Stop me if you’ve heard this one before — the Brewers lousy bullpen blew another game Wednesday at Washington. Jimmy Nelson’s win vanished into the vapor, and the Brewers fell to second place in the NL Central. Milwaukee’s starting ERA is seventh (4.01) in the league; it collapses to 20th (4.36) when the bullpens are called into play.
I don’t want Bernie Brewer crying in his suds, so let’s focus on something positive. Shortstop Orlando Arcia has been a surprise, turning in a breakout year that’s still mildly under the radar. I don’t know if the Brewers can find a believer in Jonathan Villar, but Arcia is definitely the team’s shortstop for the extended future.
Similar to Cleveland’s Francisco Lindor, Arcia was an ascending prospect on the strength of his defense, not his bat. Although Arcia was young for the level when he reached Triple-A (just 21 years old), his .267/.320/.403 slash didn’t have anyone dreaming about Robin Yount. Arcia made it to the majors last summer and basically didn’t hit for 55 games (.219/.273/.358).
Sometimes these things take time. Arcia has a solid .282 average with the Crew this year, with a surprising rise in pop (nine homers). He’s also sitting on nine steals, with makes sense given his stolen-base rates in the minors. It’s encouraging that Arcia is running at all, because he normally slots eight in the Milwaukee lineup. Often that’s a death sentence for a NL speedster, gridlocked in front of the sure-to-bunt pitcher spot.
If you cut up the shortstop roto leaders over the last month, some interesting names pop up. The absurdly-underrated Didi Gregorius slots first, followed by Swiss-Army knives Marwin Gonzalez and Chris Taylor. Paul DeJong (more on him in a second) is fourth, Carlos Correa fifth, Jean Segura sixth. And then Arcia checks in, with a snappy .322 average, four homers and four steals. Sounds like he might be outgrowing that 27-percent Yahoo ownership tag, no matter his lineup position.
Arcia’s angelic defense doesn’t have a direct fantasy worth, other than it will keep him in the lineup. But if the category juice keeps flowing, we’ll keep buying.
• Maybe Randal Grichuk cleared his head in the minors, figured a few things out. He’s already clubbed four homers in his six games since returning, and he was 4-for-5 (all singles) in Wednesday’s romp over the Rockies. He’s settling into the right-field spot, though Mike Matheny jumps him all around the order. With Dexter Fowler and Stephen Piscotty on the DL, Grichuk’s spot in the lineup is secure.
You’re getting Grichuk for his pop (13 homers in 67 games) and the occasional bag (five). His batting average will likely ding you, and his career OBP is a mere .302. But a .495 slugging percentage with some category juice, that will play. Grichuk is a free grab in about two-thirds of Yahoo leagues.
For all the big names on the Cardinals, it’s been the pickups who have driven the story this year (maybe that’s a condemnation as much as anything). Outfielder Tommy Pham has been their best offensive player, by far (.312-53-14-44-13) and shows no sign of slowing down. Position-grabbing infielder DeJong has corralled the shortstop job, hitting .290 with 14 homers in just 183 at-bats. Pham and DeJong have slotted 2-3 the last three games, behind a resurgent Matt Carpenter. I don’t think the Cardinals are out of the NL Central race.
• It hasn’t been a lovely year for every young pedigree shortstop. Addison Russell has been dreadful most of the season. It’s been an up-and-down sophomore run for Trevor Story. Francisco Lindor is showing pop, but he’s not running or hitting for a plus average.
And Atlanta shortstop Dansby Swanson? He’ll be in Gwinnett for a while.
The Braves finally accepted the inevitable Wednesday, optioning their hot-shot shortstop to Triple-A. Swanson did everything to earn the demotion, slashing .213/.287/.312 with six homers and a couple of steals. You could argue the move was long overdue.
In the big picture, the news not only isn’t a big deal, it might present a buying opportunity down the road. Keep in mind Swanson was the first overall pick in the 2015 draft and was a Top 8 prospect on all the major clipboards back in March. He’s still just 23. If he perks up a bit at Triple-A, I’m not ruling out a fantasy check-in later in the year.