It’s the final day of 2012.
This was a year which saw the Milwaukee Brewers attempt (unsuccessfully) to defend a division championship for the first time since 1983. It was the first time that the Brewers featured their very own defending league Most Valuable Player since 1990. They entered the season with an intact rotation which used the fewest different arms (6) to make all 162 starts. Arguably the league’s most fearsome bullpen back-end was returning as well with only a couple of key veterans taking jobs elsewhere. And sure, Prince Fielder followed the money to Detroit but this was going to be Mat Gamel’s breakout year and Aramis Ramirez would pick up most of the slack…at least once May rolled around, he would.
Alas, we all know how things turned out in 2012 so I shan’t recap the trials, tribulations, trade, and triumphs that resulted in 83 victories a year after winning a franchise-record 96 games.
No, for this column we look forward. We look forward to 2013. We look forward to P&C. We look much too far forward to Opening Day with this set of projections.
If the season started tomorrow, the following things would be true:
- I’d be extremely happy that I wouldn’t have to still be counting down to Opening Day (91 days as of this writing).
- I’d be extremely cold while tailgating outside of Miller Park for a few hours on my wife’s birthday.
- I’d have failed miserably in posting my season preview “Brewers By the Jersey Numbers” articles.
But really, I’m posting today to take a look at how the current roster stacks up and what I think a 25-man roster would look like when the games started counting.
I gotta tell you all that I would normally not make this projection for quite some time but with Doug Melvin’s declaration that they were “coming to the end” of acquiring free agents (or however he exactly worded it), chances are the majority of options at the team’s disposal today are going to be the same options they are presented with in 43 days when Pitchers and Catchers officially report.
Of course, and it should go without needing to be said, a ton can change between now and then anyway despite appearances. Somebody could be traded. Somebody could be signed as a veteran backup where currently only inexperience resides. Somebody could injure themselves in a pickup basketball game. Et cetera. But if we accounted for every “if” that we could, nobody would ever project anything. That’s simply not much fun.
Assuming everyone is through rehab successfully, here is how my 25-man roster would look if the season started tomorrow. (Players listed alphabetically within their position group.)
Starting Pitchers (5)
- Marco Estrada
- Mike Fiers
- Yovani Gallardo
- Chris Narveson*
- Mark Rogers
I know what you’re thinking. “Free Wily Peralta!” I agree that he’s likely one of the best five options available to fill a spot in the rotation but based on the necessary evil of depth maintenance and with respect to the rules on minor league options, this just feels like the rotation that will head north from Arizona. Gallardo is a lock. Estrada was mentioned more than once this off-season as having an advantage in the competition. (He also isn’t hurt by the fact that his manager really likes his pitching.) Fiers did more than enough throughout most the season to be given a shot from the get. After adding two left-handed relievers to the bullpen, sticking Narveson in there doesn’t make sense anymore (if it ever did). Rogers is out of options and I really want to see him get a shot to contribute as a starting pitcher. He won’t make it through waivers to Nashville. Peralta has options remaining and that’s what this should come down to. Don’t doubt for a minute though that if Fiers struggles for a few starts early and it appears that the end of 2012 was due to being “figured out” more so than simply fatigue, he’ll be optioned down to Nashville in favor of the young Dominican.
Tyler Thornburg will get a look this spring but I feel like they don’t want to mess with him as a reliever this year at all. They’ll give him a full season starting in Triple-A. Hopefully with the regular and steady work he was used to, he’ll be able to avoid the arm fatigue that slowed his development in 2012. Hiram Burgos, just added to the 40-man roster, should also pitch in games in big league camp to start the spring, but after skyrocketing through the system this year, he’ll be in Nashville’s rotation when camp breaks.
Relief Pitchers (7)
- John Axford (Closer)
- Burke Badenhop
- Mike Gonzalez*
- Tom Gorzelanny*
- Jim Henderson
- Brandon Kintzler
- Michael Olmsted
One open spot for competition. Many feel that the aforementioned Peralta should be in the rotation and that either Narveson or Rogers will become the default long reliever as a effect. For me, the final spot in the ‘pen will come down to one of the recent high-ceiling additions which Melvin and his staff have picked up this off-season. If I had my druthers, Michael Olmsted gets first crack at it. Spring Training performance might dictate that he isn’t ready for the jump over Triple-A, and this might be specifically adjusted in March, but based on minor league numbers, projectability, and stuff, Olmsted appears to be at the top of the influx of opportunity-seekers. Olmsted is already on the 40-man roster too, something that would come into play should someone like a Jairo Asencio continue to impress.
Last year’s swingman Josh Stinson has an option remaining so he’ll head to the minors. Likewise Miguel De Los Santos. One other note, as of this posting the Mike Gonzalez deal still hadn’t been made official. When it is, someone must come off the 40-man roster. I think that will be Fautino De Los Santos. So, if he’s even still with the organization, he’ll be tucked away in the minors to begin the year.
- Jonathan Lucroy
- Martin Maldonado
Need there be a lengthy explanation? How’s this: no other catchers on the 40-man; these two played very well all year (when healthy); next best options coming to camp are Blake Lalli and Dayton Buller. Next!
- Jeff Bianchi
- Mat Gamel**
- Corey Hart
- Donnie Murphy
- Aramis Ramirez
- Jean Segura
- Rickie Weeks
A “traditional” roster usually consists of six infielders and five outfielders. I’ve split this roster differently for a couple of reasons though. First, Mat Gamel and Jeff Bianchi are both out of minor league options. Bianchi performed okay last year in his first big league action, but really what the Brewers will be holding onto is depth at shortstop. Sure, they wouldn’t have to add Donnie Murphy to the 40-man roster at all and could just stash him in the minors to begin the year but he is the superior defender to Bianchi and can more capably cover defensively at the hot corner. Furthermore, the team has made no secret of the designs to have Gamel play in the corner outfield spots this spring along with Corey Hart’s obvious ability to fill in should an emergency arise.
Taylor Green will once again be the victim of circumstance, but he is more valuable to the organization playing everyday anyway even if that’s at Nashville. He can stay ready at the plate and be called upon if an injury creates a need.
- Norichika Aoki**
- Ryan Braun
- Carlos Gomez
- Logan Schafer**
To elaborate a bit on my point from above, Logan Schafer can play all three defensive outfield positions very well. He can take over for any of the regulars when they need a day off and can be utilized in double-switches late in games. It’d be the same way that the Brewers played the majority of 2012 defensively once Hart moved to first base. Assuming that day’s starting outfield was Braun-Gomez-Aoki, Nyjer Morgan was the only “true” outfielder remaining on the roster. Schafer can do more than Morgan could defensively and still brings at least as much at the plate from the same left side.
For the record, if the Brewers did decide to carry five outfielders, I’d guess that Murphy would begin the season in the minors for depth and the extra outfielder would be Caleb Gindl. This seven IFs and four OFs configuration can work, though, with the proper personnel. The Brewers would have that group in 2013 should they choose to go that route. I would.
Opening Day Lineup
- Rickie Weeks
- Norichika Aoki
- Ryan Braun
- Aramis Ramirez
- Corey Hart
- Jonathan Lucroy
- Carlos Gomez
- Jean Segura
- Yovani Gallardo
On Opening Day I foresee manager Ron Roenicke looking to do a couple of things with his lineup. I think he’d like to have Weeks back up near the top and despite how Aoki performed so well while leading off in 2012 I think he’ll play the same card he did once he moved Weeks down the lineup last year to justify the order I have listed. You may recall that on days when Carlos Gomez started in center, Aoki batted second because Aoki handled the bat better to move the leadoff hitter over should he reach base. When Morgan started in center Roenicke felt that Aoki’s patience resulted in a better chance to get on base for the rest of the lineup. As we know, despite typically low batting averages, Weeks gets on base. His .350 career OBP is 99 points higher than his career batting average and only .005 lower than what Aoki did in his rookie season. What’s more, despite the struggles Weeks had for a majority of 2012, he still managed to walk 74 times (and reached based 13 more times after being hit by a pitch).
That being the situation near the top, I think it affords Roenicke the opportunity to begin with Gomez further down the order where he won’t hurt the Brewers early on in the season should he regress from last year’s breakout. If Gomez proves that 2012 is the baseline going forward then Roenicke will have a good problem with which to deal.
Segura is still young, still growing into his skills and performed well enough in the oft-dreaded “spot before the pitcher” that he could flourish there to begin the year. His winter league numbers are also encouraging regardless of the competition level. If he can develop more patience, he’ll be contributing plenty out of the 8th spot all season.
* - Throws left-handed ** - Bats left-handed
So that’s how I see things shaking out if the season started tomorrow.
Murphy, who turns 30 in March, batted .216/.281/.379 with 3 HR and 12 RBI in 52 games with the Miami Marlins in 2012. He was a member of their organization over the past three seasons. Murphy made his big league debut in 2004 as a member of the Kansas City Royals. Murphy has played in the Majors as a member of the Royals (’04-’05), Oakland Athletics (’07-’08) and Marlins (’10-’12). He also spent the entirely of 2009 in the Baltimore Orioles organization at the Triple-A level.
He’s a utility infielder by trade, rostered for versatility and his glove, certainly never displaying much of a bat during his career. His career minor league slash line is .279/.347/.461 after all, so he’s never been expected to hit a whole lot. Throughout his MLB service time, Murphy has made 70 appearances at shortstop, 66 at third base, 63 at second base and even one start in left field (for Oakland in 2008). He made 17 starts at third base, eight at second base and one at shortstop in 2012 for the Marlins.
When reached for comment by Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal/Sentinel, Brewers assistant general manager Gord Ash said that Murphy was the first of a group of utility infielders under review who accepted Milwaukee’s offer.
#Brewers asst GM Gord Ash told me team was looking at several utility infielders but Donnie Murphy “stepped up and accepted our offer.”
— Tom (@Haudricourt) December 17, 2012
If nothing else, this signing is of a baseball veteran to challenge for the backup shortstop role on the 25-man roster. It’s a spot that needs to be filled on every team so why not import some competition for Jeff Bianchi.
The Brewers now have seven official non-roster invitees to Major League camp in Spring Training.
Here they are listed alphabetically by surname:
- RHP Jairo Asencio
- C Dayton Buller
- RHP Darren Byrd
- INF Hector Gomez*
- C Blake Lalli
- INF Donnie Murphy
- LHP Travis Webb
* Hector Gomez was injured while playing winter ball in the Dominican Republic. He is expected to miss a significant portion of the 2013 regular season.