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.


Round ’em Up: OPENING DAY!

31 03 2008

Happy Opening Day to everyone!!! The Milwaukee Brewers and Ben Sheets will take on the Chicago Cubs and Carlos Zambrano at 1:20 to start the season. I personally am a little sad that the Crew is battling the Cubs so often in the beginning of the season, as it would be more fun down the stretch. Plus, Chicago will not see Mike Cameron as often. Oh well, on to the Round ’em Up for the day:

  • The Milwaukee JS reports the Prince Fielder is expected to play today, even though he is still a bit under the weather. It does not explicitly say that in the article, but when it says that Prince is “feeling a little better,” it’s not too hard to figure out that he’s still sick. Still, Prince at 75% is better than 100% of Mike Rivera or Joe Dillon playing first base.The JS also runs down the final cuts and the Brewers final 25-man roster. I didn’t post it yesterday because I thought everyone already knew the roster, but I’ve gotten a few emails asking. Here you go.
  • I have a plethora of predictions for you today.The Hardball Times predicts the winners in each division. The Brewers get a pretty good showing in these lists. The Reds also get some love here. Who knew?! The Baseball Savant has the Cincinnati Reds taking the division, while Milwaukee is stuck in second place. The best part (and by best, I mean funniest part) is that he has the Pittsburgh Pirates taking fourth in front of Houston and St. Louis. Oh, and that the youth of Milwaukee’s rotation makes it unreliable, but Cincinnati’s young pitchers are sure-fire studs. Good logic there.

    David Pinto from Baseball Musings has the Brewers winning the division by a good amount. He says that the young Brewers should continue to get better, and the starting rotation is not as bad as everyone thinks. Another interesting tidbit is that David believes that Milwaukee’s talent is so good that if they do not win the division, Ned Yost should be canned.

    John Sickels from Minor League Ball has many predictions for this upcoming season. Ryan Braun and Corey Hart will compete for the NL Batting Title. It is nice to see Corey getting some love in these previews. What else does John say? Your 2008 Milwaukee Brewers will be in the World Series against the Detroit Tigers. John has the Crew losing in 5 games, but it still made my day. Actually, a Brewers win against the Cubs would make my day…

  • John Donovan from SI.com has his 10 Fearless Predictions of the ’08 season. Prediction number two: Ryan Braun will have a better season in ’08 than he did in ’07. That is a big prediction, but statistics say that it could definitely happen. Ryan has performed well this spring, and he will be in the bigs for a month longer than in ’07. His stats can certainly improve. Will they? I doubt it. Not because of ability, but because pitchers will be much more careful with him. Ryan’s best friend this season could be Corey Hart. If Corey can provide protection behind Ryan this season, Braun could put up MVP caliber numbers.
  • RealGM Baseball says that Carlos Villanueva was one of the 10 best pitchers of this spring. If Manny Parra wouldn’t have struggled in his final outing, he could have made that list as well.
  • Do you need a stress reliever? Play Whack-A-Cub! See how many Cubs you can whack in 30 seconds. I got 41 Cubs in 30 seconds. Wonderful!
  • Jeff Sackmann of Brew Crew Ball has an interview with a Cubs blogger. Normally I would have been appalled by this, but the blogger is not overly biased and is intelligent. Quite a refreshing thing for a Cubs fan, I must say.

Round ’em Up: Knuckleballs, Pitching Duel, Narveson

19 03 2008

Sorry about the lack of a Round ’em Up yesterday all.  I was swamped yesterday and just did not have much time to get to the computer.  Here are some of today’s reads:

  • Squawking Baseball has a cool idea for an article.  They have an “over-under” projection for every team.  The Milwaukee Brewers are predicted to win over 84.5 games.  In fact, they predict “over” for pretty much every team…
  • Remember R.A. Dickey?  He was a starter for Triple-A Nashville last season.  The Seattle Mariners liked the knuckleballer so much that they swiped him in the Rule 5 Draft this season.  Here’s ESPN.com writer Jim Caple with Dickey, and he’s trying to catch his knuckleball.  It’s quite humorous.
  • Dugout Central has a March Madness bracket for baseball infielders.  It’s a little goofy in how it is set up, and it seems to be completely arbitrary.  Nonetheless, Prince Fielder and Ryan Braun match up in the first round.  The winner?  Ryan Braun.  The author then goes on to say that Ryan Braun will pass Alex Rodriguez sometime in the next couple years.  That’s quite the prediction, but I could see it.
  • A couple days ago, I linked to The Baseball Analysts graph on starting pitching and how they categorized them.  It was very interesting stuff.  Today, they have the same categorizing system, but they focus on relief pitchers.  The Brewers have a couple relievers that check in on the list.

    Derrick Turnbow: Above-average strikeout and ground ball rates.  Now if we could just solve his walk problem, he’d be one of the best relievers in the league.
    Eric Gagne: Above-average strikeout rate, but below-average ground ball rate.  Exactly what the Brewers expected when getting Gagne.  He does need to get his change-up working, however.
    Carlos Villanueva: Above-average strikeout rate, below-average ground ball rate.
    Brian Shouse, Guillermo Mota, AND Chris Spurling (yes, that Chris Spurling): Below-average strikeout rates, but above-average ground ball rates.  It’s nice to see Guillermo in that category.
    David Riske: Below-average strikeout and ground ball rates.  This really surprised me, and it does worry me a bit.  He’ll have to get one of those up if he’s going to find success in Miller Park.  It’s not necessarily the most pitcher-friendly ballpark in the MLB.

  • Chris Narveson has been brilliant this spring.  He’s only given up one run in 15 2/3 innings (0.57 ERA).  In years past, Chris would be pushing for a starting job, but the Brewers are just too deep now.  He did say that he understood that coming in though.

    With that said, he’s putting himself in position to be one of the first Triple-A call-ups if he continues pitching as well as he has.  His cut fastball has been his best pitch this spring, and coaches have been raving about his command with his offspeed stuff.  I have to say that I’ve been very impressed with Narveson.  He may even get a call to be the long man in the bullpen in a couple months.

  • Tom Haudricourt handicaps the likelihood of each starter getting a job in the rotation.  Because of the injuries to Yovani Gallardo and Chris Capuano, the field has slipped to just four men to fill three spots.

    Tom has Claudio Vargas and Dave Bush as “locks” for the starting rotation.  Vargas’ lock comes mostly from the fact that he has no options left, so he needs to make the big league squad.  My response to that is that he could be the long man in the bullpen.  Manny Parra is slated to be the fifth man in the rotation, which was nice to see because he’s been absolutely dominant this spring.  That leaves Carlos Villanueva as the odd man out.  People may say he should go back to being a reliever, but Ned Yost said that Carlos is a starter.  The Brewers organization wants to treat him as a starter.  If he does not make the starting rotation, he will be sent back to Triple-A until he is needed.  I guess experience won out over performance after all.

Player Profile: Season Ratings

3 03 2008

AKittell posted a comment on the Mike Cameron Player Profile that made a very good point, and I thought that I should clarify what’s going on with the Overall Ratings.

The Overall Rating Scale I’m working with works a little like this…I borrowed it off of a friend of mine, and I realized that I forgot to explain it at the beginning of the series. He does the season ratings for minor league and major league players, so that’s why it’s a little skewed. It’s a little odd, but I like it. It is all relative to the position, as well.

0.0 – 5.0 = minor league talent (obviously varies in between in this, but it’s not relevant to us here)
5.1 – 6.5 = below-average major leaguer
6.6 – 7.5 = average major leaguer
7.6 – 8.5 = above-average major leaguer
8.6 – 10.0 = major league stud

So far we have:

Jason Kendall – 7.0 (average major league catcher)
Prince Fielder – 9.3 (stud)
Rickie Weeks – 8.1 (above-average second baseman)
J.J. Hardy – 7.6 (just above-average shortstop)
Bill Hall – 6.9 (league average third baseman)
Ryan Braun – 9.0 (stud)
Mike Cameron – 8.0 (above-average center fielder)

Hopefully that should help clear up a little of the confusion with the Season Ratings. AKittell is quite right on calling me out on that. Major league average is not a 5.0 as it would be if it was straight 0-10. I completely spaced on explaining the scale that I used to do the ratings. Sorry about that…

Season preview, again

26 02 2008

I have another season preview for you all today.  This time, it’s from Beyond the Box Score.

The preview is fairly short and it does not provide too much information, yet the author believes that the Brewers are here to stay for the next couple years.  He implies that the Crew is going to give the NL Central crown a serious run this season, which is always nice to hear.

Another season preview

25 02 2008

Here’s a season preview for all you Ned Yost haters out there.  It is all written from the first-person perspective of Ned Yost, and it is fraught with sarcasm and cynicism.  It’s quite funny.

I’ll leave you with this, the last line in the article:

“The fact is, our bullpen could blow a hundred games this year and we’d still win the division.  We still have math on our side.”


The pitchers that got away

25 02 2008

The Sports Bubbler continued with their preview of the bullpen by analyzing those relief pitchers that Milwaukee either chose not to resign or lost via waivers or free agency.  The list consists of Matt Wise, Fransisco Cordero, Scott Linebrink, Ray King, Greg Aquino, and Elmer Dessens.

Nicholas Zettel does a nice job analyzing the stats, comparing each individual pitcher’s performance in 2007 to their career average.  Fransisco Cordero was obviously much better last year than compared to his career norms, so one would believe that he will regress next year towards the mean.  That again is a good reason why the Brewers were fortunate not to have resigned Coco.

I think most will agree that Matt Wise will be a tough loss for the Crew as well.  Zettel says that Wise performed way above his career marks early in the season, and way below in the second half.  Wise is an extremely solid relief pitcher, but there is just no room in the bullpen this season after all the off-season acquisitions.  Wise will probably pitch very well for the Mets this season.

There is a lot more on the former Brewers in the article.  The analysis actually does not make me wish that the Crew retained any of those pitchers.  Granted Melvin is relying on some bounce back years from a couple veterans (Torres and Gagne), but most pitchers will regress to the mean.  This year’s bullpen should be better.