Every day near the end of the Frosty Mug I list the day's news stories involving former Brewers. It seems like there's a former Brewer on every team and coaching staff, every niche Hall of Fame and obscure list.
There are, of course, countless former members of the Milwaukee Brewers still playing across Major League Baseball. Today I'm wondering: Could this current Brewers team outperform a team of active former Brewers over a full season? This is part one of a multi-part series considering the possibility.
We'll open the series with a look around the infield, starting behind the plate. First, though, we'll set one rule: For the purpose of this conversation "former Brewer" only means someone who appeared in a regular season game in a Brewer uniform.
Catcher: Jonathan Lucroy v. George Kottaras
There are nine active MLB catchers who have appeared in at least one game behind the plate as Brewers. Jonathan Lucroy and Martin Maldonado are two, so that leaves the F-Brewers with seven candidates: Henry Blanco, who is 42 years old is probably the best backup candidate. Aside from Kottaras and Blanco, no active catcher appeared in more than 20 games for Milwaukee. Brief backup Yorvit Torrealba is a candidate, but it almost feels like cheating to allow him.
Kottaras is no slouch at the plate with a career .730 OPS, but there's really no contest here. Lucroy is a clear upgrade over Kottaras defensively, his career OPS is 27 points higher and he's three years younger. Advantage: Brewers
First base: Juan Francisco/Lyle Overbay/Mark Reynolds v. Prince Fielder
There's also no contest here, but this time the pendulum swings in the other direction. Fielder had his worst season as a big leaguer in 2013 and still hit .279/.362/.457 with 25 home runs and 106 RBI and was an AL All Star. If the Brewers get anything close to that from their collection of first basemen in 2014 they'll be elated. Advantage: Former Brewers
Second base: Scooter Gennett v Cody Ransom
If you thought the list of active former Brewer catchers was bad, brace yourself because the second base list is much worse. Here, let me show you:
In an ideal world I think I'd take Hairston, but he retired this winter. Bill Hall spent most of 2013 playing independent ball. So the best options are probably either Ransom, a career .213/.303/.400 hitter who turns 38 in February, or Yuniesky Betancourt.
Regardless of which of those bad options you select, I think it's safe to assume that Scooter Gennett (or Rickie Weeks) will outperform them by a wide margin. Advantage: Brewers
Shortstop: Jean Segura v. J.J. Hardy
This might be the most interesting matchup on the entire roster, so much so that I considered giving it its own post. Jean Segura was awesome in 2013, surpassing expectations and entertaining us daily. His speed and defense would make him valuable by himself, but he was also a pretty nice offensive contributor with a .294/.329/.423 batting line and 12 home runs.
On the other hand, you have a much more proven MLB talent in Hardy. While Segura makes good things happen with his speed, Hardy's single offensive asset is his power. He has five seasons of 20 or more home runs despite posting a career OBP of just .312.
Both players are excellent defenders, although they do it in completely different ways. Segura consistently surprised us in 2013 by making plays on balls hit to his right, while Hardy may be the best shortstop in baseball on balls hit to his left. Hardy is a two-time defending AL Gold Glove winner. Both players were All Stars in 2013.
In the end, the context of the question matters. If you were building a team for the next ten years, you'd take Segura without thinking twice. But if you're trying to build a team to win in 2014 (which we're doing), I think you'd take Hardy with his longer track record and established power. There's probably no wrong answer here. Advantage: Former Brewers
Third base: Aramis Ramirez v. Casey McGehee
Like second base, this is based on my favorite option from a relatively weak group of former Brewer candidates. There are 17 active players who have appeared in at least one game at third base for the Brewers, but seven of them are still in the organization. Bill Hall, Yuniesky Betancourt, Mat Gamel and the previously-used Cody Ransom are among the others.
Casey McGehee is back in the big leagues with the Marlins in 2014 after a nice bounce-back season in Japan, but his best MLB season (.301/.360/.499 in 116 games for the Brewers in 2009) is only about a dozen OPS points better than Aramis Ramirez's career average. Ramirez's health is a concern, but I still think he's clearly the better player. Advantage: Brewers
So, after five positions, here's where we stand: The current Brewers have major advantages at catcher, second base and third base. The former Brewers have a major advantage at first base and an arguable advantage at shortstop. We'll continue the project next week.