We’ve Moved!!!

14 07 2008

Hi all!

As promised, it’s Monday and there is big news for BrewersNation.

I was approached by SportsBubbler, and they asked me to move my blog to the front page of their site. The site traffic is obviously higher over there. The partnership looks to be quite beneficial for both sides.

The name of the blog has sadly changed. Unfortunately, it was something that simply had to happen to make the move possible. I won’t go into the particulars, but BrewersNation is now known as Bernie’s Crew.

Nothing about the site’s content is going to change whatsoever, so don’t worry. I sincerely hope you all will update your bookmarks and simply come and read the new blog. It’s an exciting move, and I want all of you to make it with me. You all have been absolutely fantastic.

Here’s the link to the new site.





Round ’em Up: Sunday

29 06 2008

UPDATE 06-29-08 1:08pm – Guillermo Mota successfully lowered his ERA after appealing a scoring decision that occurred against the Houston Astros.

It’s good to know Mota is far more concerned with his personal stat line than whether or not his team wins the game. Ned Yost didn’t seem too pleased about Mota’s stunt either.

——————————————————————————

Ben Sheets will lead the Milwaukee Brewers against the hottest team in baseball right now. If the Crew can win this afternoon, it will be an excellent series win and a successful road trip. Who would have thought I would be saying that right now?

  • Eric Gagne expects to be back with the Milwaukee Brewers on Monday. I’m not so sure he’s ready for game action though. Normally, Ned Yost is one for hyperbole when talking about his injured players. He always says something like, “[Insert name here] is throwing the ball great in the bullpen” or “[Insert name here] is absolutely mashing the ball in BP.” Not with Gage though. Concerning Gagne’s bullpen session, Yost says that Gagne’s fastball control was “decent.” Oh good…
  • Jim Powell has a new post up, and he echoes my concern about Gagne. In fact, he says Gagne’s bullpen session was “just okay.” He had control issues. Why bring him off the DL if he’s not ready?
  • The Junkball Blues has a very interesting look at the Brewers offense. He hypothesizes that a team that walks a lot, hits lots of home runs, and strikes out a lot will have a more consistent offense because they do not rely on luck very much. How so? All three of those categories do not involve the opposing defense at all. It’s an interesting way to look at it, but the result is that Milwaukee needs to walk more. That’s what BN reader Aaron has been saying allllll along.
  • The post of the day goes to Between the Green Pillars. He talks about what the Brewers need to do concerning acquiring another starting pitcher. The article says that Milwaukee would be much better off trading for someone like Rich Harden, Zach Greinke, or Eric Bedard at this point, as all would be under team control beyond this season. I completely agree when BTGP says making a move for C.C. Sabathia would make 2008 an all-or-nothing season. If the Brewers make the playoffs with C.C., it would be a huge success. If they don’t, however, Milwaukee has nothing to show for their troubles. I would much rather have the likes of a Bedard/Harden/Greinke than Sabathia at this point.
  • Ken Rosenthal has a new Full Count video up, and he reports that Seattle’s Jarrod Washburn is becoming much more attractive given his recent success. That wouldn’t be a bad move if the price was right.
  • The Brew Town Beat notes that one year ago, the Brewers lost to the Chicago Cubs on that Aramis Ramirez walk-off home run. That marked the downfall of the Milwaukee Brewers last season. This year, however, the Crew started off slow, but has caught fire in June. My how things change.
  • The Huntsville Times has a nice article on OF Michael Brantley and how his father impacted his life in the game of baseball. An interesting part of the article says that Michael is the best player on the Stars ballclub. That’s a bold claim, but he has the entire package.
  • If you haven’t seen the recap of the Dodgers-Angels game from last night, check it out. Jerod Weaver for the Angels combined with Jose Arredondo to no-hit the Dodgers, but still lost the game 1-0. Two errors and a sacrifice fly in the fifth inning spelled doom for the Angels. Crazy game.




Bush Gets Bashed, Pirates Avoid Sweep

23 05 2008

Having secured the first road-series win against the Pirates since 2006 the brooms were out, but another rough outing by Dave Bush left the home team Bucs off the hook.  The embattled starter, switching spots with Jeff Suppan in the rotation, gave up six runs between the fourth and fifth innings to blow open a close game.  Final score: Pirates 8, Brewers 4.

Stranding runners was a huge problem for the Crew last night again as they left 14 runners on base.  Cory Hart had a solo shot in the fourth inning to give the Brewers a 1-0, but the lead was short lived as a flawless Bush imploded.

Pirates pitcher Tom Gorzelanny had a high pitch count early in the game, but the Brewers continued to get him out of jams as they couldn’t capitalize.

Bush had back-to-back massive collapses in the fourth and fifth innings, surrendering a two-run shot to Jason Bay and five total hits for four runs.  The fifth was just as bad at the hot-hitting Nate McLouth got his third hit of the evening (4-for-4 for the night), a throwing error by Prince Fielder, and a Xavier Nady solo homer scored runs for the Bucs.

The Brewers comeback came short as Gabe Kapler scored Bill Hall on a RBI pinch-hit single in the sixth and Joe Dillon also scored JJ Hardy on a pitch-hit RBI single in the seventh. Rickie Weeks hit another homer to save face for the Brewers in the eight.  More stranded runners in both theses innings were bad news for the Brew Crew.

The game was pushed out of reach by a seventh in two run tally by the Pirates against Brewer’s reliever Zach Johnson whose bad seventh was softened by a 1-2-3 eighth.

Records: Brewers (22-25), Pirates (22-25)

Hero of the Game: Dave Bush, Innings 1 through 3

Bush was lights out for the first three innings giving up only one hit and retiring eight straight after giving up that hit.  The defense backed him up solidly, too.  Bush sprayed a variety of ground outs and flyouts to his teammates providing effective cover for a struggling offense in the final game of the series. Like a abused wife in a Lifetime Channel movie I was thinking this time would be different, but…

Goat of the Game:  Dave Bush, Innings 4 and 5

He just never fails to disappoint.  Just when all was well in the world, Bush drops a bomb on us.  These two innings were a disaster.  Whatever Bush has early in games he certainly throws it all away later in games.  The pitches that were outs innings 1 through 3 were dropping for hits all over the field.  I can’t say right now, but Villanueva versus Bush is like choosing between the lesser of two evils because Bush has now given up 10 homers compared to V-Dub’s 12.

On Tap:  Jeff Suppan (2-3) opens the series against the Washington National’s Odalis Perez (1-4) in DC.  The Brewers hope to win the road series against the struggling Nats in order to save face on this troublesome road trip and start next week’s home stand on the right foot (ha! stand! foot! hilarious!).  First pitch: 6:05pm.

By: Dan Wiersema





Round ‘Em Up Thursday

22 05 2008

Twenty cent rise in gas prices in the last 24 hours got you down?  Here are some of the Milwaukee Brewers stories floating around the Inter-Web today.  Maybe that will pick up your spirits…

First off, congrats to the work horse Ben Sheets for his fantastic outing last night. It was even more amazing that after the fourth inning (he had five by then) he didn’t have a single strikeout until the final batter.  Taking 11 hits last night and only allowing one run to score (which was a homer) is a credit to Sheets and a solid defense behind him. P.S. Nice catch Mike Cameron!

* Worried about Eric Gagne?  Yeah, me too… I haven’t slept at all since he blew our first shutout since April. Just in case you were hoping the you might never see him again.  Your chances just got a little bit better in the short-term.  The J-S is reporting that Gagne and his sore shoulder will keep him sidelined “indefinitely”.” Gagne has been experiencing “tightness and inflammation” since his duty against the Pirates on Tuesday.  Ironically those are the same words I would use to describe myself when Gagne gets on the mound and then follows with blowing up.

* The Junkball Blues has a bunch of stat break downs of what is the best battling line-up approach for the Brewers.  Its kinda cool that you can see hitting, power, and patience.  For that last one I don’t know if we can even field a line-up! Ha! Get it? Because we have no patience and strike out a lot! Funny!

* Fox Sports Dayn Perry looks at the red-hot Chicago Cubs and decides there is no freakin’ way that these guys can keep up the torrid hitting, pitching, and defense.  He says that its the pitching that will eventually fall off. Works for me. I don’t care how they fall apart as long as they do.

* Is the Brewers’ front office racist?  Brewers Bar thinks is might be a possibility in considering why Braun got a contract before Fielder.  I’ve got to be honest and in no way, shape, or form, did this thought even consider forming itself in my head.  Where do people get stories like this?  Must have gone to the Badger Blogger School of Journalism.

* Is Eric Gagne Fidel Castro?  Bugs & Cranks makes the case that the low-profile of the Cuban dictator of the last ten years matches up with the rising profile of Gagne.  Makes sense to me.

* V-Dub (aka Carlos Villanueva) is cool with heading to the ‘pen.  He’s just glad that he’s not rooming with Turnbow in Triple A.

* Any finally, Brew Crew Pub grades Doug Melvin over the last couple of years.  Tough teacher!

This is the first time for me doing the Round ‘Em Up so please feel free to link to any stories I might have missed today.  Thanks!

By: Dan Wiersema





Ten Optimistic Things To Think About

20 05 2008

It’s been a couple rough weeks for Brewers Nation (not this site, the fans) with the double sweep in Houston and Florida, the surprising losses at home against the Dodgers, and another sweep in Boston. Trolling through the comments section on sites around the web, one would think that its time to start propping ourselves on the ledge of the US Bank Building in Milwaukee and strongly consider jumping.


As Jim wrote, it’s no fun heading into Pittsburgh looking up at the Pirates in the standings. Being what it is us Brewers’ fans need some lifting up, and I thought I’d put together a post to life the spirits of the Brewers faithful. No calling for Yost’s head or Week’s bat here. The following is ten reasons to still be optimistic about your 2008 Milwaukee Brewers.


* This is not the 2004 Brewers


Granted the Brewers are sitting in last place for the first time since 2004, but this team is certainly not those Brewers. In 2004, the only reliable pitcher on the staff was Ben Sheets and of course he got injured again. Lyle Overbay starred for the offense. These 2008 Brewers are more experienced and talented that the former squad that had a decent season through the All-Star break and then suffered a terrible collapse to finish 67-94.


Of course I could make the comparison that this Brewers squad is not one of many other terrible Brewers teams, but that’s not the point. The point is that rather than looking at the 2004 season as the beginning of something positive we should be looking at the 2008 season as a continuation of the franchise’s growth. Many expected 2008 to be the breakout season for the Brew Crew, but that may or may not be the case.


Either way, compared to four years ago, this year’s team in infinitely more talented. They will not rely on single players to carry the team. People like Jeff Suppan in the rotation and other young (and improving pitchers) will back up Sheets and while Overbay is gone, there are no solo stars on this year’s team. A Prince Fielder is not alone or a Ryan Braun is not alone or a Corey Hart is not alone. The fact that I listed three players (any could more) shows that this offense is not alone in talent like teams of old.


* Its only ¼ way through the season


I’m a teacher so there are not many students that I give up on after just one quarter of the school year. One of the best things that the Brewers have going for them that, at this point, the season is still young. After about 40 games in we are certainly not the perfect position, but certainly not in the worst position either.


Anyone that was also a fan last year knows that strong or weak starts to the season have little bearing on the end result of a season. The Cubs played absolutely wonderful post All-Star break and the Colorado Rockies played out of their minds to close the 2007 season. With almost 120 games to play and any number of combinations of risings and fallings of the various NL Central teams, this Brewers team is by no means finished. The squad has all of the tools to be competitive. The only thing needed is consistency.


* Corey Hart


Speaking of consistency I hear that Milwaukee right fielder Corey Hart is legally changing his name to Corey Consistency. Mr. Consistency has been that and more for the Brewers. If 2008 was supposed to by Rickie Weeks’ breakout season, Hart may have stolen his thunder. Currently batting nearly .300 and getting extra-base hits like they’re going out of style, Corey has been the rock in the Brew Crew’s line up of struggling hitters.


* Braun is on a tear (no sophomore slump)


If you asked me earlier in the season if I was worried that Braun was being crushed under the weight of expectations for his second Major League Season you may have gotten a “yes” out of me, but after a slow start the $45 million dollar man has shown that he will probably avoid the dreaded sophomore slump. His batting average is soaring in the three-hole of the lineup and he is making big time pitchers look like chumps. At this pace he could add a MVP trophy next to the Rookie of the Year one.


* Melvin is on the case


Which is why it’s so important that Doug Melvin nailed Braun down to that eight-year, $45 million contract. Some Brewers fans are concerned that his off-season bullpen moves are not ironing out, but no one can doubt that this GM is trying to establish long-term success while balancing short-term expectations. The Mike Cameron move showed that right now we want success, but Melvin is clearly trying to establish success alongside development with Braun the future of left and possible Hart, Gwynn (although unlikely) and LaPorta being groomed for the outfield.


Melvin is working on signing such players as JJ Hardy, Prince Fielder, and Hart to long-term deals and getting vocal people like Braun to sign first and encourage others to follow suit is the right steps to take.


* Attanasio has got the big bucks and a small ego


All of which wouldn’t be possible except for the support and checkbook of Daddy Warbucks, Mark Attanasio. Time and time again Mr. Attanasio has not only spoken of building a long-term contender, but he has put his money where his mouth is. He has even made comments that said, if need be, he would shell out some money to strengthen the rotation this year.


Attanasio bought the Milwaukee Brewers not just so he could have a play-thing, but because he saw potential in the massive amount of talent the Brewers have and its incredible fanbase. This is not a Steinbrenner owner with fingerprints all over the management decisions. Attanasio is active without being overbearing.


* The young arms will improve


Pitchers like Carlos Villanueva and Manny Parra take a lot of flack because they don’t hold up quite so well the third time through the order, but often times that blurs the fact that these pitchers (along with the injured Gallardo) have great stuff. Part of being a young pitcher is that there is a massive learning curve and just like Fielder has to adjust to not being pitched inside as much these young pitchers are talented and smart enough to recognize that they must (and will) improve to become more dominant as the season goes on.


It’s easier for offenses to focus their lenses on these pitchers because they are studying one player, but our guys have to study countless batters for each game and re-work their pitch selection and delivery to go deeper into games. They will.


* Kendall is not Estrada


So it’s important that a man like Jason Kendall is behind the plate instead of Johnny Estrada. Kendall brings much more talent offensively and defensively than the embattled 2007 catcher Estrada. A hot beginning of 2008 and some great clutch hitting thus far has made Kendall’s 9-hole batting an essential part of many Brewers offensive outbursts. Offensively, Kendall is sniffing around .300 as a career hitter, walks a lot, and strikes out few and far in between. A far cry from the painful hitting of Estrada (who I swear to God only got hits with 2 out and no one on). After playing runner-up to Estrada as the worst defensive catcher in baseball last year, the 12-year veteran has pushed his caught stealing percentage is above 30 percent.


Even more important than the offense/defense numbers is that an experienced catcher that molds well with his pitching staff. This is why I worry less about our young pitchers, because Kendall knows how to call a

game and given his work ethic he will only work harder to improve these kids.



* The defense is stronger


Of course I started writing this part before the six errors in Boston, but I’ve made the point in a previous column that the defense is far and away better than it was last season. Numbers show that they are near the bottom in errors and tops in fielding percentage. Moving Braun away from the hot corner and signing Mike Cameron have been well-documented. Are they perfect? Hell no. But improvement is always a step in the right direction. The point above about Kendall is just one more area of less concern with the 2008 Brewers.


* There’s always next year


This one isn’t so much about the 2008 season (obviously, because I’m saying next year…), but Brewers’ fans need to keep everything in perspective. Expectations were and continue to be massively high for this season. Those expectations may cost someone who shall remain nameless his job and maybe even result in a few Brewers finding new homes, but most sane people realize that harnessing young talent is an on-going process. Melvin and the ownership are working on securing these young lads for the long-term, but not everything works out as quickly as the fan base expects.


Whether or not this season is a wash doesn’t mean all is lost. These are not the Florida Marlins which, in the past, have assembled one year teams and then dissembled them. Teams like the Brewers are being built for the long-term. It has been 26 years since the Brewers have sniffed the post-season so as much as it pains me each year to say it… there’s always next year if this one doesn’t work out.


By: Dan Wiersema





Visiting Writer: This Week’s Ramblings

9 05 2008
Once again, Daniel is gracious enough to write another article for BrewersNation.  Please give him your responses to his article by commenting at the bottom.  If all goes well, I would like to introduce Dan as a regular contributor to BrewersNation.  Comment away!


The Journal-Sentinel’s Michael Hunt and I must be separated at birth or something.  As I was putting together my column this week what pops up on the pages of Friday’s JS, but an article on impatience with Brewers manager Ned Yost.  Since the twin disasters of the Houston and Florida road series sweeps I’ve been slowly forming the exact same thoughts as Mr. Hunt, and by virtue of his interview, Ryan Braun.
 
For the better part of this season I’ve been reading Yost’s comments in the newspaper, over and over again, that his young guns’ bats are about to heat up.  “Its only a matter of time until they break out,” he has said on numerous occasions.  The post-game Q & A sessions between Ned and the media are predictable.
 
Question: Are you concerned about the lack of offense.
Yost:  No, not at all.  Every team goes through these ups and downs.  Its just a matter of time.
 
The Brewers announcers are starting to sound desperate on TV.  “I’d hate to be the team that is on the receiving end of the Brewers’ bats when they break out of this slump,” the Rock has said at least once every game this season.  There’s a bit of hope in his voice each time he says that; hoping that it will be the last time he has to, but there he is again the next game…. hoping.
 
Of all the things to be worried about: Eric Gange’s blown saves, low-inning starting pitching, the exhausted bullpen, and the anemic offense; I’ll take the last one.  In these last two road series, the starting pitching has assembled several qualities starts (Sheets, Suppan have produced a few solid 6 innings, 3 runs or less performances) despite terrible outings by , the bullpen has several consistent pitchers (Stetter, Shouse, Mota, Torres, even McClung of late) despite near manic levels of usage, and Gagne’s more rested and certainly not in use. 
 
But those damn bats!  No regular Brewer is hitting over .300 (Hart comes close at .295) and power numbers from last season’s power plants Braun, Hardy, and Fielder are disappointing.  Certainly last season’s home run total was for (pun intended) “out of the park” and the Crew relied too heavily on the long ball, but with just over 20% of the Brewers runs coming off of home runs this year (the majority of those from surprising HR hitters: Weeks, Kapler, Cameron, and Hall), I’m sure any fans would ask for a few more.  Our sluggers are not slugging (speaking of SLG %): Braun sits at .443, Hall .425, and Fielder at .410.  The team, as a whole, is hitting only .239 good for 27th place in all of Major League Baseball.
 
Even when the Brewers pound out hits they are often lonley on the base paths.  Thursday night, against the Marlins, your Milwaukee Brewers managed to slap out nine hits.  On a normal night that would be a cause to celebrate given the two-hit shutout the night before and the struggles in the last two Houston games, but those nine hits only translated to a measly two runs.  In contrast, the Marlins had 11 hits and brought seven around to score.
 
Runners in scoring position are not scoring.  The Brewers have had enough trouble of late getting men on base let alone getting them home.  Earlier in the season the bats still weren’t producing, but the offense was getting runners home when the chances came.  Now nothing is working on the base paths.  I heard the number last week that the Brewers were hitting .224 with RISP.  Since the decent start to the season (which I’ll cut off at the first Florida series) the RISP average has been bad.  Thursday at Florida was about as typical as it has gotten for the Brewers as they left six runners in scoring position. 
 
All of this information is a no brainer.  The larger point is that something is missing or gone wrong for the Brewers Baseball Club.  I’ve been playing particularly close attention to the dugout shots during the TV broadcasts and it doesn’t look like anyone is excited.  Even Weeks’ two run bomb from Wednesday or Cameron’s blast in Houston was met with indifference from their teammates.  Obviously the losing has taken a toll, but the excitement of close game combat (combined with victories) has worn off and the Brewers look worn out in this early season.
 
In Hunt’s article he quoted Braun’s frustrations about the hitting.  He said, “You can only say that for so long.”  He was responding to the typical reporter’s questioning of the lack of bats.  Yost asks for more time while Braun demands that the Brewers “start swinging the bats like were capable of.”
 
I’m usually the last person to call for a manager’s head.  While many have want Yost toast since last year’s meltdown, I gave him the benefit of the doubt (as I believe most of the Milwaukee print and TV media has too) that a series of unfortunate events have put him in a bind.  Injuries, other hot teams, etc have all scuttled Brewers momentum, but I think Yost is getting to the bottom of the barrel when it comes to chances.
 
At some point one has to ask why a manager can’t get a clearly talented team to hit the ball.  Blame missing staff aces, blame a tired bullpen, blame Gange, but if Jeff Suppan can go out, pitch a solid game and the Brewers lose 3-0 who do you blame.  Three runs is not insurmountable.  In fact, its down right sad how many times that a pitcher has to march out to that mound and just try to keep the game close only for no one to back him up.  No wonder after countless games of pitching four or five decent innings our pitching has blown up.  They see on the other side of the ball that the offense is putting up goose eggs.
 
Yost clearly is not getting the most out of his players.  The old stand-by for Brewers fans is 1982 when the talented Brewers were floundering and an inspirational Harvey Kuenn brought the Crew back from the brink and to an AL crown.  Whether or not a turn-around can happen is one thing, but that dugout looks sorry and something has to change.
 
The Brewers are a capable side and while our starting pitching is troubling, the bullpen is tired, and Gange is erratic a few less zeroes and a few more runs on the scoreboard would relieve a lot of pressure on all three.  Just think of the perfect scenario: Parra pitches and gives up two or threeruns in five innings, the bullpen adds one or two, but if the team bats the way they should their offense could easily put enough up to be competitive.  Final score Brewers 8, whoever 4.  No starting pitching needed tonight, bullpen survives, and Gange doesn’t need to pitch.  Is this an every night situation? Of course not.  But certainly games become more comfortable and competitive when two teams are playing instead of one.

 

By: Daniel Wiersema

 





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.