The Milwaukee Brewers are going about this spring training the right way. Wins and losses are secondary to getting good looks at young prospects, end of the roster candidates, bullpen arms, starting arms, and potential trade candidates (some players fit in more than one category). The team's 3-5 record in Cactus League play (4-5 overall) hides some encouraging performances, but can’t hide some disappointing ones.
Let’s use a little bit different format for the preseason, since the Brewers are doing things differently...
MOST ENCOURAGING: Lots of hitters are off to good to very good starts. The one I find most encouraging is Keon Broxton. I had my fears that his broken wrist from last season would not be fully healed, or would be weak and need further rehabilitation. But Keon has led the team so far with 17 at-bats, and they have been very productive at-bats: a .412/.444/.941 slash with a 1.386 OPS. Two homers and five ribbies.
And that’s a very good thing for Keon, as Domingo Santana, Ryan Cordell, and Lewis Brinson have all been good as well. And Ryan Braun will be the starter in left, so that means those players are fighting (with Kirk Nieuhenhuis) for three spots.
The second-most encouraging player is Scooter Gennett. Scoot is showing off his new-found versatility, playing left field and third base passably and hitting with authority. His slash is .556/.636/.778, giving him a 1.414 OPS. Surely somebody will now be willing to send their best prospect to the Brewers for Scooter! Or, he can join Hernan Perez as a super-utility player and give them a left handed bat on the bench.
MOST DISCOURAGING: A couple of pitchers are not helping their chances, either on the roster or within the system. Michael Blazek has looked much like his late season 2016 self, and Jorge Lopez has been hit hard. They have each made two appearances, and have combined to go 5.1 innings, allowing 12 hits and 11 runs (10 earned). Five walks don’t help, and Blazek has all 3 of the duo's combined k’s.
Naturally, it’s early - pitchers can rebound and hitters can slump. Roster spots can be pre-determined, years of control, left/right balance, etc. so some players won’t make it no matter what they do. The World Baseball Classic further complicates matters. And, of course, injuries...
IMHO: I don’t mind if Lewis Brinson starts the season at AAA. He needs some regular playing time and pitch selection work. But I would prefer Ryan Cordell at the major league level over Captain Kirk. He can play all three outfield spots and has good power. It won’t upset me if this doesn’t happen, but I think it’s a stronger roster. Or maybe a shared spot? Home Kirk and Road Ryan. Besides, you can’t have too many Ryans!
COMMENT OF THE WEEK: Everybody and their sister has been releasing prospect lists and Minor League rankings, and MLP Pipeline included a listing of top ten Brewer prospects from 2011 through this season. This led cheeseandcorn to make this observation about past Milwaukee rankings:
“It’s pretty amazing how bad the Brewers’ system was from 2011-14
I mean, Scooter Gennett was the #4 prospect in the system in 2011. At the time, he was an undersized 20 year old with no prospect pedigree (16th-round pick), who had only played one (pretty good) year of pro ball, in low-A ball. a prospect with that profile would probably be right on the edge of the Brewers’ top 30 now.”
Perhaps not even that high.
Time to sweep the week and get back into the Cactus Cup race!