Milwaukee needs more out of the position with their starter unable to produce offensively
With Lorenzo Cain’s contract coming to an end, the question moving forward will be who starts in center field? Although Cain has been a staple of the Milwaukee lineup for the past five seasons, he has struggled this season, with a mere .168 batting average and one home run through nearly two and a half months of play. At the age of 36, he doesn’t have much longevity left in the tank either, making the position difficult to predict in upcoming seasons and in the playoffs if the Brewers are able to qualify.
The obvious choice to replace him is a player already on the Brewers roster, Tyrone Taylor. The main question mark with Taylor is his offensive production. He is only hitting .228 with six home runs, but that is still much better than what we have seen from Cain so far this season. With Taylor also being 28, there isn’t much room for potential growth either as he nears his prime. What’s good about Taylor is his defense in the position, as he has started 24 games in center without an error. This is important for a team that prides itself on defense, as well as power at the plate, both of which Taylor can do, albeit not at an elite level.
The Brewers have three other outfielders on the roster, two of whom have experience playing center field. Hunter Renfroe, the only one with minimal center-field experience, has shown why his cannon of a throwing arm is needed in right field, as he already has five outfield assists. Andrew McCutchen was brought in on a one-year contract to mostly be a designated hitter, as he has lost some of his athleticism with age. He does sometimes play outfield though, but mostly as a corner outfielder. McCutchen in the past has won MVP playing center, but unfortunately, those days are well behind him. Also due to his contract and age, it isn’t a guarantee he’ll be back on the roster next season.
The other option would be Christian Yelich, who played centerfield on the Marlins before being traded to the Brewers. The problem with Yelich playing center is his arm. Most teams know they can run and push for extra bases on hits to the left field due to his extremely weak throwing arm. This is why the Brewers should look elsewhere to fill their center field needs.
Milwaukee does have some youngsters in the farm system that are eager to get big league innings, which could be the answer to the problem. Joey Wiemer is one that has shown massive potential, both in the field and behind the plate. In AA, Wiemer is hitting .284 with 13 home runs through 49 games. He has also shown his speed, tallying 18 stolen bases so far this season. Another prospect that could fill the position is Garrett Mitchell. Although he has struggled a bit in AA and he’s currently injured, Mitchell has all the tools to be a traditional center fielder. He has some speed, as well as being a good contact hitter, and with some improvement in the minors, he is a name we could see on the roster down the stretch this season or at the beginning of 2023. The Brewers top prospect, Sal Frelick, is also a potential option, but he’s younger than both Wiemer and Mitchell.
The Brewers could also look to make an upgrade at the trade deadline, with many rumors swirling around the Mets’ Starling Marte and the Pirates’ Bryan Reynolds. Both options would provide Milwaukee with win-now production. Marte is 33, making him the older of the two, but he has been one of the better outfielders in baseball since 2013, and his elite speed and defense, along with his plate presence, make him an intriguing target for the Crew come late June.
Reynolds, at 27, is the younger of the two but also the harder of the two to trade for, as he’ll command more assets than Marte. The Pirates have been one of the laughing stocks of the MLB for a while, and moving Reynolds for prospects makes some sense for where they are as a team. Reynolds burst onto the scene in 2021, hitting .303 with 24 home runs, good enough for an All-Star appearance. This season though, he has taken a step back with a .249 average and 10 home runs. A change of scenery may be needed for Reynolds to get back to his 2021 form.
The last place the Brewers could improve the position would be in free agency, where there are some good options come the winter. Joc Pederson is a name that many Brewers fans know, as he has been more or less a Brewers killer in his career with the Dodgers and Braves. With his contract expiring at the end of this season, his outfield versatility and immense power at the plate could make him an enticing option. Another player that could play center is Tommy Pham of the Reds. He has hit .247 with eight home runs this season on one of the worst teams in baseball. He is definitely someone that Milwaukee could sign on a relatively cheap deal come the offseason if they aren’t able to find an immediate replacement for Cain this season.