Taking a Look at Breakouts in Milwaukee
The Brewers have been in the spotlight thanks to their hot start to sit atop the N.L. Central. Eric Thames and Eric Sogard have stolen the spotlight with surprising performances, but others on the team have had standout performances without nearly the same fanfare.
3B Travis Shaw
Travis Shaw received plenty of attention this offseason after he was dealt to the Brewers to become their everyday third baseman. However, that attention has dissipated during the season despite Shaw hitting 13 home runs and near .300 to this point in the season as the team’s everyday third baseman.
Park factors are often something left to DFS play rather than dynasty leagues, but in Shaw’s case, it is worth considering. According to Rotogrinders, Milwaukee is the most friendly park for left-handed power. This is worth considering in the dynasty context because Shaw will not be a free agent until 2022 and Lucas Erceg, their best third base prospect is in just High-A this season. That means Shaw should see consistent playing time with Miller Park as his home park for at least the next few seasons.
The good news for Shaw is that his home park is a luxury, not a requirement, for his power output. Though many advanced stats are capable of illustrating that Shaw’s power is legitimate, one such source is ESPN’s home run tracker, measuring the true home run distance for each hitter. Shaw’s is currently 409.5 feet, which compares favorably to such power hitters as Edwin Encarnacion, Albert Pujols, Trey Mancini, Nolan Arenado, Marcell Ozuna, and Ryan Zimmerman.
Shaw has also made adjustments to cut the swing and miss in his batted ball profile as he is swinging less but making higher rates of contact. His 20.2% strikeout rate stands out as a positive given the power he has displayed. While his .295 average is likely to fall, he should be able to maintain at least a .270 average moving forward thanks to his lowered strikeout rate. This all makes quite an intriguing skillset for a third baseman who fails to get the attention he deserves and would be a solid addition to a competing team who wouldn’t require the same acquisition cost as other elite producers at the position such as Jose Ramirez or Jake Lamb.
SP Jimmy Nelson
A long-awaited Jimmy Nelson breakout may have finally arrived in 2017 as he is posting career bests across the board in the traditional fantasy category stats. A change in pitch mix and improved command have been the catalyst for this improvement. Nelson has both upped his four-seam fastball usage to 33.41% this season while also throwing the pitch for a strike more often, as his strike rate with the pitch jumped from 25.7% last season to 31% this season. That change has helped greatly in lowering Nelson’s walk rate to a career-best 5.9%.
Even without a velocity uptick on his fastball, Nelson has managed to strike to generate plenty of swings and misses thanks to his curveball. Much like his fastball, Nelson has not only begun to use the pitch more frequently but also used it with greater effectiveness as it is has generated the greatest rate of swings and misses of any of his pitches. That makes it little surprise that he has managed to bring both his swinging strike rate and strikeout rate up to career highs.
This season seems to be a perfect storm for Nelson as he has improved in two of the most important facets of the game for pitchers. Given the pitching landscape, it is possible that his owners know what they have in him at this point. He is still a strong buy for contenders as we draw near the midpoint of the season, however, as he could be a pitcher who pays major dividends yet won’t carry the same cost as other potential high-impact pitchers who carry more name value.