After a breakout 2016 season, Jonathan Villar was expected to be a big-time contributor for the Brewers this season. Instead, the 26-year-old is hitting .213.
The second baseman went on on the disabled list with a lower back strain after making a diving stop in a loss to the Diamondbacks on Friday. But on the bright side, the Brewers called up top prospect Lewis Brinson on Saturday to take his roster spot.
Brinson was acquired in a five-player deal that sent Jonathan Lucroy to the Rangers at last year’s trade deadline. In his big-league debut on Sunday, he hit leadoff and went 0-for-2 with two walks and a stolen base.
Before getting the call, Brinson was slashing .312/.397/.503 with six home runs, 25 RBIs, 41 runs and seven stolen bases in 45 games with Triple-A Colorado Springs this season.
Brinson was an MLB Pipeline top 20 prospect in all of baseball entering 2017. The 23-year-old outfielder has plus power and speed with 30-30 potential, according to MLB Pipeline. There were some concerns about Brinson’s lack of patience at the plate, but he’s shown improvement with a .397 OBP at Triple-A this season.
The Brewers already were beat up before Villar went down, with Ryan Braun also on the DL with a calf injury. There’s still no timetable for him to begin a rehab assignment after getting sidelined on May 26.
Brinson was the third Brewers prospect to get called up in the last week, joining fellow outfielder Brett Phillips and lefthander Josh Hader. Phillips had been playing centerfield for the struggling Keon Broxton.
With Phillips, Broxton, Hernan Perez, Domingo Santana and now Brinson, it’s a crowded outfield situation in Milwaukee and will only get worse when Braun returns. But Counsell said the Brewers will continue to get Brinson in the lineup to see if he’s ready to be an everyday player in the majors. Brinson, who made his debut in leftfield, can play all three outfield positions, which gives manager Craig Counsell options.
As of Monday afternoon, Brinson was available in 73 percent of Yahoo! leagues and 86.6 percent of ESPN leagues. The potential five-tool player could be a solid contributor in every offensive category, especially if he stays at the top of the order. With big upside, he’s worth an add in NL-only and deeper mixed leagues for now, and depending on how he performs could be worth a look in all formats.