A week of not-so-close games saw the Milwaukee Brewers drop four of six and find themselves in second place, 2½ games back of the division rival Chicago Cubs in the Cactus League standings. The two closest games were two run losses, and the two Brewer wins were 10-6 over the Royals and 9-2 over the Rockies yesterday.
Probably the biggest question that the Brewers are trying to answer this spring is who will fill out the starting rotation. We learned some things this week both on and off the field, with the revelation that Junior Guerra actually has an option left perhaps having an impact on who breaks camp with the club. So...
TOP PITCHING STORY: How did those starting pitchers do? Well, Zach Davies didn’t pitch, missing a start with a mild oblique strain. It appears that it truly isn’t serious, and barring any setbacks we should see him on the mound again soon. I would expect that he will more or less be starting over with a one or two inning stint, but we shall see.
Those that did pitch had mixed results:
- Jhoulys Chacin went 2.2 innings, allowing 2 runs, 1 earned
- Wade Miley worked into the fourth, totaling 3.2 innings, 3 runs, 0 earned
- Junior Guerra worked 4 full innings and allowed 2 runs, 1 earned...man, the Brewers seem to have been infected with allowing unearned runs after having scored a bunch to start the spring training season
- Chase Anderson had a 3.2 inning outing and was touched for 4 (all earned!) by the D’Backs
- In the same game, Aaron Wilkerson was hit hard in 1.1 innings, coughing up five earned runs. And he was hit hard; there was nothing cheap.
- Yovani Gallardo had a 3 inning stint and allowed two earned runs.
- Brandon Woodruff did not pitch this week, and his 2.73 WHIP and .450 BAA don’t look very good, but he has been working on adding a curve ball...maybe he’s now working on it in the pen instead of on the mound.
- Brent Suter looked very good yesterday against a mostly AAA Rockies lineup, going 4 innings of 2 hit, shutout ball. He did have to face Nolan Arenado, who had a bloop single off of the right field line in the first and a weak check swing grounder in the fourth. Suter also picked off a runner at first.
Of those fighting for the last two spots, Suter has looked very good and would seem to have an inside track on a spot. It would be nice to have a lefty in the rotation. Miley is also a lefty, and has pitched well, but will have to really impress as he is not a member of the 40 man roster. Of course, when the Brewers get down to their final 25 man outfit, it seems possible that Jesus Aguilar might have to be dealt or DFA’d, which would open a spot.
Gallardo has been meh, Wilkerson is most likely going to Colorado Springs, and my guess is that Woodruff will also begin the season at the Springs, although working on a curve ball there would be problematical. Junior Guerra has pitched well enough to be seriously considered if Miley isn’t kept, and his remaining option doesn’t have to be used at the start of the season. If he struggles, he could always be swapped out later for whichever of Wilkerson or Woodruff is pitching well. Hard to see Gallardo going to AAA, but if the Brewers DFA’d him and nobody else were to give him a major league deal he might just take the assignment.
And all of this assumes that David Stearns is being forthcoming when he tells us that no further additions are in the team’s plans.
Honorable Mention: Yesterday’s 2⁄3 of an inning continued a rough spring for Corey Knebel. He hasn’t been particularly sharp, having only totaled 2.1 innings with a WHIP of 2.14 and an ERA of 15.43. Then yesterday he left after “tweaking” a knee on the wet mound. It’s hard to get overly concerned about the Brewers’ closer with such a small sample, but I’d feel better with a few good outings and a confirmation that the knee thing is truly insignificant.
TOP HITTING STORY: Lorenzo Cain has hit the ground hitting (see what I did there?) this spring. It’s like he’s good at it or something. His slash of .458/.480/.583, OPS 1.063, will look pretty darn good at the top of the Brewers’ order. I’m not sure which of Christian Yelich or Cain will hit first; I thought perhaps Cain second because of Yelich’ tendency to be more of a groundball hitter and therefore more susceptible to the double play, but over the past four seasons Yelich has hit into 55 and Cain 63.
In any case, they both have looked good and both seem to be what the Brewers were looking for this off season.
Honorable Mention: Would Ji-Man Choi be a better left-handed option at first base than Eric Thames? Thames had a solid first season last year with Milwaukee, but has looked more like mid-season Thames than April Thames so far this spring. His stated goal of seeing more pitches is perhaps holding him back, but Choi’s slash of .350/.481/.700, OPS of 1.181 is impressive, and his defensive work around the bag has looked solid and more natural than Thames. Choi will be 27 in May, so he should be hitting his prime.
Whether he is a better option or not, it is exceedingly likely that he will begin the season at AAA Colorado Springs with Eric Thames on the 25 man roster. But hey - that’s what spring training is all about; getting excited over small sample size stats.
IMHO: I truly don’t understand adding Cain and Yelich and not taking the step of adding another starting pitcher. If Jimmy Nelson were healthy I could see the logic...in fact, I would be extremely excited about this season...now I’m only excited. Either Jake Arrieta or Alex Cobb is likely to be a tad better than Guerra, Miley, Wilkerson, or Woodruff. Is it possible to sign Arrieta to a one year deal? Scott Boras clients Mike Moustakas, Carlos Gonzalez, and Carlos Gomez have all signed one year deals. Yeah, none of them are in the same stratosphere as Jake, but a significant one year deal (say, $30 mil), and a player option for enough to protect Arrieta from a down year, would then allow him to hit the FA market again next season and get his contract then...although it would probably not be for as long as he was planning on for his deal this season...unless he were to win a Cy Young in Milwaukee.
But you know what? I’d put in a nice bonus for a Cy Young award. I’m pretty sure that none of the candidates that Jake would bump would have a chance at that.
It would also mean that there would be considerably less pressure on Nelson to return right away. And if he did, and was anywhere near last season’s level, well...yippee.
Would that put the Brewers over their salary level goal this season? Yup. But they’ve been significantly under it, and at the bottom of the league, for two seasons. And of course, it’s not my money.
It just might also put the Brewers over the hump not just for a play-off spot, but perhaps some series wins in those play-offs.
COMMENT OF THE WEEK: Davies’ injury, minor as it is reported to be, nonetheless alarmed BCB readers. With the length of time oblique injuries have kept major leaguers out of action recently (see Anderson, Chase), it is understandable. icelandreliant spoke for us all:
He’ll be out for like three months now. Must have been in batting practice, knowing our pitchers.
Paging Alex Cobb and Lance Lynn’s agents…
I will NOT calm down!
Hopefully we will see Zach back on the hill this week.
Have a great week, and perhaps we’ll be discussing a pitching addition next week after David Stearns reads my IMHO section and is overwhelmed by my logic. Or perhaps just whelmed.
Caveat: I am prone to delusions of grandeur.