With the 15th overall selection in last summer’s first-year MLB player draft, the Milwaukee Brewers pulled the trigger on Georgia Tech junior left-hander Jed Bradley.
A three-year contributor to the Yellowjackets’ bullpen and starting rotation (he went 18-11 with a 4.62 ERA and 1.38 WHIP during his collegiate stay) Bradley was considered one of the top overall pitchers of the 2011 class and according to MLB.com prospect expert Jonathan Mayo, ranked as the eighth-best overall prospect coming into first-round action.
Weighing in at 6’4″, 225 pounds, the Huntsville, Alabama native has the prototypical frame and sound, fluid delivery that scouts like to see out of a seasoned college starter. He has four average to plus-average pitches — fastball, curve, changeup and slider — at his disposal and throws each efficiently, though none yet grade out as a real dominating pitch at this stage of his development.
After getting his feet wet in this past fall’s Arizona Fall League, the Brewers promoted Bradley to their class-A advanced minor league affiliate Brevard County Manatees to start his professional career. Now four starts into his 2012 campaign, Bradley is 2-1 with a 1.50 ERA and 0.917 WHIP, allowing just 18 hits while striking out 23 in 24 total innings.
He’s performed everything like what GM Doug Melvin wanted him to be when they took him with their middle-round pick in last summer’s draft. Bradley’s outstanding production early in his first professional season has given fans reason enough to expect him to make his way to the majors potentially by the start of the 2014 season.
With Bradley quickly becoming one of the most talked-about prospects in all of the minors this season, it’s time to give Brewers fans some insight on what should become their future No. 4 starter. The following is a fully-fledged scouting report on Milwaukee’s most popular young southpaw.
Weight: 225 pounds
Bradley weighs in at an athletic 6’4″, 225 pounds. He has the prototypical frame of a future innings-eater at the next level, thanks in large part to both his height and weight.
While he’s by no means has a lanky build, he does have long, loose arms that prevent him from having to overthrow his pitches. For that reason, he’s a very durable pitcher that projects to log at the very least 200 innings each season at the big league level.
Bradley works out of a 3/4 arm slot and has a very smooth delivery that’s very repeatable. Unlike many pitchers at the minor league level that can be overly dependent on their fastball, Bradley has four solid pitches he’s shown to be able to throw in just about any situation, so there isn’t too much emphasis on his velocity. Consequently, he’s doesn’t throw all of his body weight into his pitches.
Alluding to my earlier point, Bradley’s has a very smooth delivery that has very little wasted movement. This is obvious in the above clip from his last season in Georgia Tech. One of the biggest problems that many prep and collegiate pitchers can have in their first few years of professional ball is translating their mechanics from the windup to the stretch with runners on base. They often try to speed up their delivery, and that in turn can mess up their foot-placement, arm slot and other vital mechanics.
For Bradley, that doesn’t seem like much of a problem. In fact, I consider it a strength of his. His delivery translates very well from the windup to the stretch.
The three snapshots below show Bradley’s first three pitches of the clip shown earlier.
Working out of the stretch, Bradley’s mechanics are very good and it’s clear that his coaches at Georgia Tech worked extensively to shore up that facet of his game. While I’d maybe like to see him get a bit more tilt and body weight into his pitches, I can’t complain about much else. His is able to open his hips at the same rate consistently and his arm slot consistency is where it needs to be.
The only flack I have to give him would be to solidify his foot placement — he tends to throw somewhat closed off with his right foot slightly toward first base — as he could use a bit more refinement in that area. Not a big issue at all, though.
Bradley is by no means an overpowering pitcher with plus-average velocity, however, he does have the velocity necessary to get hitters out at the big league level. His four-seam fastball ranges anywhere from 90-94 MPH and he does have a lot of confidence in this pitch.
His two-seamer sits regularly in the 90-92 MPH range with good movement. He’ll need to work on commanding this pitch late in counts, though it does have some projectability moving forward.
Apart from his fastball, Bradley has two very solid pitches — change-up and slider – that he loves to mix in regularly against hitters. Thanks to his above-average ability to hide the ball during his delivery, his change-up grades out as a plus-average pitch that regularly catches hitters off guard. This pitch will be a tremendous asset for Bradley as he pushes through the system as the competition gets tougher.
Bradley also throws a slider with solid movement that has improved by leaps and bounds since the beginning of his junior season with Georgia Tech. He threw it with way too much inconsistency during his collegiate years, however, it’s become a real weapon against Florida State League hitters thus far this season.
At 6″4, 225 pounds, Bradley has the physical tools and frame necessary to thrive as a middle-of-the-rotation starter at the big league level. Couple that with his durability, mound presence, collegiate success and three solid, projectable three-pitch repertoire, and Bradley should be a consistent 200-inning, 30+ year starter in any big-league rotation.
It remains to be seen how fast the Brewers plan on pushing Bradley threw the system. But given the fact that he skipped both rookie and low-A ball and headed straight to the Florida State League to start his professional career, it isn’t out of the question to suggest that he could have a spot in Milwaukee’s rotation by the end of 2013.
First off, I’d like to apologize for the lack of posts over the past few days. As it turns out, there aren’t many merits to procrastination for a freshman in college. Now, let’s get to the point of this post.
Through the first couple weeks of the 2012 regular season, the Milwaukee Brewers — as well as the rest of the National League Central division — are already looking up at defending World Series champions St. Louis Cardinals, who hold a healthy two-game lead over the rest of the division.
While a lot of baseball has yet to be played this season, there have been more than enough reasons for concern for the Prince Fielder-less Brewers. Hitting has been scarce much more than usual, defense has looked abysmal and the starting pitching hasn’t been up-to-par from where it was last season.
As the season persists and games continue to become more important, how do the Brewers intend on catching the Cardinals for the division title? Here are 10 keys.
*All stats updated through April 25, 2012
Aramis Ramirez’s brief 2012 stint with the Brewers has been a nightmare situation for both sides. After signing a lucrative four-year contract last December, the tried veteran has struggled mightily through the first three weeks of the season.
In 61 plate appearances, Ramirez has just 10 his to go along with an unsightly .164/.224/.295 line. His plate discipline has been in question early in the season, amassing a walk rate of just 7.5 percent with a strikeout rate just south of 20 percent. However, those are the least of his worries at this juncture.
Ramirez has yet to truly find his power-stroke this season, holding true to an unpleasant .131 ISO. For a guy well-known for his capacity to hit the long-ball — he has a career .215 ISO — those numbers are more than concerning. If the Brewers expect to catch up with the Cardinals at any point this season, they’ll need Ramirez to get his power-swing back out of the cleanup spot in Ron Roenicke’s lineup.
Rickie Weeks Must Cut Down on His Strikeouts
Expectations were high for Rickie Weeks coming off yet another injury-plagued campaign, particularly with respect to his offensive productivity. Milwaukee’s second-baseman made his first All-Star appearance for the National League last summer in large part due to his offensive yield.
Through the first three weeks of 2012, however, Milwaukee’s 29-year-old has regressed at the plate tremendously. In 76 plate appearances, Weeks has managed a .182/.289/.364 line with a team-worst strikeout rate of 27.6 percent. His morbid strikeout rate has in large part stemmed from his inability to hit the curveball, putting just 8.8 percent of all curveballs in play this season.
Weeks’ struggles at the plate haven’t been enough for Ron Roenicke to move him out of the leadoff spot in the lineup. But if his plate discipline doesn’t improve in a timely fashion, it will be near impossible for the Brewers to gain any ground on the Cardinals as the season persists.
Jonathan Lucroy/George Kottaras Must Continue Their Hot Hitting
The Brewers have been a collective mess at the plate this season, but the one bright spot has surprisingly come from catchers Jonathan Lucroy and backup George Kottaras.
Despite batting primarily out of the No. 8 hole in Milwaukee’s lineup, the two have combined for a scintillating .314/.429/.608 line with three home runs, nine runs batted in and eight runs scored. There tremendous productivity at the dish has been enough for a MLB-best 1.3 WAR rating among all team catching units.
Never have the Brewers been able to get so much offensive production from the catching position to start a season. Milwaukee will need a high output from Lucroy and Kottaras all season long if they’re to catch the Redbirds for the division lead.
Randy Wolf was an unmitigated workhorse for the Brewers last season, leading the staff with 212.1 innings pitched and finishing second with 21 quality starts. Entering what could potentially be a contract year for the 35-year-old southpaw, many surmised he’d pick up right where he left off.
Unfortunatly, that hasn’t been the case through the first three weeks of the season. In his first three starts of 2012, Wolf finds himself 0-2 with a gaudy 8.80 ERA. Even more alarming, opponents are hitting .325 with a .373 BABIP, which isn’t all that surprising given the fact he’s struggled to command his changeup.
Wolf turned in a solid outing against the Astros Tuesday night, but in the largely scope of things, there is much improvement to be had from Milwaukee’s No. 3 starter. Needless to say, those improvements will need to come quickly if the Brewers intend on catching the Cardinals.
Corey Hart’s Slugging Ways Must Persist
Brewers right fielder Corey Hart has always been known for this power potential, and through the first few weeks of this 2012 season, it’s been on full display.
Milwaukee’s 29-year-old outfielder has carried Ron Roenicke’s lineup to the tune of a .286/.388/.679 line with a team-high five home runs. His power stroke has given him a by far and away team-best .393 ISO over the likes of Ryan Braun, Aramis Ramirez and Rickie Weeks.
In a Brewers lineup in desperate need for production without Prince Fielder, Hart has quickly become Roenicke’s most reliable hitter for power who can drive the ball to any corner of the field. The graph below illustrates exactly what I’m talking about.
If Hart’s ability to drive the ball to the opposite field persists, it will be awfully difficult for pitchers to try and pitch around him. Needless to say, the Brewers will need his dynamic bat in the middle of their order if they have any shot of catching St. Louis.
Seventh Inning Relievers Must Be Steadfast
One of the biggest question marks facing the Brewers coming into spring training was whether or not their bullpen would be able to effectively bridge the gap from the starters to setup man Francisco Rodriguez and closer John Axford, particularly in the seventh innings. So far, things have looked rather shaky.
Jose Veras, Kameron Loe, Manny Parra, Marco Estrada and Tim Dillard have held down the fort adequately so far, but they will have their work cut out for them as the season progresses. As a unit, they’ve managed a 3.50 ERA, 1.67 WHIP, .286 BAA and .375 OBP in the seventh inning.
If the Brewers have any plans to catch up with the Cardinals, who’s staff has been nothing short of outstanding so far this season, they’ll need to show signs of progress in bridging the gap from their starters to their late-inning relievers.
Francisco Rodriguez Must Command, Develop Confidence in His Changeup
Francisco Rodriguez was once upon a time the best closer in baseball, thanks in large part to a devastating upper-90 MPH fastball and low 80 MPH changeup combo. However, age has taken a palpable toll on the former all-world closer.
Now in his first full season with Milwaukee, Rodriguez’s fastball has worked effectively, however, his changeup has been noticeably lacking. Last season, K-Rod aggregated a strike percentage of 68.6 with his changeup but has garnered just a 39.5 strike percentage with the pitch in 11 appearances this season.
The chart below depicts Rodriguez’s changeup location plot so far this season.
Ryan Braun Simply Cannot Try to Do It All
Reigning National League MVP Ryan Braun took a whole lot of flack from baseball fans this past offseason for his connectivity to performance-enhancing drugs, despite the fact he was vindicated of the charges against him through an appeal from the league office.
But while Braun remains legally exonerated, his obvious struggles this season have only given his doubters more reason to question his innocence. In 74 plate appearances, Braun boasts a .266/.338/.516 line with just three home runs and nine runs batted in. He’s aggregated a strikeout rate of 23 percent and a walk rate of 8.1 percent, as well, and his tendency to swing at pitches has moreover magnified without the protection of Prince Fielder.
All things considered, though, Braun simply cannot try to do it all by himself. The pressure to produce on-par with his 2011 yield will only continue to mount, and if he caves in to that pressure, the Brewers will have no shot at catching the Cardinals for the division lead.
Ron Roenicke Must Push the Envelope on the Bases
Brewers head-skipper Ron Roenicke has been a longtime advocate of aggressiveness on the bases since his days as a understudy to Mike Scioscia in Los Angeles. Since being hired to run the show in Milwaukee at the beginning of last season, his mentality hasn’t changed — and the results are finally beginning to show.
This season, the Brewers have become one of the best base-stealing clubs in baseball. As a unit, they’ve hoarded 15 stolen bases while only being caught five times, which has in turn led to an MLB-best 6.5 SPD rating according to Fan Graphs.
The Cardinals aren’t heavily dependent on their base-stealing capabilities, however, the Brewers are. If Roenicke continues to push the envelope on the bases this season, that will give them a whole new weapon to produce runs with against the competition.
Marco Estrada was thrust into the starting rotation last week when word broke that lefty Chris Narveson, Milwaukee’s inherent No. 5 starter, would have to undergo season-ending surgery to repair a torn rotator cuff. Estrada would proceed to toss five complete innings of two-hit ball while striking out a team-high nine batters against the Colorado Rockies last Saturday
While Narveson’s injury is an unfavorable one for the Brewers, it may prove to be a blessing in disguise. Estrada has a considerable amount of experience as a starter and from the way he pitched against the Rockies, he could bring a whole new dynamic to the back-end of Ron Roenicke’s rotation: velocity.
Both pitchers are effective in their own right, however, Estrada has the ability to run his four-seam fastball up into the 93-94 MPH range, while Narveson typically tops out at roughly 86-87 MPH. This distinction in velocity could prove to be exactly what the Brewers will need in order to catch the Cardinals in the coming months. For that reason, Estrada must remain Milwaukee’s No. 5 starter through the rest of the season.
Through the first two weeks of the minor league baseball season, there have already been a number of prospects in the Milwaukee Brewers’ organization who have gotten out to a hot start and there have also been those who’ve struggled out of the gates. The season is long, but how a prospect performs early on can be indicative of how well the rest of his season might play out.
After being designated for assignment within the system, each prospect has been able to get his reps in and will be able to build off his early-season production as the season persists.
Question is, which prospects are off to a hot start and which ones has labored through the season’s first two weeks? Let’s take a look.
Line through first two weeks (AA Huntsville): 1-0, 0.98 ERA, 0.60 WHIP, 11.8 K/9, 1.5 BB/9, 3.9 H/9 (3 GS)
After really breaking onto the scene in 2011 as one of Milwaukee’s best young strikeout artists with high-A Brevard county, Thornburg has picked up right where he left last season through 2012′s first two weeks.
Through his first three starts against double-A Southern League hitters, Thornburg has punched out 24 batters in just 18 innings for a scintillating strikeout rate of 36.4 percent. He’s moreover looked much improved from his prior command issues, walking just three total batters.
What’s been most impressive about Thornburg’s blazing start, however, is the way he’s held batters in check. The Charleston Southern product has held batters to a .129 BA, .184 BABIP while allowing just a shade under four hits per nine innings pitched so far this season.
Scouts often say that the jump from high-A to double-A ball is the most strenuous and difficult on young pitchers. So far, Thornburg has disproved that sentiment.
Who’s Not: RHP Mike Fiers
Line through first two weeks (AAA Nashville): 0-1, 7.30 ERA, 1.87 WHIP, .314 BAA, 10.9 K/9, 5.1 BB/9, 11.7 H/9
Last season, Fiers was named Milwaukee’s most outstanding minor-league pitcher for his exceptional production both as a starter and his impressive work out of the bullpen. He was added to Ron Roenicke’s 40-man roster in September and made two brief appearances last fall, hoping to have a shot at the Brewers’ 2012 bullpen coming out of spring training.
But after a rather porous spring and subsequent designation to triple-A Nashville, things haven’t gone as originally planned for the seasoned 26-year-old.
In his first three starts against Pacific Coast league batters, Fiers has lasted just 12.1 total innings of work. In that time, he’s conceded 11 runs (10 earned) to cross home plate on 16 hits while walking seven. Granted, he does still hold true to a 10.9 K/9 ratio, however, that should be taken with a grain of salt given he’s pitched just over 12 innings this season.
Line through first two weeks (A+ Brevard County): 2-0, 1.06 ERA, 0.765 WHIP, .153 BAA, 11.1 K/9, 2.1 BB/9, 4.8 H/9 (3 GS)
In a Brewers’ farm system littered with archetypal solid right-handed starters, Nelson and his production has been far too overlooked thus far in his professional career. But through the first two weeks of this season, however, that may no longer have to be the case.
In his first three starts of 2012, the 6’6″, 245-pound workhorse has looked outstanding in all phases of his game. Development of his changeup this offseason has given him three solid pitches to his repertoire and that has enabled him to work around batters much more. Consequently, Nelson has fanned 21 batters in just 17 innings of work this season and has erased the command issues that many scouts worried would deter his progress.
Who’s Not: INF Eric Farris
Line through first two weeks (AAA Nashville): .179/.238/.179, 0 HR, RBI, 4 R, 3 SB (43 PA)
Farris, 26, has been on the Brewers’ promotion radar in each of the past two seasons thanks to his solid offensive production, defensive versatility and base-stealing capabilities in the upper-minors. He was promoted to Milwaukee earlier this week but was quickly sent back down when Alex Gonzalez made his way back to the lineup. The move was astounding, to say the least, given the fact that Farris has struggled mightily early this season.
Now in his third season at the triple-A level, Farris is batting just .179 with a .194 BABIP against Pacific Coast League pitching, all of his hits coming as singles. Lefties have gotten the best of him, holding true to a .125 BA and .222 on-base percentage against southpaws.
Line through first two weeks (A+ Brevard County): 2-1, 0.00 ERA, 0.684 WHIP, .156 BAA, 8.5 K/9, 1.4 BB/9, 4.7 H/9 (3 GS)
Expectations for Milwaukee’s second first-round pick in last summer’s draft were exceptionally high entering this season. As one of the most highly-productive lefty starters in all of college baseball last season, Bradley had a tremendous amount to live up to early in his first pro year in the Brewers’ system.
So far, he’s lived up to those expectations.
In his first three Florida State League starts of 2012, Bradley has looked phenomenal, conceding just one unearned run to cross home on 10 hits and three walks over 19 total innings. His low to mid-90s fastball, solid curveball and changeup have worked marvelously against high-A hitters and it will be a storyline worth watching as the season progresses.
Who’s Not: CF Logan Schafer
Line through first two week (AAA Nashville): .226/.317/.358, HR, 3 RBI, 7 R, 2 SB (61 PA)
Schafer was one of the most highly productive players at Brewers camp this past spring, leading many to believe he was on the verge of a possible early to mid-season big league promotion. However, his early struggles this season will likely prolong his arrival in 2012.
In his first season starting at the triple-A level, Schafer hasn’t quite looked himself, particularly at the plate. The Cal Poly product holds true to a .226 BA and .225 BABIP, and while his on-base percentage has been acceptable thus far, his power has not, amassing a slugging percentage of just .358 and .122 ISO.
His defensive prowess has manifested itself early this season, and if he’s able to get his bat going up to it’s normal pace, there’s no doubt he’ll be on Ron Roenicke’s 40-man September roster.
Who to Remember
2B Scooter Gennett (AA Huntsville): .350/.371/.517, 2 HR, 8 RBI, 6 R, 2 SB (62 PA)
RHP Drew Gagnon (single A Wisconsin): 1-0, 1.26 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, 19 SO (3 GS)
OF Khris Davis (double-A Huntsville): .396/.442/.521, HR, 7 RBI, 5 R, SB (52 PA)
SS Yadiel Rivera (single-A Wisconsin): .308/.341/.487, HR, 4 RBI, 4 R, SB (42 PA)
This past winter, Milwaukee Brewers left-fielder and reigning 2011 National League Most Valuable Player Ryan Braun became the first player in Major League Baseball history to successfully appeal a drug-related suspension. Last February, a three-man arbitration panel ruled against the 50-game suspension handed down by commissioner Bud Selig in early December, vindicating Milwaukee’s most cherished player since the turn of the century.
But in the eyes of many baseball fans, however, Braun still remains far from vindicated. The suspicion surrounding the Brewers’ preeminent slugger has installed doubt in the minds of many baseball fans around the globe — enough so that many aren’t likely to forgive him for his connection to performance-enhancing drugs, legal vindication notwithstanding.
Braun, who last season led the National League with a .597 slugging percentage, .994 OPS, 77 extra-base hits and 8.92 runs created per 27 outs, claimed — among other things — that he was “a victim of a failed process” in a nationally-televised press conference from the Brewers’ spring training complex in Maryvale, Arizona late this past February, saying:
“I will continue to take the high road because that’s who I am, and that’s the way that I’ve lived my life. We won because the truth is on my side. The truth is always relevant, and at the end of the day the truth prevailed. I am a victim of a process that completely broke down and failed the way it was applied to me in this case.”
While there were plenty of those to believed in Braun’s innocence throughout the entire ordeal, there were just as many if not more who objected the arbiters’ decision to overturn the 50-game suspension. It didn’t take long for Braun’s doubters to chime in and distribute their thoughts on the matter, which by no means was a surprise given the nature of the situation.
Following the breaking news that Braun had successfully appealed his suspension, Jason Stark, a senior baseball writer for ESPN, cited that MLB executive vice president Rob Manfred “vehemently” disagreed with the verdict in Braun’s case. He wrote:
“Over on that side of this fence, we have MLB executive vice president Rob Manfred, whose duties required him to serve as a member of the arbitration panel, “vehemently” disputing this verdict in a statement of his own. Wow. He didn’t merely disagree, friends. He “vehemently” disagreed. Hmmm.”
Now well over a week into the regular season, and — as expected — the unambiguous hostility directed toward Braun persists. With every at-bat away from the friendly confines of Miller Park, Braun is subjected to incessant jeering and heckling, and that isn’t likely to change as the season progresses.
Last week, new Brewers third-baseman Aramis Ramirez told Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that he expects Braun to booed mercilessly throughout the regular season, saying:
“I think it’s going to be ugly for Braun everywhere we go,” Ramirez said. “On the road, it’s going to be tough for him. He knows it. That’s no secret. Plus, he got a taste of it in spring training. Everywhere we go, he was getting booed.”
We’ve seen this before in baseball. A player somehow connected to performance-enhancing drugs is never well-received by the general public. Barry Bonds, Alex Rodriguez, Mark McGwire, Rafael Palmeiro all suffered for their connectivity to performance-enhancing drugs and are quintessential examples of how badly a player’s reputation can be tarnished if they are in way or another linked to performance-enhancing drugs.
The obvious difference, however, between their individual links to PEDs and Braun’s is that we still have no conclusive evidence on Braun’s situation. The only thing baseball fans can base their opinions on is the fact that Braun’s suspension was overturned. The fact is, we don’t know what actually happened, which begs the question: How long will it take baseball fans to forgive Braun?
Baseball has always been a game of honesty and integrity and it’s fans have upheld that quality since before the turn of the 20th century. Those who deliberately cheat the game for their own personal benefit live in infamy forever. Those who are proven not-guilty, as in Braun’s case, are usually forgiven with time.
But, while Braun remains exonerated and his name should in theory be cleared from the contemptible list of those who have actually cheated the game, it wouldn’t hurt to be a bit more reserved on the matter, especially when talking about his doubtful fans. Saying that “no one else’s opinion is relevant” won’t earn him any brownie points in the hearts of opposing fans.
“I’ve already been exonerated. Nobody else’s opinion is relevant to me, I’ve got to be honest with you. The people that are close to me – my friends, my family – know the truth.”
Whether Braun knows the truth or not won’t solve his dilemma with fans. Baseball fans will always have their opinions, and that’s something that he’ll have to deal with if he expects to earn the respect from fans anytime soon.
It will be a rough season for Braun as he tries to combat the venom spewed from the mouths of opposing fans, without question, and fan-forgiveness is a long ways off at this juncture.
With time, though, forgiveness will come — hopefully.
This past winter, the Milwaukee Brewers shelled out a healthy does of capital to 33-year-old free agent third baseman Aramis Ramirez with the hope that he would mitigate the loss of offensive productivity produced by longtime first baseman Prince Fielder, but after a horrible spring training and first few series’ of the regular season, that hasn’t been the case.
In 20 preseason games (55 total plate appearances), Milwaukee’s new third-baseman managed a .218/.232/.309 line with just one home run, three runs batted in and six runs scored, drawing just one walk while striking out nine times. While it’s true that spring training games don’t count for much, Brewers fans were concerned about whether or not his preseason struggles would carry over to the regular season.
Well, it seems they have.
Through Milwaukee’s first six games (26 total plate appearances) of the regular season, Ramirez holds true to an unsightly .091/.192/.182 line with no home runs, five runs batted in and three runs scored. His pitch recognition and plate discipline have looked awful this season and that has resulted in a strikeout rate north of 25 percent on the young 2012 season.
The question everyone wants answered is whether or not Ramirez can recover from his awful spring campaign and return to his slugging ways of old. Needless to say, his bat will have a big say on how late into October the Brewers plan on playing this season. If he does — as he’s expected to — then the Brewers will be well on their way to repeating as NL Central division champs and could very well be World Series contenders. It he doesn’t, though, then Melvin will look foolish and the club’s entire 2012 campaign will be tossed out the window.
While there’s no way of definitively knowing whether or not Ramirez will bounce back from his abhorrent start, there are a few indicators that could help to induce our judgement.
Here is a look at Ramirez’s swing-pitch zone though his first six games this season.
Now, here’s a look at Ramirez’s swing-pitch zone through his first six games (of last season with the Chicago Cubs.
As you can clearly see, Ramirez’s strike-zone through the first six games of this season is noticeably more expanded than that of the first six games of last season. This suggests that either he’s become less patient as a hitter or that he’s simply struggling with pitch recognition and strike-zone discipline. It many not be all that much of a concern at this juncture, but if his struggles at the plate persist, then it will be hard for him to gather confidence in his bat and who knows how high his strikeout rate will be a mid-season.
But while Ramirez has undoubtedly labored at the plate early on this season, history suggests that his offensive production increases as the season carries on. Ramirez holds true to a less-than-impressive career .257/.330/.452 line in April but has been able to get hot toward the latter stages of the regular season, posting a career .306/.367/.539 line in the month of August.
At this juncture, there’s really no way of determining whether or not Ramirez can recover from such an abysmal spring. The pressures of replacing a talent of Fielder’s magnitude are overwhelmingly high, so the biggest thing for Milwaukee’s new third baseman will be to remain as positive as possible and just stay loose.
Only time will tell from here on out.
Coming off a disappointment of an opening-weekend, the Brewers took to the friendly confines of Wrigley Field against arguably their most hated rival, the Chicago Cubs, on Monday night, for the start of a three-game series against Cubs manager Dale Sveum’s young bunch.
Milwaukee took the opening game of their four-game set against Chicago by a 7-5 mark thanks to timely hitting from Ryan Braun, Alex Gonzalez, Mat Gamel and Rickie Weeks. On the bump for Ron Roenicke was Shaun Marcum, who in his first outing of the young 2012 season tossed six solid innings of five-hit ball, striking out six while walking none. He looked a bit shaky early-on, allowing three runs to cross home on two home runs.
While it’s true that Marcum provided more than enough reason to believe he’s capable of returning to the road-warrior Brewers fans witnessed last season — in 16 away-from-home starts, he went 8-3 with a 2.21 ERA, 0.97 WHIP, .202 BAA and 3.57 K/BB ratio — it’s also true that Milwaukee’s 30-year-old tried-and-true right-hander seemed a bit out of sorts in his first start of 2012.
Maybe it was the fact that Marcum missed virtually all of spring training with a seasonally sore right shoulder. Maybe it was the fact that he was pitching in sub-freezing temperatures in the windiest city in North America. Maybe it was the lingering negativity from his abysmal 2011 postseason performance. Whatever the case, it’s clear that Marcum wasn’t his normal self Monday night at Wrigley Field.
Among other things, Marcum struggled to find his rhythm early on and he paid a hefty toll for it, allowing two home runs to Cubs hitters — he allowed just eight home runs to the opposition in 16 of his road starts last season.
A big reason — probably the biggest reason — for Marcum’s masked deficiencies on the mound Monday night, in front of a national television audience no less, was his unambiguous inconsistencies in pounding the strike-zone. Normally, this is one of the strongest facets to his game, but that was hardly the case last night.
The chart below shows Marcum’s strike-zone plot against Chicago hitters.
Based on this chart along, it’s extremely difficult if not impossible to predict what Marcum’s plan-of-attack could have been to get Chicago hitters out. Hardly ever will you hear of a major league pitcher who comes into a start without a specific scheme to try and retire hitters. This chart alone tells us that Marcum was clearly not his full-sell last night.
Compare the above chart with a start he made last season against Chicago hitters — at Wrigley Field — on September 20. That game, he tossed eight complete innings of five-hit ball, fanning seven batters, walking none while allowing just one earned run to cross home.
The plot below reveals Marcum’s strike-zone plot from that game.
As you can plainly see, his pitch location is much more condensed and the number of pitches labeled as “called strikes” remain much more centralized in the strike-zone than that from Monday night’s performance. His pitches labeled as “swinging-strikes” are much lower in the zone and that portends that he was definitely on his game that night, a stark contrast from his first outing of the season Monday night.
It would be a bit over-the-top to label Marcum’s first start of the season as one with much cause for concern, so we’ll hold off on pushing the panic button for now. However, it’s clear that Marcum has work to do from here on out with respect to his pitch-location within the strike-zone.
Once he gets that cleared up — as we all expect him to — he’ll be well on his way toward being the rock-solid anchor to Milwaukee’s rotation in 2012.
The Milwaukee Brewers opened their 2012 regular season campaign against division foe and defending World Series champion St. Louis Cardinals this past weekend, taking just one of three from the Albert Pujols and Tony La Russa-less Redbirds at Miller Park.
While it wasn’t the most galvanizing performance from the defending NL Central champions, there are a number of positives worth taking away. Fill-in first baseman Mat Gamel performed well, Zack Greinke (finally) pitched up to his capabilities and Corey Hart validated why he could be a dark-horse candidate to take home NL MVP honors this season.
Of course, not everything from opening weekend was worth remembering. Here are the five biggest observations from Milwaukee’s opening weekend series against the Cardinals.
Yovani Gallardo Gets Hammered
You didn’t have to be an expert to recognize that Yovani Gallardo struggled mightily in his first start of the season last Friday.
After pitching well enough in spring training to be named Milwaukee’s opening-day starter, Ron Roenicke’s 26-year-old ace started off his season on a disheartening note against Cardinals hitting. In front of the second-largest crowd in Miller Park history, Gallardo made it through just 3.2 innings of work, conceding six runs on seven hits while striking out just three and walking five.
Gallardo struggled to find his command throughout and didn’t exactly light up the radar-gun (his fastball topped-out at 94 MPH). He was none too happy with his performance, and has this to say to Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:
“Today, I just sucked. That’s all you can say,” said the 26-year-old right-hander. “I haven’t even thought about (his history against the Cards),” said Gallardo. “You can’t think about those things. It could be a whole different story if I was ahead of the hitters. If I was putting the ball where I wanted to, the outcome could have been a lot different.”
Gallardo went 1-3 with an unsightly 5.70 ERA in four starts against St. Louis last season. Even without Albert Pujols, things aren’t off to a much better start in 2012.
Brewers right fielder Corey Hart missed just about all of spring training after undergoing arthroscopic surgery to repair a torn meniscus. Manager Ron Roenicke still thought it best to start Corey Hart in the starting lineup in each of Milwaukee’s opening weekend contests.
It turned out to be a worthwhile risk for both sides. On opening weekend, Hart crushed Cardinals pitching by going 4-for-9, smashing three home runs for 4 RBI while scoring three of his own. He showed good patience and discipline at the plate, walking twice and striking out just twice.
I wrote a few months back that Hart has what it takes to contend for the NL MVP award this season, and my reasoning was largely based off of his ability to hit for power. If Hart continues his patience at the plate and his power-stroke persists, he could be in for that type of a season.
What Happened to Alex Gonzalez?
New Brewers shortstop Alex Gonzalez teed-off against opposing pitching this spring, and was arguably Milwaukee’s top offensive preseason performer. He posted a .473/.517/.836 line with five home runs and 16 RBI in 22 Cactus League games.
While it’s true that fans weren’t expecting a Silver Slugger-type season from the 35-year-old shortstop, they probably didn’t anticipate such a porous opening-weekend from the batter’s box.
This weekend, Gonzalez went just 1-for-9 with two strikeouts, failing to even draw a walk against Cardinals pitching. He looked lost at the plate in each of the three games and hardly looked comfortable in the box. There’s a lot of baseball left to be played, but it wasn’t an attractive start for Milwaukee’s new shortstop.
Rafael Furcal Will Be a Tough out All Season Long
Cardinals shortstop Rafael Furcal has been a problem for Milwaukee pitching since he first made his way to St. Louis at the trade deadline last summer. If there’s one thing to be learned from opening weekend, it’s that his unyielding bat will continue to beleaguer Ron Roenicke’s staff.
For a guy who put up a .231/.298/.348 line all of last season, Furcal posted a .286/.345/.612 line against Brewers pitchers, and that’s excluding decent postseason production.
This weekend, Furcal continued his hot-hitting ways against the Brewers, going 7-for-14 with an RBI and two runs scored. He also drew a walk, stole one base and made a number of key plays at shortstop.
If this opening weekend was any indication, then Furcal will be a tough out all season long.
Zack Greinke came into spring training determined to become Milwaukee’s opening-day starter, but while he did garner a 2.82 ERA and 30 strikeouts over just 22.1 innings, he wasn’t able to accomplish his goal.
However, after a stellar first outing of 2012, many feel (this writer included) that Greinke is indeed the best starter on Ron Roenicke’s staff, and that he probably should have been the opening-day starter. On Saturday, the former Cy Young Award winner tossed seven complete innings of four-hit ball, conceding no walks and striking out seven. His fastball consistently sat in the mid-90s and his curveball worked like a charm throughout.
It may be a bit of a knee-jerk reaction this early in the season, but the way Greinke’s has pitched since the All-Star break last summer up until now, I’d say he’s got a slight edge over Yovani Gallardo as Milwaukee’s best starter.
Opening day for the Milwaukee Brewers is finally here. Fittingly enough, the defending National League Central division champions open the season where their last one ended: At Miller Park against the World Series champion St. Louis Cardinals.
I’ve been dedicated to bringing fans everything there is to know about the Brewers all offseason long here at B/R, and with the season just getting under way, that isn’t about to change. On the contrary, it’s only just the beginning!
As the season kicks off, our coverage of Brewers baseball kicks off along with it. For those looking for an in-depth play-by-play blog with live Twitter feed reaction of opening day festivities, I would strongly encourage you to head on over to my Bleacher Report page. To access said page, CLICK HERE.
Thanks in large part to their loyal fan-base, the Milwaukee Brewers have sent a number of their top players to Major League Baseball’s mid-summer classic — otherwise known as the MLB All Star game — over the past few seasons. Last year, former first-baseman Prince Fielder stole the show with a three-run home run that propelled the National League to a 5-1 victory over the American League. Second baseman Rickie Weeks also earned a starting spot on the NL roster while Ryan Braun was elected as a reserve outfielder.
With some of the most devoted fans in baseball who aren’t afraid to fill out as many All-Star ballots as possible, it’s almost inevitable that a number of Brewers will take the field for the National League next summer in Kansas City. But which players have the best odds at making the trip to Kauffman Stadium? Let’s take an A-to-Z look.
Chances he’s an All-Star: one percent
The Brewers brought in three-time Japanese batting champ Norichika Aoki this past winter to add depth and a valuable left-handed bat to their outfield. He will be forced to battle for playing time with Nyjer Morgan and Carlos Gomez in center field, and based on that fact alone, there isn’t much of a chance he’s elected to the NL roster this spring.
I’d hate to deem it an impossible task for the former Japanese slugger to be selected to the All-Star roster. For now, we’ll keep it at a slim one percent chance.
Chances he’s an All-Star: 75 percent
How John Axford wasn’t able to make it to the All-Star game last season is beyond me. Prior to the break last season, Milwaukee’s 29-year-old closer garnered a 2.83 ERA, notched 23 saves in 25 opportunities and boasted a 11.54 K/9 that finished second among all National League closers. He completed his campaign with an league-best 1.96 ERA and tied for the league lead in saves (46).
Judging by how well he was able to gain continuity throughout the league toward the latter portion of last season, it’s hard to imagine him not being able to find his way on the National League roster next July. Barring some unforeseen decrease in production, I give Axford a great shot at making the All-Star roster.
Chances he’s an All-Star: 95 percent
Ryan Braun has been named to the NL roster each of the past four seasons, and that doesn’t look to change much this season. Sure, there will be a good number of fans who will be hesitant to vote for Braun after his battle with a 50-game performance enhancing drug suspension, however, there are just as many if not more who will fill in the dot for Braun based strictly off his productivity.
At the end of the day, it’s nearly impossible not to vote for a career first-half line of .306/.368/.543 with an average of 16 home runs, 54 RBI, 52 runs scored and 11 stolen bases. Given his scintillating late-spring training successes and unambiguous motivation to silence his critics, I’d say he’s ready for another trip to the mid-summer classic.
Chances he’s an All-Star: zero percent
There was a fair number of those who doubted Tim Dillard would even make the opening day 25-man roster. While the 28-year-old skyscraper of a pitcher managed to do that, there’s isn’t much chance he finds a spot on the National League’s roster this summer.
Since Dillard was one of the last to be named to the roster, there won’t be many opportunities for him to strut his stuff out of the bullpen. The only way Milwaukee’s notorious clubhouse comedian will be able to make the trip to Kansas City is if he’s virtually unhittable in his brief appearances. Since there’s probably no chance at that happening, the odds of him making the NL roster aren’t too high, either.
Chances he’s an All-Star: one percent
Marco Estrada has been a solid bullpen arm for the Brewers in each of the past two seasons, and has even found success as a fill-in starter from time to time. However, he is not going to be an All-Star in 2012.
Overshadowed by the likes of John Axford, Francisco Rodriguez, Kameron Loe and Jose Veras out of Milwaukee’s ‘pen, Estrada doesn’t look to have many opportunities for success this season. Ergo, it’s hard to imagine him gathering neough praise from fans to have any real shot at the NL roster.
Chances he’s an All-Star: 75 percent
Yovani Gallardo was simply amazing last season, leading all Brewer starters in wins (17), ERA (3.52), strikeouts (207) and quality starts (23), but his best work clearly came prior to the All-Star break. In 16 starts, Milwaukee’s 25-year-old ace went 10-2 with a 3.00 ERA, 104 strikeouts and held opponents to a .261 BA and maintained a 4.28 SO/BB. If there was one Brewer starter most deserving to make the 2011 All-Star roster, it was Gallardo.
Supposing that he can perpetuate his impressive strikeout ratio while somewhat lowering his ERA, there’s no question Gallardo will have a legitimate shot at be selected to this summer’s All-Star game.
Chances he’s an All-Star: 15 percent
Mat Gamel had the most success of any Brewer at spring camp, managing a solid .246/.317/.596 line with six home runs and 14 RBI in 21 preseason games. If Milwaukee’s new first-baseman can transfer his momentum from this spring to the regular season, he’ll have a puncher’s chance at a reserve spot on the National League roster.
Many of his doubters point to his career .222 BA as cause for concern. However, should Gamel’s “take nothing for granted” attitude from this spring continue well into — at the very least — the first half of this season, there’s no doubt he could vie for the NL’s final roster spot.
Chances he’s an All-Star: two percent
No one will question what Carlos Gomez brings to the table from a purely baseball talent standpoint. He can steal bases, play the outfield with great efficiency and is willing to take one for the team. The only knock to his game would be his inconsistencies at the plate.
Unfortunately, those deficiencies will be enough for force him into a three-man platoon in center field for the Brewers. Consequently, his lack of playing time won’t give him enough opportunities to make his case to be selected to the NL All-Star roster.
Chances he’s an All-Star: eight percent
Alex Gonzalez has but once been selected to an All-Star roster over the span of his 13 year career, his lone appearance coming in 1999 as a member of the Florida Marlins. He’s never been known for his bat, however, he has been known for his exceptional play at shortstop. The question is, will his defensive prowess be enough to convince voters to select him to this year’s NL roster? The answer to that question is likely a “no”.
Still, Milwaukee’s newly acquired shortstop had a tremendous spring at the plate, amassing a .440/.472/.780 line with four home runs, 14 RBI and 12 runs scored. If he can produce above expectations at the plate while rekindling his defensive proficiency of year’s past, he could find himself in a reserve role for the NL in the mid-summer classic.
Chances he’s an All-Star: 80 percent
Zack Greinke was flat out dominant in the second half of his first year in Milwaukee’s rotation and he continued his success this spring. In four starts against Cactus League hitters, Greinke posted a feeble 1.04 ERA, 0.75 WHIP while striking out 26 in just 17.1 innings of work.
Unlike last season, Greinke comes into 2012 at full health and a ton of confidence to go with it. He missed his first two scheduled starts of 2011 due to a hairline fracture of his ribs. This season, the former Cy Young Award winner is ready to thrive as the Brewers’ No. 2 starter behind Yovani Gallardo. If he is anywhere close to what he was toward the end of last season, not only will he compete to be the starter for the NL in the All-Star game, but he’ll gather a ton of votes to take home Cy Young honors for the second time in his career.
Chances he’s an All-Star: 30 percent
Despite missing the first month of his 2011 campaign, Corey Hart was notably productive last season for Ron Roenicke. He managed a .277/.334/.487 line with 26 home runs, 63 RBI to go with 80 runs scored. If not for injury, who knows what Hart might have accomplished last season.
Though he was forced to sit this spring out after undergoing arthroscopic surgery to repair an torn meniscus, it looks like he’ll be a go when the season kicks off this Friday. Hart made the NL All-Star roster in both 2008 and 2010, averaging a .276/.320/.492 line with 26 home runs, 97 RBI, 84 runs scored and 15 stolen bases between the two seasons. If he is productive right from the get-go to start his 2012 campaign, there’s no doubt he can eclipse those averages and have a good shot at an All-Star roster spot this summer.
Chance he’s an All-Star: zero percent
George Kottaras is everything the Brewers could possibly want out of a backup catcher. He can hit fairly well, play solid defense behind the dish and can handle a big-league starting rotation. That said, I’m not sure if a backup catcher has ever been selected to an All-Star roster.
Kottaras is a dependable second-string catcher behind Jonathan Lucroy, however, if he can’t manage to be his team’s starter, then how does he plan to beat out the best of the best for an All-Star roster spot?
Chances he’s an All-Star: zero percent
Kameron Loe pitched modestly as Milwaukee’s set-up man prior to the acquisition of Francisco Rodriguez last season, garnering a 4.23 ERA and a .236 BAA with 32 punchouts in 38.1 innings of work in the eighth inning. But with Rodriguez cemented into the setup role and newly acquired Jose Veras likely to work the seventh inning, Loe will be demoted to Milwaukee’s No. 4 arm out of the bullpen. Loe’s opportunities to find success will be limited this season and that will ultimately take away from the All-Star votes he otherwise would have received.
Loe is a solid reliever and there’s no doubt he’ll get his innings this season. The likelihood of him making the trip to Kaufmann Stadium in mid-July just isn’t realistic at this juncture, however.
Chances he’s an All-Star: 10 percent
The Brewers rewarded Jonathan Lucroy for his exceptional play behind the plate by extending his contract for five-years and $11 million last week, and by no means was it a publicity stunt.
In his first full season as Milwaukee’s starting catcher, Lucroy garnered a .993 fielding percentage, 8.99 range factor and a caught-stealing percentage of 28 percent, all of which ranked in the top 15 of all MLB catchers. He also batted .265 with 12 home runs and 59 RBI despite batting in front of the pitcher’s spot on Ron Roenicke’s lineup.
All things considered, Lucroy is one of the better all-around catchers in the game today. The only thing holding him back (and it’s a big reason) from an NL roster spot is the superior depth and talent at the position. Brian McCann, Buster Posey and Miguel Montero will have things under wraps for a very long time.
Chance he’s an All-Star: 20 percent
Shaun Marcum was the anchor that stabilized Milwaukee’s rotation throughout last season, and it’s fairly surprising that he didn’t get more All-Star recognition. Posting a 3.39 ERA with SO/BB rate of 3.06, one could make the case that Marcum was Ron Roenicke’s most efficient starter prior to the break.
While Marcum made just one spring training appearance this spring due to shoulder soreness, reports show that he’ll be ready to take the mound as Milwaukee’s No. 4 starter to start 2012. If he can improve upon his numbers from the first-half of last season, there’s a legitimate chance he gets selected to the NL roster. The competition will be stiff, though, so he’ll really need to put on a show in the early stages of 2012.
Chances he’s an All-Star: 10 percent
Nyjer Morgan was simply incredible even out of a center-field platoon role in manager Ron Roenicke’s lineup, providing a great deal of offensive production whenever asked. But with a healthy Carlos Gomez and the addition of Norichika Aoki, will Morgan get enough opportunities at success get a spot on the NL roster?
We all know Morgan will get his fair share of fan votes strictly based off his popularity, however, splitting time with two other players will significantly lower his offensive output. For that reason, it will be tough for the scrappy 31-year-old to make his first All-Star appearance.
Chances he’s an All-Star: five percent
Chris Narveson was as solid as they come as Milwaukee’s No. 5 start last season, and after a couple nice outings this spring, there’s a chance he makes even more strides during his 2012 campaign.
Unfortunately, the odds of Narveson hoarding enough votes to make the NL roster are tremendously high. Even if the 30-year-old southpaw somehow manages to put together a superb first-half, it will extremely difficult to gain enough recognition throughout the league to make a serious run at a roster spot.
Chances he’s an All-Star: zero percent
Manny Parra and the Brewers agreed to terms on a one-year contract in January that was said to be worth $1.2 Million. He followed up his new deal with a solid spring, garnering a 1.86 ERA with 11 strikeouts and three walks over 9.2 total innings. After an injury-plagued 2011 season, Parra will look to hold an important role in Milwaukee’s bullpen this season. The problem is, he’ll only be reduced to pitching in low-leverage situations, which will significantly decrease his opportunities to strut his stuff to All-Star voters. I’d hate to give him a zero percent chance to make the NL roster, so we’ll leave his odds of making the mid-summer classic at a healthy one percent.
Chances he’s an All-Star: 75 percent
New Brewers add-on Aramis Ramirez will be asked to mitigate the offensive productivity lost when Prince Fielder officially departed town last January. While no one will argue that producing Fielder-type numbers will be near impossible, Ramirez will still have a great shot at putting up his gaudy numbers of year’s past. With Ryan Braun in front of him, the 33-year-old Ramirez will have an exorbitant number of opportunities to drive in runs this season, and All-Star voters should give him enough recognition to make his third appearance at the mid-summer classic because of it.
Heck, if Ramirez took home Silver Slugger honors (.306/.361/.510, 26 HR, 93 RBI) last season in a porous Chicago Cubs lineup, then it’s safe to assume he’ll thrive as Milwaukee’s cleanup man in 2012. Look for Ramirez to have a monster first-half and at the very least lock up a reserve spot on the NL roster this summer.
Chances he’s an All-Star: 60 percent
Francisco Rodriguez performed magnificently after making his way to Milwaukee’s bullpen following the All-Star break. He posted a feeble 1.86 ERA and struck out over 10 batters per nine innings pitched in 29 innings as Ron Roenicke’s setup man down the stretch last season.
Rodriguez has been selected to four All-Star games over the course of his Hall of Fame-bound career, his latest coming in 2009. If he’s anywhere near as effective as he was during his abbreviated stay with Milwaukee last season, you’ve got to believe a pitching-needy team will have a handsome new contract waiting for him next winter. K-Rod is already considered to be the best eighth-inning man in the National League. But when you add in the fact that he’s due to be a free-agent next winter, there’s no doubt the added motivation will give him a great shot at another All-Star appearance.
Chances he’s an All-Star: nine percent
If there’s one player that could make a “dark-horse” type run at an All-Star selection this season, it would be Milwaukee’s newly acquired reliever Jose Veras.
The 31-year-old Veras has been a strikeout machine over the course of his six-year career, punching out over nine batters per nine innings pitched while conceding just over seven hits per nine innings. He struggles with walks at times, but if he’s able to polish his command there’s an outside chance he could make a run at the NL roster as Milwaukee’s primary seventh-inning man.
Rickie Weeks avoided injury and put together a terrific 2011 first-half, putting up a .278/.351/.486 line with 17 home runs, 39 RBI and 67 runs scored and was named the NL’s starting second baseman in the mid-summer classic. It was Weeks’ first ever trip to the All-Star game.
With Prince Fielder gone, Weeks will have the opportunity to put up even better numbers in 2011. The question is whether or not Milwaukee’s second-baseman can stay healthy and produce up to his capacity. Brewers fans have yet to witness Weeks at his best, but this year could very well be that year. If that’s the case, expect to see him suiting up for the NL come mid-July.
Chances he’s an All-Star: 12 percent
Randy Wolf didn’t receive much notoriety for what he accomplished as Milwaukee’s No. 4 starter last season. He led the team with 212.1 innings last season and his 21 quality starts were second only to Yovani Gallardo’s 23.
He also didn’t receive much love from All-Star voters, either, and that will in all likelihood stay the same this season. Wolf is a solid starter that many teams would love to have at the end of their rotation, however, at 35 years old, a spot on the NL roster this summer is just a pipe dream at this juncture.
Nothing is impossible in baseball, especially when it comes to the All-Star selection process. Since fans ultimately have the final say in who goes to the mid-summer classic and who doesn’t, there’s always a chance that a player gets selected who isn’t actually deserving of a roster spot.
Today, we tried to remain as forthright as possible when assigning All-Star odds for each player on the Brewers’ 25-man roster. Yes, every player is fully capable of being selected to the mid-summer classic, however, which players have a realistic shot at accomplishing such a feat?
Here are the guy’s we’re banking on to make the trip to Kansas City this July:
- Ryan Braun
- Zack Greinke
- Yovani Gallardo
- John Axford
- Rickie Weeks
- Aramis Ramirez
On the fringe:
- Francisco Rodriguez
- Corey Hart
Spring training is over, and it’s time to start looking ahead to the regular season opener on Friday, April 6 against the World Series champion St. Louis Cardinals. But before we do, let’s take a look back at what’s transpired over the past few weeks for the Brewers against Cactus League competition. Here are five winners and losers from spring training 2012.
*All stats updated through April 1, 2012. We will continue to update numbers as spring training continues.*
One of the biggest losers among all of Milwaukee’s farmhands this spring was 22-year-old up-and-coming pitching prospect Wily Peralta.
Peralta, who after four full seasons of minor league ball and undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2007, burst onto the scene between double-A and triple-A ball (11-7, 3.17 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, 157 SO, 150.2 IP) last season. Many surmised his success would lead to a potential September call-up to Milwaukee’s bullpen, but nothing came to fruition. Things haven’t gotten any better for the Dominican Native this spring, and quite honestly, they’ve probably gotten worse. In three preseason appearances — one coming from a start — Peralta allowed eight runs to cross home to go with seven hits, four walks while only striking out four. While this probably won’t affect Peralta’s big league call-up timetable significantly, it will certainly give GM Doug Melvin increased trepidation before calling him up from triple-A Nashville.
Winner: Yovani Gallardo
After a scintillating 2011 campaign in which he led all Brewers starters in many individual categories, Yovani Gallardo came into spring training with the full intention of winning over the opening day start over Zack Greinke. While he may not have pitched exceptionally well (2-2, 4.56 ERA, 23 SO, 23.2 IP) this spring, he nonetheless accomplished what he had originally set out to do. Manager Ron Roenicke announced last week that his 26-year-old ace would indeed take the bump for the Brewers on opening day against the St. Louis Cardinals.
This will be Gallardo’s third straight year as Milwaukee’s opening-day starter, a feat that has only been replicated by former Brewers Jim Slaton, Teddy Higuera. Ben Sheets holds the franchise record for opening-day starts with six.
Carlos Gomez may have been the biggest loser of all this spring.
From a production standpoint, Milwaukee’s co-centerfielder actually performed well. He managed a respectable .241/.267/.431 line with two home runs, 10 RBI and four stolen bases over 19 games. However, it was Norichika Aoki who stole the show and possibly even a good portion of his playing time this season.
Aoki out-shined Gomez this spring by putting up a .305/.349/.458 line with a home run, 8 RBI, seven runs scored with three stolen bases and three triple in 24 games. His left-handed bat will all but certainly take away from Gomez’s playing time this season. Couple that with Nyjer Morgan’s presence, and Gomez may only be looking at 50-game season in 2012.
Winner: Jonathan Lucroy
No player cashed in as much as Jonathan Lucroy did this spring. Literally.
It was announced last Wednesday that the Brewers had finalized a deal that would extend the contract of their star catcher through the 2016 season. The deal guarantees Lucroy $11 million over five years. This, of course, comes in the midst of a superb spring training campaign with the Brewers. In 18 games, Lucroy posted a ridiculous .479/.490/.729 line with two home runs and 9 RBI, nine runs scored and 35 total bases.
Lucroy was one of the better defensive catchers in baseball last season and his bat wasn’t half bad, either. Following such a magnificent preseason and brand-new contract, expectations will be high for him this season. It should be interesting to see how well he performs.
Loser: Shaun Marcum
Shaun Marcum reported to spring camp in Maryvale, Arizona last month with what was reportedly a sore shoulder. The Brewers shut down the 30-year-old starter for the beginning of preseason competition, though he did toss three innings on one start on March 25. The start would prove to be Marcum’s lone spring training appearance.
While recent indications confirm that Marcum will be ready to start the regular season as Milwaukee’s No. 4 starter, it remains to be seen how well his shoulder will hold up. Will he be able to go deep into games and eat innings early on in the season or will his injury flare up? The fact that Marcum made but one appearance this spring is enough reason for concern. Failing to get those crucial reps makes Marcum a clear loser from spring training.
Winner: Mat Gamel
There was much skepticism attached to Mat Gamel coming into spring training, but after a scintillating 2012 preseason campaign, those negative assumptions may have been put to bed altogether. This spring, Milwaukee’s new first baseman put up a solid .264/.339/.642 line with a team-high six home runs, 14 RBI and 14 runs scored. He also nabbed three stolen bases to bring his spring total to 34 total bases.
Replacing Prince Fielder this season was hardly a realistic goal for the 26-year-old former minor league player of the year, but after such a torrid spring, Gamel could be thinking big things in his first full season as Milwaukee’s first basemen. Gamel was by far and away the biggest winner of any Brewer at spring camp.
Loser: Taylor Green
Taylor Green just can’t seen to catch a break.
After witnessing incumbent third-baseman Casey McGehee be dealt away, Green, who was named Milwaukee’s most outstanding positional prospect for his absurd production last season, thought he’d have a legitimate shot at being the team’s starting third baseman on opening day. Not even a week later, and it was announced that the Brewers had agreed to terms with Aramis Ramirez on a lucrative four-year contract. The deal would make him Milwaukee’s undisputed starter at the hot-corner for at the very least the next three seasons.
Fast forward to this spring, and Green still got the short end of the stick. He batted .316 with a home run and 6 RBI before being assigned to triple-A Nashville to start his 2012 campaign. The good guys never win.
When spring training began, Brewers fans had no idea what to expect from first-year shortstop Alex Gonzalez. They knew of his solid glove and defensive prowess, but had no real recollection of his capabilities in the batter’s box.
After a month’s worth of preseason play, it’s safe to say fans have a pretty good scope on what Gonzalez brings to the table offensively. In 19 spring games against Cactus League pitching, Milwaukee’s new infield addition posted a .440/.472/.780 line with four home runs, 14 RBI, 12 runs scored and 39 total bases.
Gonzalez batted .241 with 15 home runs and 56 RBI last season to go with just a .372 slugging percentage. If he’s performs anywhere near what he managed this spring in 2012, Brewers fans will forget all about Alcides Escobar.
Loser: Corey Hart
It was a rough spring for Corey Hart.
Milwaukee’s star right fielder underwent arthroscopic surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his knee. As a consequence, Hart would fail to register even one spring training at-bat, marking his second straight season of missing preseason action. MLB.com’s Adam McCalvy reported Sunday that Hart could be ready for opening-day, though official word on his status isn’t likely to come until Monday at the very soonest. While that’s great news for Brewers fans, it’s unfortunate that Hart was forced to miss his second straight spring-training.
Winner: Zack Greinke
Zack Greinke was filthy good in the second half of his 2011 campaign as the Brewers’ No. 2 starter, but he apparently didn’t get the memo to ease up against the competition this spring.
Over four spring training starts, the former Cy Young Award winner went 1-0 with a 1.04 ERA, 0.75 WHIP and .175 BAA while fanning 26 batters over 17.1 total innings of work. He allowed just 11 hits and walked just two in those starts, additionally.
Head skipper Ron Roenicke announced late last week that Yovani Gallardo will take the mound for the Brewers on opening day against the St. Louis Cardinals. However, Greinke’s production this spring made his decision excruciatingly difficult. If he can perpetuate his unprecedented production from this spring well into 2012, the Brewers will be well on their way to an NL Central title once more.