Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Midseason Rankings of the 2010 Milwaukee Brewers

We are only half way through the 2010 major league baseball season and Milwaukee Brewers general manager Doug Melvin has been a busy man. There are already 6 new faces on the current Milwaukee Brewers 25-man active roster. There are various reasons for the 6 new faces: one guy was released (#24-Claudio Vargas), four guys are on the disabled list (#23-Jody Gerut, #16-LaTroy Hawkins, #15-Gregg Zaun, and #14-Doug Davis), and one guy was sent to the minors (#19-Mitch Stetter).

The 6 new faces the Brewers added to the current 25-man roster are a nice blend of young pitchers (John Axford, Zach Braddock, and Kameron Loe), old pitchers (Chris Capuano and David Riske), and a potential franchise catcher (Jonathan Lucroy). The aforementioned 6 new faces will have an "NR" in parenthesis next to their name, while the other 19 players will have my initial 2010 ranking in parenthesis. As usual I ranked the player based on age, depth at each position, compensation, and clubhouse impact. Without further ado, here are the updated rankings:

#25 (NR) - David Riske (RHP): I don't put much stock in Riske's 2.70 ERA because he has only made 7 appearances and pitched 6.2 innings. I know this seems petty, but why did Doug Melvin sign a reliever named Riske?

#24 (20) - George Kottaras (C): in 35 games Kottaras has amassed a paltry .208 average over 106 at-bats. Kottaras will get his chances in the second half of 2010, which will be an audition for the back-up catcher spot for 2011 because recently promoted Jonathan Lucroy looks like the catcher of the future in Milwaukee after only 19 games.

#23 (NR) - Chris Capuano (LHP): much like Riske, I feel for Capuano on a personal level for all the injuries that he has gone through. That said, Capuano is a professional baseball player and injuries are part of the game. Capuano is 0-1 in 4 appearances (1 start) over 7 innings for a 5.14 ERA so he is going to have to produce soon or it might be time for the Brewers and Capuano to part ways for good.

#22 (25) - Joe Inglett (UTIL): is the Swiss army knife of field players for the Brewers because Inglett is able to play anywhere in the field besides catcher and first base. Inglett is batting a team-high .340 but take that with a grain of salt because it is only over 53 at-bats. Inglett is on the roster for flexibility as a pinch hitter and a spot starter so he better keep swinging the bat well or the Brewers might find a younger version of Inglett before the end of 2010.

#21 (NR) - Zach Braddock (LHP): has a fair amount of fuggly stats so far in 2010 going 1-1 in 15 appearances over 13 innings for a 5.54 ERA. I know all the stats that I cited were mediocre at best but Braddock leads the team with a 14.54 strikeouts per 9 innings. It is just a hunch, but Braddock looks like a major league reliever in the making thanks to his knack for striking hitters out.

#20 (21) - Carlos Villanueva (RHP): decent numbers, but again a guy that doesn't really have a specific role for the Brewers. Villanueva made 38 appearances pitching only 39 innings and amassing a 4.62 ERA. Villanueva better pick things up or he could be on his way out of Milwaukee soon.

#19 (22) - Jim Edmonds (CF): has been surprisingly effective for the Brewers. As I said in my initial rankings, it hurts me as a life-long Brewer fan to root for Edmonds but he has handled things very professionally in Milwaukee and produced fairly well on the field after a year out of baseball too boot.

#18 (18) - Manny Parra (LHP): much like Villanueva, since Parra has been inconsistent the Brewers have shuttled Parra between the bullpen and the starting rotation. Parra looks like he has the stuff to be an effective middle of the rotations starter but his performance so far this year has been less than impressive going 2-5 in 24 appearances (7 starts) over 59 innings leading to a 4.12 ERA. With the way things are going, Parra looks like a middle reliever in the making.

#17 (12) - Dave Bush (RHP): is a mere 3-6 over 16 appearances (15 starts) pitching 83.1 innings and amassing a 4.43 ERA. Bush has never looked the same since taking a line drive off his right arm last season. Bush can be a free agent for the first time in his career after the 2010 season so Bush needs to regain his pre-injury form if he wants a big payday in the off-season.

#16 (11) - Carlos Gomez (CF): guys like Inglett and Counsell would kill to have the talent that Gomez has but Gomez continues to sqaunder that talent with his subpar play on the field. In 50 games Gomez has 179 at-bats but is hitting a mere .235, which is the lowest batting average of any regular play field player on the 2010 Milwaukee Brewers.

#15 (8) - Todd Coffey (RHP): is 2-2 in 30 appearances over 27.1 innings, amassing a 4.28 ERA. The aforementioned numbers show that Coffey has sputtered a little bit in 2010 after being the primary set-up man for now-former closer Trevor Hoffman in 2009. Coffey is earning just over $2 million this year and has one more year of salary arbitration. If Coffey wants to pitch in Milwaukee in 2011 he will have to improve in the second half of 2011.

#14 (13) - Craig Counsell (UTIL): is invaluable because he is able to play anywhere in the infield besides first base. In 54 games Counsell has 117 at-bats but is only hitting .256. It seems cliché but Counsell is on the team for leadership more than production at this point. With a $2.1 million salary it feels like a lot to spend on leadership, but Counsell is showing the young studs another cliché "how to play the game the right way" and it is worth every penny. Trust me, if anyone is going to get through to Gomez it is Counsell.

#13 (17) - Chris Narveson (LHP): is 7-4 in 21 appearances (12 starts) over 78.1 innings while amassing a 5.17 ERA. Narveson has gotten great run support in his starts, which somewhat minimizes his 7-4 record. I know it is early in Narveson's young career but he looks like a young version of Chris Capuano, and I am not talking about the All-Star version of Capuano.

#12 (NR) - Jonathan Lucroy (C): 73 at-bats over 19 games is hardly a career but Lucroy is acquitting himself well as the starting catcher in Milwaukee. I voiced my displeasure with Gregg Zaun being the Brewers' starting catcher because of his advanced age. I hate to say it Doug Melvin, but I was right. Predictably Zaun got hurt. What could not have been predicted is who would step in. For the last few years Angel Salome was the Brewers’ top catching prospect but he recently requested to change positions to outfield. That makes two catching prospects (Angel Salome and Brett Lawrie) that have changed positions leaving the Brewers farm system lacking quality catching prospects. As a result it is Lucroy or bust for 2010.

#11 (4) - Trevor Hoffman (RHP): oh how the mighty have fallen. Hoffman entered 2010 looking to add to his all-time major league save record. Unfortunately in 25 appearances in 2010 Hoffman has gone 2-4 while surrendering a staggering 7 home runs in 24 innings leading to a bloated 8.25 ERA. Despite struggling on the field, Hoffman still goes about his business like a professional on a daily basis, which provides a great example for the young pitching staff. Hoffman's off-field work cannot be questioned. It looks like father time finally caught up to Hoffman on the field though.

#10 (10) - Alcides Escobar (SS): is half way through his first major league season after taking over for former all-star shortstop J.J. Hardy. Escobar is on the roster more for his glove than his bat so the Brewers are willing to deal with his .241 batting average as long as he still continues to flash the leather. Plus, Escobar is only a rookie so he will undoubtedly improvement at the plate.

#9 (6) - Randy Wolf (LHP): is a mere 5-7 over 16 starts eating up only 97 innings and amassing a pedestrian 4.92 ERA. This should come as no surprise though since Wolf was moving from a pitcher friendly park (Dodger Stadium) to a hitter friendly park (Miller Park). In fairness Wolf has owned up to his struggles but he does have $30 million reasons to own up to it though. Wolf needs to pick it up in the second half of 2010 so that he doesn't prove my proclamation correct that he is the left-handed Jeff Suppan.

#8 (5) - Casey McGehee (3B): with a year and half as the starting 3rd baseman for the Brewers under his belt Chicago Cubs general manager Jim Hendry must be kicking themselves for letting McGehee go. McGehee is only earning $427,500 this year and cannot become a free agent till after 2014. On the flip side, current Cubs 3rd baseman Aramis Ramirez is schedule to earn $16.75 million in 2010, has a $14.6 million player option in 2011 that he will no doubt pick-up, and a $16 million club option (with a $2 million buyout) in 2012. That means if the Cubs thought long-term they could have kept McGehee in the fold to take over at third base half way through 2011. Instead the Brewers are reaping the benefits, thank you very much Jim Hendry.

#7 (NR) - Kameron Loe (RHP): is taking over the primary set-up role with ease. Loe is 0-0 in 13 appearances over 16.2 innings with a minuscule .54 ERA. It is delusional to think that Loe can continue to pitch that well but with bullpen mainstays like Coffey and Hawkins faltering or on the disabled list, Loe has been the perfect set-up man for new closer John Axford.

#6 (7) - Rickie Weeks (2B): has 13 home runs this year, which is 3rd most on the team and slightly ahead of sluggers like Braun (11) and McGehee (12). Unfortunately Weeks is a lead off hitter that is only hitting .274 with an on base percentage of .373. Weeks has one more year of salary arbitration before he becomes a free agent after the 2011 season. That means a big second half of 2010 will likely net Weeks a healthy contract extension despite his injury history.

#5 (9) - Corey Hart (RF): after winning his salary arbitration case, Hart is earning $4.8 million this year. Hart is backing up the arbitration win much to chigrin of Brewers fans. Hart is leading the 2010 Brewers is home runs (18) and slugging percentage (.571). 2011 is Hart's last salary arbitration year before he becomes a free agent so the second half of 2010 will go a long way to determining Hart's future in Milwaukee. Much like Weeks, Hart needs to continue to improve on those power numbers if he wants an extension before the end of 2011.

#4 (NR) - John Axford (RHP): is 3-1 with 8 saves in 18 appearances over 21 innings amassing a 3.00 ERA. In my 2010 Milwaukee Brewers Spring Training Preview I grouped players by position. Within each position group I put them in one of three categories: guaranteed, borderline, and long-shots to make the opening day 25-man roster. Both Loe and Axford were long-shots to make the 2010 Milwaukee Brewers Opening Day Roster. Luckily Loe and Axford have produced despite the Brewers having low expectations for both because without them the Brewers bullpen would be in shambles.

#3 (2) Prince Fielder (1B): of course Fielder is having somewhat of a down year by his standards when the Brewers are looking to trade him. That means it is going to be a slow march towards the 2011 off-season when Fielder is scheduled to become a free agent. Fielder is earning $11 million in 2010 and will get a sizable raise through salary arbitration in 2011. Any team that acquires Fielder from now till the 2011 trade deadline will be merely renting Fielder because Fielder's agent is the often-loathed mega-agent Scott Boras. Let me reiterate the stance that I have had for over a year on what to do with Fielder. Keep Fielder until after 2011. If Fielder decides not to resign with the Brewers, take the compensatory picks. There is a slim chance that someone will offer the Brewers young pitching for Fielder, but I am not holding out too much hope. Young pitching trumps young hitting in the post-steroids era especially when the young hitter in question is overweight, short for his position, and represented by Scott Boras.

#2 (3) Yovani Gallardo (RHP): signed a hefty contract extension at the start of the season. Gallardo signed a five-year, $30.1 million contract with a $13 million club option ($.6 million buyout) that could make it a six-year contract. Gallardo can void the 6th year if he accumulates 6 points between 2010 and 2014. Gallardo earns 5 points for winning a Cy Young Award, 3 points for finishing 2nd in the Cy Young voting, and 1 point for finishing 3rd the Cy Young voting. I like the contract in general but have two small critiques of the contract. One, Gallardo missed most of 2008 with a torn ACL on a freak collision at Wrigley Field so the Brewers hopefully factored that into their long-term plans for dealing with Gallardo. Two, I dislike that it is so back-loaded. I understand inflation, but Gallardo deserves more money in 2010 and less money in 2014. If I were in charge of the Brewers (consider this part of my resume), I would have evened out the contract to make it go up very little on an annual basis for team salary predictability. Gallardo is justifying the extension by going 8-3 over 17 starts eating up 109.0 innings while amassing a 2.56 ERA and nearly doubling all other Brewer starters with 120 strikeouts. For how horrible the Brewers have drafted pitchers over the last decade, Gallardo is the Hope Diamond amongst cubic zirconia in the 2010 Milwaukee Brewers starting rotation.

#1 (1) Ryan Braun (LF): it can't be reiterated enough how sweet of a deal Doug Melvin got when he extended Ryan Braun early on in his career. Take a look back at one of my first Sunday Funday posts where I dissected Braun's contract from almost every angle imaginable. If the Brewers do in fact lose Fielder soon, Braun is going to struggle unless Hart or McGehee go on a tear. Either way, Braun has been the Brewers most consistent player this year.

I will have reactions to what players Doug Melvin calls up in September when the rosters expand as well as my final player ranking at the end of the 2010 season. Check back for more Milwaukee Brewers coverage in the coming weeks when it is warranted.

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