2020 American Association Preview: Milwaukee Milkmen
American Association Daily provides insights and features on the American Association of Professional Baseball League, as well as player and coaching profiles and transactions going on with teams around the league. In today’s edition, Robert previews the Milwaukee Milkmen and what to expect from this team during the 2020 American Association season.
Preview the 2020 Milwaukee Milkmen
Manager: Anthony Barone (First Season with Milkmen)
2019 Record: 38-62 (Sixth in North Division, Tied for 10th in American Association)
Home Ballpark: Franklin Field
A Quick Recap of 2019
It was a tough first season for the Milwaukee Milkmen, as they not only had to wait a month to officially open their new ballpark, but battled through a tough campaign that saw them finish last in the North Division. The pitching staff was great, and there were several who made their mark. Tanner Kiest was the most sought after reliever in the American Association and was eventually dealt to the St. Paul Saints, where he became the closer on a championship team. Myles Smith proved to be one of the best closers in the league, saving 17 games and Angel Ventura was a top five starter.
However, the lack of hitting doomed the team. They simply could not score runs as Adam Walker and Manuel Boscan proved to be the only dependable run producers. In fact, they were the only two who drove in more than 36 runs.
That led to Anthony Barone being named the manager of the team for this season. He will be in his first year as a professional manager, but has the total confidence of ownership.
Key Losses: C Manuel Boscan, LHP Carlos Diaz, IF Dan Ward
Key Additions: IF Chase Simpson, OF Zach Nehrir, RHP Dylan Baker, RHP Ryan Kussmaul, IF Mason Davis, IF Dylan Tice, IF David Washington, OF Brett Vertigan, RHP A.J. Schugel, UTL Logan Trowbridge
Looking Ahead to 2020
Before the pandemic hit, the Milwaukee Milkmen were already going to be a drastically improved team. They had added some real pop to their lineup with the additions of If David Washington, IF Mason Davis, and OF Brett Vertigan. When you include super utility star Logan Trowbridge, there was no doubt that this was going to be a challenging lineup, but not a scary one.
That all changed at the dispersal draft. Manager Anthony Barone not only selected a 2019 MVP candidate in Chase Simpson, but he also got OF Zach Nehrir, who could have easily been a first round pick himself. These two, along with IF Dylan Tice who was also selected in the draft, drastically change the look of this lineup.
Last year’s Milkmen looked to beat you with the longball. This year’s version has a lot of pop, but they can score runs in many different ways. Tice and Nehrir become great table setters. Both get on and both steal a lot of bases. Simpson is an RBI and on-base machine, fitting perfectly in the No. 3 spot. That should give Washington, Walker, and Davis a lot of opportunities to drive in runs, and it would not be surprising to see the trio combine with Simpson to drive in nearly 180 runs this season.
The pitching staff remains formidable. Ventura was one of the best starters in the league last year and he returns to anchor the rotation. Dylan Baker, another dispersal draft selection, posted a 3.36 ERA in K.C. and former big leaguer A.J. Schugel returns after missing all of 2019 to join Ventura at the top of the rotation. Taylor Ahearn was excellent for River City (Frontier League) last season and there are two or three other guys who could easily earn that fifth spot.
Smith returns to close out games. He will have a plethora of quality setup guys who should easily bridge the gap. The one to watch is RHP Spencer Backstrom, who combined to fan 91 batters in 44.0 innings between Bakersfield (Pecos League) and Sonoma (Pacific Association). Clearly, the level of talent is far inferior there, but it will be interesting to see if he can elevate his game.
The 2020 Milwaukee Milkmen are one of the best teams in the league. In fact, it would not be hyperbole to say they are a top 3. The problem is that they are in the same hub with the Chicago Dogs, who they will play 24 times this season. Chicago is the class of the league, meaning Milwaukee has to go through a meat grinder of a schedule just to try to compete for a top spot. That will unfortunately keep them out of the hunt.
No doubt this team is going to score runs and pitch well but, unless they can go 14-10 against the Dogs, they will miss the post-season. Look for the Milkmen to win 31 or 32 games and just miss out on the playoffs.
By Robert Pannier