The Milwaukee Brewers signed infielder Yuniesky Betancourt today to a one-year contract.
Betancourt, 31, is a career .266 hitter with 67 HR and 411 RBI in 1,019 games. He has spent his eight-year Major League career with Seattle (2005-09), Kansas City (2009-10, 2012) and Milwaukee (2011). He batted .447 (21-for-47) with 1 HR and 14 RBI in 18 games as a non-roster invitee with Philadelphia this spring before he was released on Sunday.
As a member of the 2011 National League Central Division Champion Milwaukee Brewers, Betancourt batted .252 with 13 HR and 68 RBI in 152 games. He batted .310 (13-for-42) with 1 HR and 6 RBI in 11 postseason games in 2011.
Betancourt will wear uniform #3.
Justin Bopp of the SBNation.com site “MLB Daily Dish” is reporting that Yuniesky Betancourt is on his way to Maryvale to take a physical. That physical would be the last step necessary to finalize a reported MLB deal with the Milwaukee Brewers.
***Update: I reached out to a source and was told that the official deal is a minor-league deal with an MLB invite but since it’s so late in camp it’ll basically be a straight MLB (if it isn’t altered to simply be that when it’s signed) by the time it’s announced.
The confusion here could be on either side as spring training deals are sometimes confusing in their wording.***
Betancourt has filled a utility infielder role of late and was, for what it’s worth, absolutely raking this spring in Phillies camp.
Something to chew on. The Brewers are bringing back a familiar face…and favored hash tag.
Wondering who wore a certain uniform number all-time for the Milwaukee Brewers?
The Brewer Nation has got you covered. If you found this list on its own, head back here for the full repository after checking out this one.
Bernie Smith (’71)
John Felske (’72)
Joe Lahoud (’72-’73)
Deron Johnson (’74)
Gorman Thomas (’75-’76)
Ed Kirkpatrick (’77)
Billie Jo Robidoux (’85)
Juan Castillo (’86-’89)
Dante Bichette (’91)
Phil Garner* (’92-’99)
Jerry Royster* (’02)
Ned Yost* (’03-’08)
Felipe Lopez (’09)
Cesar Izturis (’12)
Yorvit Torrealba (’12)
Yuniesky Betancourt (’11, ’13)
Elian Herrera (’14-’15)
Orlando Arcia (’16-Current)
* – manager
In so much as we have discussed, over the course of this countdown, how a certain jersey number can become identifiable or even in some cases synonymous with a player, that’s not always the case.
Today’s subject wears the number 11 on his jersey, which is a number he’s worn before during his professional career, however it’s not close to his only one.
Having worn 2, 3, 8, 11, 13, and 22 across the five cities he has called home through the end of the 2011 season, today’s subject has worn 11 the most times (three, Milwaukee will make four) so when he signed with the Brewers and the number was available, it’s the one he requested.
I’m talking about the new starting shortstop of your Milwaukee Brewers:
With the nickname “Sea Bass” in tow, Alexander Luis Gonzalez comes to the Cream City by way of Atlanta, Toronto, Boston (on two separate stints), and Cincinnati after having made his Major League debut for the Florida Marlins back in 1998.
(If you’re a faithful reader of the series, you’ll now know — if you didn’t before — that the new starting left side of the Brewers infield both debuted in the same year.)
A veteran of 13 big league seasons (Gonzalez skipped 2008 to handle of personal issues), the 35-year-old native of Cagua, Venezuela officially stands 6’1” and weighs 210 pounds.
Gonzalez was brought to Milwaukee by General Manager Doug Melvin when the two sides signed a free-agent contract on December 12, 2012 worth $4.25 million for one year with a vesting option for the 2013 season. The vesting option is worth $4 million and becomes guaranteed if Gonzalez makes at least 525 plate appearances by the end of the 2012 regular season. That is a benchmark easily reached in both of the previous two seasons.
What he does at the plate isn’t the reason why Gonzalez was signed by the Brewers. Instead it is his play in the field which former Brewers and current Braves radio broadcaster Jim Powell said this winter made him believe that Gonzalez was the best defensive shortstop he’d ever seen play on a regular basis.
In fact, Gonzalez’ stick might be eerily reminiscent of last year’s starting shortstop, Yuniesky Betancourt, but after we started calling Yuni B by the unfriendly “YunE6” for his lack of defensive ability, I think Brewers fans will happily accept a wash at the dish for the upgrade on the grass.
As a matter of record, though, Gonzalez’ 2011 offensive linescore looks thusly:
149 G, 564 AB, 59 R, 136 H, 27 2B, 1 3B, 15 HR, 56 RBI, 22 BB, 126 K, 2 SB, 0 CS, .241/.270/.372
While Betancourt’s 2011 ended up:
152 G, 556 AB, 51 R, 140 H, 27 2B, 3 3B, 13 HR, 68 RBI, 16 BB, 63 K, 4 SB, 4 CS, .252/.271/.381
Those are quite similar in the grand scheme of things, especially when stretched out over roughly 150 games played. 150 games is a total that the Brewers may very well need out of Gonzalez. While likely backup Cesar Izturis exists, he isn’t a capable starter anymore and there’s really not anyone waiting in the minors to help out in a pinch quite yet.
Gonzalez’ first Spring Training in the Cactus League is inarguably his best to this point, which hopefully is acting as a harbinger of things to come once the games start counting 11 days from today.
What shouldn’t be in question, despite some contrarian national voices stating otherwise, is that Gonzalez is no longer an above-average defender. I understand that he’s 35 now, but age is just a number. If he’s feeling well, that’s all that matters.
Look at Jamie Moyer competing for a job in Colorado’s rotation this spring at the age of 49. He said in a TV interview yesterday that he knows that at some point he’ll be told when it’s time to stop playing either by his body or by the hitters. He also said that since neither side is speaking up right now, he knows he can still play.
In my opinion, such is the same for any capable ballplayer.
Sure, Gonzalez UZR was down last year, but it’s hardly a death sentence. First of all, UZR fluctuates pretty wildly in enough cases, and it wasn’t like it became some grotesquely negative number in the double-digits or something. It went from 5.1 in 2010 to -0.3 in 2011.
For the record, Betancourt’s UZR was -6.9 in 2011 helped out immensely by the Brewers shifting and positioning. Betancourt was as bad as -16.7 in 2009.
Career WAR difference? Gonzalez +44.3, Betancourt -48.8. In other words, the track record exists to demonstrate that the new shortstop in Milwaukee is far superior to the previous one.
Enough about Gonzalez’ defense. What about that suspect stick?
Shaun Marcum was Gonzalez’ teammate in Toronto in 2010 when Gonzalez played half a season there and said that his offense is better than what you might expect from the numbers, and that he’s got more power than people think.
That may be true, and if it is…great. But even if it isn’t and Gonzalez strikes out 130 times and only hits 12 home runs all year, I won’t care as long as he’s playing capable defense and converting outs into outs.
His range has been on display more than once this spring. So long as a bruised heel which has now kept him out of the last two Cactus League games doesn’t become a lingering issue, I except more of the same in Miller Park and on the road.
Consistent defense from a premium defensive position? It has happened in Milwaukee before.
With Gonzalez in the field, it stands to reason it’ll happen again real soon.
When you have your brain tuned to sports and you hear the number 23, what’s the first thing or whose is the first name that comes to mind?
I think for the majority of people in the Midwest, and perhaps still around the country, the first thought is one of long-time NBA superstar (and short-time MLB minor-leaguer) Michael Jordan.
Jordan wore the number 45 during his brief time with the Double-A affiliate of the Chicago White Sox, but he is certainly remembered more vividly for his time in the red and black with the 23 on his back.
I only bring this up to illustrate that I was the same way for a long time. I’ve never been a fan of the Chicago Bulls, but 23 was always Michael Jordan.
Until about seven years ago.
With all due respect to Andrew Lorraine and Mark Leiter before him, it was in the 2005 season that I first started to really notice that the Brewers had this dynamite prospect who wore 23 in a short September call up in 2003.
Perhaps it was the high profile of said prospect, and perhaps it was also due to the building injury history or the talk about his hands being as soft as concrete that helped him stick in my mind. Positives and negatives are all a part of the first and lasting impression of someone who we meet.
The offensive talent was undeniable though, and you could sense that the defense would come around with repetitions and practice. It has, and the man who I now think of first and foremost when hearing “23” is:
I could regale you with stories of how Rickie Darnell Weeks led the NCAA in batting average in 2002 and 2003 (.495 and .479 respectively) which helped him set the NCAA record for career batting average (.473) and helped him win the Golden Spikes Award, the Dick Howser Trophy, and two-time recognition as his conference’s Player of the Year and Most Outstanding Hitter of the Year.
I could tell you that Weeks was a finalist in 2003 for the Sullivan Award which is given to the top amateur athlete in the country, regardless of sport.
But I won’t do that because this is more about how Weeks fared in 2011 and his outlook for 2012.
Anybody that sees Weeks up close and in person is amazed at his physical condition. At 5’10” and 220 pounds, most people guess he’s an NFL strong safety rather than an MLB second baseman. He is physically impressive if not imposing.
Owner of some of the quickest hands on the team, Weeks had to overcome being too quick at times early in his career. His bat was getting in and out of the hitting zone too fast and it was resulting in worse contact than he should’ve been getting.
Watching him progress on the field has been a true delight for this baseball fan. His quiet confidence and professionalism have been hallmarks of his time as a Brewer and his consistent production when he’s been healthy has been a source of pride when discussing the Brewers with fans of rival teams.
It’s that “when he’s been healthy” part that has kept Weeks from becoming one of the game’s elite to this point.
Weeks’ has had surgery on both of his wrists on separate occasions. That’s a physical ailment which has been corrected. A freak injury took him out of the lineup during the summer of 2011 though, a year which finally saw him getting the national recognition for which fans in Milwaukee have been clamoring.
The “first half” of the season saw Weeks put up a line of .278/.351/.486, 67 runs, 103 hits, 22 doubles, 2 triples, 17 home runs, and walk 40 times in 370 at-bats over 91 games. (The first of those home runs was the first time a Milwaukee Brewer had ever opened a season with a home run.) Weeks was rewarded with not only a trip to his first All-Star Game, but he was elected the starting second baseman which is reliant on popular fan voting.
Weeks participated in the Home Run Derby as a member of captain (and teammate) Prince Fielder’s National League squad. He hit three home runs on the day which wasn’t nearly enough to win, but he finally got to bask in a bit of that national spotlight.
A couple of personal milestones were reached during the 2011 season as well. Weeks hit his 100th career home run on June 5 against the (now Miami) Marlins. He also notched his 100th career stolen base in a game against the Giants on July 23.
All of this came prior to the freak injury I made reference to a few paragraphs ago.
In a game against the Chicago Cubs, while trying to beat out an infield ground ball, Weeks stretched for the first base bag as he had done many times before while busting it down the line. His foot hit the bag in a way that caused his ankle to bend with such severity and due to such force that when he instantly tumbled to the ground the majority of fans assumed the ankle was broken.
Fortunately, in a manner of speaking, Weeks only had severely sprained the ankle. He ended up missing a total of 39 games and came back before his ankle was ready because the team’s offense was struggling so badly without him.
At the time of the injury, Weeks was second in the National League in runs scored, tied for fifth in total bases, tied for sixth in extra base hits, tenth in total hits and tied for tenth in doubles. He went only 9-for-37 (.243) in the 14 regular season games he played in after returning and only hit .146 (6-for-41) in 11 games in the playoffs.
When he reported for Spring Training last month, Weeks stated that his ankle still wasn’t 100% healed from the injury at that time. He expected it to be 100% for Opening Day 2012, however, which we are rapidly approaching.
As the only returning member of the infield from Opening Day 2011, Weeks’ veteran presence in and quiet leadership of the Milwaukee clubhouse will be a very welcome and necessary thing.
The other thing that Weeks needs because everybody else is new is plays on defense. His own defensive timing will be important, but his timing with Alex Gonzalez will be especially so. Gonzalez is Weeks’ new double-play partner and the fourth new primary shortstop Weeks will play with in four years. After a year of dealing with the shortcomings of Yuniesky Betancourt, Weeks will welcome a return to defensive prowess in the man to his right.
As far as offensively, Weeks looks to return to the leadoff spot in Ron Roenicke’s lineup. After Corey Hart found success leading off following Weeks’ ankle injury last season, Roenicke left Hart atop the batting order for the balance of the year. Weeks never liked hitting fifth and said so publicly this spring. Hart has been on the record as saying he didn’t like hitting fifth either, but clarified his comments by saying this spring that he only didn’t like hitting fifth because he was hitting behind Fielder.
With that combination of preferences, and as evidenced by many games throughout the spring so far, it is safe to assume that Weeks will have the opportunity to lead off another season with a home run on April 6 at Miller Park.
It’s an opportunity which is 23 days hence, and one that for Weeks and fans alike can’t come soon enough.
It feels like I’ve only written one of these articles in over a week.
That’s probably because I have only written one article (#33 Eric Farris) in the past eight days. That’s because a significant chunk of the 30’s are consumed by coaches, plus one number is unavailable (thanks for the memories, Mr. Fingers!).
All that said, let’s get right into today’s profile:
Last year the position was manned by stalwart and lightning rod Yuniesky Betancourt. Betancourt brought relatively ineffective play, a penchant for making the routine seem incredibly difficult at times, but also a knack for coming through when you least expected it.
Yuni B. was shipped out following the 2011 season and Alex Gonzalez (who will be profiled on March 26th) was brought in to be the starter. Despite his inconsistency, the one thing Betancourt could be counted on for was answering the bell.
He started 146 games at shortstop for the Brewers in 2011. Alex Gonzalez won’t be doing that and therefore a capable backup is needed this year more than it was last year.
The thing is, the capable backup options on the 25-man roster all dried up this offseason as well as Jerry Hairston, Jr. followed his wallet to Los Angeles and Craig Counsell retired from the game altogether.
For Maysonet, opportunity is knocking loudly and clearly.
This is not just some organizational guy who continues to play at Triple-A simply because he’s been there for a while and nobody better has come along. Maysonet, 30, has seen big league time with the Houston Astros in parts of two seasons. He has started 17 games at the Major League level.
So how did he come to the Brewers anyway?
After the Astros made him a 19th round draft pick in 2003, Maysonet made his debut just over five years later on September 7, 2008. The Astros designated him for assignment to clear a 40-man roster spot in September of 2010. The Brewers, being perilously thin in the upper levels of the minors as the shortstop position scooped Maysonet up on a minor-league free agent contract which was signed in mid-December of that same year.
The Brewers have used Maysonet primarily in the shortstop role, though he is capable is playing second and even third if necessary.
He’s got the arm strength and range to play short (despite a team-high 23 errors last year), but in order to beat out fellow non-roster invitee (though 11-year MLB veteran) Cesar Izturis for the job he’ll have to contribute something offensively.
In 2011 for the Triple-A Nashville Sounds, Maysonet hit .290/.347/.386, with 111 hits in 383 at-bats. The thing holding Maysonet back though is that his batting average is what’s commonly referred to as an “empty” one. He did have 29 extra-base hits, but only three home runs. He also doesn’t run as evidenced by his two stolen bases in three attempts. As for the run production stats, he only scored 57 and only drove in 39.
In this series of profiles I am focusing on the men that have a chance to make the roster and provide a legitimate contribution either from the 40-man roster or, in this case, as a non-roster invitee. Backup shortstop is the most open competition in camp and therefore anybody in big league camp that can play the position warrants consideration.
All that being said, and while I’m not saying that Izturis is necessarily the answer either, there is a reason that Yuniesky Betancourt was the starter all year and that when they needed a backup middle infielder in July and for the balance of the season in 2011 it wasn’t Maysonet’s number was not called.
Could he change the minds of those in charge and warrant himself a spot on the 25-man roster? Sure. That’s why he’s there. He’ll even earn some points when not playing is Izturis’ poor defense continues much longer. But the problem facing Maysonet is simply an overall lack of impact ability.
Bottom line: He’s a nice piece at Triple-A and in a short-term pinch he probably could man the post for a handful of games, but I honestly feel like it would take a major event for him to beat out yet another mercenary.
By: Big Rygg
- Yovani Gallardo
- Shaun Marcum
- Randy Wolf
- Chris Narveson
- John Axford
- Takashi Saito
- Kameron Loe
- Sean Green
- Zach Braddock
- Mitch Stetter
- Sergio Mitre
- Brandon Kintzler
- George Kottaras
- Wil Nieves
- 1B – Prince Fielder
- 2B – Rickie Weeks
- SS – Yuniesky Betancourt
- 3B – Casey McGehee
- Bench – Craig Counsell
- Bench – Erick Almonte
- LF – Ryan Braun
- CF – Carlos Gomez
- RF – Mark Kotsay
- Bench – Jeremy Reed
- Bench – Nyjer Morgan