Looking towards the future (pt. 2)

7 05 2008

After the article I wrote concerning the future of the Brewers franchise, I decided to take the discussion a step further.  How about projecting a lineup for 2011?

I thought about a 2012 prognostication, but the team would lose far too many players to free agency at that point.  The lineup would essentially be a crap shoot.  2011 is much more within reason.  Plus, it far enough away that it can give Brewers fans something to look for down the road.

Here is what your starting lineup in 2011 could look like:

Catcher: Angel Salome

  • I hate to break it to you, but Jason Kendall will not be with the Milwaukee Brewers in 2011.  With that said, Angel is the best catching prospect in the farm system right now.  He is only 22 years old, and the backstop can flat rake.  In 2006, his last full season, Angel hit 10 home runs and drove in 85 runs, while still batting a cool .292.  He followed that up with a .318 batting average last season before getting suspended for performance enhancing drugs.  He has a big arm and a big bat, but the defensive and game management skills are lacking a bit.  If Angel can continue to hit around .300 in the minors, however, Milwaukee will be able to overlook his defensive shortcomings and give him a call to the bigs.

    Jonathan Lucroy is also a strong possibility for this category, but Angel’s offensive skills trump Lucroy.  Jonathan is not a stalwart behind the plate either, but he is improving drastically.  Do not count out Jonathan Lucroy for the starting catcher role in 2011, but you can expect Angel Salome to be donning the gear for Milwaukee.

First Base: Prince Fielder

  • Prince will be starting at first base for the Milwaukee Brewers in 2011.  Does anybody honestly expect anything different here?  He may actually not be in Milwaukee for all of 2011.  When he is, however, Prince will play.  No questions asked.

Second Base:  Rickie Weeks

  • The Milwaukee Brewers seem committed to giving Rickie every chance to succeed at second base.  He is a prolific run scorer (as discussed in Wednesday’s Round ’em Up), but he is mediocre defensively and strikes out too much.  If Rickie’s struggles do not subside either in 2008 or 2009, the Brewers may decide to trade him.

    The problem is that the Crew does not have anyone to step in and fill Rickie’s shoes.  Hernan Iribarren did play second base before getting moved to the outfield.  I expect that defensive change to be permanent though.  One player that has been receiving some hype has been the newly-drafted, Eric Farris.  I have not seen him play, but all reports say that he is extremely solid in all aspects of his game.  He may be someone to look out for at second base.  Besides that, Milwaukee has no one on the horizon.  Rickie seems to have second locked up fairly securely unless Doug Melvin goes out-of-system to find a replacement.

Shortstop: Alcides Escobar

  • Doug Melvin, Ned Yost, Gord Ash, and everyone important in the Brewers organization love this kid.  His glove work is superb at short.  His arm is more like a cannon shooting the ball to first base.  Spring Training in 2008 saw Alcides make a handfull of highlight-caliber plays look incredibly easy.  He has struggled defensively a bit to start the season in Huntsville (7 errors), but history points to those numbers being an aberration.  Offensively, the slick-fielding Alcides does not offer any power or plate discipline, but his batting average has been solid every season.  In 2007, he batted a combined .306 in both Brevard and Huntsville.

    Because of the love fest surrounding Escobar, I do not see J.J. Hardy playing shortstop for the Brewers in 2011.  Hardy will be free agency-eligible at this point in his career, but I believe Hardy will probably be traded before the Brewers lose him to free agency.  Unless he can prove that last year’s power-output and offensive prowess is the norm rather than a one-year wonder, the light will dim on Hardy’s time in Milwaukee by 2011.

Third Base: Mat Gamel

  • Bill Hall looks to have found a home at third base in 2008.  Unfortunately, the emergence of Mat Gamel the past couple of seasons will prompt the Brewers not to pick up Hall’s team option in 2011.  Hall may even be traded in 2009/2010 if Gamel can improve his defense enough to get the starting job early.

    Speaking of Gamel’s defense, it is almost epically bad.  Last season, Gamel had 53 errors at third base and finished with a .826 fielding percentage at the hot corner.  That’s right, 53 errors.  And you thought Ryan Braun was bad at third base.  Nobody questions Mat’s ability to hit.  He flat out mashes the baseball.  In pitcher-friendly Brevard County last year, he hit 9 home runs, drove in 60 runs, and posted a .300 batting average.  This season, Mat is putting up video game numbers.  He’s hitting .372/.438/.628 with 5 home runs and 27 RBI through 32 games.  With those numbers, a big league job at third calls his name if he can improve his fielding percentage to something like .880.  That’s how gifted he is at the plate.

    Taylor Green could give Mat a run for his money, however.  The Player of the Year in 2007 for the Brewers organization, Taylor combines hitting for average with fine defensive play.  His power is nothing special and would need to improve to warrant a big league job, but he is still one to watch.  If the Brewers are truly in a pinch, they could consider moving Green to second base to replace Rickie Weeks in 2011 or 2012.

Left Field: Ryan Braun

  • Ryan Braun is the left fielder of the future for Milwaukee.  That is evidenced by Matt LaPorta switching to right field.  If the Brewers were going to make room for LaPorta by moving Ryan, LaPorta would still be playing left in the minors.  That is not the case.  You do the math.

Center Field: Corey Hart

  • Corey could stay at right field, and Ryan Braun could move to center field.  That is certainly a possibility.  I do not foresee that happening, however.  Hart has better speed than Braun and has more experience in the outfield.  His tall, lanky frame could lead to much better coverage in center.  The big, accurate arm that Hart sports in right would immediately become elite if placed in center field.  The offensive output from center field would also immediately become far above average if Hart is placed in center, but Braun would provide that offensive boost as well.  I favor Hart for center field because his instincts are far better in the field than Braun’s, but that is expected since Ryan has never played the outfield before 2008.

    Tony Gwynn Jr. is an intriguing possibility in center.  He provides a left-handed bat that could fit very well in the lead-off spot, and his defense is top-notch.  Gwynn does need to prove he can handle the bat a bit better before I could consider starting him over Braun or Hart in center field.  In fact, even if he does start to produce more at the plate, it would still be hart to start him over Braun or Hart.  A trade could be in Gwynn’s future.  Hernan Iribarren has transitioned nicely to center field.  Hernan is more of a bench player, however.  I cannot see him wiggling his way into a starting role if LaPorta, Hart, Braun, and Gwynn are all candidates for outfield spots.  Finally, Darren Ford could be a possibility if he can improve his offense in the minors.  His speed is ridiculous and causes opposing teams fits on the basepaths.  I suspect he will not be able to make the big league squad in 2011.  That does not mean you all should not keep an eye on him though.

Right Field: Matt LaPorta

  • .342/.436/.721, 10 2B, 1 3B, 10 HR, 36 RBI in 31 games.  Do I need to say anything else?  He can rake and will be in the big leagues before 2011.  The knock on LaPorta has been his defense, but he has not made an error in the field in his professional career.  In fact, LaPorta has four outfield assists thus far in 2008.  So much for the critics that said he could not play in the outfield.

#1 Starter: Yovani Gallardo

  • If Yo can bounce back from tearing his ACL and still be the same pitcher, he will be the ace of the rotation in 2011.  The Brewers simply cannot afford to pay Ben Sheets what he will demand.  Nor should they want to with all the concerns about him and injuries.

#2 Starter: Manny Parra

  • Manny has spun his wheels to start the 2008 season.  Posting a 5.86 ERA in six starts thus far, Brewers fans are beginning to question all the hype surrounding Parra.  Yes, he is struggling big time in the majors to start the year, but do not question his ability.  His command is normally solid (it has certainly not been in 2008), and he has four legitimate big league pitches.  The low-to-mid 90s fastball, big curveball, splitter, and change-up give him four pitches to play with at any point in the count.  Manny will be in the rotation in 2011, do not worry.

#3 Starter: Jeremy Jeffress

  • Jeremy is currently serving his 50-game suspension for marijuana use.  The good news is that it will keep the hard-throwing Jeffress to a reasonable pitch count this season.  If he can keep away from the drugs, Jeremy will make the big leagues in 2009 or 2010.  His fastball can touch 100 mph.  The offspeed pitches do need some work, but he has systematically worked his way through the Brewers system thus far.  I do not expect that trend to change.  Jeremy Jeffress has a special arm, and it will be in the starting rotation in 2011.

#4 Starter: Carlos Villanueva

  • Carlos is not dominant.  He is, however, smart on the mound.  His change-up is devastating to opposing batters.  It makes his high-80s fastball seem much faster.  Carlos has shown savvy on the mound beyond his years last season, and he looks to be a solid middle-of-the-rotation starter.  The beginning of the 2008 season has not treated Villanueva kindly, but I look for him to bounce back in the next couple weeks.  Carlos belongs in the starting rotation.

#5 Starter: Steve Hammond

  • This prediction is a little more difficult to back up with evidence.  The big lefty dominated minor league hitters in his first two seasons, but Steve took a big step back in 2007 in Huntsville.  The new season looks to have rejuvenated Hammond, and he appears to have found his old form.  In 39.1 innings pitched, Steve has 45 strikeouts and a 3.20 ERA.  I simply believe that Steve has found his old form, his true form, and will continue to progress in Huntsville and Nashville.  He may simply be a personal favorite, but I see Steve at the back-end of the rotation to start 2011.  His high strikeout rate and the fact that he is a lefty gives that prediction some validity.

    Zach Braddock could also make a run at the starting rotation in 2011.  He has already received a promotion to Brevard County in this young season.  In 2007, as a 19-year old, Zach started nine games and posted a 1.15 ERA with 68 strikeouts in 47 innings.  That is a sick number of strikeouts for a 19-year old.  He did have some arm troubles last season, so the team shut him down.  Thus far in 2008, Zach has been limited in his innings, but he does have 16 strikeouts in 9 innings pitched.  He could be something special.

Closer: Omar Aguilar

  • Omar has a 0.55 ERA in 16.1 innings out of the bullpen for Brevard County.  With 10 saves already in this young season, Omar has shot up the prospect charts in the Milwaukee organization.  His fastball reportedly has touched triple digits, and his offspeed pitches are improving.  The Brewers are obviously grooming him to be a closer in the big league bullpen.  I expect a promotion to Huntsville in the next month if Aguilar keeps this fine pitching up.

    Luis Pena will make a strong case for himself in 2011.  The fastball-slider reliever has quickly become a personal favorite of Ned Yost.  Luis has a blistering fastball, and his slider is improving immensely.  Some thought he had a shot to make the big league ‘pen in 2008, and he may get a call-up in September.  He has struggled to start the season, but I look for him to improve in the coming months.

    Rob Bryson is also a candidate.  The 20-year old had a 2.67 ERA with 70 Ks in 54 innings last season.  He has not found so much success with West Virginia this year, but his strikeout rate has remained fantastic.  The control seems to have left him a bit in 2008, as evidenced by his 8 walks thus far in 2008.  Compare that to 12 walks all of 2007.  Rob is not necessarily a darkhorse for the closer’s job either.  Tom Haudricourt has him penned in as the closer for Milwaukee in a couple years.

As you can see, the Brewers have a wealth of internal options in the coming seasons.  This year’s draft will also replenish the farm system with quality talent, with many of the first picks most likely being pitchers.  These prognostications obviously do not include anyone outside the organization, so it is foolish to believe that this is how the roster will look in 2011.  With that said, this roster does not look all that bad.  Brewers fans certainly have bright seasons to look forward to in the coming years.

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3 responses

7 05 2008
Kyle

Right on, my idea the sky is falling and that this is the last year is over the top… but pitching as you mentioned is not looking too promising in the minors, so to replace Sheets, is going to be very difficult and without the ace (actually I consider Gallardo a good pitcher and possible ace) it will be very hard to get to the playoffs if Parra is our #2 guy. Hitting won’t seem to be a problem atleast for the next 3 years, assuming players are more like last year stats than this years… but that is the formula the Cincinatti Reds have used in the last few years, and it hasn’t been pretty for them!

7 05 2008
Bob

Favorite post of the year right here. I think that Zach Braddock has a better shot than Steve Hammond, but you could be right. Great article!!!

12 08 2008
Right Field Bleachers » Blog Archive » In the News (5/7)

[…] – BrewersNation takes a shot at predicting the 2011 Brewers’ roster. […]

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