The business of baseball has no off-season.
This was evidenced once again today when the Los Angeles Dodgers made a trade with, of all teams, the Boston Red Sox. Yes, the same Boston Red Sox who are about to take the field for Game 1 of the 2013 World Series.
The Brewers are keeping busy as well, outrighting three players off of the 40-man roster today. As with any outright assignment, the players were first designated for assignment, thereby being exposed to waivers. All three cleared waivers and were assigned outright to the Triple-A Nashville Sounds. It was the first DFA for Manzanillo and Ravin so there was no stickiness with regards to rights of refusal for them, but Jesus Sanchez has been outrighted once before (Phillies, 2010) so he could still declare himself a minor-league free agent.
The three players removed are all right-handed pitchers. Santo Manzanillo was added to the 40-man roster before the 2012 season but missed almost the entire year due to injuries suffered in a car crash in his native Dominican Republic. Jesus Sanchez, a converted catcher, was added to the 40-man before this past season. He pitched well at Nashville in 2013, though not as well as in 2012. Still, he has shown promise. The third player, Josh Ravin, was just acquired by the Brewers off waivers from the Cincinnati Reds organization earlier this month. Ravin was first added to the 40-man roster of the Reds following the 2012 season as well.
It’s basically a paperwork only move as all three pitchers, assuming health, will likely be pitching at Maryvale in Spring Training with the Brewers.
The biggest immediate impact these moves have is clearing space on the Brewers 40-man roster. The roster stands at 35 today with two spots spoken for already and the other three probably already earmarked as well.
Ryan Braun and Rickie Weeks will take two spots when they are respectively reinstated. Miguel De Los Santos might take one if he ever comes off of the restricted list. And, among many others to be considered, the Brewers’ last two Minor League Players of the Year — Hunter Morris and Jason Rogers — both require protection from the Rule V Draft for the first time this off-season.
The Brewers should get two more openings when free agents declare, by way of Michael Gonzalez and Yuniesky Betancourt, but Corey Hart may take a spot if he is resigned. In other words, there is still much flux to be unfluxed before the season begins.
It got late in the day yesterday and following the signing of Michael Gonzalez which led to the DFA of #66 Arcenio Leon, his article certainly became less imperative.
That said, we push forward through the cold days of January, inching ever closer to the glorious day whence baseball resumes.
Today, Saturday, January 26th, is 65 days away from Brewers Opening Day.
Another newcomer to the 40-man roster was assigned jersey number 65 for Spring Training…
Miguel De Los Santos.
De Los Santos (or MDLS as I’m likely to refer to him by the end of this article because Miguel De Los Santos takes a long time to type) is a 24-year-old left-handed pitcher who hails from the Dominican Republic. He stands 6’1″ and is listed at 170 pounds.
Originally signed as an international free agent by the Texas Rangers in 2006, De Los Santos showed promise in his professional debut in the Dominican Summer League. He was brought to the states in 2007 and pitched all of 2008 in the Rangers rookie-level Arizona affiliate. He struggled as a starting pitcher and needed to pitch in the Dominican League again in 2009 due to visa issues. But it was a blessing in disguise for De Los Santos as he pitched exclusively out of the bullpen and dominated.
2010 saw a return to the states. De Los Santos pitched in both Class-A and short-season Class-A. He started 13 of his 19 games. In 2011, De Los Santos spent time across three levels, reaching as high as Double-A. He started 19 of his 20 appearances as a 22-year-old.
Now for last season.
I made mention of all of that differential in his starting and relieving because while it seemed as though the Rangers had finally committed to De Los Santos as a starter, he made only four starts in 26 games in 2012. Those four games were his first three and his second-to-last. Combined in the starts, De Los Santos allowed 13 earned runs in 15 innings pitched. In his 21 relief appearances though? 21 total earned runs, five of which came in one outing.
De Los Santos made 18 relief appearances of at least four outs, 15 of which were at least six outs in length. He seems durable though it should be noted that he never pitched on consecutive days in 2012.
All told, De Los Santos tossed 58.2 IP, walking 34 and striking out 70 batters. He did allow eight home runs which certainly didn’t help his ERA which finished at 5.22 for the year.
After the mediocre season overall, the Rangers ended up designating De Los Santos for assignment on September 1st and the Brewers claimed him off waivers thereafter.
Prior to the 2012 season, Baseball America had ranked De Los Santos the 29th best prospect in the Rangers system along with identifying his as the system’s best changeup.
We all know that the Brewers have had a dearth of left-handed relief pitching, so the claim made perfect sense at the time. You might think that it matters less now because they signed both Tom Gorzelanny and Michael Gonzalez this off-season, but on the contrary, it gives the team even more time to allow De Los Santos to develop his game in the minors. For now, that game consists of that plus plus change, a fastball sitting right at 90MPH, and a curveball which is still under construction.
Will Miguel De Los Santos (I made it!!) make the 25-man roster out of Spring Training? No. Could he contribute down the road? Absolutely. It was a sensible acquisition and one that won’t pay off immediately (or yes possibly ever) at the big league level but the potential exists for good things.
And it’ll all start with De Los Santos wearing 65 on back.
***UPDATE: After this article was posted, it was announced the Miguel De Los Santos has a shoulder injury (which the Brewers were aware of) and that he won’t be pitching until the summer.***
Miss anyone along the way? Catch up on the Brewers By the (Jersey) Numbers profiles to this point:
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.