Each day between now and the beginning of the regular season, Brew Crew Ball will preview one aspect of the 2005 Milwaukee Brewers. My plan for the time being is to count backwards: today, #9 (RF), tomorrow, #8 (CF).
With the arrival of Carlos Lee, Geoff Jenkins is no longer the cleanup hitter for the Crew, nor is he the single marquee batter in the lineup. From a strategic perspective, it's great to move Geoff down to #5. From a psychological perspective, I think Jenkins will benefit from a bit less pressure.
Jenkins took a dive in most of his percentage stats last year, perhaps due to that pressure. His batting average went from .296 in 2003 to .264; OBP from .375 to .325, and SLG from a stellar .523 to a more pedestrian (for a cleanup hitter, anyway) .473. His power numbers stayed about the same, but it took him 130 more at-bats to reach them.
There's a silver lining to that last part, though. He stayed healthy! Jenkins, who had never played more than 135 games in a season and hadn't even played that many since 2000, went out there just about every day. And I'm sure everyone recalls that durability was the rap against Geoff before 2004. If there was a single reason to doubt the wisdom of the Brewers signing him to a multi-year contract, it was the likelihood he'd crash into a wall somewhere and spend half that contract in rehab.
Of course, Geoff was stellar on defense as well. I'll be interested to see just how comfortable he looks in right field now that Carlos Lee's arrival has moved him over, but I can't imagine he'll struggle. In fact, many have speculated that right field is where he belonged all these years. Corner outfielders with strong defensive skills tend to play right, and Geoff is very close to a gold-glove quality outfielder.
If anything, a strong performance in the field this year might put him in the running for one of those awards. The NL Gold Glove awards have been dominated by center fielders recently, but right fielder Larry Walker has won five in the last eight years.
What should we expect from Geoff this year? If Overbay and Lee produce, Jenkins will have non-stop RBI opportunities. He's never quite cracked 100 before, but it wouldn't surprise me to see him up around 110 or even 120. A return to the .280s or .290s would be welcome, and as his career average is .279, it's reasonable to expect him to bounce back quite a bit from his disappointment last year. Most of all, I hope we'll see those numbers over 150+ games again. Some combination of Bill Hall, whoever lands the 4th OF spot, and perhaps Brooks Kieschnick or Corey Hart could fill in quite admirably, but losing that second power hitter makes the Brewers lineup look like it did last year, when Milwaukee was 15th in the league in runs scored.
Looking toward 2006 and beyond, it's difficult to imagine both Carlos Lee and Geoff Jenkins remaining in Brewers uniforms. Jenkins is signed through 2006, so we can expect him to be here, though he may become trade bait by mid-season if the Crew isn't contending. With Corey Hart, Dave Krynzel, and Nelson Cruz crowding the AAA outfield, and with Prince Fielder possibly pushing Lyle Overbay into the outfield as well, Milwaukee will have several options for those corner outfield spots and none of them will command the $8-$9 million per year that Geoff may on the open market. Along with Ben Sheets, Jenkins has been the face of the Brewers since the Sexson trade, if not longer, so it would be tough to see him go. But if a handful of prospects pan out, the Brewers may be better off spending their money elsewhere.
Enough talk about 2007, though -- right field is a much brighter spot for the Crew this year than it was last. Aren't you thrilled to know that Jenkins will be patrolling right instead of Ben Grieve? Most of the games I attended last year I saw from the right-field bleachers, and let me tell you, I don't know how many runs Grieve cost us in the field, but he was just painful to watch. Jenkins is quite the opposite. Let's hope he's a joy to watch at the plate, as well.
What do you expect to see from Jenkins this year? Do you think he'll make it through the season without an injury? Who do you think will be manning right field in Milwaukee in 2007?
Who will play right field for the Brewers in 2007?
This poll is closed