On Saturday, the Brewers and Mets continued to reshape their outfields, making a four-player swap headlined by dynamic outfield defender Keon Broxton. Here’s the deal:
Keon Broxton, CF
Almost by default, Broxton tentatively slots in as the Mets’ starting center fielder, between Michael Conforto and Brandon Nimmo. There’s a stark lack of outfield depth on New York’s 40-man; Jay Bruce was traded, the org isn’t expecting much from Yoenis Cespedes next season as he recovers from surgery to remove bone spurs from both heels, and Juan Lagares provides very little on offense and is injury prone. Since 2014, he has endured a strained hamstring, an intercostal strain, several thumb injuries, an oblique strain, and a plantar plate tear. In 2018, he was shut down for the year in May due to toe surgery and has only played seven Dominican Winter League games this offseason.
As far as others on the 40-man are concerned, T.J. Rivera and Dom Smith have each played some left field, while Jeff McNeil, who turns 27 in April, has started just five pro games in the outfield. It’s debatable as to whether any of them are actually playable out there. It is not debatable that Broxton, who is an elite defender at all three outfield spots, is simply better than all of them.
Set to turn 29 in May, Broxton’s growth as a player has likely concluded. He struggled badly with strikeouts as a prospect and was traded straight up for cash before being part of a two-player package for half-year big league performer and fringe 40-man talent Jason Rogers. That deal landed him in Milwaukee, where Broxton improved enough in his late-twenties to be rostered as defensive ace and pinch runner.
The strikeout issues remain (his career strikeout rate is 36%), and Broxton’s propensity to whiff undercuts his offensive production enough to make him a bench-quality player, albeit a good one because of the defense. Ideally, he’s not your everyday center fielder, but it’s reasonable to project him as one right now because of the dearth of other outfielders on the Mets roster.
Broxton and Lagares seem, on the surface, like odd bedfellows for a platoon because they’re each right-handed. It’s possible a timeshare might help keep Lagares healthy, or that the two complement one another in harder-to-see ways. For instance, a quick examination of their heats maps on the site shows that Broxton does his damage on pitches middle-in, while Lagares thrives on pitches down-and-in. They could be platooned in accordance with where the opposing starter likes to work. That’s probably not a different enough offensive profile for this type of thinking to matter, but maybe their skill sets with mesh with each other in some other way we can’t see. Or perhaps the Mets will keep an open mind about further upgrading in center field.
From Milwaukee’s perspective, Lorenzo Cain’s defense made Broxton’s best skill redundant in a crowded outfield picture that now projects to see more action from Eric Thames, Ben Gamel, and Tyrone Taylor, who is a sleeper breakout candidate due to a recent swing change that might have altered his power output.
From the Mets, the Brewers receive another immediately relevant relief piece in Wahl, who will likely compete for an opening day bullpen spot in the spring. He was part of the two-player package Oakland sent to the Mets for Jeurys Familia last summer. Wahl, who turns 27 in March, has thrown just 12 career big league innings at this age mostly because he missed extended development time to multiple surgeries, including one in 2017 to remedy thoracic outlet syndrome.
His stuff was back last year. Wahl’s fastball sits in the mid-90s and will touch 99. He has a four-pitch mix but works primarily with the fastball and a power, mid-80s breaking ball that has bat-missing vertical action. A firm cutter and changeup are also folded in on occasion. Wahl has set-up man stuff but below average command and more significant injury risk than most pitching prospects.
The Brewers also acquired Adam Hill, the Mets’ 2018 fourth round pick out of the University of South Carolina. Hill was dominant during the first four starts of his junior year, but his control disappeared once the Gamecocks began conference play. He struggled to throw strikes for two months leading up to the draft and fell to the fourth round.
Hill does have good stuff. He’ll sit 90-94 and his big, 6-foot-6 frame and lower arm slot combine to create a unique look for hitters. His slider breaks late and has good length when located to Hill’s arm side, and his changeup has good action because of his lower arm slot. His limited command probably relegates Hill to the bullpen eventually, but he has No. 4 or 5 starter stuff if he can develop better control in his mid-20s, which sometimes happens to pitchers this size.
Finally, the Brewers also acquired 18-year-old Dominican second baseman Felix Valerio, who hit .319/.409/.433 in the DSL during his first pro season. Valerio is a skills-over-tools type of prospect who is more polished than most of his peers. He has promising feel for contact and is athletically viable at second base but at 5-foot-7 and 165 pounds, he’s less likely to grow into more impressive physical tools than someone with some length and room on their frame. Players like this either hit enough to play second base every day, or don’t and end up as org guys. Valerio walked more than he struck out last year, and those types of peripheral indicators can offer great evidence to support a case that a player will indeed hit enough to play every day, but not when we’re talking about DSL stats. Still, league sources indicated to me that this was not the first time Valerio’s name has come up in trade talks, so it seems that other teams besides Milwaukee have had interest in him.
All three players have been added to the Brewers prospect rankings on The Board. Wahl and Hill are in the 40 Future Value tier, while Valerio will be added to the Others of Note section of the team’s long form writeup.
Eric Longenhagen is from Catasauqua, PA and currently lives in Tempe, AZ. He spent four years working for the Phillies Triple-A affiliate, two with Baseball Info Solutions and two contributing to prospect coverage at ESPN.com. Previous work can also be found at Sports On Earth, CrashburnAlley and Prospect Insider.