MILWAUKEE – The Milwaukee Brewers had confidence in their rookie class well before the start of the season.
Those newcomers wasted no time rewarding that faith.
The Brewers have won five straight games while fielding a lineup that often features three rookies in outfielders Garrett Mitchell and Joey Wiemer and second baseman Brice Turang. The trio is batting a combined .321 (17 of 53) with five homers, 13 runs and 13 RBIs through the first six games of the season.
“I think it brings a different type of energy when you have young guys,” said Mitchell, whose walk-off homer Wednesday capped a three-game sweep of the New York Mets. “We’re going out there, and not only are we trying to play, but we’re trying to stay here. Nothing’s ever guaranteed in this game. We’re working really hard, doing everything to the best of our abilities and doing it at a fast pace.”
Although Mitchell reached the majors late last season, Wiemer and Turang made their big league debuts last week.
These rookies are showing that the attention they received before the season was merited. The Brewers spotlighted them throughout spring training in a video series titled “The Freshmen” that aired on social media.
“You could feel a little superstitious that we put that out there, but we wanted to try to introduce the young guys to the fans, and you could see the impact they had on the game,” principal owner Mark Attanasio said. “Especially with the speed.”
Attanasio made that comment Monday before the Brewers’ home opener. The rookies spent the next three days making one heck of an impression on the home crowd.
Turang hit a grand slam in the opening game of the Mets series. Wiemer delivered a three-run homer Wednesday. Mitchell homered three times, a remarkable power surge for a guy who had just 13 homers in 557 career minor league plate appearances.
“We as his teammates knew,” Wiemer said. “He’s got a lot of juice in his bat.”
While it’s unrealistic to expect these rookies to maintain such production at the plate, they’ve shown they also can contribute in other ways.
All three are quality fielders with speed. Wiemer had an outfield assist from right field Monday when Daniel Vogelbach attempted to stretch a single to a double and had a diving catch in center Wednesday.
“The way they play, they all can do so much on the field and are not one-dimensional players,” manager Craig Counsell said. “They’re players that can do a lot, and that means they can impact the game a lot, and that’s what they’re doing.”
The rookies have emerged as part of a lineup overhaul the Brewers made after going 86-76 last season to end a franchise-record string of four straight playoff appearances. A couple of Milwaukee’s veteran newcomers also made quite the early statement.
Brian Anderson was nontendered by the Miami Marlins after hitting .222 with a .657 OPS last season. He is batting .500 (9 of 18) with three homers for the Brewers, and his 10 RBIs put him in a tie for the major league lead.
Anderson also has played both third base and right field, which has given the Brewers flexibility they need with infielder Luis Urías out six to eight weeks because of a hamstring strain.
Jesse Winker hit just .219 during an injury-riddled 2022 season with Seattle but is hitting .333 with a .409 on-base percentage through his first six games in Milwaukee, a place where he hit well during five seasons with the Cincinnati Reds.
All those new faces have helped the Brewers succeed without getting big early contributions from some prominent players.
With Urías injured, the only three starting position players who were with the team at the start of last season — Willy Adames, Christian Yelich and Rowdy Tellez — are hitting below .250. Corbin Burnes, the 2021 Cy Young Award winner and 2022 NL strikeout leader, has a 9.64 ERA through his first two starts.
Yet the Brewers haven’t missed a beat, thanks in part to the spark the rookies have provided.
“They’re full of energy,” Burnes said. “They’re happy to be here. They’re playing their butt off. It’s not like it’s just one guy shining. Every guy out there is shining.”