Thursday, March 28, 2013

Position By Position - Shortstop

What do you get when you cross a piano with a hippopotamus?

...I don't know, but it's probably easier to think about the Brewers shortstop situation.

Jean Segura

Okay, so maybe that was a bit of an over-dramatic opening. Shortstop isn't THAT complicated for this team. But, it certainly gets a little murky on the depth chart after this guy.

My first exposure to Segura was through the twitter account of one Adam Foster (@AdamWFoster), a currently inactive writer for Project Prospect. For a period of time, it seemed like Foster would get one question a day from Angels fans on the transition of Segura to shortstop, to which he would respond that many early reports were positive.

"Built a little like Rickie Weeks, Segura is a high-energy talent with swagger, an aggressive approach at the plate and surprisingly smooth defensive actions given his build. He has quick feet and a quick exchange."

Foster wrote that in November of 2011, before Segura made the full transition to shortstop. But even then, he believed Segura could be average defensively at the position.

And really, that's all he needs to be with the Brewers. The offensive promise he brings is good enough to make up for any setbacks defensively, especially if he can make a few plays like this from time to time.


The Brewers will certainly be hoping to see a bit of that offense come to fruition this season after a rather ho-hum debut last year. As it was, he already appeared to be getting more comfortable down the stretch by posting a .785 OPS in September/October, which was worlds better than the putrid .489 he recorded in August. He's still a rookie, too. Let's not forget that even demi-god Mike Trout had a .296 wOBA after his first 40 games in 2011.

Given time, Segura could provide a nice burst to the top of the lineup with his above-average speed, good contact ability and surprising power. He probably won't ever be a 20-home run hitter the way J.J. Hardy was, but I don't think it's out of line to expect a few double-digit homer seasons from him during his time with Milwaukee. That might be asking a lot this year, but maybe one day soon.

I thought about doing a profile of Yuniesky Betancourt, but the mere idea of it made me want to go  cry alone in a corner while shoveling down a box of chocolate chip cookies.

So I did it anyway.

Yuniesky Betancourt
There isn't too much to say about ol' Yuni that we don't already know. He's an awful shortstop, and a pretty bad hitter to boot (he posted a 73 wRC+ in over 200 games from 2011-12). But alas, as things stand right now with Alex Gonzalez manning first base, he's likely to see a little time spelling the Brewers young starting shortstop.

I don't know if there's anyone who rightfully draws the fury of fans with their poor play more than Betancourt. I'm still in awe he started as many games at shortstop as he did 2011 (152!!!). He had his moments, sure, but I'm not about to .gif that behind-the-back flip you'll be seeing 80 times next month on FS-Wisconsin. No, instead I've decided I'm going to show you this one to inspire everyone out there to pray like hell nothing happens to any of the current infielders on this team.

But hey, it's not all doom and gloom with Yuni. After all, he did hit .299 one month...right?


The Other Guys:

Alex Gonzalez
Jeff Bianchi
Josh Prince

Eventually, Gonzalez will be expected to reclaim his main utility infielder role once Hart returns from the DL, and it's reasonable to expect him to see most of the reps at shortstop then whenever Segura needs an off day. Gonzalez was a great shortstop for a long time, and is probably still just above average today. Heck, even after knee surgery, he may still be better than Segura there. He's an ideal backup candidate, bringing good pop and solid glove off the bench whenever he's needed. Bianchi and Prince may see time eventually, with Bianchi likely a better candidate than Prince at this point. Bianchi has hit well in the minors, but hasn't shown much yet at the major league level.

It's hard to say who will play where all year, especially once Hart returns from the DL. The hope has to be that Segura plays well enough to not need much time off early on, and that when he finally does, Gonzalez is back in the role the team signed him to play.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Brewers bring back Betancourt

Tuesday was a dark day for Brewers fans. Actually, it's been a dark couple of days, depending on whether you strongly hate or just hate the Kyle Lohse signing. The Brewers brought back a familiar face in Yuniesky Betancourt (pronounced Un-tal-en-ted Sh-it-bag), who'll serve as a utility infielder with Taylor Green hitting the DL with a hip issue and Jeff Bianchi having his own hip problems (those geezers). Yuni just opted out of a minor league deal with the Phillies, a team that employs Ryan Howard, Michael Young, Delmon Young, Chad Durbin, Kevin Frandsen and Michael Martinez, yet found Yuni just too shitty to commit to for the 2013 season. If traditional stats are your thing, you'll note that Betancourt has been a flaming train wreck of a player throughout his career. If advanced stats are your thing, you'll note that Betancourt's career is a nuclear disaster on top of a flaming train wreck that also happens to have killed a litter of kittens.

Betancourt "served" as the team's "shortstop" during their 2011 playoff run, and spent 2012 as a part-time statue for a dominant Kansas City Royals squad. Hopefully, Betancourt will see minimal at-bats and be the the sacrificial lamb when Green and/or Corey Hart return from injury, but maybe the baseball gods hate us and he'll see 400 at-bats somehow. But let's leave on a happy note. Here's a Yuni highlight!

Monday, March 25, 2013

Brewers sign Kyle Lohse; a novella

Doug Melvin is on a train. He doesn't yet know he's on a train, because he's asleep. The train shudders on the track and Melvin awakens. He's confused. "Why am I on a train?", he mutters to himself. His head aches and throbs, as if he is hung over. He looks out the window and sees desert. Sparse vegetation and a couple rock formations. It reminds him of the cover of "The Joshua Tree". "That was a great album", he thinks, the song "Bullet the Blue Sky" now stuck in his head. Bono's imaginary voice soothes the piercing pain in his head.

Then his brain snaps back into focus. He still doesn't know what he's doing on a train, or where he's going. He reaches for his phone, hoping for some clarity. Unfortunately, he isn't getting any reception. But his Blackberry reminds him that his text messages are full, which seems odd. He begins opening the messages one-by-one, and his look of confusion gives way to a look of horror. Fellow front-office personnel, baseball writers, and friends have flooded his inbox. Most say some variation of  "Lohse, huh?" or "Well, someone had to do it!" A few seem positive, such as "Not a bad get!" or "You got a discount!", but even more say "I don't know man" or "Seems like a hefty price". Then there's the messages from his wife Ellen, a seemingly endless stream of variations of "Where are you?!"

He begins to piece things together. He remembers going out to dinner the previous evening with his boss, Mark Attanasio. He remembers the waiter being somewhat incompetent, forgetting things and going long periods without checking on their table. Mark seemed really chatty, and a little nervous. He remembers drinking wine. A lot of wine. And then...nothing. He woke up on a train heading to God knows where, and a phone full of ominous text messages regarding a pitcher he had little interest in.

"Did I make a deal with Lohse while drunk last night?" he thinks to himself. No, there's no way. Melvin wanted no part of Lohse, especially surrendering a draft pick to do so. Lohse was a decent enough pitcher, but Melvin was set on going with the younger guys. This all had to be an elaborate prank. Melvin chuckles to himself a little. "Good one, Mark." he says to no one. Suddenly his phone dings. He has a voicemail from Ellen, which means he now has reception. He quickly calls Attanasio.

Mark - "Hello?"
Doug - "Yeah Mark, it's me. Good one. You got me real good. Got me drunk and had everyone pretend that I signed Lohse"
(Mark doesn't say anything)
Doug - "I don't know where you sent me, but you're playing for the ticket home. And boo for not telling Ellen, she seemed clueless!" (laughs)
Mark - "Um Doug, there was no prank"
"We really did sign Lohse"
"Well, I signed Lohse, but I needed you out of the picture, at least temporarily. Just so I could get the deal done without hassle."
"You're probably around New Mexico by now, but don't worry, once you get there there'll be a return ticket waiting for you."
"You know I want to win, Doug. And the poor guy couldn't stay out there forever, you know? I kinda felt bad for him. And Scott."
"You felt BAD for them?! Mark, we have to give up our first round pick!"
"I know, but, I mean, what's the likelihood of that pick turning out? I need to sell tickets here, Doug."
"So wait, hold on. Am I fired? Are you just taking over? I just signed an extension. We have a deal, man."
"Oh no, no. Nothing like that. I just planned on getting the Lohse deal done, you're still my guy. I just wanted to get it done as quickly as possible, you know. I knew you'd just exacerbate things."
"Look, Doug, we needed the arm, and look at the bright side. Wily can start in the minors, and we get some extra service time. And we stole a guy from the Cardinals! You know I love that."
"But we basically give a pick back to them.
"What the f.....okay, how much, Mark."
"Not that much. It was a steal, really."
"How much?!"
"Look, that budget thing was only a leveraging thing, right? So..."
".....three years, 33 million. The Cards get the 28th pi..."

Doug Melvin jumps off a train.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Brewers By Position - Catcher

A position where the Brewers have depth?! WHAT IS THIS NEW DEVILRY?

Jonathan Lucroy

Lucroy was one of the biggest surprises in baseball during the 2012 season, spraying line drives all over the field and putting up a 138 wRC+  with 12 dingers in 346 plate appearances. It might have been even more awesome had Lucroy not suffered a broken hand in a bizarre hotel-room incident involving a suitcase and his wife. Luc was thought of as a bat-first catcher coming up through the system, but was just okay in his first two seasons and if anything was more impressive defensively. Last year brought a refined approach and a better swing, striking out way less and hitting more fly balls as well as a willingness to go to the opposite field.

It's easy to point at his .338 BABIP and say "well, he got lucky, he'll regress", but that's lazy analysis. When a player sees a BABIP spike (and not a huge one, in Lucroy's case), the reaction should be finding out WHY it was high before declaring luck as the culprit. The reason his BABIP was high is he leveled out his swing and also swung at better pitches. Miraculously, his well-hit average soared by 46 points. He squared up the ball way more often, cutting his swinging strike numbers and not only hitting more fly balls but maintaining a solid line drive rate to boot. He improved as a hitter overall, and its possible that even further development is in store. He can even run the bases a little bit (for a catcher), which isn't nothing.

Defensively, Lucroy is rock solid. His mediocre throwing arm will prevent him from being Molina-level behind the plate, he's pretty much a wizard in every other form of catcher defense. His pitch-framing is already at a legendary status, ranking fourth in baseball in this pitch-framing study despite only playing for two partial years at the time (the study covered six seasons). He's also excellent at blocking pitches and pitchers seem to enjoy working with him (except for Randy Wolf, but screw him). All told, Luc is quickly developing into the total package.
.285/.340/.430, 16 HR, 4 SB

                                                                                                    my god

Martin Maldonado

Unlike Lucroy, Maldonado is already an elite defender. Also unlike Luc, Maldonado's bat leaves a little something to be desired. Called upon as the starting catcher while Luc was sidelined with the hand injury, Martin got off to a great start at the plate while providing superb defensive chops behind it. All told, his .266/.321/.408 line was nothing to sneeze at, but going forward it's more likely he settles around the .220-ish hitter he was in the minors. He has solid power and has some plate discipline, which is really all you can ask of a backup. Defensively, you name it, he's got it. Excellent pitch-framer, laser throwing arm, pitchers love him. Despite the limited bat, he's probably good enough overall as a player to start for a major league team at some point.
.215/.285/.340, 7 HR, 0 SB

Blake Lalli
A former Cub farmhand, Lalli was brought in on a minor-league deal and will serve as the team's third catcher, probably starting for AAA Nashville. He's raised some eyebrows by hitting well during Spring Training, but it's Spring Training so the first part of this sentence is now worthless. He's acceptable defensively and can hit a tiny bit, but has little power. If he sees time in the majors it will be because of injury.
.230/.275/.300, 0 HR, 0 SB

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Brewers By Position - Third Base

I don't like writing intros and I don't think I'm good at it. So here's third base.

Aramis Ramirez

It's tough to know what to do with Ramirez. When the Brewers originally signed him prior to the 2012 season, it looked like a bad deal for a player on the decline. A couple months into the season, it looked like a really bad deal, as Ramirez was hitting just above the Mendoza line and sporting a ghoulish 71 wRC+. He started playing a little better in May, and then starting in June, exploded all over everyone's face. By the end of the year, he had put up what was quite possibly the best season of his 15-year career. He also managed to be much better than advertised defensively, even entering the conversation for a Gold Glove, for whatever that's worth. He somehow stole a career-high nine bases, although to call him a good baserunner is to lie. While a decline from last season is inevitable, there's not a whole lot of precedent for a 34-year old putting up a career year on both sides of the ball.

                                                                          Goddamn right "Wow"

Even with some regression, Ramirez should still be a very good hitter, albeit a unique one. His plate discipline is pretty bizarre, as he's extremely aggressive and swings at too many pitches outside the strike zone, but is pretty comfortable when behind in the count and doesn't strike out very much. When he wants to, he can work the count and take a walk. His BABIP has seen some pretty intense fluctuations over the years, which is to be expected from a high-contact, bad ball hitter who's not fast. His walk rates have also seen quite a bit of variation, so that makes projecting any kind of hitting line difficult. He's also a predictive quagmire defensively. He's been bad most of his career but has put up a couple decent seasons (including last year). His range is obviously not good, but he's tremendous at charging and bare-handing the ball, robbing infield hits and bunt attempts. His arm is pretty strong, but how accurate it'll be year to year is anyone's guess. 
.290/.350/.475, 23 HR, 4 SB

Everyone else
Taylor Green
Jeff Bianchi
Donnie Murphy
Bobby Crosby nope
Alex Gonzalez

None of these guys will see much time unless Ramirez gets hurt or traded. Third base is Green's natural position, so if Aramis misses time for any reason Green will probably see the lion's share of playing time. Bianchi saw some innings there in 2012 but is more of a shortstop. I think I've made my feelings on Murphy and Gonzalez pretty clear. Crosby was given a mercy killing taken out back like Ol' Yeller ritually sacrificed released yesterday.

Aramis Ramirez .gif courtesy of Carson Cistulli

Monday, March 18, 2013

"Let's Talk Prospects" – Johnny Hellweg

Johnny D. Hellweg

  • Born: 10/29/1988
  • Hometown: Ann Arbor, MI
  • Height: 6'9
  • Weight: 210 lbs
  • College: Florida CC
  • Selected by the Angels in the 16th round (499th overall) of the 2008 Amateur Draft; acquired by the Brewers via trade July of 2012 in exchange for RHP Zack Greinke.
  • Finished last year with: AA Huntsville Stars
  •  Bats/Throws: R/R


Hailing from the Wolverine State, Hellweg first attracted the attention of major league eyes when he was attending high school in O'Fallon, Missouri. The big right-hander was drafted in the 46th round of the 2007 MLB Draft by the Florida Marlins, but did not sign; he decided instead to go to Florida Community College for a year to up his draft stock. He was then drafted again the following year, this time in the 16th round by the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. After topping out at 91 mph with his fastball as senior in high school, Hellweg's velocity has grown by leaps and bounds, and has carried his prospect status with him. Hellweg was recorded throwing 93 mph in Rookie ball, but most recently has been clocked hitting triple-digits.

In addition to his big arm, Hellweg's success as a starter over the past two seasons has also helped increase his stock quite a bit. He threw a career high 119 innings over 29 games (23 starts) last year in AA, compiling a 3.29 ERA and striking out 105 in the process. The Brewers obviously took notice of Hellweg's development, as they asked for him to be included as one of three players in a trade package for pitcher Zack Greinke this past summer. Hellweg finished out 2012 pitching in the Arizona Fall League, posting a 2.08 ERA over 9 appearances.

Scouting report:

Hellweg has the kind of profile that teams dream of – tall, durable, throws hard – but unfortunately doesn't have the command needed at this point to fully utilize those attributes. Simply put: Hellweg walks too many batters. When a pitcher is as long as he is, he needs to control a lot more movement with his body than the average guy. This was an issue for Randy Johnson as well, who averaged over a 5.5 BB/9 during his first 4 full seasons in the majors.

That's not saying that anyone should expect Hellweg to be another Johnson; only that their large builds bred similar issues. Aside from body size, though, the other attribute Hellweg shares with Big Unit is a plus-plus fastball a pitch that Hellweg will occasionally hit 100 mph with. With an above-average curveball as well to keep hitters off balance, the stuff is certainly there for Hellweg to play some sort of impact role at the major league level. The only questions lies in where that spot will be.

What's ahead:

Hellweg was recently optioned to AAA Nashville, and is slated to begin the season there as a part of the starting rotation. He'll likely to get ample time to try and harness his command, too, with there being virtually no rush for him to join the major league rotation anytime soon. If he is called up to the big league club this year, tempered expectations say that it will be later on in the season, and likely just seeing time out of the bullpen.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Brewers By Position - Second Base

We continue our Brewers forecast by looking at a position that's not first base. Thank God I don't have to write about first base again.

Rickie Weeks

Weeks was unspeakably bad for about the first half of the 2012 season, both in the field and at the plate. He was easily one of the worst players if not the worst player in baseball for the first couple months. Fortunately, a baseball season is comprised of two halves and Rickie righted the ship somewhere around mid-June and looked like his old self again. At the end of the year, he boasted (?) a wRC+ of 100, meaning after all was said and done he managed to be an average hitter. Like Hart, we have a pretty good understanding of what Weeks is. Lots of walks and strikeouts, good power, some steals, and defense that fluctuates between below average and very bad. He's often labeled as "injury-prone", but played 160 games in 2010 and 157 in 2012, sandwiching a fluke ankle injury that limited him to 118 games in 2011. Despite his flaws he's one of the best second basemen in the National League.
.245/.350/.450, 22 HR, 15 SB

Scooter Gennett

Gennett is one of the Brewers' "top" "prospects", but with Weeks entrenched at the pivot it seems highly unlikely that we see much of Gennett short of a September cameo. Gennett is a hit-first second baseman that needs work defensively. Despite his small (5'10, 165) stature, Gennett could grow into some power which would nicely supplement his already present hit tool. If that doesn't happen, he's basically an empty-average hitter who doesn't walk. Think Ryan Theriot. Then try not to cry.
.275/.310/.350, 1 HR, 2 SB

Also featuring;
Taylor Green 
Bobby Crosby
Alex Gonzalez
Donnie Murphy

Welp. Green had a couple web gem-type moments at second last year but ideally should only be an emergency option. He's not exactly a natural there. Crosby and Murphy are both awful bats that can field, but still, yuck. Gonzalez has never played second but I don't really doubt his fielding potential there. If any of these guys see significant time at second then it means the world has ended. 

Monday, March 11, 2013

SEASON PREVIEW; Brewers by position - First Base

The baseball season is near, and excitement and wonderment fills the air! Every team's fanbase (besides the Astros) is anxious to see their team exceed expectations and achieve that miracle season. So naturally, with all the excitement about, I'll begin our Brewers season preview by looking at the team's most boring position; first base.

During the positional section of our previews, I'll list all the players that are most likely to make an impact at that position, and give an approximation of what numbers I expect from them. I should preface this by saying that I don't like predicting individual numbers, as it's impossible to know how much playing time Hunter Morris will get or whether or not Corey Hart will get traded. But I'll do it anyway, to make it a little more interesting. It should be noted that the numbers I'm predicting for Alex Gonzalez and Taylor Green include what they'll put up at other positions, too. I'm not expecting 34 home runs out of the first base position. So anyway...

First Base
Corey Hart

                                                             Like a caveman swinging a toothpick, he is                         
Hart is who he is at this point, which is a power-hitting 3-4 WAR first baseman who strikes out a lot, walks sometimes, and can go through ridiculous hot streaks. He's also aging, which is partially why he's at first base in the first place (attn. Dr. Seuss). Defensively, his range isn't much, but seriously how many first baseman have range anyways? His glove is pretty good there regardless. He'll miss the first month or two of the season recovering from knee surgery and he's in the last year of his deal, so the team would do well to trade him as soon as he's healthy and producing. There were extension talks during the offseason but those have appeared to die down. The numbers below reflect what he'd produce during the entire season, but I doubt it's all in Milwaukee.
.265/.340/.500, 20 HR, 3 SB

Alex Gonzalez

                                                           Pictured: Alex Gonzalez. Not pictured: first base

Gonzo has never played anywhere besides shortstop during his major-league career, which is frankly amazing. But he'll start the 2013 season at first base while Hart recovers and Mat Gamel mourns, which is both amusing and a little sad. He has power and some contact ability but doesn't walk. Gonzalez's bat plays fine at SS, but first base holds a much higher standard that he can't possibly meet. He was a slick fielder at his natural position, but there's no telling how his glove will play at first. After Hart returns, he'll probably continue to see occasional at-bats as a utility infielder.
.250/.290/.390, 7 HR, 2 SB

Taylor Green

                                                                        So dreamy. So Canadian.

Green will fill a utility role and will probably see some platoon time at first. For the most part, his Triple-A raking hasn't shown itself in the majors, though it's hard to take too much stock in what amounts to less than 150 career plate appearances. His glove will probably be okay, but his bat doesn't profile at first base even under the most rosy scenarios. He doesn't have a lot of power and his plate discipline needs some work.
.260/.310/.390, 4 HR, 1 SB

Hunter Morris
                                                            I vote we nickname him "Hunter-Killer Drone"

I've written about Hunter recently, and there's no doubt he's the real wild card here. He probably won't break camp with the team, but if he mashes in AAA he could force the team's hand with Corey Hart. If nothing else, he should see some September at-bats.
.235/.280/.380, 3 HR, 0 SB