The story of the off season for the Brewers since trading for Adam Lind is how set the team already appears for 2015. With no starting positions to be filled, most of the heavy-lifting the team needed to do is already done. There are some tweaks that can be made, of course. The bullpen is the most major concern, while the bench looks weak.
It was also a bit expected that the Brewers might go out and find a platoon partner for Adam Lind and Scooter Gennett, neither of whom are very good at hitting left-handed pitching. Lind will get help from Jonathan Lucroy, most likely, but it appears the Brewers are willing to let Gennett go it on his own as a full-time starter.
At least, that's what manager Ron Roenicke says, as quoted by Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal:
"As of right now, I would say that Scooter's going to play against lefties, and we'll see what happens," Roenicke said. "We'll see what the rest of the bench looks like and then see how Scooter handles it. But the guy can hit. I think it's a matter of him seeing a lot more left-handers getting confident doing it. There is no reason why he shouldn't be a good hitter against both."
That...seems interesting. As Rosenthal notes, Gennett has been not-good against southpaw pitchers in his major league time, though the sample size is under 100 plate appearances. In 83 plate appearances against left handed pitchers, Gennett has just a .128/.150/.141.
Roenicke says he believes Gennett will improve with more time spent against lefties and it's true that he really can't get any worse. But the thing is, is Gennett has seen more time against left handers, but he couldn't even hit them over most of his minor league career.
|Year||Age||Level||PA vs LHP||Average||OBP||SLG%||OPS|
Gennett started out OK, but any legitimate prospect should be able to hit any handedness of pitcher in Low-A ball. After that, he goes from acceptable versus left handed pitching in High-A to dreadful in the upper minors. Each year, he gets worse and worse as the pitching gets better and better.
Nobody should expect Gennett to continue OPSing .291 against lefties in the majors, but more time isn't going to suddenly make him competent against them. More than likely, he'll struggle against same-handed pitching for the rest of his career; the hope is that he gets good enough that a platoon-mate isn't necessary.
And maybe he will be fine in 2014 as his stats level out a bit. But it's an interesting time to take that chance. The Brewers are fighting talented Cardinals and Pirates teams, along with a revamped Cubs squad. The Reds also are not a bad team. The NL Central will be a battle, and any little advantage the Brewers can get would only help them.
If Gennett fails to prove he can hit lefties, the Brewers could play Luis Jimenez or someone else against lefties if need be. But Jimenez can't be counted upon to do better than, say, free agent Emilio Bonifacio (career .291/.341/.380 line against left handers). The Brewers probably don't have a ton of money to spend, but this would be a clear upgrade.
Doug Melvin was right, though, when he said earlier this off season that the NL Central doesn't have a ton of left handed starters. Jaime Garcia, Jeff Locke, Francisco Liriano are the only lefties that seem sure to make their team's rotations while Travis Wood and Tony Cingrani both also have a shot. The Central is right-heavy.
The Brewers hopefully won't have to face a ton of left-handed pitching this upcoming season. For now, when they do, it seems they're ready to let Scooter Gennett sink or swim against them.