Okay, so the Brewers haven't exactly clinched a playoff spot yet. But it would take a collapse of historical proportions for this team to blow a 10+ game lead with just over a month remaining. Stranger things can and have happened, but I think it's fair to assume that we, as Brewers fans, will be privileged enough to see our team in the 2011 playoffs. Thus, I think it is also fair to begin talking about the current composition of the Brewers roster, and what it could look like come October.
First things first, Yuniesky Betancourt is and will be the Brewers starting shortstop, even when Rickie Weeks comes back and Jerry Hairston, jr. is taken away from second base. Say it with me: Yuniesky Betancourt will be the Brewers shortstop the rest of the season.
Feels good, right?
No, because Yuniesky Betancourt is the Brewers starting shortstop. But at least now you have accepted it.
Second, Craig Counsell, Jerry Hairston, Carlos Gomez, and Mark Kotsay are all assured spots on the Brewers postseason roster, along with George Kottaras. That's five bench players. So, where does that leave Josh Wilson, who, as you may have guessed from the title, is whom I mean this to be about? Hopefully on the curb.
Honestly, at this point what purpose does Josh Wilson serve? He can play multiple positions, sure. He's played second base and shortstop and even outfield this season. He's also played a little bit of third base and first base in his career. A utility guy that can play all across the diamond can be valuable, sure, but not when he's been a poor to middling defensive player at every position. Even less so when the team already has a different, better utility guy in Jerry Hairston who is actually pretty well regarded, defensively.
Wilson further becomes less valuable because he can't hit a lick. With the Brewers this year, Wilson has a .243/.284/.386 line. Betancourt, who we all love to hate on because he hits as well as my ninety year old grandmother sprints, is not much worse than that, if at all, with only five points fewer OPS, and a higher batting average. Of course it's easier to rag on Betancourt--he's starting, Wilson is not. But if Wilson is left on the roster come playoff time, he's a complete waste of a bench spot. He can't field, and is rendered irrelevant by Counsell and Hairston there, anyway. He can't hit--he's probably the worst hitter the Brewers have on their bench. And, you know what, he isn't a top notch runner, either. Besides, the Brewers will have Carlos Gomez/Nyjer Morgan if they need a speedster.
Right now, outside of the shortstop conundrum, the Brewers biggest hole is a good bat on the bench, in my opinion. None of Counsell, Kotsay, or Gomez can be relied on in a pinch hitting role. Kottaras has some power, and can be used if the team needs a big home run, but isn't the greatest at making contact. Hairston is the best option to pinch hit right now, though right now (small sample size alert!) he has been hitting just .265/.315/.338 since joining Milwaukee. Overall in 2011, he's hit .267/.335/.374. That's not the greatest bat off the bench, but right now it's the best the Brewers likely have.
Personally, I would like to see the Brewers get a guy like Taylor Green or Mat Gamel on the bench, provided they do well over the next month. Both players have been lighting up AAA this year (and I've already discussed Taylor Green). Whether either player will succeed against major league pitching, either this year or in the future, has been a subject of debate. If they do succeed, or if one would presume that they will succeed, they would likely be an asset as one of the first pinch hitters off the bench in the playoffs. Of course, given the MLB playoff roster rules, they will have to be on the roster by September 1 to be eligible, so were this option valid, it does seem like Green would be the more likely option.
Another option for Milwaukee would be to use that 25th roster spot for another pitcher. The Brewers have been fine the past couple days with six bench players because of off days and the upcoming roster expansion. In the playoffs, they'll go with a Greinke-Gallardo-Marcum-Wolf rotation, and will put Chris Narveson in the bullpen as a lefty. Thus, the 25th roster spot could come down to Wilson or somebody who is currently in the bullpen--likely Frankie De La Cruz or Marco Estrada. Given that the Brewers will be on a four man rotation, it might not be a bad idea to expand the bullpen. The starters will be on short rest and can't be relied on to pitch deep into games. The top of the Brewers bullpen has been fantastic, with the four closers anchoring them. They can't pitch every day, though, and if games go into extra innings, it could be bad news for Milwaukee if the bullpen tires early.
Regardless of whether you think that the 25th postseason roster spot should be used for a pitcher or a bench player/pinch hitter, one thing seems clear to me: Josh Wilson would be a complete waste of a spot. There are other players with the same skill sets, and who perform those skill sets better, in addition to other roster needs for the Brewers. Maybe it's just me hoping, but I do think that Josh Wilson will be left off the postseason roster. Had Jerry Hairston not been acquired, Wilson would have a good shot to play in the postseason. Now, though, Wilson is just redundant, and I hope the Brewers are smart enough to use that spot more wisely.