The Brewers finished one game out of the playoffs last season. On Thursday, they made a power move to try to get over the top.
The Brewers acquired outfielder Christian Yelich from the Marlins in a blockbuster trade, sending back three of their Top 10 prospects—No. 1 Lewis Brinson, No. 5 Monte Harrison and No. 9 Isan Diaz—along with righthanded pitching prospect Jordan Yamamoto.
Yelich follows Giancarlo Stanton, Marcell Ozuna and Dee Gordon out the door as Miami completes its teardown. With their latest trade, the Marlins have now acquired four Top 100 prospects this offseason to get their rebuild started.
The Brewers, meanwhile, weren’t done adding. They reportedly reached an agreement with free agent outfielder Lorenzo Cain shortly after the trade was announced.
Marlins acquire: Lewis Brinson, OF Age: 23
Brinson is the prize of the deal as the Brewers No. 1-ranked prospect and the No. 18 overall prospect in the game. A Fort Lauderdale native who grew up idolizing Juan Pierre, Charles Johnson, Cliff Floyd and other Marlins greats, Brinson has everything you want in a center fielder. He has physicality, power, speed, defensive grace and a big arm, as well as an affable personality that will make him a fan favorite. He is also big league-ready after hitting .311/.400/.562 at Triple-A Colorado Springs last year and making his major league debut. Brinson’s main problem is he has struggled staying healthy throughout his career, including playing just 97 games last year with a variety of injuries, most notably a season-ending hamstring strain. If Brinson can stay healthy he has the talent to be an all-star center fielder and a fan favorite for years to come, and will only be more popular as a south Florida native. With the Marlins outfield now cleared of all veterans, Brinson is in position to be their Opening Day center fielder.
Monte Harrison, OF Age: 22
Harrison ranked as the No. 75 prospect in the BA Top 100 and is another physical, dynamic power-speed center fielder. After battling injuries throughout his career, Harrison stayed healthy in 2017 and showed tantalizing ability, hitting .272/.350/.481 with 21 homers, 28 doubles and 27 stolen bases between low Class A Wisconsin and high Class A Carolina. Harrison has home run power to all fields, is efficient with his plus speed (he was thrown out just four times in 31 stolen base attempts) and can play both center field and right field at a high level. His weakness is his strikeout rate, which sat at a concerning 27 percent at the A-ball levels last year. Harrison resembles Mike Cameron in both physique and skill set, and has similar all-star potential. But he’ll need to stay healthy and limit his strikeouts just enough, as Cameron did. Harrison will open the 2018 at Double-A Jacksonville and has a chance to see Miami by the end of the year.
Isan Diaz, 2B/SS Age: 21
Diaz is a dynamic, athletic middle infielder with power who was formerly a Top 100 prospect. He is coming off a down season as he battled through a broken hamate at high Class A Carolina and put up an underwhelming .222/.334/.376 line, albeit with 20 doubles and 13 homers. His frustration with his injury and poor performance showed, with bad body language and failure to run balls out at times. When healthy and right, Diaz shows plus bat speed and the ability to drive the ball to all fields with his lefthanded swing, as well as impressive raw power for his 5-foot-10, 185-pound frame. He draws walks but can get too aggressive at the plate, resulting in plenty of strikeouts. Defensively Diaz is smooth and athletic and can play both shortstop and second base, but his range and average arm are best suited for second. Diaz has the potential to be the Marlins everyday second baseman down the road, but first he will have to rediscover his health, plate discipline and motor. He’ll likely head to Double-A Jacksonville.
Jordan Yamamoto, RHP Age: 21
Yamamoto is a righthanded starter who went 9-4, 2.51 at high Class A Carolina last year and would have won the Carolina League ERA title if he had enough innings to qualify. He struck out 113 and walked 30 in 111 innings, showing both the ability to miss bats and stay in the strike zone. Yamamoto sits 89-93 mph with his fastball but gets a high volume of swings and misses because of an elevated spin rate. His best secondary is a swing-and-miss slider, and he has a changeup that remains a work in progress. He handles lefties (.246 AVG, .672 OPS) nearly as well as righties (.227 AVG, .614 OPS). While his numbers and positive splits point to a future as a starter, evaluators largely see Yamamoto as a future reliever, at best, because of his slight frame and lack of a plus pitch. Yamamoto is set to begin 2018 at Double-A Jacksonville as a 21-year-old.
Christian Yelich, OF Age: 26
Yelich already has a Gold Glove, a Silver Slugger and a career .800 OPS to his name, and only just turned 26 in December. The lefthanded-hitting standout is coming off a year in which he hit .282/.369/.439 with 18 homers, 36 doubles and 16 stolen bases (in 18 attempts). One of baseball’s brightest young players, Yelich has already shown the ability to hit for average and reach base and saw his power spike with 39 homers the last two seasons after hitting just 20 in his first three seasons combined. He primarily played center field last year but is better in left, where Ryan Braun currently resides. Whether he plays left, right, or center, Yelich gives the Brewers a top-flight young player they can insert into their lineup, and one that is affordable. Yelich is signed for four more seasons and $43.25 million, plus a team option for $15 million in 2022.