Tagged: Milwaukee Brewers

Brewers By the (Jersey) Numbers: #24 Mat Gamel

Welcome back. Today begins a stretch of five consecutive days with new profiles for your reading pleasure. That streak will end courtesy of the greatest Milwaukee Brewer of all time, #19 Robin Yount.

Today, however, we’re at 24 in our countdown to Opening Day 2012.

The man who wears 24 is trying to make his first ever career Major League Opening Day 25-man roster at the age of 26.

He is the likely starting first baseman:

Mat Gamel.

Mathew Lawrence Gamel has been waiting for the day when he’d break camp and head north with the Brewers for years.

Originally drafted in the 4th round of the 2005 First-Year Player Draft, Gamel has been as highly-touted as anyone not named Ryan Braun or Prince Fielder as far as potential and tools and the ability to make an impact at the Major League Level.

This hasn’t happened yet for Gamel for a variety of reasons.

First of all is the fact that Gamel has been blocked a bit by players at third base during his time in the organization. First was when Ryan Braun was drafted and kept at the hot corner initially, but then afterward when the team acquired Casey McGehee.

In part because of Gamel’s inability to throw consistently enough while at third, and partly as a hedge against the likelihood of Prince Fielder’s foray into free agency, Gamel switched positions while at Triple-A Nashville.

While still only occasionally playing third base, especially when McGehee was virtually useless on offense throughout the majority of the 2011 season, Gamel focused on learning first base.

He’s done well enough by most accounts at learning the fundamentals, and despite his early assertions that he didn’t like the position when the change was first made, Gamel now seems to like it fine.

Still, many fans would continually bemoan Fielder’s departure and bring up names of veterans at the position who the Brewers should bring in to man the position instead until perhaps a Hunter Morris or Nick Ramirez (first baseman prospects in the Brewers minor leagues) would be ready for the job. They didn’t seem content to let the to-this-point-underwhelming Gamel try to fill some of the offensive void created.

I’ve been on record all off-season as saying that Gamel needs to get a legitimate chance at first base and it’s encouraging to see that all signs point to Ron Roenicke giving him that opportunity. It wouldn’t be enough to platoon him right away or have him be a bat off the bench. I’ve long been of the opinion that Gamel’s best (and perhaps only) chance to succeed at the big league level is to give him both a job and the consistent at-bats that come along with it.

The team seemed ready to do just that, but Gamel was unable to stay healthy. That brings me to my other point.

The reason that I chose to lead with the words that Gamel “has been waiting” to make an Opening Day roster is because up until this season it never seemed like Gamel was trying to make an Opening Day roster. It’s like he just figured that his natural ability would be enough to get him to The Show.

While it has gotten him there a couple of times as a short-term fill-in during Interleague play, it’s never been enough on its own to keep him in Milwaukee or even to perform well while he was up.

Gamel has torn up minor league hitting long enough that he should have been in Milwaukee sooner but his health and questionable conditioning, drive and determination have let him down and caused him to fall short of his goals. If you read the Manny Parra profile two days ago, you’ll know that sometimes those things are a necessity to succeed. Parra has demonstrated them for years. Gamel, not so much through the 2011 season.

In fact, it got to the point where despite his very good offensive season at Triple-A, Gamel was publicly blasted by Brewers minor league coach Don Money in comments to members of the media. Many fans have used that as fodder for tearing Gamel’s chances down.

Gamel used that as fodder for getting his ass in gear.

One of the most exciting moments of the spring was when we began to hear that Gamel had finally gotten the message that he needed to put in that extra work. He said he was in the “best shape of his life” and while that’s a cliché amongst sportswriters, it truly seemed to true in Gamel’s case.

He dropped some unnecessary weight by hiring a personal trainer for the first time. He worked hard to avoid the nagging and, quite frankly, annoying injuries of years past. He admitted that he hadn’t come to camp before in good enough shape to win a job. Muscle pulls and the like haven’t hampered Gamel at all this year.

Gamel has finally had a healthy Spring Training and the results of being up to speed on offense and in the field have begun to show themselves. He had a stretch recently where he hit a home run in three consecutive games, after the second of which Roenicke stated that he absolutely thinks that Gamel is capable of hitting 20+ home runs during the 2012 season.

It’s a far cry from Money’s comments last September.

As someone who has always believed in Gamel, perhaps I’m invested in his personal success more than most. Some only care about the Wins and Losses and don’t care how they are achieved. That’s fine, but that’s not me. I pay attention to the individual performances, trends, etc. That’s probably mostly caused by of my line of work, but so be it.

The bottom line is that I truly believe he’s capable of helping this team win, which is the most important thing after all.

You can follow Mat and his wife Julianne on Twitter: @JMGamel

Brewers By the (Jersey) Numbers: #26 Manny Parra

26 days away from Opening Day. The Brewers are 4-4-1 in Cactus League play for Spring Training.

Which of these numbers means more?

Clearly the Opening Day countdown! Spring Training records are even more meaningless than the statistics of the players which have played to the record attained.

Another number that means something to the fans and players alike is the number on each player’s back. Something about jersey numbers becoming identifiable with certain players just rings true.

Today’s player wears the number 26 on his back while pitching for the Milwaukee Brewers. It reflects his path to the Major Leagues as one of unlikelihood because this player was originally drafted in the 26th round(!) of the 2001 First-Year Player Draft. He is none other than:

Manny Parra.

The southpaw who hails from Sacramento, California stands 6’3″ tall while doing that pitching. The scale officially reads 205 pounds when he steps atop it. The frame and athleticism has never been in question for Manuel Alex Parra, even when he was drafted at 6’2″ and 185 pounds.

Originally drafted, as are so many pitchers, to start games, Parra’s slow and steady climb through the organization has been one of determination and drive. He has had to overcome a number of obstacles to both reach and stay in the big leagues. From injuries to mechanics to bouts of ineffectiveness, something has continually been placed in Parra’s path to success.

If there’s anything that his draft position tells you, however, it’s that he’s not going to let anything stand in his way. Ultimately, if it can be overcome, Parra will find a way.

After being unable to stick in the starting rotation over the years, Parra was resigned to a role change and a spot in the bullpen for 2011. Unfortunately, Parra got exactly two pitches into the Cactus League season when he injured his back on March 3, 2011.

Officially a “facet joint injury”, Parra was on a rehab assignment as early as April 9th. He then appeared in seven more games at Triple-A before having elbow pain and being diagnosed with a sprained ulnar collateral ligament in his pitching elbow as well as a flexor strain.

(The ulnar collateral ligament, or “UCL”, is the ligament in the elbow that requires ligament replacement surgery to fix should the ligament tear. This procedure is commonly referred to as “Tommy John Surgery”, having been named after the pitcher who first underwent the experimental procedure and was able to come back to pitch in the big leagues.)

Not wanting to risk further damage and possible surgery, Parra was prescribed rest and rehab. He did not pitch the rest of the season.

To put a surgical capper on 2011, Parra underwent surgery at the end of August to remove a bone spur from his left elbow.

To put it mildly, last year was an exercise in fortitude once again.

Being out of minor-league options, as he was last year, it’s another important Spring Training for Parra. He isn’t guaranteed a spot on the 25-man roster (ultimately, few are) but his handedness works in his favor.

The team lacked for not having any left-hander to call upon, let alone a quality one with the pure stuff which Parra possesses. He has competition for that role though. Zach Braddock has reportedly overcome his sleeping disorder and subsequent personal issues from last season and non-roster invitee Juan Perez has been raising eyebrows and turning heads in camp so far.

(***UPDATE: Since the writing of this article, word came down today that Juan Perez was admitted to a hospital with a partially collapsed lung. Clearly his recovery and health are of the utmost importance, but from a roster standpoint, it could work in Parra’s favor if it takes Perez a while to regain the form he was previously showing.***)

The other element working in Parra’s favor is that he isn’t simply a LOOGy type. Parra has been effective against both right- and left-handed hitters throughout his career. He could fill a middle or long relief role in the bullpen but could also be called upon for those short appearances as well.

Parra uses a low-to-mid 90’s fastball, a split-fingered fastball as his out pitch, along with a curveball and straight change up. They’re all effective pitches and he can throw each of them for strikes.

So far this spring, Parra has had some effective appearances where he has missed down for the most part when he’s missed. The key for Parra though is that he’s felt healthy before, during, and after each of his stints on the mound both in games and doing side work.

There is absolutely a spot open for a left-handed relief pitcher on this 25-man roster, and since Braddock does have options and Perez is in camp on a minor-league deal, it would seem like Parra has a leg up for depth-related reasons if all else is equal.

We’ll learn more as the spring progresses, but you can’t just expect Brewers Manager Ron Roenicke to make his determination early enough that we’ll all be able to analyze it to death. He isn’t prone to announcing decisions such as that one any earlier than he is forced to.

In the meantime, Parra has plenty to prove this spring. After all, Roenicke hasn’t seen Parra pitch a whole heck of a lot in person. That could make all the difference as familiarity can breed preference.

Luckily, Roenicke seems to rely on performance much more than familiarity to this point in his career as manager.

And at this point, Parra could use a bit of luck on his side.

You can follow Manny Parra on Twitter: @MannyParra26

Brewers By the (Jersey) Numbers: #43 Randy Wolf

Courtesy of Hammerin’ Hank and Jackie Robinson, today is the only day out of three that sees a new entry in the “Brewers By the (Jersey) Numbers” season preview series.

I do hope that you’ve been enjoying reading about the men who likely have the most say in the fortunes of the 2012 Brewers, along with some who will contribute down the road a bit.

Today we are six weeks plus one day shy of Opening Day 2012 at beautiful Miller Park. Since there are seven days in a week that means, math majors, that Opening Day is a mere 43 days away.

Think back to last season a bit and envision who wears #43 when he takes the field…or I suppose just dart your eyes an inch or so up your viewing device and read the title again.

Either way, today belongs to:

Randy Wolf.
With the distinction of being the final name on the Brewers 40-man roster when listed alphabetically by surname, Randall Christopher Wolf also owns the offering du jour in Brewers camp this spring so far with his fellow starters. His cut fastball is being tinkered with by both Chris Narveson and Zack Greinke.

But more on Wolf’s repertoire in a minute.

First, let’s remind ourselves about Wolf’s physical characteristics. He’s a left-handed throwing starting pitcher who also bats left-handed. Wolf stands 6’0” tall and weighs in, at last update, 205 pounds. He was born on August 22, 1976 in West Hills, California which makes him 35 years old.

Coming to Milwaukee as a free agent in the winter of 2009/10, Wolf signed a three-year deal with a team option for a fourth season as a Brewer. 2012 is the third and final guaranteed year of his contract so his performance this season will obviously go a long way in determining where and for how much his 2013 season will play out.

Naturally, if Wolf is fantastic the Brewers will exercise their option and keep Wolf in town. If he struggles, the team may choose to decline bringing back a 36-year-old pitcher who might be nearing the end of his career. Wolf, though has three things working in his favor meaning he’ll likely find a job in 2013 if he wants one.

After all, Jeff Suppan keeps getting work.

Those three things are his command, his durability, and his handedness. When Wolf’s body no longer will endure the rigors of starting, he’ll absolutely have the option of a “second career” in the bullpen. If you throw left-handed and can get left-handed hitters out, there is a job for you. I could definitely see Wolf finishing out a solid career with bullpen work like former Brewer LOOGy Brian Shouse. It would only be a matter of whether Wolf would want to pitch in the bullpen.

Those things are a little ways off though, so instead of dwelling, let’s take a look back at Wolf’s career highlights, his 2011 season in Brewer blue, and then glance at what his 2012 might hold.

A 13-year MLB veteran at this point, Wolf has seen a lot in his time but there are a couple of things he’s yet to experience, for example, playing in the American League. More than that, Wolf hasn’t tasted the World Series. He came to Milwaukee, in part, because of the window of opportunity he saw here.

Some of that opportunity was realized last year with a division crown, 96 wins, and a decent showing in the NLCS. More lies ahead though.

How much more for Wolf can be tied back to a trade to Houston, of all places, during the 2009 season. Following an All-Star appearance in 2003 as a member of the Philadelphia Phillies, Wolf had been a middling starter at best for parts of five seasons through his time with San Diego in 2008.

Given Wolf’s fly ball pitching tendencies, one would think that a job at notoriously pitcher-friendly Petco Park would lend itself well to Wolf. The opposite was true, and Wolf compiled a 4.74 ERA in 21 starts for the Padres, allowing 6 home runs in 11 home starts, before being sent to the Astros.

His first start with Houston was against the Brewers at Miller Park, an outing which saw Wolf last only 4.1 IP after giving up four runs on seven hits and three walks, including one homer.

But it was in Houston where Wolf made a mechanical adjustment in his pitching that made all the difference and extended his career to the point where, after the Los Angeles Dodgers took a chance on a one-year contract for 2009, the Brewers were willing to offer a multi-year deal which Wolf accepted.

In the second year of that multi-year contract, Wolf went 13-10 with a 3.69 ERA, 1.32 WHIP and 134 strikeouts in 212 1/3 innings in 2011. Those numbers were the result of some good luck as Wolf’s xFIP was 4.47 and his strand rate 75.9%. His BABIP against was .286 in 2011 which is better-than-average for a pitcher.

People have enjoyed pointing to regression for Wolf each of the past couple of seasons since his numbers improved after his adjustment, usually citing some combination of xFIP, BABIP, and/or strand rate. While it might be luck that repeats itself, Wolf has been keeping a lot of those numbers relatively consistent.

To paraphrase an exchange between and the Abigail and Ben Gates characters in National Treasure 2, she is like the sabermetric community in saying that when results are good despite the peripherals, it’s luck. To which Randy Wolf would snarkily reply, “I get lucky a lot.”

For the Brewers sake, hopefully Wolf has at least one more season of “luck” left in him. Nothing he’s done over the past two years should make us think otherwise, but for the record both Bill James’ projections and ZiPS have Wolf finishing 2012 with an ERA near 4.00. (James says 3.94 while ZiPS checks in at 4.04.)

As far as Wolf’s immediate outlook for the new season, expect more of what you saw to finish 2011 insofar that he’ll pitch fourth in the rotation, have a personal catcher who isn’t his personal catcher, and finish with a low double-digits win total.

He’ll continue to work off of his four-seam fastball/change up combination, the cutter which Fangraphs seems to have labeled as a slider, and his slow eephus curve.

Wolf will continue to often match up against other team’s fourth starter, giving the Brewers a decided edge against most teams in the league when it comes to pitching ability from that slot.

Also working in Wolf’s favor for a strong 2012 campaign is that he doesn’t have to go into Spring Training games worrying about the rotation’s order or composition. He can focus on getting himself ready. Getting ready to go in the spring is what it’s there for, in the end.

Hopefully by the end of the regular season, though, Wolf and the rest of his teammates will be getting ready for another trip to the playoffs.

Brewers By the (Jersey) Numbers: #47 Amaury Rivas

For the first time in a while, the Brewers By the (Jersey) Numbers series brings us to a pitcher that has zero big league service time.

Today, 47 days away from Opening Day, the series takes a look at a pitcher who the Brewers signed as an undrafted free agent in February of 2005, when he was just 19 years old…

Amaury Rivas.

Amaury Keith Rivas (Keith? Really?) is a 6’2″, 217 pound right-handed Starting Pitcher who began and finished the 2011 season with the Nashville Sounds, Triple-A affiliate of the Brewers.

His numbers were not impressive at the highest minor league level, as he posted a season record of 7-12, backed by a 4.72 ERA in 150.2 innings pitched over 28 starts. Over the course of the season, Rivas allowed 151 hits, 88 runs (79 earned), 14 home runs, and 81 walks while striking out only 108 batters. He held opponents to a batting average of .260 and totaled a 1.54 WHIP.

Rivas was a highly-touted prospect in the system for a couple of seasons, in part because of the lack of pitching talent therein but also because of his impressive seasons at High-A Brevard County in 2009 and with Double-A Huntsville in 2010.

The 2009 season as a Manatee was probably Rivas’ best and most encouraging as a professional. It led to the Brewers front office adding Rivas to the 40-man roster prior to the 2009 Rule V Draft.

Since then, however, Rivas appears to possibly be topping out in Triple-A. 2012 could be a very important year for Rivas as he has no real shot to make the Major League roster this season and that will result in his third and final minor league option being burned up. A sub-par year in 2012 could make the next step in Rivas’ career one where he is subjected to waivers and a possible change of venue.

Rivas was the team’s 10th best prospect heading into last season, according to Baseball America which had the following to say about him:

“Rivas’ individual pitches don’t blow hitters or scouts away, but he knows how to pitch and how to set up hitters. He understands the importance of location and works both sides of the plate. Rivas throws his fastball in the low 90s with some boring life and sink. His fastball can reach 95 but straightens out at higher velocities. He developed a feel for a changeup at a young age, and it grades out as his best pitch.”

While not awe-inspiring, it does point out that there are certain talents with which Rivas has pitched himself to the Triple-A level. He was given the accolade of having the system’s best change up and overall control as recently as 2010.

Unfortunately not everyone has the talent to compete at the highest level of the sport, but even those that do often don’t make the proper adjustments to realize their potential. The path to the bigs is littered with the hopes and dreams of countless ballplayers.

If he doesn’t show a significant improvement/rebound in his performance, he may never get an opportunity to ply his wares in Milwaukee as a Brewer.

The one caveat to writing Rivas off, other than that he’s still in his mid-20s, is that there was speculation that an injury was contributing to Rivas’ poor year. Rivas did end up having right elbow surgery to remove bone spurs. If he comes into camp healthy, as is expected, looking at 2011 with a grain of salt might not be a bad idea.

Then again, if he is deemed healthy and struggles into the season a bit, 2011’s finish will only compound the fears that he might have maxed out and hit his ceiling.

Time will tell. All we can do it watch with an interested eye.

Brewers By the (Jersey) Numbers: #48 Tim Dillard

***EDIT: Sorry for the lateness of this article. I wrote it nice and early this morning but apparently saved it as a draft instead of publishing it.***

Pitchers and Catchers report today for the Milwaukee Brewers. It’s a symbolic moment for the team and for the coming end of winter, and although this winter has been remarkably mild in Wisconsin, the norm is a long and cold winter up in these parts. Therefore once P&C Day arrives, it makes you feel like there will be spring eventually again in the northern midwest.

Officially reporting today is a man who was drafted at a position (catcher) which would have reported today anyway had he stayed there but he was converted to a pitcher along the way and reports today anyway. That man is the owner of an fantastic Harry Carrey impression along with a sidearm delivery from the right side. Of course, I can only be talking about:

Tim Dillard.

Timothy Charles  Dillard is a 6’4″, 225 lb right-handed pitcher who hails from Sarasota, Florida. He was originally selected in the 34th round of the 2002 First-Year Player Draft. (He and I actually share a birthday as well, for the record, though I am three years his elder.)

Dillard, once he was converted to a pitcher, used to have a standard over-the-top delivery. He experienced decent enough success that he earned a trip to the majors in 2008 but was knocked around a bit, and more so in his short  pretty heavily. Eventually he was sent down and didn’t appear to have a path back to Milwaukee. He then modified his approach and became a sidearm pitcher. It was a way to make him stand out from the pack and help him find his niche.

It worked, and Dillard rejoined the big league club in 2011.

He’s never been a shutdown pitcher and honestly shouldn’t face a left-handed hitter…ever…but he is a useful piece as a long-relief man and situational right-hander.

On a “first division” team, Dillard doesn’t have a true home. He is a tremendous individual (I had the pleasure of chatting with him for a few minutes at a charity event last season), but this organization has better pitchers available as options when everyone is healthy.

Despite that, I decided to profile Dillard for a couple of reasons. First, he’s spent time with the Brewers so people know him, but more so than that is the fact that he’s out of options and, barring injury to one of his colleagues, he’s unlikely to break camp with the club.

That’s significant because to get Dillard back to the minor leagues where he can stay ready to contribute should the injury bug plague the bullpen, he’d have to be exposed to waivers. Dillard has successfully passed through them before, but nothing is guaranteed.

The best chance to Dillard to make the club out of the Spring Training would be if Doug Melvin and Ron Roenicke decide that keeping depth is more important that keeping a better arm. Having said that though, some would argue and Frankie De La Cruz has a better arm and he is also out of options.

In my 25-man roster projection which I’ll be stating on the podcast I plan to record later today, I have only one open bullpen slot to be contested between Dillard, FDLC, Zach Braddock and Brandon Kintzler. Kintzler and Braddock both have options remaining so they could begin the year at Triple-A if the Brewers want to keep that extra depth.

Regardless, Dillard stands to get enough work this spring in order to gauge where he’s at in comparison to the other options for the last spot in the ‘pen. If he doesn’t make the cut but does sneak back through to the minor leagues, Dillard is absolutely an option to be called up when his special type of services are required.

Brewers By the (Jersey) Numbers: #49 Yovani Gallardo

Valentine’s Day is firmly in the rear view mirror. The Super Bowl is becoming more of a distant memory. Sure the NBA and NHL are in mid-season form, but collectively the sports world is about to awaken anew.

Brewers fans, tomorrow we get to state together in a loud, clear, and triumphant voice: “Pitchers and Catchers report!” The four greatest words of the winter will be ours in very short order. I cannot wait to shout it from the mountaintops!

Today, however, is Friday, February 17th. Did you know that Opening Day is on a Friday this year for the Brewers? That means that we’re a multiple of seven away from Opening Day 2012. Indeed, today is 49 days out. We’re exactly a mere seven weeks from the first pitch of the regular season.

Likely throwing that first pitch in the Top of the 1st inning is today’s profiled player:

Yovani Gallardo.

Let me ask you a question, and be honest… Do you realize exactly how rare of a case Yovani Gallardo is for the Milwaukee Brewers?

Drafted by Milwaukee. Developed by Milwaukee. Found success with Milwaukee. And, perhaps most importantly, agreed to stay in Milwaukee on a multi-year contract which keeps Gallardo in Milwaukee through at least the 2014 season. A voidable team option exists at the end of the guaranteed years, so there’s that too.

For all the talent that has fallen short, for all the unrealized potential, for the careers lost to injury…

Gallardo has beaten the odds.

2011 saw the Brewers ace eclipse 200 innings pitched for the first time in his career as he was fourth in the league in starts with 33. It was Gallardo’s third consecutive season with 200 or more strikeouts and he actually improved in nearly every statistical category over his All-Star season of 2010.

In fact, the only noticeable categories where Gallardo worsened were a lower K/9 rate (9.7 down to 9.0) and allowing more than double the home runs (12 vs 27) than the previous campaign.

Otherwise, ERA, walk rate, hit rate, WHIP, K/BB ratio, ERA+, all of these and then some were better. For the record, Gallardo threw 21.2 more innings in 2011 than 2010 and actually issued 16 fewer walks.

In short, the seventh-place finish in the Cy Young Award voting in 2011 was warranted.

Gallardo started three games in the 2011 postseason, winning one, losing one, and taking a no-decision in the third. The loss did come in the NLCS against Gallardo’s personal nemeses the St. Louis Cardinals.

Obviously, despite the division championship belonging to the Brewers, the defending World Champions are the redbirds and how Gallardo adjusts to their lineup in 2012 could go a long way in determining who will be division champions next October.

Assisting in that endeavor was Arte Moreno. No, he’s not the Brewers’ new pitching coach but rather the owner of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim who signed away Gallardo’s biggest problem, Albert Pujols. Pujols hit .545 against Gallardo in the 2011 regular season including three home runs. It wasn’t pretty but again, it’s not something that Gallardo has to deal with in 2012.

Cardinals notwithstanding, Gallardo won 17 games in 2011 and posted a line of 3.52 ERA, 193 hits, 92 runs (81 earned), 59 walks, 207 strikeouts, 1.215 WHIP, all in 207.1 innings pitched.

Supported by the best K/BB and BB/9 rates of his career, Gallardo posted a 111 ERA+ and a career best 2.7 WAR.

Gallardo turns 26 years old in 10 days and is just entering his prime. With solid seasons already a part of his track record, and that multi-year contract, Brewers fans have plenty of reasons to be optimistic about 2012 and beyond for the Mexico native.

In fact, ZIPS projection system predicts a very similar 2012 for Gallardo that would result, in part, in 16 wins, a 3.46 ERA and another 200 plus strikeout season. There would be nothing wrong with hitting those projections.

The bottom line for Gallardo is that regardless of the presence of Zack Greinke on this roster, the man we call “Yo” is the number one. A lot of people will tell you that once the season gets underway, it matters very little what the rotation order is. They’ll say that other than whatever personal honor an Opening Day Starting Pitcher takes out of kicking off the season, it doesn’t make a bit of difference. Gallardo is on record as saying he appreciates the faith that it shows by giving him the ball with the chance to start a season on the right foot.

Brewers fans can take solace in the fact that if Gallardo does indeed get the call for Opening Day (and there really isn’t any reason he wouldn’t), the likelihood of starting the year with a victory should be a good one.

Brewers By the (Jersey) Numbers: #50 Kameron Loe

Day three of this (possible) eight day run is here as we are an even 50 days away from Opening Day.

Picking out the man who wears number 50 on his back for the Milwaukee Brewers might seem a little like finding the right car at the dealership. Many choices to be sure, but there’s just something about this particular model that makes it stand out.

In this case, those conspicuous features include a bald head, lean body, and most notably a 6’8″ frame.

Of course I can be referring to none other than right-handed relief pitcher:

Kameron Loe.

I’ve been including a picture of each player as I’ve gone through this series, but briefly considered simply putting a picture of the lightning rod in this space and then just including Loe’s picture later in the piece.

It makes sense, doesn’t it? Nobody attracted more heat throughout the year on a Brewers’ mound than did Loe.

Loe pitched in parts of five seasons with the Texas Rangers before spending 2009 pitching professionally in Japan. The Brewers lured him back in 2010 so the upcoming season will be his third with Milwaukee.

Sure, Zack Greinke caught heat for his basketball escapades, and Shaun Marcum had his struggles late in the year, but deservedly or not Kameron David Loe caught heat early, often and consistently throughout 2011.

Loe’s 2011 season consisted of 72 appearances in which Loe totaled 72.0 innings pitched, a 3.50 ERA, 65 hits allowed, 30 runs allowed (28 earned), 4 home runs, 18 walks (two of which were intentional), and 61 strikeouts. He also hit two batters. Loe tallied one save and posted a record of 4-7.

He did appear in five games in the 2011 postseason, pitching twice against Arizona and thrice opposing St. Louis. The Cardinals put the only dents into Loe’s ERA by tagging him for four earned runs in Game 2 of the NLCS on October 10, a game which St. Louis won 12-3.

In three of Loe’s appearances he gave up at least three earned runs. Those three appearances combined for 12 earned runs in only 1.1 innings pitched. They were ugly outings and you can’t discount them when analyzing Loe’s season, but to fly off on the other end of the spectrum and try to claim that Loe was terrible more often than not or that he couldn’t ever get anybody out would be just as foolish.

Loe made 54 scoreless appearances and seemed to give up runs in appearances which were bunched together, though not always consecutively. What that means is probably a whole lot of nothing, but the facts remain.

Following the injury to Takashi Saito and kid-gloves approach the Brewers used with LaTroy Hawkins through much of the year, Loe was forced into working a lot of situations he normally wouldn’t have been called upon for. He was pitching to left-handed hitters in high-leverage situations. He was pitching in close and late situations. It cost him and the team.

If you’ve been a faithful reader of the series, you may recall that I mentioned in the Francisco Rodriguez article how when the Brewers acquired K-Rod their bullpen had already lost 20 games. Well, seven of those were Loe’s. To point out another thing, Loe wasn’t the pitcher of record in a loss once Rodriguez was acquired. As the back-end of the bullpen got filled out throughout the year, Loe was able to pitch in situations more suited for his skill level and abilities.

In an ideal world, Loe wouldn’t have to pitch to a left-handed hitter ever. He also would be used situationally in either early bullpen work for full innings for possibly 7th inning work when the match up at the plate works in his favor or the situation dictates a certain kind of pitcher being needed.

The reality of the baseball life is that Loe will be called upon in situations that are, for lack of a better phrase, above his pay grade. So long as those behind him in the bullpen repeat their solid seasons and allow Loe to pitch to his strengths, I expect that Loe will have an even better ratio of quality appearances to awful ones.

Loe’s ratio of ground ball outs to outs recorded in the air was an impressive 2.77 in 2011. That’s aided by the number one pitch in Loe’s repertoire: a sinker which he throws between 88-90 MPH. According to Pitch F/X information, he threw his sinker 78.6 percent of the time in 2011. He secondary pitch was a slider thrown with an average velocity of 79.4 MPH. He threw a handful of change ups but nothing worth noting. Interesting to note is that Pitch F/X said that Loe didn’t throw a straight fastball all season.

The sinker had pretty good movement, breaking down and in to right-handers, and the slider moves enough to where it can be a fair compliment to the sinker. As that 2.77 GO/AO ratio points out, though, the sinker is Loe’s main weapon.

Loe was eligible for salary arbitration this offseason and settled with Milwaukee at a figure of $2.175 million.

With the departure of Hawkins and Saito in free agency, Loe’s veteran leadership will be a welcomed presence. With the addition of Jose Veras via trade, Loe should primarily pitch in those controlled situations which I outlined earlier.

Put it all together and the result will hopefully be a positive contribution to Milwaukee’s efforts to repeat as NL Central Division Champions and take the next step or two in 2012.

Brewers By the (Jersey) Numbers: #51 Zelous Wheeler

It’s February 15th. It’s 51 days away from Opening Day.

Enough opening. Let’s cut right to the chase.

Number 51 on the countdown is the proud owner of one of the best names in the Brewers organization, if not the entirety of baseball:

Zelous Wheeler.

While Zelous Lamar Wheeler only joined Twitter a few short weeks ago, Twitter was the place last season where several of his biggest supporters started a hashtag that permeated the general consciousness of Brewers-themed tweets. That hashtag is #ZealotsForZelous.

A zealot is defined as a fanatic. Therefore the Zealots For Zelous group are some that have high hopes for Wheeler’s future career projections. Let’s take a look at what exactly makes someone a Zealot.

Before we get there though, let’s lay the groundwork. Wheeler is listed at 5’10” and 220 pounds. For the sake of comparison, Rickie Weeks was most recently listed at 5’10” and 215 pounds. Wheeler was born on January 16, 1987 in Alabama. He bats and throws right-handed and plays mostly third base.

Wheeler was drafted by the Brewers out of Wallace State Community College in the 19th round of the 2007 First-Year Player Draft. This is the same draft that has given the Brewers organization Jonathan Lucroy, Caleb Gindl, Eric Farris, Dan Merklinger, and Cody Scarpetta.

Listed as a third baseman when the Brewers drafted him, Wheeler has maintained his defensive spot during his rise through the minor leagues. Wheeler manned the hot corner for both Double-A Huntsville and Triple-A Nashville during 2011, compiling similar lines at each locale. In Huntsville, where he spent the majority of 2011, Wheeler compiled 62 hits and scored 34 runs while he put together a .272/.377/.465 line filled out with 20 doubles, 8 home runs, 32 RBI, 7 stolen bases (in 7 attempts), 30 walks and 49 strikeouts in 228 at-bats. As for Nashville, in 51 at-bats Wheeler hit safely 14 times and put up .275/.383/.431, 3 doubles, 1 triple, 1 home run, 6 RBI, 9 walks and 8 strikeouts.

Also encouraging, despite the small sample size with Nashville, is that Wheeler’s walk-rate and strikeout-rate were both better in Triple-A. His ISO, wOBA and wRC+ were worse, but again, small sample size can be argued on both sides.

He then spent some time with the Peoria Javelinas in the Arizona Fall League where he got 56 more at-bats, posting a .276/.358/.397 line with 16 hits, 15 runs scored, 8 runs batted in, 7 walks and 14 strikeouts in 16 games. All of that hard work and consistency paid off in the form of being added to the 40-man roster last fall. What that means in the short term is that when Wheeler begins the 2012 season assigned to the minor league affiliate, it’ll cost one of his three minor league options to get him there.

Wheeler did play a little first base in the Arizona Fall League, for the record. It’s likely that the majority of Wheeler’s defensive plays in 2012 will still be at third. Wheeler is blocked at his natural third base position, however, by both recent Brewers signee Aramis Ramirez and fellow prospect Taylor Green who finished 2011 on Milwaukee’s 25-man playoff roster. That won’t stop Wheeler from continuing to work on his game at whatever affiliate he does start the new season with.

There is some doubt as to where Wheeler will begin 2012 because although he did start the season with Triple-A Nashville in 2011, he only played with Double-A Huntsville from June 29th through the end of the season. He also missed nearly two months of the year due to an injury suffered in the second game of the season. Wheeler was hurt in a collision at home plate, a collision which resulted in a torn PCL in Wheeler’s right knee.

After being added to the 40-man roster, however, if Taylor Green wins a backup infielder spot with Milwaukee, it’d be a safe bet to put Wheeler in at third base for the Sounds on a roster projection.

Wheeler isn’t merely a consistent bat with no defense. In fact, coming into the 2011 season, Baseball America labeled Wheeler as the Brewers prospect with the best infield arm. He picks the ball well and makes strong, accurate throws. Wheeler isn’t resting on those laurels though. He wants to be a super utility player that can handle any defensive position. He said that he even started catching a little bit recently because he’s simply wants to get in the lineup and contribute.

It’s that kind of attitude and commitment that will win him fans in Milwaukee, both in the stands and in the front office.

Or perhaps I should say that those qualities will be earning him some more zealots.

Brewers By the (Jersey) Numbers: #52 Cody Scarpetta

Three of the last four days in our player preview countdown to Opening Day have been lost to Brewers coaches. Yesterday’s culprit was bullpen coach Stan Kyles who wears #53 when in uniform.

Today however, and for the next seven days following today, a player wears the number in question. That would make it eight straight for “Brewers By the (Jersey) Numbers”, a stretch which shall not be broken this year and which is only duplicated once, but this stretch includes a non-roster invitee to Spring Training who I’m still debating on whether to profile. Unless I hear an outcry of want, that player, Juan Perez who was assigned #46 when the Brewers acquired him, probably won’t be previewed.

I won’t be holding my breath while waiting for his fan base to cry out in support, but I still haven’t officially made up my mind. After all, I strive to preview players on the 40-man roster and/or those who could contribute to the 25-man roster at some point in 2012. The only thing working in Perez’ favor is his handedness.

But enough about those other members of the Brewers organization; as it is 52 days until Opening Day, we are here today to discuss the player who wears 52:

Cody Scarpetta.

Working as a starting pitcher for each of 23 appearances in 2011 as a member of the Double-A Huntsville Stars, Cody Michael Payne Scarpetta posted a season linescore of 8-5, 3.85 ERA, 100 H, 61 R (50 ER), 8 HR, 61 BB, 98 K, 1.38 WHIP over 117.0 innings pitched. He held opponents to a .234 batting average.

Scarpetta’s play in the first half of the minor league season earned him a reward of sorts. With a bit of an overworked bullpen just before the Major League All-Star Game break, Milwaukee officially optioned Mat Gamel back to the minor leagues on July 10, 2011 and called up Scarpetta for a game that same night against the Cincinnati Reds.

With the game tightly contested the entire way (eventually won by the Brewers with a bottom of the ninth walk-off from Craig Counsell), Scarpetta didn’t enter the game and therefore has no official Major League career to speak of yet. The fact remains that Scarpetta was in uniform for the game and no doubt learned plenty from his 24-hour tour of Milwaukee.

The level of performance that earned him that one-day callup would not carry over to the 2011 Arizona Fall League where, in five appearances (four starts) as a member of the Peoria Javelinas, Scarpetta lost three games and allowed 16 earned runs on 13 walks and 14 hits, two of which were home runs, in just 7.1 innings pitched. That was bad for an ERA of 19.64 and a WHIP of 3.68!

Small sample size or not, and regardless of the fact that the AFL is littered with on-the-cusp talent, it’s clear that Scarpetta simply didn’t have much of anything to offer in Arizona. The future remains bright enough for Scarpetta, though, and he likely could contribute out of the bullpen if needed in 2012.

For a look at how he got to this point, let’s go back and review Scarpetta’s early years as a professional.

Scarpetta was originally drafted in the 11th round of the 2007 First-Year Player Draft out of Guilford High School and forewent a commitment to Creighton University to sign with the Brewers organization. In an odd circumstance, Scarpetta (who is still only 23 years old today) had his original deal voided because of an injury and when the team resigned him it was forced to add him to the 40-man roster at the end of the same year (2008) or risk losing him to the Rule V Draft.

What that also means is that Scarpetta’s minor league options began having to be used up immediately to keep him in the system beginning with the 2009 season. Normally a player has three options but with the unique circumstances of Scarpetta’s situation, the league granted a fourth minor league option to the Brewers on Scarpetta therefore allowing them to stash him in the minors for one more year before doing so would require exposing him to waivers first.

As you can surmise, 2012 will be an important year in Scarpetta’s development as his final minor league option will be used.

Scarpetta will be working on a fastball that’s already been described as “very good” and sits in the low 90s, a plus curveball that was described as “the best in the system” by Baseball America prior to the 2011 season and a changeup which, while improved, is still developing. He’ll need all three of those pitches to profile well if he’s to get a legitimate shot at joining a Brewers rotation that could, technically, have four openings in 2013. As it stands today, Zack Greinke and Shaun Marcum will both be free agents at the end of 2012, Randy Wolf could become of a free agent if the Brewers decline their 2013 option and Chris Narveson becomes arbitration-eligible prior to the 2013 season which could always lead to a non-tender if Narveson doesn’t perform well enough this year.

Preparing for that final step, Scarpetta will take the next step in 2012 by most likely beginning the year in the rotation for the Triple-A Nashville Sounds. If he doesn’t start in Triple-A, he’ll likely be one of the first looks for an early-season promotion thereto.

To be successful at the highest minor league level, Scarpetta will have to overcome the command and delivery issues that have some baseball people saying that his best (or possibly only) path to the majors is a complete dedication to the bullpen. It’s been said that Scarpetta has “enough stuff” to start, but you have to be able to control that stuff to be successful at starting.

Listed at 6’3” and 244 pounds, Scarpetta has good size and a build that should hold up well throughout a season regardless as to his eventual role. Naturally everyone in Milwaukee hopes Scarpetta can be an effective contributor in the rotation, but again it remains to be seen if he’s got those kinds of chops.

With pitchers and catchers set to officially report to Spring Training in just five days, and all the uncertainty beginning in 2013 both individually and with the big league pitching staff, the most important season so far in Cody Scarpetta’s career is about to get underway.

What he does with it could make all the difference.

Brewers By the (Jersey) Numbers: #54 Caleb Gindl

After a two day break because of coach Joe Crawford and bullpen catcher Marcus Hanel, Brewers By the (Jersey) Numbers is back as we sit 54 days away from Opening Day 2012!

The owner of jersey 54 is none other than recent 40-man roster addition and outfield prospect:

Caleb Gindl.

Caleb Charles Gindl was drafted by the Brewers out of high school in the 5th round of the 2007 First-Year Player Draft. He has risen steadily through the minor-league system.

After signing in 2007, Gindl spent the balance of the year in the Pioneer League with the rookie ball Helena Brewers. Gindl started 2008 in Low-A ball with the West Virgina Power and played the entire season there. 2009 was spent entirely in High-A as a Brevard County Manatee. Double-A was Gindl’s home for all of 2010. In keeping with tradition, Gindl spent one full season with only one club and at a level higher than he player the previous year. In other words, Gindl’s 2011 season was as a member of the Nashville Sounds.

Chances are that 2012 will break Gindl’s streak. Even if there happens to be an open spot in the outfield at Miller Park for a while to begin the season, and even if Gindl wins the 5th outfielder spot on the 25-man roster, there will be five outfielders on the roster for the majority of the season which means that Gindl will assuredly see time in Nashville this year. (I personally believe that any opening in the outfield will be filled by Logan Schafer, but that’s neither here nor there for the purposes of this article.)

Gindl stands 5’9″, a height that has many scouts questioning the chances for his game to translate to a big league level. Then again, that same stature had people questioning his ability to succeed at Triple-A, and at Double-A. Gindl has proven the doubters wrong at every step, even to the point where national baseball writers are taking notice and saying that he stands a good chance to win the top backup outfielder spot, whether that’s with Milwaukee or not, to begin the season.

The major thing working against Gindl is that he doesn’t really have a fit right now in a major league outfield. His offense profiles as a center fielder but his defense will probably restrict him to playing the corners. His professional career batting average rounds up to .300 and he sports an .845 OPS. Gindl hasn’t been very consistent over his minor league career year-over-year, but some of that is to be expected since he’s spent each year in a different league and against different pitchers.

Gindl has been said be without good stolen-base speed but is a fair base runner that can stretch some long singles into doubles. He has been improving his contact and walk rates and I’ve read plenty about how he possesses enough arm to play right field at the big league level.

If Gindl does break camp with the Brewers, it’ll be interesting to see how he is utilized off the bench. He bats left-handed so there’s no real platoon advantage to be had should they shift Corey Hart to first base against a tough left-handed pitcher later in the season.

The bottom line for Gindl is that barring something catastrophic, he’ll break his advancement streak this year. Another round of seasoning at Nashville can only benefit the Florida native and, like Logan Schafer before him, even if nothing opens up all season in Milwaukee a strong effort could definitely earn him a September call up for his first taste of the show.

Without question is that Caleb Gindl is a name to keep an eye out for when you’re reading through Spring Training reports over the next few weeks.