With nearly all of the Brewers in camp and full team workouts scheduled to start on Saturday, it's time to take a look at the battles shaping up for the final spots on the 2010 roster. Barring injury or something unforeseen, these nineteen guys have most likely punched their tickets for Milwaukee:
Starting pitchers: Assuming Yovani Gallardo, Randy Wolf and Doug Davis have locked up spots in the rotation, the battle for the remaining two spots comes down to these four guys:
He'll make the team if: He shows any sign of improvement. Parra's 2009 season was among the worst by a starting pitcher in franchise history, but the potential for much better things is still there. At 27 years old, Parra is starting to get a little too old to be a guy who "still could put it together," but that's where he is right now. Unless he's absolutely terrible in camp, he's on the roster.
He'll miss the team if: He somehow finds a way to look worse. Parra would have to be exposed to waivers to be sent to the minors, so he would probably have to look like a total loss for the Brewers to be comfortable taking the risk that someone else would claim him.
He'll make the team if: He gets anyone out this spring. The early innings of spring training games may be more important for Suppan than any other pitcher in camp, as he needs to prove he can still get elite hitters out if he wants to be an asset to this team. Suppan most likely has two chances to make the team: the last spot in the rotation and the final spot in the bullpen.
He'll miss the team if: It would be hard to be as bad as Suppan probably needs to be this spring to get released. When you combine his massive contract and veteran status, it'd be difficult at best for the Brewers to admit their mistake and cut him loose. It might be what they should do, but it's unlikely. Even if he's iffy in camp, he might be stashed as the garbage man in the bullpen's final spot. And if he wakes up with a headache this spring, the Brewers may give him two aspirin and a spot on the DL to recover.
He'll make the team if: He looks good enough this spring to prove that last year's struggles were injury related and not a sign of a larger decline, and can prove that he's worth more than the roughly $4 million the Brewers would save by releasing him. Bush has tantalizing moments, but last season they were few and far between with long stretches of ineffectiveness in the middle. He needs to prove he's significantly better than Jeff Suppan, or risk being cut loose.
He'll miss the team if: He doesn't present himself as a significantly better pitcher than Jeff Suppan. Like Suppan, Bush is an option for the final spot in the bullpen, but one could argue the money they could save by releasing him is worth more than a starting pitcher pitching outside of his normal role.
He'll make the team if: Everything goes right. If Jeff Suppan is completely ineffective in camp and another injury opens up a spot, Narveson might be the guy to step into it. He is out of options, so the Brewers may try to look for opportunities to keep him around, but he's clearly the fourth option in a race with three clear frontrunners.
He'll miss the team if: The stars don't align perfectly. Narveson has pitched very well in limited major league opportunity, but that small sample size and his out-of-options status probably aren't enough to move him ahead of any of the three guys in front of him, even if he does deserve a shot.
Backup catcher: Unlike the last two seasons, this could actually turn into a relatively important job: Gregg Zaun is only projected to make 50-60% of the team's starts this season, so his backup could get into 60-70 games.
He'll make the team if: He can prove he's more of a veteran and a better option defensively than Kottaras. As noted in this weekend's Mug, Ken Macha has told reporters he values the defensive aspects of the position and game calling ability over offensive production from his backup catchers. That probably gives the edge to the two veterans in camp, who are more used to the backup role and easier to tag with intangible labels like "gritty" and "good with pitchers." Treanor turns 34 next week and has everything you'd look for if you were looking for a veteran catcher who doesn't bring many tangible skills to the plate but "has a track record," "does the little things well" and "manages a pitching staff." If he looks and smells like the kind of veteran backup catcher you'd expect Ken Macha to want on the team, then he'll probably be cast in that role. He can also become a free agent if he's not on the roster by late March.
He'll miss the team if: He gets clearly outperformed defensively by Kottaras or one of the rookies. If he does somehow miss the team, he'll almost certainly opt out: Angel Salome and Jonathan Lucroy will probably absorb most of the playing time at catcher in the upper levels of the minors, so he could be spending a fair amount of time on the bench. His health could also be a concern: He missed much of last season with hip issues.
He'll make the team if: He outperforms Treanor this spring defensively, and works well with pitchers. The only advantages he really has over Treanor are youth (which may not be an advantage in this case) and contract situation: Kottaras is out of options and is the only candidate for this job who would have to be exposed to waivers to be sent to the minors (although Treanor could opt out).
He'll miss the team if: Pitchers don't like working with him, or his defensive ability proves to leave something to be desired. Beyond the Box Score projected him as baseball's worst pitch-blocking catcher for 2010, but that projection is probably heavily influenced by the fact that a large portion of his 2009 appearances were spent catching Tim Wakefield's knuckleball.
He'll make the team if: Something happens to create some doubt regarding Gregg Zaun's ability to carry the load as a primary catcher. Lucroy is most likely the catcher of the future, but has never caught above AA. If the Brewers think there's a chance they'll need someone to catch 3-4 games a week, they might give Lucroy a shot to fill that role.
He'll miss the team if: If Zaun looks like he'll be able to catch most days, Lucroy will probably open 2010 in AAA where he can catch more often and continue to develop.
He'll make the team if: It's a bit challenging to envision a scenario where Salome makes it, as the second strongest rookie candidate for a job Ken Macha most likely doesn't to give to a rookie. He probably has an outside shot if he hits the cover off the ball in spring training and looks decent defensively. Even then, his reputation as a below average defender might be used to send him back down.
He'll miss the team if: He looks like anything but a polished defensive superstar. If he fails to block a couple of balls or makes a bad throw, his opportunity might be over.
Follow the jump for the other three camp battles!
Fifth oufielder: Assuming Braun, Gomez and Hart are the Opening Day starters and Jody Gerut's hot finish to 2009 earned him an easy spring, we've got old and potentially busted vs new and never really all that hot vs an infielder with some flexibility for the final outfield spot.
He'll make the team if: He looks anything like the .256/.369/.568 hitter he was as a Cub in 2008. He'll turn 40 in June, but if Edmonds still has some power in his bat and enough mobility to be a passable corner outfielder, he'll almost certainly make the team in the role that Gabe Kapler and Frank Catalanotto have filled over the last two seasons. If he's in good enough shape to play a decent center field, then he probably surpasses Jody Gerut to become the team's fourth outfielder.
He'll miss the team if: He looks more like the .178/.263/.233 hitter he was for the Padres before being released in May of 2008. As mentioned above, he's a 40-year-old outfielder who was well below average defensively in his last major league season. He can also opt out of his contract if he's not on the big league roster by March 25. If he doesn't hit well enough to overcome his defensive shortcomings, he'll go from 2010's version of Gabe Kapler to 2010's version of Trot Nixon.
He'll make the team if: He hits reasonably well and Edmonds doesn't. Inglett has a lot of non-batting things going for him: He's capable of playing second and third base as well as the outfield corners, and his career .293 batting average and .349 slugging percentage could make him a valuable contact hitter off the bench. His versatility also creates other options: If Inglett makes the team, it's possible the team could use him as a backup in the infield and outfield, freeing up a roster spot for a 13th pitcher. Or, he could also make the team as a sixth infielder.
He'll miss the team if: He doesn't hit, or Jim Edmonds outhits him. Inglett doesn't have much power (career .396 slugging percentage), so if Edmonds shows some pop in spring training, he'll have a major value advantage at the plate.
He'll make the team if: A good spring would certainly help matters, but if Oeltjen and Edmonds or Inglett both have good springs, then it might not matter. The Australian has posted .800+ OPSes in AAA in each of the last two seasons (albeit in very friendly hitter environments in Tucson and Reno), and does have the ability to play center field in a pinch, as well as both left and right. If he swings a hot bat this spring and the guys in front of him don't, he probably won't be a bad fifth outfielder.
He'll miss the team if: Edmonds or Inglett perform. Oeltjen may turn out to be a decent major leaguer, but he doesn't have a track record, Edmonds' bat or Inglett's versatility, so he'll need some help to make the team.
Final infielder: With Prince Fielder, Rickie Weeks, Alcides Escobar, Casey McGehee and Craig Counsell under contract and in camp, the Brewers have one infield spot remaining. Since Counsell is capable of providing backup coverage at all four positions, the final bench position player doesn't have to fill a specific need, creating the possibility of a wide open race. The Brewers are bringing five players to camp to compete for it.
He'll make the team if: Again, if his ability to hit for contact shows up in spring training, he'd be a valuable bat to have on the bench. Inglett is almost certainly better suited to work primarily as an infielder, having spent 132 of his 202 career major league games there, and 514 of 649 minor league games. He's also out of options and as a somewhat established major leaguer, he could be claimed if exposed to waivers.
He'll miss the team if: As a leading candidate for two different roles, it seems relatively unlikely that Inglett won't make this team. I guess it's possible, but he'd have to be outhit in camp by both a 40-year-old outfielder and one of the other infield candidates.
He'll make the team if: The front office somehow confuses him with Joe Inglett. Like Inglett, Iribarren is capable of playing several positions but has spent most of his career at second base (533 of 607 minor league games). Also like Inglett, he's a contact hitter with limited power, having hit .295/.346/.377 over two seasons in the somewhat hitter-friendly PCL. He's also out of options.
He'll miss the team if: He fails to outperform Inglett this spring. As very similar players, "track record" would probably be used to break a tie between the two players. Inglett has one, and Hernan doesn't.
He'll make the team if: Roguejim's prayers are answered. On a team featuring Alcides Escobar and Mat Gamel, Heether was Nashville's most productive hitter last season, and has hit .282/.392/.473 over 237 career AAA games, prompting the Brewers to add him to the 40-man roster to protect him from the Rule 5 Draft this winter. Like Inglett and Iribarren, Heether can play multiple positions in the infield. His primary position is third base, though, and the Brewers are pretty well stocked there.
He'll miss the team if: Roster situations come into play. Both Inglett and Iribarren are out of options and would have to clear waivers to be sent down, while Heether has options remaining. I'm not sure there's enough he can do to prove he's clearly the best option this spring and overcome that obstacle.
He'll make the team if: For whatever reason, Casey McGehee can't open the season at third base. Gamel has played third in 475 of his 478 career minor league games and all 28 of his non-DH major league appearances. If he needs to move to another position to play everyday, then he'll probably need some time in the minors to make the adjustment. He could step in and start immediately at third base, though, if McGehee is ineffective, moved elsewhere or slow recovering from offseason knee surgery.
He'll miss the team if: There's not an opportunity for him to play every day. The Brewers have been open about the fact that they feel they hindered his development by sitting him on the bench in the majors last season. If he doesn't break camp as the primary third baseman, he'll be sent back to AAA to get consistent ABs.
He'll make the team if: Something happens to one of the two players on the 25 man roster who can play shortstop. Even then, Cruz would be an emergency backup at best - he's a career .250/.287/.369 hitter in the minors.
He'll miss the team if: The shortstop position is already covered.
Final bullpen spot: I saved this one for last because it's the point most likely to become moot. If the six established bullpen pitchers (Hoffman, Hawkins, Coffey, Vargas, Stetter and Villanueva) make it through camp without incident, then there's only one spot left in the bullpen, and it could easily be absorbed by one of the starters that misses the rotation. If that doesn't happen or injury opens up another spot, here are the guys that will compete for it:
He'll make the team if: If all the ifs mentioned above fall into place, then this could be an interesting spot for Lofgren. As a starter in the minors he's almost certainly capable of eating innings in long relief, and as a lefty, he's also capable of being a situational guy in cases where it's too early to use Mitch Stetter. As a Rule 5 pick, the Brewers would have to offer him back to the Indians if he doesn't make the Opening Day roster, so the team will make sure he gets a good look.
He'll miss the team if: Even if a roster spot opens up, Lofgren could be sent out if his control issues resurface. He seemed to put it back together a bit last season, but posted WHIPs of 1.526 and 1.693 while splitting time between AA and AAA in 2007 and 2008. He's only two seasons removed from posting a 5.99 ERA in AA and while personal hardship has been given some of the blame for a rough stretch in his career, he needs to prove it's behind him if he wants to open the season on the roster.
He'll make the team if: Something happens to open up a roster spot or two. Smith doesn't have much left to prove in AAA, where he's posted a 2.56 ERA over parts of the last four seasons. He was also pretty good in a variety of roles for the Brewers last season, posting a 4.11 ERA in 46 innings.
He'll miss the team if: The numbers game keeps him out. Smith is almost certainly capable of being a serviceable guy in the back of someone's bullpen, but was recently removed from the 40-man roster. An awful lot of things would have to go right for him to jump in front of the sixth starting pitcher and Lofgren.
He'll make the team if: He pitches well, the team decides they'd like a second lefty, and Chuck Lofgren doesn't win the job. Like Lofgren, Schoeneweis has something to prove this spring: After posting a 3.34 ERA for the Mets in 2008, he struggled to a 7.12 ERA in 45 appearances for the Diamondbacks last season in the aftermath of his wife's sudden death. If he can put together a nice spring and show that he's got his career back on track, he could become a valuable piece of the bullpen puzzle.
He'll miss the team if: His age proves to be catching up with him, or he's unable to outperform Lofgren. Schoeneweis is 36 and has posted ERAs of 5 or above in two of the last three seasons. On top of that, he's a non-roster invitee competing for a roster spot with a guy who can't be sent to the minors.
He'll make the team if: He can prove he's healthy enough in time to make the spring training appearances he'd need to make to earn a roster spot. Riske is ahead of schedule on his rehab from Tommy John surgery, but is still restricted from some activities this spring. If he can prove he's healthy in time, the spot is his.
He'll miss the team if: He gives even the slightest indication that he'd benefit from a slower rehab pace, extended spring training and a DL stint. Traditional recovery times from Tommy John surgery would suggest Riske shouldn't be due back on the mound until May or June. Unless he blows normal rehab out of the water, he'll almost certainly start the season on the DL.
Long shots: Nothing less than an outstanding camp and injuries or trades would open a spot for these nine guys, who are likely competing with each other for the first spot in a line that won't go anywhere until a few months into the season, if then:
John Axford: He was a great story in 2009 and could be called up as the year progresses, but he has options remaining.
Zach Braddock: He's left handed, has electric stuff and looked dominant in the minors and AFL in 2009, but has never pitched above AA and has injury concerns.
Josh Butler: See Axford.
Chris Capuano: He's healthy for the first time in two years and being treated as a starter in camp, but he'll likely have to go to the minors to prove he's healthy and get stretched out.
Lorenzo Cain: Had a great camp a year ago, followed by a disappointing season. Needs a few good months in the minors, at least.
Tim Dillard: Removed from the 40-man roster a few weeks ago, unlikely to return in the short term.
Marco Estrada: May play a prominent role in Nashville this season, but he has options remaining so he's unlikely to stick with the big club..
John Halama: A great story, as he attempts a comeback after several years away from the majors, but he likely has to prove his worth in Nashville before getting the call.
Kameron Loe: See John Halama.
A.J. Murray: Behold the former Ranger. Murray was very good in the minors last season (2.87 ERA in relief between two levels), but this bullpen is too crowded for him to be considered a serious contender.
Thanks for coming: These nine guys are invited to camp, but aren't actually contenders for a 25 man roster spot and could be sent out early: