The Brewers Face a Roster Crunch as They Enter September
The team's call-ups should be especially interesting this year
Welcome to the On Deck Circle, Brewers beat writer Kyle Lobner's weekly look at the team's week to come and beyond.
With the exception of the ninth inning on Sunday, it’s been a pretty bleak month of August for the Milwaukee Brewers.
Since winning four in a row and six out of seven games to close out the month of July, the Brewers are just 6-14 this month and needed some unlikely heroics on Sunday to avoid an 0-7 road trip. They overcame a 6-3 ninth inning deficit in the final game in Seattle with a pair of ninth inning home runs from Keon Broxton and Chris Carter, only the fourth time since 2000 the Crew has hit two or more home runs in a come-from-behind ninth. Here are the others:
· * Sept. 20, 2000: Geoff Jenkins and Jeromy Burnitz homered to break up a shutout and tie the game in an eventual 3-2, 10 inning win over the Cubs.
· * Aug. 11, 2007: Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder went back-to-back off Astros closer Brad Lidge to drive home the final four runs of a 7-4 win in Houston.
· * Sept. 27, 2015: Khris Davis and Jason Rogers hit a three-run shot and grand slam, respectively, as the Brewers scored seven runs to shock the Cardinals 8-4.
With that tangent aside, however, the Brewers’ bleak August has left us without much to do except look ahead to September, when we could catch another glimpse of the future.
The minor league season winds down on Labor Day weekend and MLB rosters expand on Sept. 1 to accommodate players teams would like to call up for a cup of coffee in the big leagues during the stretch run. All players called up must be a member of the 40-man roster, but beyond that the sky is the limit. Recent demotions David Goforth, Damien Magnifico and Andy Wilkins seem likely to get a ticket back to Milwaukee to wrap up the season, and here are a few more current 40-man occupants that could join them:
· Taylor Jungmann had a disastrous season at the MLB and AAA levels, but has a 2.70 ERA and 9.5 strikeouts per nine innings in ten starts since moving down to Biloxi. His walk rate is still an issue but AA hitters have struggled just to make contact with him (6.5 hits per nine innings), and at some point the Brewers are going to have to determine if he’s a viable MLB option going forward.
· Ben Rowen, a recent waiver claim from the Blue Jays, has a 2.18 ERA across 42 relief appearances in AAA this season. That includes five scoreless outings since joining Colorado Springs.
· Andrew Susac is another recent acquisition, coming over from the Giants in the Will Smith deal. If he’s healthy (he hasn’t played in a minor league game since August 12), having him on the roster as a third catcher would give the Brewers some much-needed flexibility on the bench.
· Michael Reed was a September callup last year but we haven’t heard much from him since. He has a .376 on-base percentage in 110 games for Colorado Springs this season, but might struggle to find consistent playing time in a corner outfield spot in the majors.
For players not currently on the 40-man roster, there’s another factor to consider: The Brewers have a bevy of top prospects that need to be added in the coming months to avoid becoming eligible for the Rule 5 Draft, where players that have accumulated sufficient minor league service time without getting called up to the majors can be selected by other organizations. Adam McCalvy (with an assist from Brewerfan.net) posted a list of potential eligibles last week, and it includes the following:
· * Outfielder Lewis Brinson, recently acquired from Texas in the Lucroy/Jeffress deal, who appears to be the organization’s consensus #2 prospect.
· * Pitcher Josh Hader, another frequent occupant of Top 100 prospect lists.
· * Outfielder Brett Phillips, who has had a disappointing 2016 campaign but remains one of the organization’s top prospects.
· * One-time Rule 5 selection Wei-Chung Wang, who is still only 24 and has pitched well for Biloxi and Colorado Springs as a starter this season.
· * Infielder Javier Betancourt, acquired from Detroit in the Francisco Rodriguez deal, who is one of the youngest regular players at the AA level this season.
· * Outfielders Clint Coulter and Tyrone Taylor, the #27 and 92 picks in the 2012 draft, respectively.
At some point in the coming months the Brewers are going to have to make room on the (currently full) 40-man for at least the top three and possibly as many as seven of these guys. That’s going to create a pretty significant roster crunch, but having guys that need to be added to the 40-man roster anyway creates a possibility of calling them up to the majors and seeing what they can do in the short term.
At the very least, the Brewers’ September moves are going to be interesting. They might even be more interesting than the team’s recent performance on the field.