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BCB Mailbag 12: Catchers, Ceilings, and the Milwaukee Bucks

Answering the burning questions from you, the reader.

NBA: Milwaukee Bucks at Minnesota Timberwolves Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

Another week in the books, and another week closer to baseball season. Let’s get to your questions:

great198 asks:

Who will win a world championship for Milwaukee first - the Brewers or the Bucks?

And how many will the Packers win before either of them do?

As much as I love the Brewers and am excited about how their rebuild has been going, I’ll give the nod to the Bucks here. They’re a couple years ahead of where the Brewers are now. Let’s say that Giannis and Jabari are sort of akin to Josh Hader and Lewis Brinson for the Brewers - the guys that everyone is hoping will be stars and carry their team to a championship. Giannis is now blossoming into a superstar, and Jabari is taking steps towards becoming a star in his own right - but those guys have already been playing against the best in their sport for two or three years. The Brewers’ young guns will likely still have to go through those “growing pains” years before the team is a legitimate contender, and this could be the last “growing pain” year for the Bucks before they really take off.

I’ll refrain from discussing the Packers at this time to avoid jinxing their chances this weekend.

ajt131 asks:

What will be the Brewers 2017 starting pitching rotation to begin the year?

Bonus question: Who will be the opening day starter?

Well, if you’ve read my work (if you can call it that) for any length of time, you should know I’m rather partial to Junior Guerra. After his season last year, if he’s healthy I don’t know how you don’t give him the Opening Day nod.

Zach Davies will slot in behind him, of course, and Chase Anderson should have a spot safe in the starting rotation. It’s a toss-up for those last two spots, though, with Jimmy Nelson, Wily Peralta, Matt Garza, and Tommy Milone all having pretty significant question marks. I’ll side with youth and possible upside here, though, and say that Nelson and Peralta slide into those final two openings. Milone is the lefty in the bullpen to start the year and maybe Garza starts on the DL again.

drezdn asks:

Who do you see winning the starter catcher spot?

I’ve got to imagine that right now, Andrew Susac is the favorite to be the starting backstop. He’s got the prospect pedigree and has already shown flashes of the ability to be a capable starting catcher at the big league level, with a career .239/.309/.412 slash (104 wRC+) and 7 homers in 262 plate appearances in the majors. He was a big part of the return for one the Brewers’ most valuable trade assets in Will Smith, and according to he is out of minor league options and can’t be sent to the minors without clearing waivers first.

Speaking of minor league options, it appears that Manny Pina is out of them as well. That could give him a leg up on the backup catching job over Jett Bandy, who has one minor league option remaining. I’m not certain why the club would choose to carry someone like Pina on the 40 man all winter just to DFA him during/after spring training, but then again David Stearns has made some head-scratching 40 man decisions this winter.

Aaron128 asks:

What Brewers pitching prospect has the highest ceiling and what is his ceiling?

For me, this is a toss-up between Josh Hader and Luis Ortiz. They’re two very different types of pitchers. Hader’s a lefty, of course, and is more of the “outstanding stuff” kind of guy with two potentially dominant offerings in his fastball and slider, but still has questions to answer about his changeup, his delivery, and his control. Ortiz has four average-or-better offerings - fastball, slider, curveball, and changeup - in his arsenal to go along with advanced control and command of the strike zone. His stuff doesn’t blow scouts away like Hader’s does, and his conditioning may be a question down the road.

I’d say that Ortiz is probably a safer bet to stick as a starting pitcher, but Hader probably has a bit higher of a ceiling. If everything goes right, though, both could be #3 or possibly #2 types of arms in the rotation.

Ullsperj asks:

Is David Stearns done for the offseason?

And if so, how did you think the offseason went? Best/worst move? What still needs to be done?

Now that a closer has been signed in Neftali Feliz, I think we’ve probably seen the end of the “major” transactions for the Brewers this winter. From everything I’ve seen/heard/read, it seems like a safe bet that Ryan Braun will begin the year in left field with Milwaukee. If a deal with the Dodgers was going to get done, I’d have to imagine it would’ve have been completed by now. It doesn’t appear there’s really a market for Scooter, either, though a deal involving him as the ‘headliner’ could hardly be classified as earth-shattering. We’ll probably see more deals like the one we saw yesterday with Joba Chamberlain signing a minor league deal; Stearns will look to fortify the bullpen and bench depth with some veterans who’ll compete for spots in spring training but probably begin the year in the minor leagues.

Overall, I think this winter went pretty well. I’d say the best move was dealing Tyler Thornburg to the Red Sox; Travis Shaw can easily replace the lost WAR from Thornburg simply by being two-win third baseman, and we control him for five years versus three with Thorny. Any production from Mauricio Dubon (who’s gotten a lot of praise this winter) and Josh Pennington beyond that is just gravy that would further tilt the deal in Milwaukee’s favor. The worst move, in my opinion, was the bungling of the 40 man roster that lead to the loss of Miguel Diaz, and there have already had plenty of arguments on here about that series of events.

I’m happy to see Braun and Junior Guerra still wearing the ball-in-glove on their caps (knock on wood) and am very intrigued by what level of production Eric Thames might bring. There’s upside potential all over the big league roster, and that’s even before you consider the advanced prospects in the upper levels of the minors. Given all of that, I think Milwaukee has assembled a very compelling group of players heading into the 2017 Championship Season.

Statistics courtesy of Fangraphs