one of the slowest working pitchers a season ago. He has made the transition smoothly and has made it look effortless in the process. The closer is 1 of just four pitchers in baseball to make 10 appearances this year and not surrender an earned run. Williams has taken the Closer role over with ease for the Brewers and has made every game virtually over when he takes the bump in the 9th.
One month into 2023, how do we feel about the Brewers? Exceeded expectations? Disappointing? I think right now you have to tip your cap to the Brewers and their start to the season. If they keep playing the way they are playing, we could be in for a late run come October.
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