Friday, February 14, 2014

Building The 25 - 2014 Milwaukee Brewers Spring Training Preview

Welcome to my fifth annual Milwaukee Brewers spring training preview (2010, 2011, 2012, and 2013).  The Brewers enter spring training with at least 58 players in contention for The 25. Absent injury, 16 roster spots on The 25 are virtual locks, which leaves nine available roster spots.  That is the most roster spots on The 25 "available" going into spring training since 2010.  Below you will find a quick analysis of the entire roster heading into spring training along with my pre-spring training thoughts on what players Brewers general manager Doug Melvin should keep on The 25.

- Guaranteed: Jonathan Lucroy and Martin Maldonado
- Borderline: None
- Long-shot: Robinzon Diaz, Cameron Garfield, Matt Pagnozzi, and Adam Weisenburger
- Cheesehead Sports Nut's Prediction: This is the least dramatic battle of spring training given that the Brewers seem committed to Lucroy and Maldonado for the near term.  At one point it looked like Maldonado might be a nice trade piece but he struggled last season so absent a huge change, Maldonado better bring something more to the table than quality haircuts if he wants a spot on The 25 past 2014.

- Guaranteed: Scooter Gennett (2B), Aramis Ramirez (1B), and Jean Segura (SS)
- Borderline: Jeff Bianchi (UTL), Taylor Green (3B), Juan Francisco (1B), Elian Herrera (UTL), Lyle Overbay (1B), Mark Reynolds (1B/3B), and Rickie Weeks (2B)
- Long-shot: Irving Falu (2B), Hector Gomez (SS), Sean Halton (1B), Hunter Morris (1B), Jason Rogers (UTL), and Eugenio Velez (UTL)
- Cheesehead Sports Nut's Prediction: If healthy, I see the left side of the infield settled much like the catcher spot with Segura at shortstop and Ramirez at third base.  Unfortunately the right side of the infield is anything but settled.  The Brewers want to play Gennett at second but they have a ton of money invested in Weeks.  Thus the Brewers hope Weeks has a huge spring training and another team suffers a serious injury at second base so they can move Weeks for a low-level prospect and some salary relief, but the likelihood of both of those things happening are fairly low so the Brewers will most likely keep Gennett and Weeks on The 25.  If you think second base is unsettled, first based is even worse.  The three front-runners seem to be Francisco, Overbay, and Reynolds.  Overbay and Reynolds might help this season but are not long-term answers at first base while Francisco could be a long-term answer if he figures out some plate discipline and how to play defense.  At some point the Brewers need to see what they have in Morris, which will not happen this year given all the other left-handed hitting first basemen currently ahead of him on the depth chart.  Although I am still a long-term believer in Francisco, I would give Overbay and Reynolds the inside track on making The 25 ahead of Francisco at this point.  With all due respect to Weeks, I hope a change of scenery helps him fulfill the promise that was expected of him the last two season so at this point I would keep Bianchi, Gennett, Herrera, Ramirez, Reynolds and Segura.

- Guaranteed: Ryan Braun (RF), Khris Davis (LF), and Carlos Gomez (CF)
- Borderline: Caleb Gindl (OF) and Logan Schafer (OF)
- Long-shot: Kentrail Davis (OF), Mitch Haniger (OF), and Kevin Mattison (OF)
- Cheesehead Sports Nut's Prediction: The Brewers moved Ryan Braun to right field and traded outfielder Nori Aoki to the Kansas City Royals to make way for Khris Davis to start in left field.  Professional baseball players are constantly under tons of pressure to perform.  Given all the changes the Brewers made to get Davis into the starting lineup after only 136 major league at-bats in 56 games in 2013, I almost feel like the Brewers are setting him up to fail.  That doesn't even factor in that Gomez will likely regress from his 8.9 WAR performance last season given that his previous high watermark was 2.3 WAR.  Plus Braun, the unfortunate face of the franchise for the next decade, is returning for a 65-game suspension for getting caught using PED's.  I see the Brewers keeping Schafer as their fourth outfielder unless Gindl has a huge spring training but the more important thing to watch is how the starting outfielders perform to open 2014.

Starting Pitching:
- Guaranteed: Marco Estrada (R), Yovani Gallardo (R), Matt Garza (R), Kyle Lohse (R), and Wily Peralta (R)
- Borderline: None
- Long-shot: None
- Cheesehead Sports Nut's Prediction: Melvin locked in the starting rotation when he drastically overpaid Garza instead of keeping the 5th spot in the rotation open for a cost-effective competition between guys like Fiers and Thornburg.  Making all five guys locks for The 25 is based on all five starting pitchers staying healthy through spring training.  If that turns out to be true, for how anticlimactic the starting rotation competition will be, the fight for the seven spots in the bullpen will be very interesting.

Relief Pitching:
- Guaranteed: Tom Gorzelanny (L), Jim Henderson (R), and Francisco Rodríguez (R)
- Borderline: Zach Duke (L), Mike Fiers (R), Brandon Kintzler (R), Will Smith (L), Tyler Thornburg (R), Wei-Chung Wang (L), and Rob Wooten (R)
- Long-shot: Michael Blazek (R), Hiram Burgos (R), Jose De La Torre (R), Alfredo Figaro (R), David Goforth (R), Brooks Hall (R), Donovan Hand (R), Johnny Hellweg (R), Dustin Molleken (R), Jimmy Nelson (R), Michael Olmsted (R), Ariel Pena (R), and Kevin Shackelford (R)
- Cheesehead Sports Nut's Prediction: The Brewers will give Duke, Smith, and Wang every chance to make The 25 for different reasons.  Duke will most likely ask for his release if he does not make The 25, there will be egg on Melvin's face if Smith struggles since he gave up Aoki to get his services, and Wang must be offered back to the Pittsburgh Pirates if he doesn't make The 25.  I would personally keep Duke, Gorzelanny, Henderson, Kintzler, Rodriguez, Smith, and Wooten.  That would allow Thornburg to keep his arm stretched out as the ace of the starting rotation of their minor league AAA affiliate.

Opening Day Lineup:
1. Carlos Gomez (CF)
2. Jean Segura (SS)
3. Ryan Braun (RF)
4. Aramis Ramirez (3B)
5. Mark Reynolds (1B)
6. Jonathan Lucroy (C)
7. Scotter Gennett (2B)
8. Khris Davis (LF)
9. Matt Garza (R)

Starting Rotation:
1. Matt Garza (R)
2. Kyle Lohse (R)
3. Yovani Gallardo (R)
4. Wily Peralta (R)
5. Marco Estrada (R)

1. Jim Henderson (R)
2. Francisco Rodríguez (R)

If Melvin makes any more big signings or trades, check back for full coverage in this space.  If Melvin proceeds with the status quo throughout spring training, make sure to check back on opening day for my initial The 25 post.

No comments:

Post a Comment