2014 Position Preview: Aramis Ramirez, Third Base

By Nathan Petrashek

Editor’s note: This is the sixth article in Cream City Cables’ 2014 position preview series. Other positions: catcher, shortstopcenter fieldleft field, and right field.

aramisWhen the Brewers first signed Aramis Ramirez, no one was really sure whether or how he would hold up through the duration of his three-year contract.  Things didn’t start too well; in 2012, Ramirez’s first year, he hit just .214/.264/.381 in April, leading many to comment on Ramirez being a notoriously”slow starter” and all that kind of nonsense.  We thoroughly debunked it in 2012 and so far in 2014 Ramirez hasn’t shown any sign of slowing down, hitting a torrid .478 in 21 plate attempts.

Red flags abound with Ramirez, though.  To say he’s not young is being charitable; he’ll turn 36 in June, well beyond most ballplayers’ primes.  His age is showing, too, as he missed a substantial portion of the 2013 season with knee issues: first, a sprained left knee, and later, tendinitis.  Even when Ramirez was active, he was clearly hobbled and had just a .773 OPS upon hitting the DL.  Ramirez returned in August, and his .301/.387/.528 triple slash in the final months (and without Ryan Braun in the lineup) probably erased whatever doubt the team had about their starting third baseman coming into 2014.

Ramirez looks to have rebounded nicely defensively from numerous horrid seasons with the Cubs, and has made a few outstanding plays at the hot corner already this season.  He’s not a rangy third baseman by any means, but still has a pretty good throwing arm and doesn’t commit many errors.

The Brewers aren’t paying Ramirez for his defense, though; they’re paying for his bat.  Ramirez has been remarkably consist throughout his career, hitting close to .300 with 25-30 home runs.  That power is clearly diminishing, but Ramirez still makes decent enough contact to hit for average.  Ramirez is aggressive at the plate though, which could result in higher strikeout totals, something he has has typically avoided.

As is true of most aging players, the big question will be Ramirez’s health.  Ron Roenicke has suggested he’ll give Ramirez regular rest, so don’t expect a repeat of the 630 plate attempts Ramirez made in 2012.

2013 Recap

351 PA, 43 R, 12 HR, 49 RBI, 0 SB, 10.3 BB%, 15.7 K%, .283/.370/.461, 132 wRC+

2014 Projections

Steamer: 533 PA, 62 R, 19 HR, 74 RBI, 2 SB, 7.4 BB%, 14.3 K%, .282/.343/.464, 125 wRC+

ZiPs: 469 PA, 56 R, 17 HR, 79 RBI, 2 SB, 7.0 BB%, 14.3 K%, .183/.343/.475, 128 wRC+

Contact Status

Will make $16M ($6M deferred) in the final year of his three-year deal with the Brewers; mutual option for 2015 with $4M buyout.

All stats courtesy of baseball-reference.com and fangraphs.

 

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K-Rod takes over as closer “for now”

By Nathan Petrashek

K-Rod-mulls-legal-action-against-former-agents-3O1144NF-x-largeAn Opening Day win is always fun, but this one came with a twist:  the Brewers, nursing a 2-0 lead in the ninth, called upon Francisco Rodriguez, not Jim Henderson, to secure the handshake.  K-Rod managed to do so, despite an eight-pitch at bat by the first batter, Chris Johnson.

Ron Roenicke made the change official after the game, telling reporters he wasn’t pleased with Henderson’s spring:

To be fair, Henderson’s spring wasn’t anything special, as he accumulated a 6.00 ERA over 9 innings with 7 strikeouts and 5 walks (1.56 WHIP).  Still, for a front office who justified jettisoning Juan Francisco by citing the general meaninglessness of spring statistics, the move is odd.

Henderson pitched 60 innings of 2.70 ERA ball in 2013, notching 28 saves and a hefty 75 strikeouts.  He may have had a little luck on his side (3.58 FIP), and struggled against lefties (.786 OPS).  Henderson was developing a change to counter that split and help keep left-handed batters from sitting on his 95 mph fastball.

K-Rod has plenty of closing experience but is a long way removed from his 62-save season in 2008.  He’s been a favorite of the Brewers front office though, and has had three separate stints with the team in as many years. Rodriguez even briefly took over the closer’s role last season, earning 10 saves as the Brewers looked to shop him (successfully) at the deadline.

2014 Position Preview: Jean Segura, Shortstop

by Kevin Kimmes

Editor’s note: This is the fifth article in Cream City Cables’ 2014 position preview series. Other positions: catcher, center field, left field, and right field.

(AP Photo/Morry Gash)

(AP Photo/Morry Gash)

If Jean Segura’s 2013 season can be summed up as a Charles Dickens’ novel, it would be “A Tale of Two Halves”. A quick glance at the numbers and you’ll see what I mean:

1st Half: .325/.363/.487, 121 H, 54 R, 11 HR, 36 RBI, 27 SB

2nd Half: .241/.268/.315, 52 H, 20 R, 1 HR, 13 RBI, 17 SB

Now before I get accused of trying to cook the books regarding Segura’s numbers, I fully realize that injuries in the 2nd half of the season limited the number of games that he appeared in (92 in the 1st half compared to 54 in the 2nd). That said, here are how some of the above stats adjust accordingly on a per game basis:

1st Half (per game): 1.315 H, 0.587 R, 0.120 HR, 0.391 RBI, 0.293 SB

2nd Half (per game): 0.963 H, 0.370 R, 0.018 HR, 0.241 RBI, 0.315 SB

Across the board, Segura’s production is markedly depleted in the 2nd half with the exception of a slight increase in stolen base numbers. Some of this can be attributed to a young player playing in his first 162 game season. As time goes on, the body becomes fatigued and production begins to slow. This seems to be the situation with Segura.

Heading into 2014, many have wondered if Segura would be healthy enough to go when the Brewers take on the Braves in the season opener at Miller Park tomorrow. Lingering pain in his throwing shoulder has limited his spring, however that pain seems to be subsiding in recent days. As of right now, expect Segura to appear as the Opening Day shortstop.

So, which version of Segura can we expect to see this season? I’m going to go with neither. I believe what we will see is a more balanced Segura and the experts seem to agree:

2013 Recap

623 PA, 74 R, 12 HR, 49 RBI, 44 SB, 4.0 BB%, 13.5 K%, .294/.329/.423, 107 wRC+

2014 Projections

Steamer: 611 PA, 71 R, 11 HR, 58 RBI, 33 SB, 5.1 BB%, 12.8 K%, .278/.320/.404, 98 wRC+

ZiPs: 580 PA, 70 R, 12 HR, 59 RBI, 35 SB, 4.7 BB%, 14.1 K%, .284/.322/.422, 103 wRC+

Contact Status

2014-15: Pre-arb. Eligible, 2016-18: Arb. Eligible, 2019: Free Agent

All stats courtesy of baseball-reference.com and fangraphs.

2014 Position Preview: Ryan Braun, Right Field

by Kevin Kimmes

Editor’s note: This is the fourth article in Cream City Cables’ 2014 position preview series. Other positions: catcher, center field, and left field.

From the first official game of Spring Training, one thing has been apparent: where Ryan Braun goes, the boo-birds follow. For those of us that have followed the ups and downs of the “Braun Saga” we know why. An MVP season, accusations of cheating, “redemption” when those accusations didn’t stick, an MLB “witch hunt”, and a crushing finale in which we found out that all of our darkest suspicions where true. These have been the highlights and lowlights of Braun’s recent career.

With that said, the 2014 season is a new start for Braun. His suspension now completed, he finds himself in new territory: right field. Filling the gap left by the recently departed Corey Hart, Braun now tends the field out where “the dandelions grow“. Sometimes a change of scenery such as this requires a period of adjustment, but this time, that just doesn’t appear to be the case.

In 12 Spring Training appearances, Braun has 0 errors as a right fielder. As if this wasn’t reassuring enough, the bat appears to be back in a big way too. Sporting a robust .440/.548/.800 in Cactus League play, Braun also has a pair of longballs to his credit. The first of these, recorded in his first at bat of his first Spring Training game, had a cinematic quality to it.

Walking to the plate to a chorus of boos, Braun tomahawked an 0-1 offering from A’s starter Tommy Malone over the left field fence stunning the jeering crowd into silence and sending out a resounding roar from the Brewers’ faithful. Fans saw this as a return to form for the beleaguered slugger while detractors just drew more suspicion from the performance.

Believe what you may, Braun appears to be putting the whole thing in the rear view mirror and moving on, and that’s good news for Milwaukee as they look to take a run at another year of stout competition in the NL Central. Sporting a franchise high payroll (the first ever to exceed $100 million), the Brewers appear to be “all in” this season. Nowhere may this be more apparent than in Braun’s move to right field.

The move allows Kris Davis, who filled in out in left during Braun’s suspension and collected 11 homers for Milwaukee, to continue on in an everyday role for the Brewers. That kind of power will be needed to help balance out the loss of Corey Hart’s bat and to possibly stoke the fires of an explosive offense like the one Milwaukee fielded in 2011 when they led the NL in homeruns.

Look for Braun to have a bounce back season as he looks to move on from his recent turmoils.

2013 Recap

253 PA, 30 R, 9 HR, 38 RBI, 4 SB, 10.7 BB%, 22.1 K%, .298/.372/.498, 135 wRC+

2014 Projections

Steamer: 576 PA, 79 R, 26 HR, 82 RBI, 16 SB, 9.5 BB%, 19.1 K%, .291/.363/.514, 139 wRC+

ZiPs: 664 PA, 99 R, 33 HR, 116 RBI, 22 SB, 8.9 BB%, 17.6 K%, .300/.367/.540, 148 wRC+

Contract Status

Signed thru 2020, 8 yrs/$45M (08-15), 5 yrs/$105M (16-20) & 21 mutual option

All stats courtesy of baseball-reference.com and fangraphs.

2014 Position Preview: Khris Davis, Left Field

By Nathan Petrashek

Editor’s note: This is the third of Cream City Cables’ 2014 position preview series.  Other positions: catcher; center field.

Khris DavisAs Doug Melvin and Mark Attanasio are fond of pointing out, you wouldn’t have found Khris Davis on many top prospect lists before the start of the 2012 season.  His defensive abilities are totally questionable; the team didn’t even have enough confidence in him to stick him at first base after the position became a black hole last year.  Beyond that, Davis had some trouble offensively when he was elevated to AA for the first time in 2011, hitting a light .210/.272/.331, albeit in a small sample.

The offensive question marks were largely erased in 2012, as Davis crushed to a .350/.451/.604 triple slash between three levels (including AAA Nashville in the PCL).  While his lack of a glove and poor arm relegated him to left field, his hitting credentials earned him a shot in Milwaukee in 2013.  He started as primarily a bench bat and struggled mightily (.188/.278/.313) before being sent down May 1.

Davis got a second chance when Ryan Braun was suspended in July and absolutely mashed.  Taking over left fiend with regular playing time, Davis hit .292/.363/.633 with an amazing 11 home runs in 135 plate attempts.  That was good for a .316 ISO, second only to Baltimore Orioles’ slugger Chris Davis in the major leagues.  That average isn’t going to stick given Davis’s free-swinging ways.  Expect some regression, but also note that his BABIP wasn’t unreasonably high at .293.  Davis feasted on fastballs last year, but struggled mightily against sliders, so expect him to see a heavy dose of breaking balls in 2014.  The power is there; it’s just a question of whether Davis will make enough contact to utilize it.

Defensively, Davis remains a bit of a liability, although his glaring range deficiencies are largely hidden in left field.  His arm is nowhere near as strong as you’d like, although Ron Roenicke maintains he’s improved this spring.  If Davis can make steady contact and scale back on the strikeouts slightly, his bat should more than make up for his poor glove and arm.

2013 recap

153 pa, 27 r, 11 hr, 27 rbi, 3 sb, 7.2 bb%, 22.2 k%, .279/.353/.596, 160 wRC+

2014 projections

Steamer: 480 pa, 56 r, 19 hr, 60 rbi, 9 sb, 8.6 bb%, 21.4 k%, .252/.326/.444, 112 wRC+

ZiPS:  457 pa, 57 r, 19 hr, 65 rbi, 7 sb, 9.2 bb%, 26 k%, .249/.330/.450, 115 wRC+

Contract status

Signed to a one-year deal near league minimum; service time .104

All stats courtesy of baseball-reference.com and fangraphs.

2014 Position Preview: Carlos Gomez, Center Field

By Nathan Petrashek

Editor’s note: This is the second of Cream City Cables’ 2014 position preview series.  Other positions: Catcher.

There was a time when Carlos Gomez looked like another failed high-profile prospect.  Minnesota washed their hands of him in late 2009 and shipped him to Milwaukee for J.J. Hardy, who was himself coming off a terrible season.  Gomez was speedy, sure, but he could never manage to hit enough.  Owner of a .243/.291/.357 line between 2007 and 2011, it got so bad for Gomez that he found himself the right-handed component of a platoon with light-hitting lefty Nyjer Morgan.

gomezSomething clicked for Gomez in 2012, when he hit 14 second-half home runs with a .278/.321/.488 slash line.  Gomez attributes the turnaround to essentially ignoring the advice of his coaches, who were pressing Gomez to exercise better plate discipline and get on base more frequently to make use of his game-changing speed.  Instead, Gomez embraced his free-swinging attitude.  Even though he saw a dreadful 3.39 pitches per plate attempt in 2012, he set new career highs in virtually every offensive category.  The Brewers believed enough to sign Gomez in the offseason to a 3-year/$24M deal.

It was wise of them to do so.  With a full-time job in hand, in 2013 Gomez bested nearly every career offensive record he set in 2012.  He improved from 37 to 40 stolen bases, showcases the game-changing speed that has become his trademark.  But more than that, his final line of .284/.338/.506 shows marked improvement in his power and contact.  With a .344 BABIP, some of that may be luck, but it’s also reasonable to believe some of it was maturation.

In the field, Gomez is one of the best players in the game.  He won the Brewers’ first gold glove since 1982 last year for his exceptional play, and DRS says his defense saved 38(!) runs last season.  It’s more fun to watch them than talk about them, though, so here you have Gomez stealing a Joey Votto home run:

And that is how you put up a 7.6 WAR season.

2013 recap

590 pa, 80 r, 24 hr, 73 rbi, 40 sb, 6.3 bb%, 24.7 k%, .284/.338/.506, 130 wRC+

2014 projections

Steamer: 623 pa, 73 r, 21 hr, 74 rbi, 32 sb, 6.1 bb%, 23.6 k%, .251/.305/.433, 101 wRC+

ZiPS:  491 pa, 69 r, 19 hr, 58 rbi, 32 sb, 5.7 bb%, 24.4 k%, .260/.313/.462, 111 wRC+

Contract status

Signed to a 3-year/$24M contract in 2012; two years remaining.

All stats courtesy of baseball-reference.com and fangraphs.

2014 Position Preview: Catcher

By Nathan Petrashek

Editor’s note: This is Part 1 in Cream City Cable’s position preview series.

The 2014 Brewers will once again feature a stable duo of catchers in Jonathan Lucroy and Martin Maldonado.  Although Lucroy is the primary backstop, Maldonado received additional playing opportunities in 2013 as manager Ron Roenicke used Lucroy at first base for 14 games.  That probably won’t continue in 2014 as the Brewers have a couple potentially viable options at first this season.

JONATHAN LUCROY

lucroyBy far, Lucroy’s highest value lies behind the dish.  Lucroy is offensively gifted as a catcher, but his numbers look much more average transposed to first base.  With a developing pop and improved plate discipline, Lucroy has turned into one of the premier catchers in baseball.  And that’s not even to mention his elite pitch-framing abilities.  He’s only 27, too, and just entering his prime years.

For whatever reason, Lucroy remains fairly under the radar.  He has never been named to an All-Star team, although he was arguably on his way in 2012 until a freak accident sidelined him until the second half.  He certainly does not have Buster Posey’s reputation as an offensive juggernaut or the face of the franchise.  Lucroy is more the type to keep his head down and get to work, and that’s probably why his popularity is sky-high in blue-collar Wisconsin.

Once again in 2013, though, the one knock on Lucroy remains his arm.  Runners know it, as they attempted 80 steals on him in 2013; he threw out just over 20%, one of the worst percentages among qualified catchers.

2013 recap

580 pa, 59 r, 18 hr, 82 rbi, 9 sb, 7.9 bb%, 11.9 k%, .280/.340/.455, 118 wRC+

2014 offensive projections

Steamer: 492 pa, 53 r, 14 hr, 57 rbi, 5 sb, 7.3 bb%, 13.5 k%, .270/.328/.425, 107 wRC+

ZiPS:  506 pa, 53 r, 15 hr, 75 rbi, 7 sb, 7.1 bb%, 14.4 k%, .276/.331/.437, 111 wRC+

Contract status

Signed to a 5-year, $11MM deal through 2016.  Club option for 2017 at $5.25MM.  Will make $2MM in 2014.

MARTIN MALDONADO

Martin MaldonadoMaldonado is a fine to very good defensive catcher, which is his one saving grace in the backup position.  After batting a surprising .266/.321/.408 in 2012 and amassing 1.4 WAR, Maldonado regressed badly in 2013.  Hitting just .169/.236/.284, Maldonado shows none of the on-base skills or pop we glimpsed in 2012.  Maldonado spent 73 innings at first base last year, where he generally looked awful.  Indeed, Maldonado’s primary purpose on the 2014 roster may be to catch Wily Peralta, with whom he was paired in the minors and in parts of the last two major league season.  That’s a dubious purpose, though; it remains an open question whether the wild Peralta might not benefit more from Lucroy’s exceptional pitch-framing.

2014 offensive projections

Steamer: 394 pa, 35 r, 10 hr, 38 rbi, 3 sb, 6.7 bb%, 23.3 k%, .222/.282/.352, 74 wRC+

ZiPS:  328 pa, 28 r, 8 hr, 42 rbi, 1 sb, 6.1  bb%, 26.2 k%, .224/.285/.353, 75 wRC+

Contract status

Pre-arbitration 1-year contract; arbitration eligible in 2015.

All stats courtesy of baseball-reference.com and fangraphs.