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Key players for the Milwaukee Brewers in wake of Christian Yelich’s injury

It is never easy to lose a player out of a team’s starting lineup, much less during the playoff race. But for the Milwaukee Brewers, losing Christian Yelich is not just any player.

Having won the 2018 National League Most Valuable Player award, Yelich was actually putting up better numbers across his 2019 season up to this point, which is astounding considering how well he played last season. Having been on pace for the league’s first-ever 50 home run, 30 steals season would have been an absolutely astounding cherry on the top of his very successful season.

But for the Brewers, apparently having their star player stay healthy during the best season in his career was too much to ask the baseball gods for, as Yelich fouled a ball off of his right knee cap in Tuesday’s game against his former squad, the Miami Marlins. With this foul, Yelich has fractured his right knee cap, putting a kibosh on the rest of his season and putting his timeframe and availability for the 2020 season up in the air as well.

Without surgery, this type of injury can normally require four to six months of recovery; if requiring surgery, the timeline is pushed out to nine to eleven months, which would mean that a considerable chunk of Yelich’s 2020 season would be lost due to recovery. The health of the player, both physically and mentally, is always the most important aspect of any unfortunate injury, but the Brewers will lose a ton of production with Yelich on the shelf for the foreseeable future.

However, not all is lost, as the team does have some interesting depth pieces that they can plug in during Yelich’s absence. While none of them are even remotely close to the level that Yelich is on, their production can help address some of the holes left by Yelich’s injury, which is all that the Brew Crew can hope for at this time.

Not limited to just outfielders, here are some players that will need to step up in wake of the injury to Yelich.

Lorenzo Cain

The veteran center fielder has put together a struggling 2019 season so far, as his offensive presence has been very minute compared to how well he performed last season. On the flip side, his defense looks to be Gold Glove-esque, something that he evaded him somehow throughout his entire career.

For Cain, he is the captain of the outfielder, making plays and calling off others as the centerfielder. With that role, a lot of responsibility falls onto his shoulders, but the veteran knows exactly how to handle these situations.

Cain is the guy that needs to show up and show up big in September, a month that he is very familiar with in terms of playoff contention. If he continues his defensive prowess, then his performance at the plate will eventually show up too, just at the right time for this surging team.

One of the eldest statemen on this squad, Cain needs to show up and show out for the Brewers now and for the remainder of the season if they want to make it back to the postseason. As a veteran presence for those who have not been here yet, he is exactly the guy that can turn into an on-field mentor for others to look up to.

Trent Grisham

Not having been called up until the middle of the season, rookie outfielder Trent Grisham has made a super-fast ascension through the minor leagues to become a regular contributor for this team. Having made stops at Double-A and Triple-A on his way to the majors, Grisham is a fast-rising, super-talented and toolsy outfielder who seems to be finding his groove, just at the right time.

On Wednesday against the Miami Marlins, Grisham was in the leadoff spot in right field in place of Yelich, and he went yard for the team’s fifth leadoff home run of the season. While that was impressive, what was more impressive is that the long ball occurred after a long, seven-pitch battle that resulted in Grisham taking the Marlins’ starter the opposite way, clearing the way in left field for a solo shot.

While still very young and early on in his professional development process, Grisham may ultimately become this team’s starting right fielder for the remainder of the season. With circumstances thrusting him into the spotlight, his job at the plate, combined with his defensive flexibility across all three outfield slots, makes him a key guy for this team down the stretch.

His home-run power has shown its awesome head for this team so far, but he also has strung together a five-hit game with some clutch hitting to turn the tide of games in the favor of the Brewers, which is a very hard thing to do as a rookie.

Baptism by fire is not encouraged, but for Grisham, he may just get burned enough to understand how to take the heat later on.

Yasmani Grandal

The team’s big-time free-agent acquisition this past offseason, Yasmani Grandal has been a real dude for this team behind the plate. Having already set a franchise record for most home runs in a season as a catcher, the former San Diego Padres and Los Angeles Dodgers backstop may have found a permanent home in the blue and yellow.

Having signed a one-year deal last offseason, Grandal has turned the uncertainty of his contract into a really solid season for the Brewers. With having relegated incumbent catcher Manny Pina to a back-up role, Grandal has also filled in at first base when need too as well, showing his defensive flexibility as well.

His switch-hitting abilities have been absolutely clutch for this team too, as they have been able to throw him out there in dire situations and he has come through time and time again, proving that their brief, one-season investment should turn into a long-term one this offseason.

Having been down this road a few times as a member of the Dodgers, Grandal understands the importance of the postseason and what it takes to get there. Mostly situated in the lineup ahead of Yelich so he could get on base for the MVP, Grandal’s role turns more into a run producer than a table-setter, although his skills will translate across both roles very nicely.

Keston Hiura

The final name on this list may be the most important, as rookie second baseman Keston Hiura has made his return from a hamstring injury suffered at the end of August to help this team down the stretch. With second base currently being held down by utilitymen Cory Spangenberg and Hernan Perez, the addition of Hiura back from the injury list works like a late-season trade acquisition for this team.

Hiura is mostly known for his pop at the plate, having been rated as the best bat in the 2017 draft when he went ninth overall. His long ball and solid contact rate have been key for the Brewers this year, and once he gets back up to game speed, he will be counted on to bring those elements back into the starting lineup.

Similar to Grisham, Hiura’s rookie status limits his role a bit. However, with everything on the line this late in the season, roles expand and limits diminish, so Hiura will be given the full keys to the car to help drive and will this team back into the postseason.