Adam Giacalone started from the bottom, and now, he is here.
The bottom, for Giacalone, the Milwaukee Brewers’ 16th-round draft pick in Major League Baseball’s 2012 first-year player draft, came in the first few weeks of his professional career.
Over the course of those initial weeks as a member of the organization’s rookie minor league club in Helena, Mon., the drastic changes that came with the changeover from the college ranks to the minor leagues got the better of Giacalone.
The then 20-year-old first baseman sported a paltry .060 batting average, struck out (12) exactly four times more than he walked (3) and registered just two extra-base hits through his first eight games.
But on June 30, 2012, Giacalone’s fortunes changed for the better.
That day, he registered his first multi-hit game of this career by going 2-for-4 – albeit in a losing effort. His performance that day sparked a subsequent 16-game hitting streak and helped Giacalone gain back his confidence at the plate for the rest of the season.
By the end of his first professional campaign, Giacalone compiled a .317 batting average, the best mark among all Brewers minor league prospects. He also registered an impressive .394 on-base percentage and hoarded 110 total bases in just 69 games, gaining recognition throughout the system as a talent to watch next season.
Giacalone realizes those early-season struggles helped him become the player he is today.
“I think what made me a better player was those struggles in the beginning,” Giacalone said. “You know a lot more about yourself once you go through the struggles. You figure out what you need to work on and you become a better player.”
Struggling isn’t something that Giacalone is all too familiar with, truth be told.
Growing up in Shawnee, Kan., Giacalone attended Shawnee Mission Northwest High School. It was here where he was first recognized on a national scale for his talent on the baseball diamond and originally grabbed the attention of college scouts across the region.
Aside from posting a batting average above .400 during his senior season, Giacalone also made headlines for his pitching, and with good reason. Twice in the span of 15 days, he tossed two perfect games and issued just two walks over his first 38.2 innings pitched.
After graduating, Giacalone attended Nesosho County Community College in Chanute, Kan., and his production both at the plate and on the mound actually improved.
His freshman season yielded a .396 batting average, 18 home runs and 102 runs batted in at the dish. A 10-1 record complemented by a 2.10 ERA on the bump added to his repertoire as a potential minor league talent.
Dubbed one of the top junior college talents in the country, Giacalone was targeted by a handful of Division I schools.
Then, in November 2011, Giacalone signed his letter of intent to play baseball at the University of Tennessee, with the understanding that he would have the opportunity to be a position player as well as a pitcher – an opportunity seldom presented to college-level players.
“As a pitcher, I loved having the game in my hands,” Giacalone said about whether pitching or hitting gave him more satisfaction. “But as a hitter, there’s nothing better than being in the box and just hitting.”
But before Giacalone had the chance to step onto the field with Tennessee, the Brewers came calling with the 515th selection in last summer’s draft and made him an offer he could not refuse: The chance to fulfill his dream of playing on the big-league stage.
“It was an opportunity I couldn’t really pass up,” said Giacalone. “Tennessee was also a great offer; it’s just that my dream has always been to play professional baseball. It’s every little kid’s dream. So when an opportunity came, it was something I felt I definitely needed to do.”
Giacalone’s standout first-season with the Brewers’ system earned him a promotion to the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers, the club’s low-A minor league team. He is scheduled to remain with the club’s spring training facilities in Maryvale, Ari., for a few extra weeks and expects to make his first appearance in Appleton around the start of May.
Though he has not thought about it all that much, Giacalone said that playing hard and having fun are two things he most wants to accomplish with the Timber Rattlers in 2013. Moving up the minor-league ladder is extra incentive.
“Playing professional baseball is something you have to enjoy,” Giacalone said. “You have to play hard every chance to you get. This isn’t going to last forever.”
Follow Adam on Twitter: @adamgiacalone
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More Brewers news pouring out from official sources on Wednesday after a transaction-filled Tuesday. ‘
MLB.com’s Adam McCalvy tweeted this afternoon that infielder Jeff Bianchi will be placed on the 15-day disabled list. Bianchi, 25, hit .235/.235/.235 (no, that isn’t a typo) over 17 spring training plate appearances. Infielder Donnie Murphy has asked to be released from the club, as well. His release comes a day after Milwaukee’s signing of Yuniesky Betancourt was made official. Murphy, 30, hit .239/.314/.457 over 24 spring training games with the Brewers.
McCalvy also reported via his Twitter page Wednesday that Kyle Lohse’s first start as a member of the rotation could come not in the club’s first series against the Rockies, but the second series against the Diamondbacks.
According to Mike Vassallo, senior director of media relations for the Brewers, infielder Taylor Green and right-handed pitcher Mark Rogers have officially been placed on the 15-day disabled list. Green suffered a left hip labral injury on Friday, Mar. 22. Rogers has battled through shoulder instability with his throwing arm this spring.
Brewers assistant general manager Gord Ash told Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that they “don’t expect surgery and hopefully he can strengthen this and get back on the field,” about Green earlier today. “When he is ready he will start his rehab here in Phoenix and move on to (Class AAA) Nashville when ready.”
Green, 26, holds true to a .139/.244/.222 slash line over 15 games (41 PA) for Milwaukee this spring. Rogers, 27, has allowed seven earned runs to cross home over nine innings — four starts — this spring, which includes dishing out 12 walks to just three strikeouts.
UPDATE 3/26, 4:00 PM: The Brewers have announced the signing of shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt this afternoon. The veteran shortstop had been a part of the Phillies’ roster this spring but opted out of the minor league deal he had been under. Monetary figures and length of the contract have not yet been released.
Betancourt, 31, appeared in just 57 games for the Royals last season. He posted a .228/.256/.400 line in 228 plate appearances, yielding a .280 wOBA and 73 wRC+. With Jean Segura holding down the starting job at shortstop and Alex Gonzalez willing and able to fill in if need be, Betancourt will likely serve as a utility infielder off the bench.
UPDATE: 3/25, 12:11 AM: The Brewers’ 2013 first-round draft pick status has been officially cleared up. Milwaukee’s 17th overall selection will be skipped, not given to the Cardinals. However, St. Louis will attain a first-round compensatory pick in next summer’s draft, FS Wisconsin’s Andrew Gruman told me today.
UPDATE: 3/25, 11:53 AM: The contract is reportedly worth $33 million over three years, according to Bob Nightengale of USA Today. Lohse will become the highest-paid man on the Brewers’ roster this season with a base salary of $11 million.
The Milwaukee Brewers have agreed to terms on a contract with free-agent pitcher Kyle Lohse, according to CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman. Terms and monetary figures have not yet been disclosed to the public, but per Yahoo! Sports’ Tim Brown, it is set to be a multi-year deal. The contract has not yet been signed, as Brown notes via his Twitter page. Lohse is scheduled to report to Brewers camp in Maryvale, Ari., today to undergo his mandatory physical before signing the contract.
The news of this contract agreement comes not even a week after Brewers manager Ron Roenicke had set his club’s opening-day starting rotation. Lohse, 34, went 16-3 over 33 starts last season with the St. Louis Cardinals, posting a 2.86 ERA and 1.09 WHIP while striking out 143 to walking just 38. He finished seventh in National League Cy Young award voting and made a shade under $12 million last season.
Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reported on Thursday that free agent pitcher Kyle Lohse and his agent Scott Boras remain in contact with a few major league teams. The Brewers are one of the few teams interested in signing the right-hander, along with the Colorado Rockies and Texas Rangers, according to sources.
From Rosenthal’s post:
“The Texas Rangers and Milwaukee Brewers are maintaining contact with Lohse, sources say. Lohse’s agent, Scott Boras, told MLB Network’s Peter Gammons on Thursday that the pitcher will not wait to sign until after the June draft, when draft-pick compensation no longer would apply. “We have too many teams in play,” Boras said.
Lohse, sources say, wants to at least match Ryan Dempster’s two-year, $26.5 million with the Boston Red Sox; the pitcher rejected a one-year, $13.3 million qualifying offer from the St. Louis Cardinals.”
The likelihood of Milwaukee signing Lohse, 34, will be based squarely off general manager Doug Melvin’s willingness to relinquish his club’s 2013 first-round draft pick to the St. Louis Cardinals, which will be the 17th overall selection. However, should Lohse wait to sign with a team until after this summer’s first-year player draft is completed, the Brewers would no longer have to give up that selection.
A week ago, Yahoo! Sports’ Jeff Passan reported via his Twitter page that Lohse’s was seeking a three-year deal valued at $45 million, though those numbers continue to lessen as opening day draws nearer.
Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported on Monday that Brewers manager Ron Roenicke set the club’s starting rotation for the start of the 2013 season. Haudricourt also said that Melvin isn’t expecting to make any moves from now until opening day with respect to the club’s rotation.
Over 33 starts last season, Lohse averaged 6.1 innings per, posting a 2.86 ERA and 1.09 WHIP while garnering a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 3.76, finishing seventh in National League Cy Young award voting. He made a shade under $12 million last season with the Cardinals.
UPDATE: March 24, 1:35 p.m.
Lohse’s asking price per year has been confirmed by ESPN’s Buster Olney at $14-15 million per year.
Opening day for the Brewers is a mere 12 days away, and with each passing day, we begin to piece together the puzzle that will become Milwaukee’s April 1 lineup.
On Monday, Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel broke the news that Brewers manager Ron Roenicke had put the finishing touches on what will be his starting rotation to begin the starting rotation. The unveiled rotation — easily distinguishable from its 2012 opening-day version — is reportedly comprised of: Yovani Gallardo, Marco Estrada, Wily Peralta, Chris Narveson and Mike Fiers.
Aside from everyone’s curiosity of how the bullpen will be pieced-together, the question on everyone’s mind now seems to be: What will Milwaukee’s opening-day lineup look like?
While no one can answer that question with a whole lot of certainty at this juncture — aside from the third and fourth spots in the order – we can certainly speculate as to how each of us would ‘structure’ Roenicke’s lineup should we wondrously transform into the Brewers’ third-year skipper.
Conveniently enough, that’s exactly what I plan on doing.
Allow me to attempt to persuade you into agreeing with my own personal ‘construction’ of Milwaukee’s opening-day lineup. This lineup is not so much a projection as the title would have you believe; rather, as I alluded to earlier, this is a more personal dissertation of how I would fashion positions one through nine on opening day against the Colorado Rockies (by the way, I’ll be at the game). Let’s get started.
2012 stats: .288/.355/.433, 10 HR, 81 R, 50 RBI, 30 SB, 115 wRC+
There’s a lot to like about what Aoki, 31, brings to the table as a lead-off hitter, and he proved that to each of us last season. From this spot in 2012, the 31-year-old posted a .286/.353/.438 slash line. The number to focus on here would be his .353 on-base percentage, as this is inarguably the most all-telling stat for the effectiveness of a lead-off hitter. Interestingly, Aoki topped heralded lead-off hitters such as (among others) Jose Reyes and Michael Bourn in this category last season. He also drew nearly as many walks (34) as he did strike out (37) from this spot, and furthermore stole 24 of 32 bases. Add the fact that Aoki posted the roster’s best contact rate (88.3%), a swell rate for any lead-off hitter, and it seems Aoki would make the most sense here.
2. Carlos Gomez (CF)
2012 stats: .260/.305/.463, 19 HR, 72 R, 51 RBI, 37 SB, 105 wRC+
Popular opinion seems to think Rickie Weeks would be the best fit here. While there are merits to that notion, Gomez probably brings more upside than what Weeks could otherwise provide. First, Gomez’s speed would be a tremendous complement to Aoki’s atop the order. Even at 27 years of age, Gomez hasn’t lost a step on the basepaths since his early professional days. Second, Given Gomez’s .311 on-base percentage out of the No. 2 hole last season, he and Aoki would be able to get on base at a respectable rate in front of Ryan Braun. For those reasons, Gomez gets the spot here.
3. Ryan Braun (LF)
2012 stats: .319/.391/.595, 41 HR, 108 R, 112 RBI, 30 SB, 162 wRC+
There will (probably) come a time when Ryan Braun’s slowly diminishing speed will place him on the clean-up spot in Milwaukee’s order; however, that time is . Must I explain myself here?
2012 stats: .300/.360/.540, 27 HR, 92 R, 105 RBI, 9 SB, 142 wRC+
Exactly 97.3 percent of Ramirez’s plate appearances last season came as Milwaukee’s clean-up hitter, and I see no reason as to why that should cease to be in 2013.
Just how effective was Ramirez out of the No. 4 hole last season? For starters, he out-performed Prince Fielder in the slugging percentage department, garnering a .540 slugging percentage to Fielder’s .528. He tied for the league-lead in runs batted in for cleanup hitters, led the league in doubles (49) and scored more runs than any other No. 4 hitter in the National League. If my calculations are correct, Ramirez seems the easy choice here.
5. Rickie Weeks (2B)
2012 stats: .230/.328/.400, 21 HR, 85 R, 63 RBI, 16 SB, 100 wRC+
Weeks’ days of being a viable weapon on the bases are certainly in the rear-view mirror, so for me, it seems only appropriate for him to move down in the batting order, where his power will help drive in runs. Many will point to the fact that Weeks has traditionally struggled at the plate with men on base as a reason for not placing him here. However, comparing Weeks’ 2012 numbers to those of the best No. 5 hitters in the game, we see that Weeks edged out many hitters as far as individual numbers (home runs, stolen bases, etc.) are concerned. Jonathan Lucroy would have been a nice choice here, but in my mind, Weeks is the best option.
6. Jonathan Lucroy (C)
2012 stats: .320/.368/.513, 12 HR, 46 R, 58 RBI, 4 SB, 138 wRC+
Lucroy was one of the most productive hitting catchers before his wife dropped some luggage on his throwing hand late last May, landing him on the disabled list for a good chunk of the season. Still, he prospered after coming back, hitting .299/.354/.458 post-injury. As for where he’s placed in the opening-day batting order is anyone’s guess, but the fact that exactly 87.5 percent of his career plate appearances have come in either the sixth, seventh or eighth spot gives us a clear indication as to where Roenicke may place him. I’ll put him here due to the fact that he is a .291/.327/.446 hitter in the No. 6 hole, with a .315 BABIP. Milwaukee will need someone with a knack for finding holes in defenses to drive in Braun, Ramirez and Weeks. For that reason, Lucroy is the best choice for this spot.
7. Alex Gonzalez (1B)
2012 stats: .259/.326/.457, 4 HR, 8 R, 15 RBI, SB, 133 wRC+
Gonzalez, also referred to as ‘Sea Bass’, has been a bottom-of-the-order dweller for much of his professional career, with exactly 56 percent of his 6,098 plate appearances coming as either a No. 7 or No. 8 hitter — and there’s a good reason behind that. Arguably his best work has come via the No. 7 hole, where he’s hit a respectable .247/.286/.409 with 45 home runs and 193 runs batted in. There’s a decent chance he ends up here if not due to the fact that the majority of his plate appearances with the club last season came from this spot.
2012 stats: .264/.321/.331, 19 R, 14 RBI, 7 SB, 74 wRC+
Putting Segura here makes a lot of sense if I’m Roenicke. For one, Segura batted from the No. 8 hole in all but one of his starts last season, so there’s a certain amount of familiarity with this spot in the lineup that would work to Milwaukee’s benefit. Secondly, Segura fresh legs would provide much-needed speed to the bottom of Roenicke’s lineup. Many seem to think Segura will hasten his way to a hefty stolen-base total this season, with ZiPS projecting him to steal 26 bases this season. If he is able to reach that mark, that would be the most stolen bases by any No. 8 hitter…since the turn of the millennium. Lastly, and most importantly, Segura’s successes in spring training (.350/.366/.500, 20 total bases in 14 games) would help even-out a front-loaded batting order, helping to set the stage for the top of the order to drive in runs.
9. Yovani Gallardo (RHP)
He is the opening-day starter, no?
1.) Norichika Aoki (RF)
2.) Carlos Gomez (CF)
3.) Ryan Braun (LF)
4.) Aramis Ramirez (3B)
5.) Rickie Weeks (2B)
6.) Jonathan Lucroy (C)
7.) Alex Gonzalez (1B)
8.) Jean Segura (SS)
9.) Yovani Gallardo
Tweet me (@alecdopp) your thoughts and let’s get the conversation started.
After two seasons spent with the Brewers’ double-A affiliate in Huntsville, MLB Trade Rumors has reported that the club has dealt right-handed pitcher Darren Byrd to the Oakland Athletics in exchange for infielder Stephen Parker.
MLB.com’s Adam McCalvy also confirmed the news on Wednesday.
Byrd, 26, posted a 2.59 ERA and 1.29 WHIP while striking out 71 batters to walking 36 last season over 50 relief appearances. Of the 12 games in which he finished, six came as saves.
Parker, 25, batted .256/.327/.390 with seven home runs, 43 runs scored and 47 runs batted in over 99 games with the Athletics’ triple-A affiliate Sacramento River Cats. He has experience at every infield position, excluding shortstop.
Every year, it seems there are at least a handful of players on each Major League roster whose job security hinges on his performance over the course of Spring Training.
At Milwaukee Brewers camp in this spring, there are a number of players who have either elevated their opening-day roster spot security or have increased the likelihood of their being either sent to minor league camp, or released from the organization altogether.
Just past the midway point of spring training, now seems a perfect time to pinpoint those players who have impressed and disappointed. Here is a look at a few winners and losers of Brewers camp thus far.
Loser: Hunter Morris
Although his scintillating 2013 campaign — he hit .303/.357/.563 and with 74 extra-base hits – warranted national recognition, scouts questioned his big league power potential at the next level, with many saying his swing entails too many holes for him to become a productive everyday first baseman.
In his first go-around with the big-league camp this spring, he seems to be backing those evaluations.The 24-year-old Huntsville, Ala. product has in 27 plate appearances hit .120/.185/.280, striking out six times to drawing just two walks.
With Corey Hart out for what could be the first month of the season, Morris hasn’t done much this spring to increase his value within the organization. His chances of landing an opening-day roster spot (and Major League salary) have taken a hit this spring, to be sure.
Winner: Carlos Gomez
Carlos Gomez has cashed in this spring — literally.
After his best season as a professional, hitting .260/.305/.463 with 19 home runs and 37 stolen bases, the 27-year-old center fielder procured a four-year, $28.3 Million contract extension from Milwaukee on Wednesday, Mar. 13. The deal will keep Gomez with the club through the 2016 season, and presumably validates the club’s confidence in his ability to be the starter in center field for the future.
Exactly what compelled general manager Doug Melvin to extend Gomez? His aforementioned 2012 campaign had a lot do with it. However, a terrific spring training may too have had a strong affect. In 28 plate appearances, Gomez is presently hitting .474/.615/.684 with six walks to just five strikeouts and 13 total bases.
Loser: Mat Gamel
Mat Gamel doesn’t have much to smile about these days.
Once considered the heir-apparent to Prince Fielder as Milwaukee’s first baseman of the future, the now 27-year-old suffered his second ACL tear in consecutive springs. The difference between the two? Last year’s came well over a month into the season, whereas this year’s incident came before he stepped into the batter’s box in spring training. Unfortunately for Gamel, this year’s ACL tear will cause him tomiss the entirety of his 2013 season. With this injury, Gamel’s future with the organization has been put in jeopardy. No player at camp this spring has lost more than Gamel.
Winner: Mike Fiers
It’s funny how dramatically a person’s situation can change over the course of 12 months. Mike Fiers is a perfect example. At this time last year, the Nova Southeastern University product was having a rough go at spring training,registering just eight total innings while allowing 10 earned runs to cross home on 12 hits, three of which were home runs.
This spring, Fiers is rekindling the stuff that gave him an opportunity for the Brewers’ starting rotation from mid-season onward. Over 12.1 innings, the 28-year-old right-hander boasts a 2.19 ERA with 11 strikeouts to four walks. The concerns that surrounded Fiers toward the back end of last season seem to be fading away with each preseason appearance. Should he continue at this pace, he may find himself as the team’s No. 3 starter come April in a rotation desperate for stability.
Loser: Mark Rogers
Mark Rogers wishes he could push the ‘redo’ button this spring.
After getting his long-awaited opportunity to contribute to the starting rotation last season, garnering a 3.92 ERA, 1.28 WHIP and a 9.5 K/9 rate over seven starts, Milwaukee’s former first-round draft selection has labored this spring to a 7.50 ERA and 3.00 WHIP over six innings. He hasn’t fooled anyone with his stuff, as evidenced by his walking 10 batters to striking out just one to this juncture.
Given his respectable and often impressive 2012 campaign, many surmised at the start of spring training that Rogers would contend for a back-end starting rotation spot to start 2013. But for Rogers’ command to be as shaky as it has been this spring, all signs point to him starting this season in triple-A Nashville.
Winner: Jean Segura
The centerpiece to the trade that sent Zack Greinke from Milwaukee to Anaheim, Jean Segura’s first go-around as an everyday big league shortstop left something to be desired. In 44 games as the Brewers de facto everyday shortstop, the 22-year-old struggled putting consistent contact on many offerings, leading to a .264/.321/.331 slash line toward the bottom of Ron Roenicke’s order over that span. His speed on the bases wasn’t utilized and he labored a bit defensively, too.
This spring, Segura is putting to bed much of the doubt had by scouts last season. Over 29 plate appearances, Dominican-born youngster boasts a .321/.345/.464 slash line at the plate with three runs scored and a stolen base. His defense has improved, as he’s committed just one error on 31 total chances while turning three double plays in 10 games.
Winner: Khris Davis
No minor leaguer upped his value within the system as much as Davis has this spring.
Rated as my No. 10 prospect at the end of last season, the 25-year-old Davis has never been one to overwhelm scouts with his skill-set. Indeed, talent evaluators seem to agree that he doesn’t possess one ‘plus’ tool. Instead, Davis has let his production do the talking.
Between rookie, double-A and triple-A ball last season, Davis posted a .350/.451/.604 slash line with 15 home runs and 52 runs scored. This spring, he has made an impression on Milwaukee’s coaching staff by leading all players with three home runs, eight runs batted in, six runs scored and a .655 slugging percentage over 31 plate appearances.
A spot on the opening-day roster may not be in the cards for Davis, but if he continues to put solid contact on the ball while showing versatility defensively, he will be of great value once rosters expand in September.