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BCB Mailbag #18: Pie. Always pie.

Happy Friday everyone! Got a question? Leave it in the comments. I probably have an answer. Because I'm a windbag.

Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports

great198 starts us out with a fun one: "In your opinion, how many out of these chosen nine will be in the actual opening day lineup of the 2019 World Series-winning Milwaukee Brewers?
Note: The DH is there because there will be a DH by 2019... or not. Who knows? Disregard the DH, if you'd like.

C - Jacob Nottingham
1B - Ryan Braun
2B - Isan Diaz
3B - Gilbert Lara
SS - Orlando Arcia
LF - Trent Clark
CF - Brett Phillips
RF - Domingo Santana
DH - Clint Coulter"

Okay so the important qualifier here is the opening day lineup of the 2019 World Series. That means we can include prospect that might debut in the middle of 2019. I look at all of these guys and the one I'm most concerned about is Clint Coulter. He's really struggled offensively and if he can't hit well above average, I'm not sure he has a place anywhere but the bench.

There are plenty of questions about Nottingham's ability to catch. But he made big strides last year. And the Brewers really don't have anyone else that is blocking him or will threaten his position as top catching prospect. So I'm pretty confident they expect him to be their long term solution at catcher and will therefore give him every chance to succeed.

I am somewhat concerned about Domingo Santana. I'm intrigued by his upside, but there's a real chance he strikes out too much and never makes enough contact to tap into his power in-game. I'm a huge fan of Michael Reed and honestly think he has a real chance of beating someone out for a position at some point. The weakest link would appear to be Santana, unless we just shift him over to DH. So yeah, let's that. Take out Coulter, slide over Santana, and put Reed in RF.

Speaking of taking out, Ryan Braun might be gone by then via trade. It depends a lot on how he performs this year. If he has a good season I could see the Brewers eating some money to move him for a solid package of prospects. So that leaves a first baseman to find. If Coulter does turn it on, it could be him. Or maybe it'll be someone not in the system yet.

It'll be really interesting to see how all of this shakes out. The guys that are projected to debut in 2019 (Lara, Clark) might not be guaranteed a starting role late in the season. That's something to consider too. But honestly, I think all of these guys have a chance of being a hypothetical playoff roster for the Brewers in 2019--perhaps even with an upgrade or two. That's pretty cool.

roguejim has a followup question from last week: "All these guys that we're talking about (Liriano, Broxton, Flores, Middlebrooks, etc.): I've been thinking of them as potential lineup fixtures for years, if we get lucky. But that's not right, is it? At best, they're all trade bait for younger prospects with higher upside, right?

Of our extensive collection of secondhand, former hotshot prospects, does any have a realistic chance to be starting for the Brewers in 2 years? I'm thinking maybe the better of Cecchini/Middlebrooks, and Colin Walsh, of course, after he steals second base from Scoots. But that might be it."

Well, I think "at best" they are starters. But that's not the likely outcome for most of them. Of the ones that have a shot at becoming regulars, I think Jonathan Villar has the best chance. He hit quite well last year at both AAA and MLB (small sample size). He's never going to be an offensive force. But if he can provide league average or slightly better offensive with his defensive capabilities I think he's a 2-3 win second baseman that steals 40 bases. That's better than Scooter Gennett is right now. And probably more than we can expect from Hernan Perez, Colin Walsh, and Javier Betancourt.

Garin Cecchini has a solid shot at becoming a regular as well. That's in part due to the fact that the Brewers have absolutely no one for third base coming up until mid-2018 at the earliest. And it's still a long shot. He was bad offensively last year and pretty mediocre the year before. I want to believe the Brewers can right the ship, but I honestly don't know if they can. But he's still young enough that he might be able to regain that above average hit tool. And if he can he's the starting third baseman for the near and foreseeable future.

bs81 asks: "Can Zach Jones start the season in the DL? Rule 5 guys can spend 60 days there and still count as being in the roster (Wang did) I just don't know if they can start the season there"

Rule 5 guys have to spend 90 days on the active roster. They can start the season on the disabled list, they just have to get that 90 days in. If they were to end the season on the DL without having accrued that 90 days, they'd still be under the Rule 5 restrictions the following season.

BMG78 asks: "What is this wRC+ stat that you're always referring to? How is it calculated? How is it useful?"

It stands for "weight runs created plus." It's a weighted rate stat. It takes each offensive outcome (BB, 1B, 2B, 3B, HR) and assigns a value to it in percentages of a run. Then it scales to league average. A 100 wRC+ is league average production. Anything above or below 100 wRC+ is a percentage point above or below league average production. So a 110 wRC+ is 10% better than league average and a 90 wRC+ is 10% worse than league average. It is also park and league adjusted so it's very useful in comparing players. You can read more about it on FanGraphs here which also includes the formula by which wRC+ is derived. It's...complicated.

ThatOneGuy1337 asks: "Cake or pie?"

Dude, pie. Always pie. I mean, many cakes are good. Chief among them are carrot cakes as everyone knows. But pies are vastly superior.

drezdn wonders: "How can I win at fantasy baseball this year? How can I suck less at fantasy baseball?"

I love him too but drezdn, you have to stop drafting Tim Dillard 1-1.

AKBrewfan asks: "Does a hot winter ball/ST like Rivera's ever translate to major league success for mildly regarded hitters?"

There are probably isolated cases. But ya know, exceptions that prove the rule and all that.

Focusing on Yadiel Rivera, he is killing it in spring training this year hitting 364/400/818...in 35 plate appearances. Or the equivalent of about 8 games..during which he's facing major league pitchers warming up for the season and minor league pitchers warming up for the season.

On the other hand, in 2672 plate appearances in the minors he hit 244/289/349. And it's not like he was getting much better. Last year in 514 plate appearances between AA and AAA he hit 253/298/331. Guys improve over time, sure. But Yadiel Rivera hasn't shown that he's improving outside an 8 game sample size during spring training and a 20 game sample size in the AFL last year--which is notoriously a hitters environment.

From Twitter:

My favorite under the radar prospect in the Brewer system if Michael Reed. He's finally now starting to get some recognition from national outlets. Kieth Law likes him a lot for example. But I don't think there are a lot of people outside of Milwaukee that know his name. I think there's a real chance he's the starting center fielder before the season ends. But anything can happen.

I still want to believe in Garin Cecchini. If he can right the ship with his hit tool, he could take over third base at some point regardless of what Aaron Hill is doing.

How is he doing health-wise? Fine as far as I know. How is he doing production-wise? He had a nice season for the Brewer last year. I honestly don't know how he's doing in spring training because I literally pay as little attention to spring stats as is humanly possible. He's guaranteed a spot in the bullpen on opening day. But I don't think he closes this year. It's going to be Will Smith and Jeremy Jeffress to start the season. While I do think it's possible each is traded by the deadline, it's probably more likely only one goes. And the one that stays closes the rest of the year. But I do think there's a strong chance Knebel is the closer before the 2017 season ends. Or at least at some point in his Brewers career. He's a very good reliever. He's just young and inexperienced at this stage.

At this point all that's really left to spend on is the international market. There's the first year player draft as well, but they'd spend on that regardless. The good news is I heard the Brewers are really active in scouting players on the international market this year and are expected to land some bigger prospects. I don't know exactly what that means. They may or may not be planning to blow past their spending pool this year. But I'm hoping we see some high profile signings after they signed some less high profile names last time around.

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Thanks for the questions everyone! Start firing away for next week's edition which will come out on April 1st, just 3 days before MLB's opening day!