2013 Position Review & Preview: Second Base

Rickie Weeksby Kevin Kimmes

Editor’s Note: This is the second installment of our 2013 review & preview series.  You can read the rest here.

Since 2006, Milwaukee’s Opening Day lineup has had one constant: Rickie Weeks at second base.

Review of 2012:

Projected by Baseball Info Solutions to carry a slash line of .262/.355/.453 in 2012, Weeks slow start to the season led to a career worst .230/.328/.400 over 157 games, but his season was really a tale of two halves. Coming into the All Star break, the 2011 NL All Star was batting just .199/.314/.343. With few options available for replacement, due to an already decimated infield, Ron Roenicke stuck with Weeks and was rewarded for his patience. Weeks batted .261/.343/.457 during the second half of the season (almost identical to his projected line).

If there is a silver lining to his dismal 2012 campaign, it has to be in regards to his plate discipline. Never know for being particularly patient at the plate, Weeks showed signs of improvement in this area walking 74 times in 677 plate appearances or roughly 1 in every 10 appearances.

Weeks two biggest shortcomings are his defense and his free swinging nature. This is where the unfortunate joke of “You can’t spell Weeks without 2 Es and a K” springs from.

Defensively, Weeks is detrimental to Milwaukee’s middle infield. Errors have plagued Weeks career in the majors, a downfall evident in the fact that Weeks has led the majors in errors by a second baseman 5 times in the past 8 seasons (’05, ’06, ’08, ’11, ’12), and taken 3rd twice (’07 and ’10). In 2009, an injury saw Weeks only appear in 37 games, thus not giving him enough “opportunities” for this dubious distinction.

Additionally, despite his newfound patience shown in the statistics above, Weeks still struck out 169 times in 2012. Based on 677 plate appearances, that’s 1 strikeout in every 4 appearances. Ouch!

Projected 2013 Stat Line (according to Baseball Info Solutions):

147/592 over 152 games, 23 HR, 66 RBI, 74 BB, 164 K, .248/.345/.429

Depth of Position:

So, what happens if Weeks struggles again this year, or goes down with an injury? Now that back up Eric Farris was acquired by the Seattle Mariners in this years Rule Five Draft, it appears that the next in line for the spot would be Scooter Gennett. Ranked 7th in the list of Milwaukee’s top 20 prospects, the undersized Gennett isn’t known for his power, but makes up for it in consistency. A career .300+ hitter in the minors, Gennett makes up for his lack of power with speed on the base paths and should be an adequate replacement should his services be required.

Come on back tomorrow for a review of the shortstop position and the return of a former Brewer to the fold.

Kevin Kimmes is a regular contributor to creamcitycables.com. You can follow him on Twitter at @kevinkimmes.

Brewers lose Farris in Rule 5

By Nathan Petrashek

The Rule 5 draft, in which players with the requisite experience who aren’t on a team’s 40-man roster are subject to being plucked by other teams, cost the Brewers a player this year.

Although the Brewers did not select anyone in the draft, they did lose second-base prospect Eric Farris to the Seattle Mariners.  The Mariners are now headed by Jack Zduriencik, the Brewers’ former scouting director.

Farris appeared briefly with the major league club last year, accumulating only nine plate attempts.  At AAA Nashville, Farris hit .286/.329/.377.  He played mostly second, but also appeared in double-digit games at short and in the outfield.

We interviewed Farris last February, which you can read here.  Draft rules require Seattle to keep Farris on the 25-man roster or offer him back to the Brewers, so the draft provides him with an excellent opportunity.  All the best to him.

Q & A with Brewers IF Eric Farris

Eric Farris made his MLB debut on July 28, 2011.

by Nathan Petrashek

I recently had an opportunity to talk with Eric Farris, the Brewers’ 4th round pick in the 2007 draft.  He’s spent the past two seasons with the Brewers’ AAA affiliate playing a mix of second base and shortstop.  I asked him about rabid fans, adjusting to pro competition, and his future in the organization.  Read on for the interview:

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Nate:  From what I saw, you were really excited to be at On Deck, the Brewers fan fest.  What do you like about interacting with fans?

Eric:  I was definitely happy to be at On Deck because it’s a great opportunity to meet and put faces on fans who are rooting for you all season.  Being that so many fans dedicate so much time to supporting our organization, I feel that events like On Deck give me the opportunity to show how much their support is appreciated.

Nate:  Any horror stories about fan experiences so far?

Eric:  Nothing so far but only time will tell … I have a great time seeing and meeting fans!

Nate:  You tore the cover off the ball at LMU (Loyola Marymount University).  What was the biggest adjustment you made after you were drafted?

Eric:  The level of competition is so much different from college to pro ball that the biggest thing was learning to use my strengths and play my game.  Making adjustments on a daily basis was something I had to learn as soon as my pro career started.

NateWhat’s your offseason routine like?  Is it tough to stay motivated and on top of your training?

Eric:  My offseason routine is pretty relaxed for the most part.  I obviously have plenty of time dedicated to training and preparing for the next season.  I like to spend as much time as possible with my fam and friends and just enjoy my time off with hobbies and such.  For me, it’s easy to stay motivated and on top of my training cause I’m still up and coming … I’m hungry and working hard in preparation for the future.

Nate:  You joined the Brewers for one day last year.  Can you describe that process?  I imagine you thought you’d be around longer.

Eric:  The process of my call-up happened so fast that I could barely put it into words.  There were the obvious feelings of excitement, satisfaction, and nervousness.  It was soon followed by disappointment yet also motivation.  Being called up even for that one day lit a fire under me that has been motivating me ever since!

Nate:  Most agree you’re lights out on defense, so let’s talk offense.  What’s one thing – fewer K’s, more walks, more power, etc. – that you’re trying to work on?

Eric:  I’m always working to get better defensively, but particularly on offense I want to improve in all categories.  Specifically, more walks and just putting together better at-bats in general.

Nate:  Is it frustrating being a player on the cusp of the majors?  So much is out of your control:  injuries, transactions, options, etc.

Eric:  Being on the cusp can sometimes be frustrating but being that so much of this game/business is out of my control, I try to focus on the things I can.  I can only control how hard I work and what I bring to my team between the lines!  I’m a professional and I approach every day as such, on and off the field.

Nate:  You played some shortstop last year.  With Rickie Weeks signed long-term, is that a position you want to move to full-time?

Eric:  Playing shortstop is something that I continue to work at and get better in.  I know being able to play the position will only strengthen my value to the club and give them more options.  I prepare myself to be ready for anything but when it comes down to it I just want to contribute in any fashion!

Nate:  If you’re not with the Brewers out of spring training, do you have any sense what the Sounds have planned for you this year?

Eric:  I have no idea what the future holds but I will compete at a high level and when spring training is over I hope to be in the big leagues.  That decision isn’t mine to make and I’ll take in stride whatever is handed to me and continue to work.

Nate:  Last question.  Rule changes to protect catchers were a hot topic after Buster Posey was lost for the season last year.  You were on the other end of one of those collisions in 2010, and the injury set you back a bit.  Are you shedding any tears for the catchers?

Eric:  Injuries are part of the game and when they happen it’s heart-wrenching.  Bottom line, I’m healthy and can’t wait to lace my cleats up in Phoenix in a couple weeks! 

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Big thanks to Eric for taking time answer a few questions.  I know I speak for all our readers when I wish him the best of luck in the upcoming season.  You can follow Eric on Twitter at @eRoc86.

Offseason 2012: Recapping a Busy Winter

It’s been a little while since we last heard from the Brewers’ front office, and this period of relative calm provides an excellent opportunity to review what the Brewers have done so far.

Prospects.  The team’s 40-man roster now stands at 38 with the recent additions of OF Caleb Gindl, 1B Brock Kjeldgaard, RHP Santo Manzanillo, and 3B Zelous Wheeler.  Of the four, Gindl might have the best shot to break with the major league team in 2012 after slashing .307/.390/.472 at Nashville last year.   Wheeler was the only other addition to spend time in Nashville, hitting .275/.383/.431 in limited time there.  Other rostered prospects to keep an eye on include RHPs Michael Fiers, Wily Peralta, and Amaury Rivas, INF Eric Farris, and OF Logan Schafer.

Free Agents.  There were a few notable additions to the Brewers this year in free agency, too.  The team signed 3B Aramis Ramirez from the Cubs to a heavily backloaded 3-year, $36MM deal.  Ramirez boasts a career 33.8 WAR and was good for 3.6 WAR last year after a down 2010 season.  Fielding metrics show that Ramirez is likely to be a liability at third, but the effect of Ramirez’s weak defense should be limited by the Brewers’ other big free agent acquisition, Alex Gonzalez.  Gonzalez’s hitting numbers aren’t much to look at; for his career, he’s slashed just .247/.291/.399.  But his defense has earned him rave reviews, including from Braves (and former Brewers) announcer Jim Powell.  Gonzalez will make about $4.25MM on a one-year deal, a big raise from his 2011 salary of $2.5MM.  Both Ramirez and Gonzalez are in their mid-30’s, which raises questions about durability.

Trades and Departures.  To make room for Ramirez, something had to give with Casey McGehee, who slumped badly throughout 2011.  In early December, the Brewers made it official; McGehee was traded to the Pirates for Jose Veras, a 31-year old journeyman fireballer coming off back-to-back sub-4.00 ERA seasons.  With relievers LaTroy Hawkins and Takashi Saito leaving in free agency, the Brewers got a badly needed middle relief arm and unloaded McGehee’s potentially $3MM-plus salary. Speaking of salary relief, former Brewer Prince Fielder remains unsigned and is reportedly seeking a 10-year deal, or a deal with an average annual value that exceeds Albert Pujols’ $25.4MM.

Braun Controversy.  I’ve hesitated to approach this topic until facts, not speculation, rule the day, but the matter bears attention here.  Several weeks ago, ESPN reported that Ryan Braun had tested positive for performance enhancers in October.  Those reports were later contradicted by releases that indicated Braun’s October samples had highly elevated levels of synthetic testosterone.  Either way, what we “know” right now is that Braun has tested positive for a banned substance; for a first offense, that generally nets a 50-game suspension.  However, there is an appeal process and Braun is exercising that right, the result of which may not be known until January.

International Signing.  The Brewers potentially  added a bit of international flavor to their roster by winning the right to negotiate with Japanese OF Norichika Aoki.  Aoki is a three-time Central League batting champion who has never hit below .300 in a full season, oftentimes features a .400+ OBP.  His arm has been criticized by other writers, but I’ve seen nothing to indicate he’s not serviceable in center, with a move to left likely if Braun gets suspended.  This is not a done deal, however; the Brewers do not have a legitimate Japanese scouting staff, and they will work Aoki out in the States before determining whether to offer him a contract.  Signing Aoki would make either Carlos Gomez or Nyjer Morgan expendable.  If he is not signed, the Japanese team that posted him must return the Brewers’ winning $2.5MM bid for exclusive negotiating rights.