Wednesday, September 2, 2009


Seeing as how the season all but over, I've decided to come out of hibernation and write a post on my favorite subject... the Brewers' future. A fan poll recently conducted over at View From Bernie's Chalet got me thinking, which Brewers pitching prospect would make an impact on the team first? With all the talk about the Brewers lack of pitching depth, there's got to be some hope in the minors. I found that there is, the only problem is that with most of these guys, it's a question of "when" not "if". I compiled a list of ten guys who, between 2009 expectations and 2009 performance, have emerged as the top pitching prospects in the system. They are as follows (in no particular order): Eric Arnett (R), Zach Braddock (AA), Amaury Rivas (A+), Kyle Heckathorn (R), Cody Scarpetta (A), Mark Rogers (A+), Mike Jones (AAA), Rob Wooten (AA), Evan Anundsen (A+) and Josh Butler (AA/AAA).

To answer the question above, I'll give a brief take on their progress and an approximation on when we may see them in a Brewers uni.

Eric Arnett (R) 2009 stats: 0-4 4.97 ERA 25.1 IP 0 HRs 24 Ks 19 BBs.
Arnett was the Brewers first round pick in this year's draft and while his numbers may not stick out, there are some encouraging things to point out. 24 Ks in 25.1 innings pitched is a very respectable rate. When hitters do manage contact, Arnett has been a groundball pitcher to the extreme (0 homers and a 2.47 ground out to fly out ratio). This is not recipe for success for the defense challenged lower minor league levels, evidenced by the 9 unearned runs given up by Arnett. With an off-season to rest an already over-worked arm (Arnett already pitched a full season for Indiana), and improving defense around him as he ascends through the minors, Arnett should prove to be one of the top arms in the Brewers system in short order. One downfall: 19 walks. Maybe Arnett has a tired arm, but improved control of his fastball will lead to good things for the young hurler.
ETA to Milwaukee: 2012. Arnett is only in Rookie ball now, though my guess is he start 2010 in Wisconsin and is on the first flight to Brevard County after a strong start. There's no reason to believe he can't blow through the minors a la Mike Jones (let's just hope he avoids Mike's arm issues)

Zach Braddock (AA) 2009 stats: 3-1 0.93 ERA 38.2 IP 58 Ks 7 BBs (A+ and AA stats)
When you look at these stats, it's hard to not be excited about this kid's future. Once a starter, Braddock has been used solely out of the bullpen this year (mainly to prevent injuries) and he has excelled. 58 Ks vs 7 BBs in only 38.2 innings show a promising future as a closer, however it is my belief he will be treated as a starter in 2010. A big left-hander (6'4" 230 lbs) has more value as a starter and he has the secondary pitches to be extremely effective. Red flags: injury history and battle with bipolar disorder.
ETA to Milwaukee: 2010 (mid-season). I know, he's only pitched a half season at Huntsville, but those numbers don't lie. I predict he starts the season at Huntsville (in the rotation) but a lack of pitching depth is going to force the Brewers to promote him faster than they'd like. I think we'll see him in the bullpen at Miller Park by September at the latest.

Amaury Rivas (A+) 2009 stats: 13-7 2.98 ERA 133 IP 123 Ks 43 BBs
One of the few true power arms in the system, Rivas has been at the front of one of the most dominant starting rotations in the minors. The most encouraging thing about Rivas is he is only getting better. In the month of August, Rivas posted the following line: 5-1 2.10 ERA in six starts. He's one to watch for sure.
ETA to Milwaukee: 2011. Starting at Huntsville next year, with a strong chance of finishing at Nashville could put Amaury on the fast track to Milwaukee.

Kyle Heckathorn (R) 2009 stats: 0-1 7.16 ERA 16.1 IP 11/4 K/BB ratio
A slow start to his pro career will be overlooked considering he just finished carrying Kennesaw St. on his right shoulder. A 2009 supplementary round pick, Heckathorn is another one of the young arms that may cause a log jam in the minors in the next few years. A power fastball in the mid-to-upper 90s and a power slider would seem to give the Brewers an element they are severely lacking at the pro level.
ETA to Milwaukee: 2012. While he did pitch college ball and they tend to be more advanced than most prep players, word is that Kyle needs to work on control within the zone, learning the difference between throwing a strike and throwing an effective pitch.

Cody Scarpetta (A) 2009 stats: 4-11 3.43 ERA 105 IP 116 Ks
Cody features a fastball in the low-to-mid 90s, a power curveball and works in the occasional changeup. Sound like any Brewers in the recent past? While I won't go as far as to say he's going to be as dominant as the Glass Joe of the Brewers rotation for the greater part of this decade, I will say that he seems to be coming into his own after a rough start in Appleton. Another power arm that knows how to miss bats is always welcome.
ETA to Milwaukee: 2012. I see the Brewers taking their time with Cody. Even though he strikes out 2 batters for every walk, when you strike out as many batters as he has, you've got a lot of walks coming with that. When he gets that ratio in the 3 or 4-to-1 range, he'll be blowing down the doors to Miller Park.

Mark Rogers (A+) 2009 stats: 1-3 1.67 ERA 64.2 IP 67 Ks 1.16 WHIP
I could write a novel on Mark Rogers, from the hype that comes with being a first round draft pick, to the adversity that comes with multiple bouts with arm trouble. I'm going to sum it in four words: Good for you, Mark. With the bonus he signed and the surgeries, how many people would be tempted to hang in up? (See Matt Bush). Rogers stuck with it (and the Brewers stuck by him) and it's paid off in spades. While the Brewers monitored his innings/pitch counts, he showed the dominant stuff that lead to his first round pick. Finally being allowed to pitch 5.0+ innings, Rogers is showing no signs of slowing down. Personal note: there is not one player on this list that I would like to see on Opening Day at Miller Park in the near future than Mark Rogers.
ETA to Milwaukee: 2011. His dominance will shoot him through the minors (coupled with his status on the 40-man roster) and the only thing that can slow him down is his body. I see the Brewers taking the next year-plus to stretch out his innings and we'll see him as soon as humanly possible.

Mike Jones (AAA) 2009 stats: 8-7 4.75 ERA 127 IP 87 Ks (A+, AA, and AAA)
What I said for Rogers, goes for Jones. Good investments with his signing bonus left Jones financially set for some time, but instead of accepting his fate of life after baseball, Jones stuck with it and has proven to be one of the more durable starters in the minors. He's hit a snag at AAA, but if the Brewers manage to re-sign him (he's a free agent after the year) he may prove to be one of our best arms in the upper minors.
ETA to Milwaukee: 2011. I think Jones has an opportunity with the club next year, but I think Melvin will want him to prove that he can handle hitters at the AAA level for an entire year. Just how well he pitches may force Doug's hand, but I'm betting on one more year in the minors for Mike.

Rob Wooten (AA) 2009 stats: 1-2 2.72 ERA 29 Saves 12.3 Ks/9 3.5 Ks/BB (A+ and AA)
A 13th round pick, Wooten has skyrocketed to the forefront as one of the premium bullpen arms in the system. With the revolving door that is the Brewers closer position, Wooten may prove to be the mainstay at the end of the game that the Brewers and their fans have been waiting for.
ETA to Milwaukee: 2011. Rob has run in to a little trouble in Huntsville. And when I say trouble, I mean that he actually has an ERA over 2.00. I think the front office will wait to see how he adjusts in the AA and AAA before handing the reigns over to Rob. One more year of Hell's Bells doesn't sound too bad.

Evan Anundsen (A+) 2009 stats: 10-8 2.69 ERA 130.1 ERA 1.09 WHIP
Evan wanted to let Doug Melvin know that he was for real. All he did was shave one and a half runs off his ERA, reduce his WHIP from the 1.32 range, to 1.09 (only six pitchers in the majors have a WHIP better than that: Dan Haren, Chris Carpenter, Tim Lincecum, Javier Vazquez, Zach Greinke and Ted Lilly). Oh, and by the way, he threw a 9 inning no-hitter. The former 4th rounder seems to have realized the talent that Jack Z saw in him.
ETA to Milwaukee: 2012. His innings need to be stretched out a bit and he needs to prove himself against better hitters. But if he continues to improve as he has through his ascent, there's no reason we won't see him every fifth day in 2012.

Josh Butler (AA/AAA) 2009 stats: 9-3 2.97 ERA 118.1 IP 96 Ks (R, A+, AA and AAA)
Acquired for Gabe Gross, he's looking more like a steal every time he takes the mound. Starting the year in Brevard County, injuries and thin pitching depth (sound familiar?) led Butler to be promoted to AAA and the kid held his own. Going 1-1 with a 3.60 ERA and 1.067 WHIP, the only thing that could stop Butler was an injury (again, sound familiar?). After a rehab assignment to Arizona, the Brewers seem to have settled him into his ideal level: AA.
ETA to Milwaukee: 2010. Presumably, Butler will begin in the starting rotation in Nashville, and an injury here and a release of Jeff Suppan there (fingers crossed) and we may see Butler replace Mike Burns as that first-guy-called-up in the Brewers rotation role.

So to finally answer the question I initially posed of who will make an impact first, I'm going to have to settle in on Braddock. While Butler may make the team first, he projects as a fourth/fifth starter, not dominant yet steady. Not really an impact player. Braddock's stuff could blow major league batters today, it's going to be scary if this guy manages to put it all together... scary for opposing batters that is.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

What might have been... A look back at Gallardo's injury.

Let me start this out by saying I would not change the Brewers playoff appearance last year for anything. By far my fondest memory as a Brewers fan. However, after Gallardo's all-star worthy start to this season, it got me thinking of what could have been. I make all assumptions in this blog based on this criteria: Yovani Gallardo would have produced very similar numbers to what he's put up this year. I say this because, although he is a year older, he didn't gain much in the way of experience last year, so this is really his first full year. So here goes...

With Sheets and Gallardo at the to of the Brewers rotation, the Brewers starting rotation is solidified with no real need make a blockbuster move by the deadline. With the struggles of Manny Parra come the second half, there may have been a need for a 3rd or 4th starter, such as a Joe Blanton-type pitcher, although I might argue that Seth McClung filled that spot admirably. What this means for the Brewers is they are able to retain top prospect Matt LaPorta. While I believe Matt was still a half year to a year away from being an everyday starter, his presence in the organization allows for the Brewers to be more active on the trade front this year. With our "young core" getting older and hitting arbitration, the Brewers are not going to be able to afford to keep them all. LaPorta has the ability to play first base or a corner outfield position, meaning Corey Hart and Prince Fielder become available to move for a top of the rotation starter for 2009. With San Fransisco's anemic offense, it seems that prying Matt Cain from them wouldn't be too hard with either of those two being available. I think what might be a bigger part of the CC trade than some people realize is Michael Brantley.

Michael Brantley gives the Brewers a dimension that they have lacked since the departure of Pod-zilla: a bona fide base stealer. I know that Weeks and Hart have speed and the ability to steal between 20-30 bases, but Brantley looks like a guy that can give you 40-50. Imagine having a leadoff hitter that can get on second, with either his bat or his feet, with Braun and Fielder behind him. Having him in scoring position consistently would alleviate the need for Braun and Fielder to swing for the fences in order to drive in runs. This will help bring up their batting average (and RBI totals), but this also has an effect that you might not think of. With a true leadoff hitter, Rickie Weeks can move to a more natural spot in the lineup. Personally, I saw Rickie as an ideal candidate for the 5th spot in this lineup and to begin this year, his batting average with RISP and RBI numbers show that I may be right about this. But when I thought of it a little bit more, I think that Rickie has about as much power as anyone on this team (yes I mean anyone), think of the damage he could do in the two hole. With Braun and Fielder directly behind him, he could feast off of the opposing pitcher's fastballs. Think of the damage that could be done next year with this lineup (depending on who gets traded):
CF Brantley
2B Weeks
LF Braun
1B Fielder
RF LaPorta
3B Gamel
SS Escobar
C Salome


CF Brantley
RF Hart
LF Braun
1B LaPorta
2B Weeks
3B Gamel
SS Escobar
C Salome

I realize that lineup places a lot of importance on our young players and there are those of you that will say "there's no guarantee they will be any good". But the same could have been said for Fielder, Hart, Braun and Hart (by the way, they're all all-stars). 

This last part is pure speculation on my part, and I'm more throwing it out there simply as a talking point. If Gallardo stays healthy all year, there's a chance that Sheets does not injure his arm. I know Ben Sheets is made out of glass, but when you think about it, most of the games he's missed in his career are from his inner ear condition or blisters or the wind blew too hard etc... Without the presence of a true number 2 starter all year, a greater burden was placed on Ben and Ned's shoulders. With two guys that can give you 7 or 8 innings night in and night out, you may be able to pull Ben out of the game when his pitch count gets high because your bullpen is fresh. Without Gallardo, Yost was forced to push Ben a little harder to secure some wins, this extra wear-and-tear may have contributed to his arm injury. Again, Sheets' durability has been a question since 2004, but a healthy Sheets all year could provide you with one of two things come the offseason. Either Melvin makes an aggressive offer to keep Sheets in Milwaukee, or Sheets becomes one of the most desirable pitchers on the free agent market and the Brewers nab another 1st round pick in this year's draft.

I thought I'd just throw those possibilities out there, let me know what you think.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Beating a dead horse

These days, four words are enough to make Brewers fans want to shout, vomit and cry all at the same time: Bill Hall is starting. I don't know that I can say anything new on this topic that hasn't been said in newspapers, offices, and bars around the state. This is just too much for me to take anymore and I just need to vent so here it goes...

WHAT IS GOING ON!?!?!?! I realize that Bill Hall is a "veteran" and has experience in this league. For a two year period, there wasn't another Brewer on the roster that I would rather have at the plate in a big situation. However, those days are long gone. Bill Hall has done everything the Brewers have asked of him, and for that, I am grateful. But this is a performance based business. The Brewers have held up their end of the bargain by forking over $6.8 million (by the way, $8.4 million is due in 2010). Unfortunately, Bill hasn't done too much on his end.

The thing that bothers me the most is that while Bill provides a cool breeze for the opponents starting pitcher, Mat Gamel is rotting on the bench. He is clearly the Brewers third baseman of the future, but he needs to be in there everyday in order to get into a rhythm. Also, his deficiencies on defense are not going to get any better by watching the game. From several years of playing softball, I can tell you first-hand that WATCHING Brewers games does nothing for your defensive prowess. His batting average is a little on the low side, but I attribute that to not getting consistent playing time. It's shit or get off the pot time for Doug Melvin. They either need to commit to Mat Gamel THIS year, or send him back to Nashville. I clearly prefer Mat in Milwaukee, but I wouldn't be opposed to him going down either. 

Alright, give me a minute to get off my giant soap box... catch you next time.

Glavine released: Braves' loss, Brewers' gain?

I know what everyone is thinking when reading that title. "We don't want a washed up, left-handed Jeff Suppan" but hear me out first. This move seems to be in line with a recent youth movement in Atlanta. First went Andruw Jones (who was terrible anyway), then Smoltz, and now Glavine. Chipper Jones and Bobby Cox are the lone vestiges of the Braves' former greatness. The move makes sense, the Braves have a surplus of pitching (good, young pitching to boot) and they figured bringing up Tommy Hanson was just as good as Glavine now plus the upside of giving a young player some big league experience.

Now, you ask, where do the Brewers come in on this? Manny Parra has struggled as of late, no one can deny that. But he is relatively young (27 is too early to give up on a left-handed pitcher that can bring it in the mid-90s), and he has shown flashes of what he could be. The problem for Manny is timing. Were this two-three years ago, the front office could afford to be a little more lenient with a young pitcher trying to find his stuff while in the fire of the regular season. But as it stands, the Brewers are in "win now" mode, and we can't afford to trot Manny out there every fifth day. Enter Tom Glavine. Just two years ago, Glavine was a 13 game winner for the Mets with a respectable 4.45 ERA. Not lighting the world on fire, but he was a guy that you know would pour his heart and soul out on the field every time out and give your team a chance to win. He has made it clear that he doesn't plan to pitch after this season, so I think we can get him on a cheap "swan song" contract full of incentives. I know that he's coming off shoulder surgery and that's no easy feat at his age. But he looked impressive in his minor league rehab starts (2-0 with a 2.25 ERA in four starts over 16 innings), and at this point, anything is an improvement over Parra.

Which brings me to the next benefit of adding Glavine: Manny Parra. While I don't want to see Parra in the rotation, that doesn't mean I want to banish him from the team. I think a move to the bullpen to work with Stan Kyles, who Parra is very familiar with, could be beneficial to Parra and the Brewers. It would give the Brewers a second lefty out of the bullpen, and it wouldn't crush Parra's mentality like a trip to Nashville will. Over Glavine's first-ballot Hall of Fame career, what seems to get lost in the history books, is that he struggled when he first came up with the Braves. In 1987, he had a 5.54 ERA over nine starts and in '88, he lost 17 games. He's been there before and could possibly lend a helping hand to Parra and teach him how to survive in a league where few lefties are considered dominant pitchers (Johan Santana, Randy Johnson and a few others being the exception). Parra talked about how much of an influence CC Sabathia was to him last year, but when you compare their stuff, they're not the same type of pitcher. Parra stuff falls in line more with Glavine's (in his prime, clearly his fastball isn't where it used to be), so tutelege from Glavine should be far more beneficial. Also, given Glavine's age, he's had to adapt as he loses the ability to throw certain pitches, and any Brewers fan watching Parra knows that he can lose a pitch (mainly his breaking stuff) on any given night. Learning how to win when you don't have your A+ stuff would be the final piece to the Manny Parra puzzle.

Is Tom Glavine the solution the Brewers need to get to the postseason? Probably not. But he's a serviceable starter that can eat innings and win games. Given the Brewers' lack of "top prospects" (Alcides Escobar, Mat Gamel, Jeremy Jeffress and Brett Lawrie are the highest-profile prospects. And after the CC trade, I doubt Doug is willing to trade any of them) it's doubtful the Brewers will acquire a front-line pitcher via a trade. So those Brewers fans expecting to see Jake Peavy or Roy Halladay in a Brewers uniform, I think it's safe to put those dreams to bed.

Friday, May 29, 2009

A look at the Minors

Nearly two months into the season, it's time to take a look at how the future stars of the Brewers are faring. I figure this is an appropriate time to get a good feel for how the players are adjusting to their surroundings. Don't get me wrong, there is a ton of baseball left to be played and these guys have plenty of time to turn it around, or vice versa, fall off the map. I'm going to highlight five players whose stock is rising, five players who are underachieving and then highlight some top prospects who fall somewhere in between. 

To clarify, to be considered a prospect, I drew a line in the sand at the 26 year old mark. That leaves them plenty of time in their prime to contribute to the big league club. Any older than that, and you pretty much provide minor league depth, end of career. Also, I tried to focus on players who either A) figure prominently in the Brewers future plans or B) were high draft picks in years past. Let's begin...

Prospects whose stock is rising...
1. Mike Jones, SP, 26, AA Huntsville
Call me a softy, but I reserve a special place in my heart for this pitcher (and the man in the #2 spot, more on that later). Taken 12th overall in the 2001 draft, no one has ever doubted whether or not Mike Jones' stuff was good enough, the question was if his body could keep up. Plagued by injuries throughout his professional career and on the verge of being released by the Brewers, Jones has turned some heads and is showing why the Brewers used their first round pick on him. Between Brevard County and Huntsville, Jones is undefeated with a 5-0 record and a 3.38 ERA. The most encouraging thing about these numbers is that Mike has been able to pitch into the 7th inning with relative ease, showcasing a little durability. For your sake, and ours Mike, I hope this is a sign of things to come. 

2. Mark Rogers, SP, 23, A+ Brevard County
Another first rounder that has been sidetracked by injuries, Mark is back and pitching... sort of. He seems to be on an extremely limited pitch count, never pitching more than 3 innings a start, but for a guy who couldn't stay on the field to save his life, 2 months of injury free baseball is a step in the right direction. Not to mention his 1.50 ERA in 12 innings. His peripheral stats are not too impressive (1.583 WHIP and 8:8 K/BB ratio) however, the young righty should focus on making it through this year and building up arm strength, so he can slide into the top end of the Huntsville rotation in 2010. 

3. Tim Dillard, P, 25, AAA Nashville
Dillard was impressive in spring training, and in my opinion, deserving of a shot at a bullpen spot. However, with the business of options, and big salaries, Tim drew the short straw. Then, in a move that I believed was the end of his chances with the Brewers, they converted him into a starter. With no starting pitching depth in the upper levels of our minor league system, I saw this as the Brewers finding a body to take up a spot every fifth day. Dillard thought otherwise. Seeing his first considerable action as a starter since the 2006 season, Dillard has put up some pretty nice numbers. He's 6-2 with a 3.51 ERA. Peripheral stats are respectable and as a former 34th round pick, I think he's forcing Doug Melvin to make plans for his future with the Brewers.

4. Caleb Gindl, OF, 20, A+ Brevard County
While Gindl was picked in the fifth round of the 2007 draft, he was far from a sure-thing prospect. At 5'9" (I hear that's generous) he doesn't have the "body type" for baseball. However, he proved doubters wrong by showing what his small frame could do with a bat in his hands. In his first pro season, Gindl batted .372 with a 1.000 OPS at rookie ball. He followed that in 2008 with a .307 BA and 81 RBI at single A West Virginia. He's putting up good numbers again in Brevard County. His average has dipped below .300 (.290) but he's still driving in runs and getting on base. At this rate, he figures to be in the Brewers outfield in 2012. 

5. Taylor Green, 3B, 22, AA Huntsville
A 25th round draft pick in 2005 (signed by Jack Z's replacement Bruce Seid), Green burst on to the scene in 2007 when he hit .327 with 86 RBI and a .922 OPS. This netted Green the Organizational Player of the Year award and serious considerations in the Brewers future. He followed that season up with a solid season at advanced A, but suffered a setback when he needed wrist surgery. Hitters make a living with their wrists, so this had the potential to be devastating (see Rickie Weeks). However, Green has put to rest any questions about his hitting ability by posting a .286 average and an .844 OPS between Wisconsin and Huntsville. With a career .942 fielding percentage, he figures to be the Brewers third baseman of the future, with Gamel sliding to first or the outfield. 

Honorable mentions: 
Chris Cody, SP, 25, AA Huntsville
4-1, 2.50 ERA, 42:9 K/BB, and a .934 WHIP. Impressive to say the least.
Evan Anundsen, SP, 21, A+ Brevard County
Threw the only nine inning no-hitter in the minors this year. Big upside.
Hernan Iribarren, 2B, 24, AAA Nashville
Struggled with the Brewers (no playing time), but is showing a little pop in his bat at AAA.

Now, on to the disappointments. I want to put the disclaimer on this, that these are based off of MY expectations for these players. I mean, I don't see why every position player can't bat .400 with a 1.500 OPS and all pitchers should have a sub 1.00 ERA. But in all seriousness, I based these choices off of what I believe they are capable of at their given level.

Players under achieving...
1. Jeremy Jeffress, SP, 21, A+ Brevard County
One word can describe Jeffress' year at Huntsville thus far. Awful. A 1-3 record, paired up with a 7.67 ERA, 33 walks in 27.1 innings and a 2.185 WHIP is inexcusable. Were Jeffress not the first round pick in the 2006 draft, he would have been released and coaching pitching at Helena with Ned Yost IV. The upside is there. His fastball paired with even a mediocre breaking ball is major league ready, but the control is far from where it needs to be. Hopefully, his recent demotion to Brevard County will help him work out the kinks. After all, he is our "top pitching prospect".

2. Jonathan Lucroy, C, 22, AA Huntsville
After putting up big numbers last year (.301 avg with 20 HRs between A and A+) Lucroy has been average at best in 2009. Offensive catchers are hard to come by, so his big season in 2008 had Lucroy's stock skyrocketing, so much so that the Brewers declined the option to take back Rule 5 draft pick Lou Palmisiano from the Astros. With a .239 BA and a .659 OPS, Lucroy is starting to look like any other catcher in the minors. There's plenty of time to turn it around, hopefully these are just growing pains for the young backstop.

3. Cutter Dykstra, 2B, 19, R+ Helena
After struggling in the outfield at Wisconsin, the decision was made to move Cutter to the "more natural" position of second base. There's only two problems, this was combined with a demotion to Helena and it places him behind top prospect Brett Lawrie on the organizational depth chart. In a perfect world, Cutter figures out how to hit with a wood bat and is able to change positions so he and Lawrie can exist on the same team. Time will tell...

4. Evan Frederickson, P, 22, A Wisconsin
The former college closer has struggled since entering pro ball. Command seems to be Evan's issue. He has 61 walks in 66 innings and a 1.939 WHIP in his professional career. He did have a good outing his last time out going 5 innings giving up no runs and striking out four. High draft picks always have a longer leash than others and hopefully he can turn it around. Pitching is the biggest organizational need and we need some of our draft picks to pan out. 

5. Brett Lawrie, 2B, 19, A Wisconsin
I know what you're saying, he was just drafted and this is his first year in pro ball. However, given his involvement with various Canadian national teams, his use of wood bats throughout his career and his bold prediction that he expects to be up with the Brewers in a year and a half; I'll admit that my expectations may have been a little too high. The transition to second base has been a little rough with 9 errors in 44 games and the batting average on the mediocre side at .269. There are some positives however. He has a good slugging percentage at .474 and this is only his first year. After he gets a full year under his belt, he should be able to come into his own as a hitter.

Honorable mentions:
Brent Brewer, SS, 21, A+ Brevard County
Former second round pick is currently batting .203 with a .273 slugging percentage and .928 fielding percentage. Not a lot of good things going on....
Cole Gillespie, OF, 24, AAA Nashville
Limited by injury, Cole's off to a slow start at Nashville. He has 3 months to show the promise displayed in past seasons.

The next several players are meeting my expectations. If they were in my kindergarten class, I'd give them a check or satisfactory grade. 

Meeting Expectations...
1. Alcides Escobar, SS/2B, 22, AAA Nashville
With Mat Gamel up with the Brewers, Escobar is hands down our top prospect, and he's lived up to that title. It's hard to exceed expectations in the minors when many believe you are ready for the big leagues now. Alcides has put up solid numbers with a .290 batting average and 21 stolen bases. For someone who is tabbed as a defensive dynamo, he does have 9 errors in 50 games which is cause for a little concern, but by no means has he been a liability. Brewers fans may see him by the end of the year as he has been asked to transition to second base. With Rickie Weeks down, Alcides may be called up to fill in the void. 

2. Angel Salome, C, 22, AAA Nashville
No one doubts that Angel can hit, and he proved that last year when he batted .360 en route to an all-star season at Huntsville. While the offense has not been there so far this year, Angel has been asked to focus on his defense and game calling ability and early reports are that he's improving in both aspects. With Jason Kendall aging and losing his already fading bat, the catching position in 2010 seems to be Angel's to lose. 

3. Zach Braddock, P, 21, A+ Brevard County
It seems that attempts to make Zach into a starter have been put on hold due to injuries. This year, he has been limited to work out of the bullpen. He has performed admirably however, posting a 1.50 ERA, 22:2 K/BB ratio and a .667 WHIP. If he is able to stay on the field, Zach figures into the Brewers future within the next three years. 

4. Cody Scarpetta, SP, 20, A Wisconsin
Cody has had a couple of rough outings out of the bullpen but as a starter, Cody has been solid. With a 4.68 ERA and 42 Ks in 32.2 innings, Cody is putting up numbers that may merit a promotion by mid-season. If Cody can improve on his command and stays durable, he has the stuff to be a front of the rotation pitcher.

That concludes my first look into the minors, I will continue to monitor their progress and will have one more update before the end of the year. 

Monday, May 25, 2009

The Brewers State of the Union: Infield edition.

After an embarrassing trip to Minnesota, the Brewers infield seems to be the biggest question mark going into our series with the Cardinals. Some may say starting pitching, but with the way these guys have been pitching, they were bound to lay an egg. Anyway, on my last post, I brought up the idea of trading JJ Hardy and it met with some criticism. The reason I bring up JJ as a trading chip is that his value is so high, not because I don't like him as a Brewer. He's an all-star shortstop, which is a premium position, he's still under team control for a very fair price, and his future with the Brewers is virtually non-existent with Escobar nipping at his heels and his refusal to switch positions. Calm down people, I'm just throwing a possibility out there. But I digress....

Bill Hall can't hit a right-hander if it was thrown under hand, JJ is plagued by back spasms (but wasn't lighting the world on fire before that) and Ken Macha hasn't decided whether or not McGehee is your everyday second baseman or if he's going to platoon Counsell. Believe it or not, I may have the answer. Bill Hall thrived in his super-utility role and I think his leash as an everyday player is to taught, it's time to move him back to the bench. He's able to play all three outfield position and second, third and short. His ability to hit lefties and his glove still give him value for the team. Mat Gamel has shown that he is ready to hit major league pitching and he flashed a little leather in his start. It's going to be a little rough around the edges, but Brewers fans should be remember a certain "butcher" at third, I think they've been pretty happy with the results. With a defensive liability at third, the rest of the Brewers infield will have to be solid in the field. McGehee has looked solid at second and has wielded a pretty good bat since he started getting some regular playing time. Give him a chance to be your everyday guy, see what you've got in him. When JJ is healthy, I don't think his position as everyday shortstop is in question in the least, however, if his back is bothering him, Counsell is a solid option and makes our lineup a little more left-handed, which is a good thing. Between Hall and the recently called-up Frank Catalanotto, the Brewers should be covered with backups at all infield positions as well as the outfield. That should hold the Brewers over for now, we shall see how McGehee and Gamel fair. If they struggle....

I am of the opinion that Alcides Escobar needs a full season at AAA to prove he can hit major league (almost major league) pitching, and after a mediocre start, Escobar has raised his batting average to .289. Also, he's been manning second base showing that he may be able to fill in at second should the Brewers need him. In an ideal world, McGehee becomes a serviceable second baseman (.260 avg. while playing solid defense) and Gamel becomes everything the Brewers believe he can be. But Escobar is a pretty solid insurance policy should the Brewers need something down the stretch run. 

I just got word that Gamel (3B), Counsell (SS) and McGehee (2B) are starting today against Chris Carpenter and the Cards. Hopefully, the Crew can get it done with this lineup, it is certainly something I will be keeping an eye on.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Something doesn't smell right....

First, let me apologize for the long hiatus, things have been hectic lately and the blog has suffered for it. I'm ressurecting the blog like a phoenix rising from the ashes... or something equally poetic. Now on to the real reason I'm writing today...

My dad always told me, "if it smells like dog s!#@, and looks like dog s!#@, then it probably is dog s!#@". At last night's game (a Brewers 8-6 victory over the Marlins) JJ Hardy leaves the game early and at the time I didn't think much of it. However, upon leaving the game, I learn that top prospect Mat Gamel is on his way to Milwaukee. Instantly, my mind starts racing with the possibilities. You don't call up your top prospect to ride the pine and replace a struggling Brad Nelson (a move made to make room for Gamel). Especially with your "third baseman of the future" who just so happens to butcher that position at every opportunity. The guy needs everyday reps to improve his defense and his prospects of manning that position in the big leagues for years to come. Doug is stonewalling like always, giving the excuse that he's just up to DH. How stupid do you think I am Doug? We have one three game series against the Twins this week, then we don't play an interleague away game until mid-June. So why the call-up now? So I start thinking about what could be happening. With Hall playing good defense and improving his production at the plate, I don't see him as a prime candidate to move. Also, he's a tough sell to bring back any value given his contract and lack of production (save his decent start this year). Which brings me back to Hardy. The guy just seems like a whiner. When he was moved out of the two hole last year, he went crying to Ned to get his spot back. When the possibility of a position change came up when Escobar was the talk of the town, Hardy complained again, saying that he didn't want to switch positions, even if it made the team better. He's easier to move because he's under team control for two more years, and he's relatively cheap, given the high dollars given to elite shortstops (I wouldn't call him elite yet, but an all-star appearance doesn't hurt). Melvin could maximize his return on a trade for Hardy given his overwhelming value at a position where big talent is rare.

Now on to prospective trading partners. Detroit has a TON of starting pitching and the weak hitting Adam Everett starting at shortstop. With Dontrelle Willis poised to return, I can see us snagging a quality starter who would only benefit from moving to the National League. (Armando Galarraga anyone?). Also, Boston is rife with starting pitching. John Smoltz is working his way back, and Dice-K is coming back any day now, all for a team that trots out 5 legitimate starters WITHOUT these two. Now Boston's starters haven't been blowing batters away, but imagine going from facing the Yankees and Blue Jays every other week, to facing the Pirates, Reds and Astros... you take your pick. Look at what a move to the National League did for Jeff Karstens, granted the guys not a Cy Young winner by any stretch of the imagination, but he went from a sixth starter (maybe) to a top of the rotation type in Pittsburgh. (I've got my eye on Masterson from Boston, but that's just me). Finally, there's the Chicago White Sox. Again, a ton of starters and a position open at short. I know what you're saying, "they've got Alexei Ramirez! Why would they want Hardy?" I'll tell you why. Hardy has more experience and shown he can play at a high level for multiple seasons, Ramirez has ONE season under his belt. Also, Chicago doesn't have a legit second baseman, a position that Ramirez has shown he is more than capable of playing. As far as pitchers, the pipe dream is John Danks. I've been in love (not exaggerating) with this guy since I saw him pitch last year. However, he's about as close to untouchable as you can be in this league. However, a Gavin Floyd might be available if the right piece came through (i.e. Hardy).

You'll notice I listed nothing but AL teams, this is mainly because I don't want to see that pretty boy prancing around the bases in an opposing uniform for more than three interleague games a year. He's a quality shortstop and it's been a pleasure watching him grow as a player, I just don't want him to become a Brewer killer (see Francisco Cordero).

As far as who this new starter would replace, that's a tough one. Given the depth chart, Dave Bush is your fifth starter and in most circles, that's the first guy to go. However, Bush has shown he belongs in this league and is pitching like a man possessed (1.05 WHIP ranks among league leaders). In my mind, he's out. Then you take a look at your starters who are NOT named Yovani Gallardo. Looper was signed in the offseason, doubtful they give up on him this quickly even though he's struggled in his last several outings. Parra is not only your only left hander but he's an arm the Brewers are investing in for the long term, if he doesn't get the experience now to develop into an elite pitcher, when is he going to get it? He always seems to be on the verge of disaster true, however, he's been able to work out of it in his last 4 starts, which is what good pitchers do. And finally there's Jeff Suppan, the Brewers' fans lightning rod. There's 12.5 million reasons this guy should be getting the ball every fifth day, but as a contender (and current division leader) we've passed the point where salary dictates playing time. You perform, or you don't play (ask Brad Nelson and Jorge Julio). It's true that Suppan has looked good in his last four outings, but let's be honest, he hasn't faced a lineup that's worth it's salt in this league and he's one bad start from taking his ERA back over the 5.50 range. Given the best interest of this team both now AND the future, Suppan is the logical choice to make the move to the bullpen.

So you heard it here first! Mat Gamel will be the Brewers starting third baseman by the end of the week, and hopefully it's Billy Hall playing short right next to him.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Various nuggets and my thoughts

It's been a little while since I last posted something on the Brewers, so I'll attempt to play catch up and give my thoughts on what I view as important.

The Brewers sign Prince Fielder to a two year deal worth $18 million. I like the move in that Prince gets his payday, so he's happy, but it's not enough money where he can just sit back and coast (or grow if you know what I mean). It's also a good move in that the Brewers get some payroll certainty for next year. No player on the Brewers is up for as big a payday as Fielder next year, now the Brewers don't need to worry about how much he's getting. This allows them the freedom to make moves with serious salary implications without being held for ransom by Prince's arbitration. And for those of you out there that are still calling for Prince to be traded, I believe this only increases his trade value. A) He is signed for the next two years at under market value. B) He is still under team control for three years. Ever since becoming a diehard Brewers fan in 2001, he had long served as the glimmer of hope on the horizon and I believe in many ways, he has been the savior of this franchise. He's provided the Brewers with a star whose name is recognizable, his performance on the field has been nothing short of spectacular, and the increased revenue he has helped provide (winning baseball, merchandise sales as a fan favorite etc...) has set the Brewers up for success for years to come. So say what you will about Fielder, just make sure you slip a "thank you" in there while you're at it.

Rickie Weeks avoided arbitration by agreeing to a one year $2.45 million deal. I'm not sure if that number is deserved, but it seems to be the going rate so I'm not going to get too worked up over the number. I ballparked Rickie's value at about $2 million which is what the Brewers offered him initially, so an additional 450K isn't that big of a deal in the grand scheme of things. Tom Haudricourt over at the Journal-Sentinel had a great article outlining some of the things that Weeks has been able to accomplish while "under achieving". After reading that article, it's hard to argue that Weeks has been as worthless as some fans believe. Does he need to improve his batting average? Of course, at the very least, it needs to be respectable (.260-.270) and ideally, he could realize some of that potential that had him batting .400+ in college. Whether Brewers fans realize this or not, but Rickie has made strides in improving his defense, and I believe another year will see him evolve into a serviceable 2nd baseman. 

Corey Hart is the lone un-signed Brewer as we near arbitration. Assistant GM Gord Ash and Hart's agent Jeff Berry both agree that there is a disagreement on Corey's value. The Brewers offered $2.7 million while Hart is asking for $3.8 million. Where this number comes from is anyone's guess. .268/.300/.459 with 20HR 91RBI and 76R is worth $3.8 million? If Hart maintained his pace from April-July then I'd say hell yeah, but with his vanishing act when the Brewers needed him most, he needs another year under his belt before he starts overshooting his value. Jayson Werth, who I believe fits the Corey Hart mold AND had a better 2008 season than Corey, just signed a 2 year $10 million deal with the Phillies. The reason I bring this up is that Werth's base salary for 2009 is a mere $2 million (plus a $1 million signing bonus). So if you believe that Corey is worth $1.8 million more per year than Werth, I'd love to hear your reasoning.

And finally, the Brewers acquire Chase Wright from the Yankees for C/OF Eric Fryer. I don't know about other Brewers fans out there, but I'm pretty excited about this one. Since people like to focus on the negatives, everyone will come back to his performance against the Red Sox in which he gave up 4 consecutive home runs. I'll give him the benefit of the doubt, he's a young pitcher and he was facing the Red Sox. It's not like he gave up four consecutive to the Pirates, it was against one of the most fearsome lineups in baseball. Looking at his numbers in the minors last year, you can't say that he doesn't have value. He's a lefty with a solid ERA and good groundball numbers (which is a great asset in the launching pad known as Miller Park). He's not a huge strikeout guy and his stuff resembles the typical lefty, but he's fairly young (he'll turn 26 on February 8th) and he provides a great option if one of our starters go down with an injury. While he hasn't had great success in the majors, he at least has major league experience, which is more than you can say about our current insurance plans at starter. He could be the guy that helps bridge the gap until Jeremy Jeffress, Cody Scarpetta, Zach Braddock and Jake Odorizzi are ready to break into the majors. With Mike Jones and Mark Rogers spending their entire professional careers battling injuries and former minor league pitcher of the year Will Inman going to San Diego in the Scott Linebrink trade, the Brewers farm system was left with few pitching prospects at the AA and AAA levels. I think they're 1 or 2 prospects who are near-ready away from being considered deep with pitchers. A trade with a team like the Detroit Tigers, who have 7 starters, would be a step in the right direction. I'd love to see Zach Miner or Armando Galarraga in a Brewers uni. 

Friday, January 30, 2009


I recently purchased 2KSports' MLB Front Office Manager for the Xbox 360 and I now have a new path for the Brewers to make (and win) the World Series.

First move as GM: trim the fat off the roster (and I'm not talking about Prince Fielder). This was a painstaking process, but it leads to less headaches down the road. So I cleaned out unnecessary minor leaguers, since I have no use for 30+ year old players struggling at A+ Brevard County and set lineups and rotations to include players with the highest potential, not necessarily highest rating. After all, the minors are about developing that young talent. After getting that boring, but necessary, issue dealt with, on to contract negotiations.

Second move as GM: Offer arbitration to Type A and B free agents. The game does not take our current tough economic times into account and it assumes that every player wants to get paid, so what better way to get a slew of high draft picks? So long Cameron, Kendall, Sabathia, Sheets, Gagne, Mota, Shouse (for now) and Torres (for now).

Third move as GM: Offer contracts to players you want back. All players that are NOT eligible for arbitration, will accept the minimum $400K salary (Gallardo, Parra, Escobar etc...) . Arbitration eligibles are a little trickier. Bush ($3.3), Hardy ($4), Weeks ($4 don't ask me how they evaluated his talent as being worth $4 mil), Fielder ($11.7), Hart ($4) and McClung ($600K) were all worth bringing back in my opinion. So I offer the one year deal to all those players except Prince, who actually accepts a 3 year deal for $12 mil/year. Good deal, and no more arby. Capuano, Coffey, and other non-Type A or B free agents just aren't worth it.

So as it stands, I've got a lineup that goes (in no particular order) Braun at LF, Gwynn at CF, Hart at RF, Prince at 1B, Weeks at 2B, Hardy at SS, Hall at 3B and Angel Salome behind the plate (he's got more upside than Rivera or Rottino). The rotation is a little rough with Gallardo, Parra, Bush, Suppan and Villanueva. The Bullpen even rougher with McClung as closer and Dillard, Riske, DiFelice and Stetter filling the gap.

Fourth move as GM: Sign free agents. Other than CC, Sheets and Lackey (who was asking for CC money) there wasn't much on the FA starting pitcher market. And with K-Rod out of my price range, no closer caught my eye either. So I decided I'd bite the bullet and give McClung a chance to close games, but I needed an experienced backup in case he faltered. So I went back to the well and offered contracts to Shouse and Torres which they took. Also, with Lamb and Rivera as my only real bench players, I offered $400K contracts to Jose Cruz (utility outfielder) and Callix Crabbe (middle infielder).

Fifth move as GM: Address the rotation. With Suppan sucking up $11 million in payroll, a no-trade clause in his contract, and five years MLB experience blocking a minor league assignment, my hands are tied. I'm not going to pay him $11 million to release him, but I don't want him taking the ball every fifth day. So I look to the trade market. With a capable backup behind him, Hardy was my centerpiece. So after failed attempts at acquiring Matt Cain, Scott Kazmir, James Shields and Paul Maholm, I figured I'd give Detroit's Armando Galarraga a go. Throwing in Weeks to sweeten the deal, I was now $8 million lighter in payroll and I had a good young pitcher to replace Suppan with. And he's not eligible for arby for two years... sweet.

Now I have Alcides Escobar at SS and Hernan Iribarren at 2B. Season results: NL Central division title, Playoff series victories over the Mets, D-backs and Yankees to win the World Series. NLCS MVP: Gallardo. WS MVP: Iribarren. Dave Bush finish 18-4 with a 3.60 ERA, Gallardo 19-5 with a 4.10 ERA. Villanueva had lowest ERA for a starter at 3.24 but a record of 10-9. McClung got 35 saves with a 1.71 ERA and won reliever of the year. Salome, Fielder, Braun, Hall and Hart all had 20+ HRs and 90+ RBI.

Could this be foreshadowing for great things to come for our young Brewers? Time will tell. Tonight I begin my quest to defend my title.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Busy couple of days...

Big Red is under contract for 2009 as the Brewers and Seth McClung agreed to a one year deal for 1.6625 million. This is a bit higher than the 1.5 million I pegged for him, but nothing egregious. Based off of the contracts that have already been signed, the Brewers are still 1.187 million ahead of the arbitration process. Three players remain...

Rickie Weeks: Arbitration numbers have been exchanged and Rickie is asking for $2.8 million, the Brewers have countered with a $2 million offer. What is Rickie thinking asking for $2.8 million? With a career .245 BA, .352 OBP averaging 13 HR and 39 RBI a year. Not to mention a career .965 fielding percentage. He's shown an ability to steal bases, and when he gets on base, he's got a knack for scoring. Last year, 46% of the time Rickie got on base, he came around to score. But if you can't get on base, what does that matter? I anticipate this getting settled before arbitration, because that's the Doug Melvin way, but I think the number will be closer to the Brewers $2 million.

Corey Hart: Corey submitted $3.8 million as his arbitration number, the Brewers offered $2.7 million. Corey was the MVP last year... from April to the All-Star Break. His struggles down the stretch are well documented, but I believe Corey is worth a long-term investment. However, some news broke today that should be used when negotiating with Corey. Jayson Werth just signed a two-year deal worth $10 million; $3 million this year, $7 million next year. Arguments can be made that Corey Hart and Jayson Werth are the same player, but last year, Werth pulled through for the Phillis when it mattered most, in my opinion, making him more valuable. This contract also buys out one year of Werth's free agency. What I propose is sitting down with Corey and hammering out a four-year deal worth $27 million. $3 million this year (meeting the Brewers' salary requirement for 2009), $5 million in 2010, $8 million in 2011, $11 million in 2012. This buys out all of his arbitration years plus one year of free agency. You can't put a price on financial security either, just ask Ryan Braun.

Now the big fish, Prince Fielder: The Boras client submitted a number that everyone was talking about... because it was so low. With all the comparisons made to Ryan Howard and his record $10 million awarded in arbitration last year, Fielder submitted a number of $8 million compared to $6 million by the Brewers. Either number is defensible, Fielder's offensive prowess far exceed his defensive short-comings. On the other hand, Fielder's increasing weight is a major concern. Now comes word that Fielder and the Brewers are working on a two year deal. Early estimates say it is for between $18-$20 million. Also, the fact that Fielder was recently added to the Brewers On-Deck event, leads to speculation that it's to announce the deal. My hopes are that it's for $7 million this year, and $12-13 million in 2010. Ideally I'd like about $15 million to be guaranteed with an additional $5 million in performance based incentives (with a weight clause maybe?). Obviously not going to happen, but a two year deal would be excellent, would give some buzz to the upcoming season.

I'm sure a lot is coming in the next few weeks...

Monday, January 19, 2009

Baseball America's Outlook on the Brewers

Every year, Baseball America releases an article outlining each team's top ten prospects, along with who has the best tools, projected major league lineup in 4 years and a tracker of past top picks and prospects. Today they released the 2009 Brewers edition. While I found the information interesting and, for the most part, accurate, there were a few things I took issue with.

First let me start off with their top 10 ranking of Brewers prospects. While I have no problem with Alcides Escobar at number 1 and Mat Gamel at 2, I find it hard to believe they put Brett Lawrie at 3. The Brewers' number 1 draft choice in 2008 has yet to play an inning of professional ball and is making the transition to full-time catcher. Do I think he's a top 10 in terms of potential? From what I've heard about him, yes. But 3 sounds a little high. Let's wait and see how he adjusts to life behind the plate and professional pitching before we get too crazy. My top 10 is as follows.

1. Alcides Escobar (SS)
2. Mat Gamel (3B)
3. Jeremy Jeffress (RHP)
4. Lorenzo Cain (OF)
5. Angel Salome (C)
6. Taylor Green (3B)
7. Brett Lawrie (C)
8. Zach Braddock (LHP)
9. Cole Gillespie (OF)
10. Caleb Gindl (OF)

My list puts a little more emphasis on ability to help the big league club in the next two years, and a little less on overall talent ceiling. Braddock is a big lefty (6'4" 230) who had some issues with ERA last year, but his peripheral stats (OBA, K/BB ratio, K/9) all lead to a solid pitcher who just needs a little seasoning against professional hitters. I substituted Caleb Gindl for Cutter Dykstra solely off of my "wait and see" approach. Last year was Cutter's first year of professional ball, and I'll admit that he adjusted nicely but Gindl has been solid. .307 BA, .388 OBP, 13 HRs and 81 RBI are hard to ignore at any level. I look for him to start in Brevard County and be in Huntsville in no time.

Next, I'll tackle BA's 2012 projected lineup of...
Catcher - Brett Lawrie
1B - Prince Fielder
2B - JJ Hardy
3B - Mat Gamel
SS - Alcides Escobar
LF - Ryan Braun
CF - Rickie Weeks
RF - Corey Hart
SP1 - Yovani Gallardo
SP2 - Manny Parra
SP3 - Jake Odorizzi
SP4 - Carlos Villanueva
SP5 - Zach Braddock
Closer - Jeremy Jeffress

While I would love for this to be true, let's face facts. In 2012 Fielder, Hardy, Weeks and Hart will all be eligible for free agency and Gallardo, Parra, Villanueva and Escobar (most likely) will be deep into arbitration, not to mention the built in salary boost Braun is getting. This lineup would push the Brewers' payroll over $125 million easy. Fielder has shown no signs of wanting to play in Milwaukee and will demand big bucks, Weeks will play his way out of the big leagues and I haven't seen a lot out of the organization in terms of wanting to retain Villanueva for the long haul. I can see Hardy, Hart, Gallardo and Parra as the main targets for long term deals that will keep them here through 2012. I wouldn't be surprised if Doug wants to keep Bush around as well, the next two years will be vital to Bush's continued career in Milwaukee. I offer you my 2012 projected lineup.

C - Brett Lawrie
1B - Mat Gamel
2B - JJ Hardy
3B - Taylor Green
SS - Alcides Escobar
LF - Ryan Braun
CF - Lorenzo Cain
RF - Corey Hart
SP1 - Yovani Gallardo
SP2 - Manny Parra
SP3 - Jake Odorizzi
SP4 - Zach Braddock
SP5 - Dave Bush
Closer - Jeremy Jeffress

I see Gamel's defensive shortcomings forcing a move to 1st, and with Taylor Green behind him, there won't be much reason NOT to. Lorenzo Cain had a monster Fall League and continues to shoot through the system. As the organization's "Best Defensive Outfield" there's no reason to believe he can't man center in Miller Park. I know what some of you are saying, "Angel Salome is your 5th best prospect and you don't have him on the big league club?" I see Angel as a major trade chip to try and bridge the gap in the starting rotation until Odorizzi and Braddock are ready. Catchers with offensive talent like Salome are hard to come by and he will be heavily sought after if he proves he can handle pitchers with the bat AND glove.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Bushy Avoids Arbitration, Melvin Coming Out Ahead

Dave Bush avoided arbitration by agreeing to a 1 year, $4 million contract with the Brewers. Bush has been the most reliable starter the Brewers have had over the past three years. He may not be the most talented, or have the greatest stuff, but the guy knows how to take the mound every five days and get the job done. He has pitched 180+ innings in each of his three years as a Brewer, for a guy who's been considered a fifth starter for most of that time, that's pretty good. Bush posted his best full season ERA of his career in 2008, mainly due to a red-hot second half. Bush also posted the only postseason victory for the Brewers against an exceptionally talented Phillies lineup which features 3 MVP candidates (Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley and Ryan Howard).
While I don't anticipate Bush being an ace by any stretch of the imagination, I am going to set some goals (and Dave should consider using these). 15 wins, less than 10 losses, 200+ innings and an ERA under 4.25. There are some signs that show that Bush can get it done. His WHIP of 1.14 last year was 5th best in the NL. His strikeout to walk ratio in 2006 was the NL best and in 2007 he finished 7th in that category. In his first three seasons in the majors, Bush averaged 2 complete games a season. What this tells me is that Bush is able to limit baserunners (which is key for a pitcher that gives up HRs), he's able to miss bats and strikeout batters when need be, and he's shown the ability to pitch deep into games and eat up innings.
I've got big things in mind for Dave but what I want him to focus on from now until Spring Training, is bringing back the 'stache (pictured above). So even if he sucks it up, at least he looks bad ass.
Sidenote: Based off of my arbitration raise projections, Doug Melvin is up $1.35 million between the Bush and Hardy signings. I predicted both would have salaries of $5 million and Doug has settled both with contracts under that number. Way to go Doug, let's get the rest of these contracts taken care of so you can make a move that'll silence the doubters.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

J.J. Avoids Arbitration

Doug Melvin is one step ahead of the game as per usual. J.J. Hardy and the Brewers avoid arbitration and agree to a one year $4.65 million contract for 2009. J.J. is the first of a group of Brewers due for a hefty pay raise to sign a contract for 2009. In past blogs, I have tried to estimate these raises for the sake of figuring payroll numbers and I had J.J. pegged for $5 million. So in my estimation, Doug is coming out ahead so far. Granted it's only $350,000 ahead, but when you're a mall market team like the Brewers, every penny counts. 

Over the past two seasons, J.J. has shed the label of "injury-prone" and produced in a big way. How many teams out there would love to have a shortstop capable of 25+ HR and 75+ RBI, all while playing gold glove caliber defense. His defensive numbers have slipped slightly over the past two seasons, but he still plays better than the league average, and his offensive production has more than made up for any defensive miscues.

While I'd love to see J.J. locked up with a multi-year deal (coupled with a move to third or second base), I'll settle for one year deals that avoid arbitration. I realize that the Brewers are probably going to address their 2009 payroll issues before investing multi-year deals in their young core players, but hopefully after the arbitration hearings are over in mid-February, they look in to long term deals, especially for Hardy, Hart, Gallardo and Parra. Maybe wait a year on Gallardo, to see if he can stay healthy for a whole season.

Friday, January 9, 2009

ESPN makes me want to puke

Reading the reaction to the Hoffman signing and then comparing it to the Smoltz reaction is enough to put me into a Grand Mal seizure. Two guys, same age, both HoF material are moving to new clubs after spending (almost) their entire careers with one club. One goes to small market Milwaukee, the other to big market Boston. Before I launch into my diatribe, I want everyone to know that I like John Smoltz. I'm of the opinion that he's going to be in the Hall when all is said and done. If the Brewers would have signed him, I would have been elated. That being said, I shall continue. So I'm sitting at work and word comes down that Hoffman has chosen us over the Dodgers. Oh happy day, right? So I head over to the four-letter network's website to get confirmation, hear their opinions etc... and what greets me as front page news on their MLB page? John Smoltz is CLOSE to a deal with the Red Sox. GIVE ME A BREAK! It's not like we just signed a career minor leaguer to a deal with an invite to Spring Training! We just signed the all-time career saves leader. This is just the beginning of the disgusting injustice.

So after reading the analysis from both signings (as Smoltz did end up signing with the Sox), the general reaction for one of the signings is "great move, impact player, elite pitcher yada yada yada", the other is "washed up, over the hill, not gonna cut it etc..." Now one of these players is coming off of major surgery that limited him to just 28 innings in 2008, the other has had a remarkably healthy career (except one year) and has shown he can still get it done even on the league's worst team. So which of these players is "washed up"? TREVOR HOFFMAN!!! What leads these jackass, no-ball pussy losers to believe that Hoffman can't get it done? His "peripheral stats"? Care to elaborate? Of course not. The only peripheral stats that I saw jump in 2008 was his hits/9 and HR/9. Walks: down, WHIP: down, K/9 up, GO/AO: one of the best of his career, opponent OBP: down, I could keep going =, I'm just tired of making these "experts" look foolish. Someone needs to get in the ear of the brass over there and tell them that despite what Peter Gammons believes, there are teams other than the Yankees, Red Sox, Cubs, Dodgers and Angels.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Don't Hassel the Hoff

I know it's a stretch, I just wanted to avoid the headlines that most other sites will be using from the boring: Trevor Hoffman strikes deal with Brewers; to the more "clever": "Hell's Bells" ringing in Miller Park (no offense intended JD, just not my style). Plus it leads to cool pictures such as the one below.

But I digress... I shut my mouth for a week, didn't mention names of players brought up in rumors or players I think the Brewers should go after and look what happens, the Brewers ink Hoffman to a one year deal for $6 million and an additional $1.5 million in incentives if he finishes 52 games. At the risk of sounding like "always optimistic about his baseball's teams chances" guy, I love the move. There are those that say Hoffman's time is over and he can't be effective in MLB anymore. To them I ask, "where are you getting this from?" It seems that people are only looking at two numbers, his age and his ERA last year. He converted 30 of 34 saves which is an 88% conversion rate, right on pace with his career rate of 89%. He struck out 46 while only walking 9 which equates to 5.1 K/BB, his best mark since the 2004 season and well above his career average of 3.85 K/B. Compared to career numbers, his WHIP was better (1.04 vs. 1.05), Opponent OBP lower (.263 vs. .265), BB/9 lower (1.79 vs. 2.50) and the fourth best Ground out/Air out ratio in his 16 years; and this is the career of a first-ballot Hall of Famer who just happens to own the career saves record. Oh, and by the way, he's the only player in history to record 30+ saves in 13 consecutive seasons...

Yeah he's old, but look at guys like Maddux, Smoltz, Rogers, Wakefield, Clemens (I'm not getting into it here) and Moyer who all got/get it done in the twilight of their careers. Hoffman's a vet that knows his way around a pitching mound and doesn't rely on 95+ mph heat to shut the door. He can use his years of experience (a devastating changeup doesn't hurt either) to get his way through the ninth and get Brewers fans back to their homes happy. Do I think he's going to save 50+ games? Absolutely not. Do I think he's going to post a sub 2.50 ERA? Not likely. But do I think that he's capable of 35-40 saves? Hell yeah. Is he going to close the door 9 out of ten times he takes the ball? Not a doubt in my mind.

So let the naysayers come out of the wood work. Let them criticize the Brewers for misappropriating their limited resources on another over-paid, over-the-hill pitcher. They'll be the same people who will be buying the Hoffman t-shirts/jerseys when Miller Park opens its doors.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

I'm done...

Here at JBB, I have decided to stop naming names in players that I think the Brewers should sign/trade for. If you've been reading my recent articles, you would know when this all started: J.J. Putz. I wrote a big article about freeing up payroll and trading for Seattle's closer. What happens the very next day? He gets traded to the freaking Mets... where he isn't even going to close. 

Then along comes the will they/won't they trade of Mike Cameron for Melky Cabrera and Kei Igawa(maybe). Here I am saying it's a done deal, talking about it like it's already happened and explaining what I view as the benefits of the trade... then it dies.

 Then Doug Melvin comes out and names some names of pitchers he wants to sign of the Shady Acres Retirement Complex softball team and I view Randy Johnson as the most solid choice and how he'd be a good fit if the Brewers are serious about upgrading the rotation. San Francisco beats us to the punch. How many games did they win last year? Can anyone out there name their starting infield? How about the outfield? You're telling me that we couldn't lure this guy away from a "superior location" (if you like hacky-sack and Jerry Garcia) just by the fact that he might actually win with us? Even if he only gives up 2 or 3 runs over 6-7 innings, that offense is only going to score 1 run. Randy, you're just pushing 300 farther and farther away. I'm done being bitter about that one.

And now for the latest kick to my baseball groin: Brian Fuentes. 2 years $17 million? You're telling me we couldn't beat that offer? WE GAVE $10 MILLION TO ERIC FREAKING GAGNE!!! I just need to face facts that we are going to be stuck with our current roster and whatever reclamation project Doug finally decides on (Chad Cordero*)

* - that was my last name drop, I promise