Probably misusing MLE: Where could the Brewers have done better?

Looking for some idle speculation on the first Brewer-free Sunday afternoon since February? Here's something to play with.

Because of Jeff's brilliant work over at Minor League Splits, we can take any Brewer above rookie ball's minor league stats and get their MLE (major league equivalent), a baseline estimate of how they would have performed in the major leagues this season.

So without further adieu, here's a look at how Brewer minor leaguers might have performed in the majors in 2009, and how it compares to the players the Brewers actually used in their place.

Catcher

Player Team (Level) Avg/OBP/SLG MLE A/O/S MLE OPS
Jonathan Lucroy Huntsville (AA) .267/.377/.416 .219/.307/.327 .634
Angel Salome Nashville (AAA) .288/.338/.420 .249/.285/.342 .627
J.R. Hopf Huntsville (AA) .249/.318/.363 .206/.258/.291 .549
Corey Kemp Wisconsin (A-) .269/.364/.379 .182/.239/.245 .484
Carlos Corporan Nashville (AAA) .217/.262/.285 .192/.230/.250 .480

 

Brewers used: Jason Kendall, who hit .241/.331/.305 (.636 OPS), and Mike Rivera, who hit .228/.326/.342 (.668 OPS)

This is likely the most obvious position where you can make a solid argument that one of the minor leaguers should have played over the guy the Brewers trotted out there. Kendall had a nice finish to 2009, batting .271/.370/.391 after August 7, but still only out OPS'ed the hypothetical performance of Jonathan Lucroy by two points, with Angel Salome not far behind him.

Beyond Lucroy and Salome, it's a long way down to the next level, though. Corey Kemp's 2009 performance was pretty impressive in Wisconsin, but he's easily the third best catcher in the system above rookie ball right now, and he's still a long way away.

Follow the jump for the other positions!

First Base

Player Team (Level) Avg/OBP/SLG MLE A/O/S MLE OPS
Joe Koshansky Nashville (AAA) .218/.319/.441 .189/.267/.358 .625
Erick Almonte Nashville (AAA) .295/.367/.365 .253/.307/.301 .608
Kevin Melillo Huntsville (AA) .249/.344/.392 .207/.280/.309 .589
Steffan Wilson Brevard Co. (A+) .272/.352/.420 .208/.266/.308 .574
Brock Kjeldgaard Wisconsin (A-) .248/.340/.454 .167/.221/.278 .499

 

Clearly, none of these guys are even comparable to Prince Fielder, who posted a 1.014 OPS this season.

In fact, the complete lack of a viable first baseman in the upper levels of the minors is a little startling. If something were to happen to Fielder, the best internal options to replace him would almost certainly be in the big leagues now: Mat Gamel and/or Casey McGehee.

With that said, Steffan Wilson's performance in the pitcher-friendly Florida State League is notable, and Brock Kjeldgaard had a decent offensive season overshadowed by the fact that he led his league in strikeouts for the second straight season.

Second Base

Player Team (Level) Avg/OBP/SLG MLE A/O/S MLE OPS
Hernan Iribarren Nashville (AAA) .307/.360/.396 .269/.310/.335 .645
Shane Justis Huntsville (AA) .271/.339/.376 .225/.278/.309 .587
Eric Farris Brevard Co. (A+) .302/.344/.388 .238/.270/.304 .574
Brett Lawrie Wisconsin (A-) .275/.342/.438 .192/.232/.282 .514

 

These are the only four players above rookie ball who played a full season with second base as their primary position. The Brewers used Rickie Weeks (.857 OPS) and Felipe Lopez (.810 OPS) primarily at second, and obviously there's no comparison.

The upside is pretty low among the upper level guys: Iribarren had a nice season in AAA, but likely projects as little more than a utility/backup type in the majors. 2009 was Justis' first season as a Brewer. He's 26 years old in AA.

With that said, there's a lot of upside in the lower levels. Eric Farris had a very good season for Brevard County, and added 70 steals in 76 attempts. With that said, he's been leapfrogged in the organization by Brett Lawrie, who continues his rapid ascent toward the big leagues.

Third Base

Player Team (Level) Avg/OBP/SLG MLE A/O/S MLE OPS
Adam Heether Nashville (AAA) .300/.398/.506 .256/.334/.409 .743
Mat Gamel Nashville (AAA) .281/.368/.479 .242/.309/.388 .697
Taylor Green Huntsville (AA) .267/.344/.372 .220/.276/.308 .584
Zelous Wheeler Brevard Co. (A+) .263/.365/.383 .199/.273/.283 .556
Juan Sanchez Wisconsin (A-) .249/.308/.318 .172/.207/.221 .428

 

The Brewers used Casey McGehee (.859 OPS), Craig Counsell (.766 OPS), Bill Hall (.606 OPS) and Mat Gamel (.760 OPS) at third.

Behold Adam Heether. While most of the talk about Brewer minor leaguers this season revolved around guys like Alcides Escobar, Gamel, Salome, Lucroy and Lawrie, Heether quietly outhit all of them. And while Craig Counsell had an incredible and unlikely bounce back season, Heether's MLE line is nearly comparable. He also played five positions this season to keep his bat in the lineup while Mat Gamel played third.

Behind him and Gamel, Taylor Green had a season to forget, and Zelous Wheeler's ability to get on base made him valuable in the Manatees' lineup. Sanchez was one of the last players drafted in the minor league phase of last year's Rule 5 draft, and played all over the diamond for Wisconsin and Brevard Co. despite never having played above the Gulf Coast League.

Shortstop

Player Team (Level) Avg/OBP/SLG MLE A/O/S MLE OPS
Alcides Escobar Nashville (AAA) .298/.351/.411 .259/.301/.345 .646
Sergio Miranda Brevard Co. (A+) .297/.355/.380 .229/.272/.292 .564
Yohannis Perez Huntsville (AA) .262/.314/.353 .221/.259/.287 .546
Michael Garciaparra Huntsville (AA) .216/.302/.261 .184/.249/.223 .472
Brent Brewer Brevard Co. (A+) .226/.290/.291 .176/.224/.231 .455

 

The Brewers used J.J. Hardy (.659 OPS) and Alcides Escobar (.701 OPS)

Alcides Escobar's AAA performance and J.J. Hardy's service time status combined to be just enough to get Escobar into the big leagues for good back in August, and we'll see what happens from there.

Meanwhile, there's not much in the system behind Escobar. The next viable shortstop prospect behind him may very well be 2009 draft pick Josh Prince, who hit .263/.373/.313 between Helena and Wisconsin this season and stole 38 bases in 50 attempts. The Brewers have to be close to running out of patience with Brent Brewer, who repeated Brevard Co. in 2009 and was actually significantly worse in his second attempt.

Outfielders

Player Team (Level) Avg/OBP/SLG MLE A/O/S MLE OPS
Brendan Katin Nashville (AAA) .244/.306/.506 .214/.262/.413 .675
Drew Anderson Huntsville (AA) .290/.368/.439 .241/.303/.350 .653
Logan Schafer Brevard Co. (A+) .312/.374/.441 .242/.288/.335 .623
Caleb Gindl Brevard Co. (A+) .284/.366/.469 .217/.277/.345 .622
Adam Stern Huntsville (AA) .280/.350/.374 .233/.288/.303 .591
John Raburn Huntsville (AA) .263/.370/.345 .218/.301/.267 .568
Chuck Caufield Huntsville (AA) .248/.312/.337 .210/.259/.280 .539
Lee Haydel Brevard Co. (A+) .278/.307/.343 .219/.241/.262 .503
Freddy Parejo Huntsville (AA) .239/.280/.314 .204/.237/.259 .496
Michael Vass Wisconsin (A-) .240/.307/.384 .164/.204/.249 .453

 

The Brewers used Ryan Braun (.938 OPS), Mike Cameron (.795), Corey Hart (.753), Frank Catalanotto (.728) and Jody Gerut (.672) in the outfield this season. And if they'd had to dig much farther into the organizational depth, it likely would have been a problem. Brendan Katin can mash a mistake, but his exceptionally low plate discipline (35 walks, 164 strikeouts, .305 OBP) will likely keep him from ever being a serious prospect.

Meanwhile, the top two outfielders in the Brewer system might both have played for Brevard County this season, as Logan Schafer won the FSL batting title and Caleb Gindl provided the power behind the Brewers' most successful affiliate this season. Among the top prospects, Schafer is also the only true center fielder: Adam Stern also played primarily in center this season, but was terrible defensively.

Lorenzo Cain, meanwhile, had a terrible 2009 season, and didn't even make the top ten to appear on this list. Before suffering a knee injury and after returning, Cain posted a .213/.287/.317 line between multiple levels this season, posting a .448 MLE OPS. Hopefully Cain reports to camp healthy next spring and prepared for a huge bounce back season.

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