Coming off a successful first season with the Brewers, the focal point of Zack Greinke’s off-season workout regiment was to avoid pick up basketball games at all costs.
All (bad) jokes aside, Greinke was, at times, the most dominant pitcher on the Brewers rotation in 2011, but failed to maintain his consistency throughout the season. In wins, Greinke held a 2.55 era with a 10.9 K/9 ratio, but struggled mightily when he was the losing pitcher. The 28-year-old right hander held a 7.96 era and averaged just over five innings pitched per start in games in which he was handed the “L.” Overall, Greinke finished with an impressive 16-6 record, a respectable 3.83 era, and a dazzling total of 201 strikeouts in merely 171.2 innings due to an early-season rib injury. He led the National League in K/9, beating out Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw and All Star Game starter Roy Halladay.
Yovani Gallardo is expected to get the Opening Day nod from manager Ron Roenicke, and this should come as no trouble to Greinke. The starter has a past of a social anxiety disorder that delayed his progression into the Majors.
Greinke can be slotted in to be an above-average second starter for the Brewers in 2012. Batters have yet to figure out his delicate mix of a high-velocity fastball with late life, improving change-up, low-70′s sharp curve, and nasty slide piece, and it’s unlikely Greinke will stray away from his four consecutive productive seasons, including the American League Cy Young Award in 2009.
His innings and pitch count will not be monitored as they were for his first three or four starts in 2011. Barring any injuries or other major setbacks, expect Greinke to top 200 innings pitched as he did from 2008-10 while in Kansas City. The late innings will be important for Greinke to keep the bullpen relatively fresh. After going the distance in nine games over the previous two seasons, he had no complete games in 2011. As a staff, Milwaukee only had one complete game for the entire season (Yovani Gallardo vs. Atlanta in April) and was aided by a very deep bullpen. The bullpen, with the losses of Takashi Saito and LaTroy Hawkins, doesn’t have the sixth-and-seventh-inning arms it possessed last season. More starters, Greinke specifically, will have to go deeper into games to prevent Roenicke from using Marco Estrada or Brandon Kintzler in the eighth.
Greinke’s mechanics are easily repeatable and his release point remains the same regardless of the pitch. Unless he simply loses his All Star-quality heater, hoopdy scoopdy, and slider, expect another phenomenal, punch out filled season from Greinke in 2012.
2012 prediction: 18-8, 3.30 era, 33 starts, 207 IP, 225 K, 59 BB, 1.13 WHIP, always wears the proper jersey.
Tim Dillard may have been the reason the Brewers reached the National League Championship Series in 2011, and he wasn’t even on the Postseason roster. Sound crazy? Probably is.
Let’s set the stage. June 5. Bottom of the ninth. Tie game. One out. Heart of the Marlins order coming up. Bases loaded. Ron Roenicke summons Tim Dillard out of the bullpen. Dillard’s side-winding delivery baffled All Star Gaby Sanchez, who grounded out to Craig Counsell, who came home for the force out. 2 outs. Dillard then shattered the bat of slugger Mike Stanton on a harmless fly out to Ryan Braun in left. He would come out and complete a scoreless tenth inning as well. Game preserved.
Utility infielder Josh Wilson would hit the game winning homer in the top of the 11th and John Axford would preserve the lead and
secure the win. The Brewers would go on to barely secure home field advantage in the Divisional Series. Without Dillard’s heroics, they probably would not have, which would have sent Game Five of the NLDS to Arizona…and we know how the Brewers performed on the road in the Playoffs.
Skip ahead to 2012.
Dillard is now competing for one of the Brewers final three bullpen slots. His experience and relatively successful 2011 season will undoubtedly help his position and chances at making the Opening Day roster. Dillard should be used as a righty specialist; he could end up as the right-handed version of Brian Shouse or Javier Lopez. This is exactly what Dillard can bring to the table that Brandon Kintzler and Mike McClendon, others competing for bullpen spots, are not as good at.
He was drafted in 2001 as a catcher, but could not come to an agreement with the Brewers. Milwaukee’s front office took another shot at him the next year, and he converted to a pitcher almost immediately. In 2003 with the Helena Brewers of the Rookie League, Dillard went 1-2 with a 3.32 era in 14 games. He made a name for himself in High A ball in 2005, going 12-10 with a 2.48 era in 185.1 era. He has made appearances with the Brewers in 2008, 2009, and 2011, holding a career 4.91 era.
While it’s not reasonable to expect Dillard to became a part of the back end of the bullpen, I expect him to make the Opening Day roster as a right-handed specialist in the sixth and seventh with the ability to eat innings up, if necessary. The Tim Dillard Experience may be headed to a ballpark near you soon.
To say Ryan Braun had the first successful positive drug test appeal ever merely because of a technicality is more than fallacious. There is no way the Braun camp or MLB would have leaked the results. No luck is involved in appealing a positive drug test.
The rumors are running rampant over the internet over the Braun case. Granted, many of them are simply comments from vehement fans on articles and posts, but those still count as rumors. After all, wasn’t this post “just a rumor” a week ago?
How and why Braun was proven innocent (or not guilty, however you choose to say it) is ultimately in the hands of the opinion holder. Understandably, every person will have a separate opinion on how Braun’s suspension was overturned and, though it shouldn’t have to be this way, whether or not the Brewers left fielder got off lucky. The most trustworthy source in this situation should be Ryan Braun, as he is the one who beat out Major League Baseball, which, in return, released an angry statement.
Rumor 1: Ryan Braun got off on a technicality
For starters, a mishandled urine sample is no technicality; it’s a major misstep in the drug testing process. Anything could have happened to that sample in the 48 hours the sample was missing, and arbitrator Shyam Das was not willing to put Braun’s career and reputation at stake with such a large question surrounding the test.
Additionally, Braun’s lawyers gathered weekly weight, strength, and speed information taken by the Brewers. As he said in his Friday press conference, there was no significant change in weight, strength, or speed on the bases throughout the season. Braun’s training regimen remained the same, as well. Let’s put two and two together: Braun’s test result showed testosterone levels three times higher than any other test recorded under the current MLB drug policy, but records show no physical change. Add to this the fact that the urine sample went missing for 48 hours, opening the possibility of a tampered test, and there is no “technicality” involved.
It would take more than merely a technicality for Das to overturn a positive drug test and 50 game suspension.
Rumor 2: The sample was handled correctly
Major League Baseball remains firm on the notion that Braun should have been suspended and the test was not mishandled.
“The extremely experienced collector in Mr. Braun’s case acted in a professional and appropriate manner,” MLB said in a statement.
“He handled Mr. Braun’s sample consistent with instructions issued by our jointly retained collection agency. The Arbitrator found that those instructions were not consistent with certain language in our program, even though the instructions were identical to those used by many other drug programs — including the other professional sports and the World Anti-Doping Agency.”
Notice that not once did MLB refute what Braun said about the absence of the urine sample for 48 hours. After contradicting much of what Braun said (including that the system is “fatally flawed”), all that has been said of the collector is that he “acted in a professional and appropriate manner”.
If not reporting the sample for 48 hours is acting a professional manner, then something is wrong with the drug policy.
Braun is the first player to successfully appeal a positive drug test, proved there is no substantial case against him, had his reputation at stake, was tagged a PED abuser, and is now being called “lucky” for emerging on top.
Braun’s camp spent all winter contriving a case that would prove a) He is completely innocent or b) the testing process was flawed or mishandled. The primary issue with option a is that it’s virtually impossible to completely prove your innocence and no PED was ever taken. When they found out the test was mishandled and not delivered to FedEx immediately, the focal point of the argument was established.
Over the course of five weeks, Braun and his lawyers proved, for the first time in Major League history, that he was not guilty. Braun had his name “dragged through the mud” with reports of STD’s and major baseball writers such as Buster Olney calling for him to give back his MVP award. Major League Baseball was obviously against him, as was a significant amount of baseball fans. To overcome all this requires more than luck.
Rumor 3: Bud Selig played an undercover role in the appeal
This is without a doubt the worst rumor I’ve seen yet. If all the rumors were true, then Bud Selig was the reason behind the reversal of the suspension because he used to own the Brewers. Not only is this completely crazy, but Selig sold the team to the Attanasio family seven years ago.
Yep. Ryan Braun will be playing this year because Bud Selig wanted the team he used to own to be able to compete.
With the loss of Prince Fielder to free agency this season, a large void at first base has been opened for former top prospect Mat Gamel. Throughout his prior tenure with the Brewers, Gamel was stuck behind Fielder at first base and struggled too mightily defensively at third base to be considered an everyday starter at the hot corner. But now, it’s Gamel’s time to shine.
Expect Gamel to hit the lower-middle of the lineup, especially now with Ryan Braun back in the order and hitting third. His left handed power bat will be utilized by Roenicke to “clean up” the remnants of the damage wrecked by Braun, Corey Hart, Rickie Weeks, and Aramis Ramirez, much like the role Hart has played in the previous two seasons in the fifth and sixth slots in the order.
Gamel’s mechanics have been significantly simplified since his first stint of significant playing time in the Big Leagues in 2009. In 141 at bats that season, he hit .242 with 5 homers, 6 doubles, and 20 RBI. His eye at the plate and pitch selection will be key to his success in 2012. It’s difficult to read too much into Gamel’s career stats with Milwaukee; each of his stints at the Major League level have been brief.
The California surfer look-alike has been given the vote of confidence from Brewers manager Ron Roenicke. The job, for now, is his to lose. Hopefully, Gamel can fix his defensive woes that plagued him at third base in the past. It doesn’t require much defensively to be an upgrade from Fielder at first base, after all. Nobody by any means is asking him to become the next Prince Fielder, but a good season would take away a majority of the pressure burdened on him.
Mat Gamel Season Prediction: .259, 22 HR, 72 RBI, .331 OBP, 0.0 dWAR, a whole lotta chew
Ryan Braun will be in the lineup, batting third for the Brewers on April 6th. Brewers fans, rejoice.
Not only does the successful appeal on Braun’s positive drug test maintain his image, but it may have saved the Milwaukee Brewers season. With the off-season loss of three-time All Star Prince Fielder, the Brewers could not have afforded losing the reigning National League Most Valuable Player for 50 games to begin 2012. Though the pitching staff–primed with upper-echelon arms in Zack Greinke, Yovani Gallardo, and Shaun Marcum–may have been able to keep the Brewers from locking themselves in the cellar by the end of May, the offense would have been stagnant without Braun and Fielder.
Let’s face it: Ryan Braun’s vindication saved the Milwaukee Brewers season.
All along, Braun denied any allegations, telling the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that the positive drug test report was “BS”. Throughout the entire process, including a five-week appeal in court, Braun was nothing short of professional. That same approach was taken Thursday by the Brewers outfielder, who said in a statement, ”I’ve always loved and had so much respect for the game of baseball. Everything I’ve done in my career has been with that respect and appreciation in mind.”
In a division with no evident front-runner, the Brewers now have as good a chance to make the Playoffs as any team in the NL Central. The defending World Series champion St. Louis Cardinals lost the face of the franchise and arguably top player in the game, Albert Pujols. Cincinnati, though much-improved with the addition of starter Mat Latos, has much to prove with a plethora of question marks surrounding the back end of the rotation and bullpen.
The Brewers back end of the bullpen, comprised of 46-save-man John Axford and Francisco Rodriguez, is easily the best in the division. The starting rotation is proven and can compete with the likes of the Chris Carpenter-led St. Louis arms.
What may be overlooked in all this may be the fact that the Brewers retained a Gold Glove in left field with what may have been the worst defensive infield in the National League with the likes of Rickie Weeks and Mat Gamel. The outfield is now one of the best, boasting UZR-gem Carlos Gomez (27.5 UZR in 2011), the speedy Nyjer Morgan and his alter ego, Tony Plush, and the underrated Corey Hart in right field.
The effect will be most obvious under the ‘R’ column in the scoreboard. The Brewers gain a .330 hitter who can bop 30 homers and drive in over 100 in addition to stealing 30 bases. As much love as there may be for Carlos Gomez and Japanese import Nori Aoki, it’s borderline-impossible that the two could match that production. I mean, there is a reason the man was the National League MVP.
The debate over the Most Valuable Player award typically is along the lines of “Well, is he really the most valuable to his team? Or is he just the top performer?” As if that line isn’t spoken enough, it would as overused as the driver’s seat in a 1994 Buick by the time his 50 game suspension would have been over. I’ll just do us all a favor and call it out right now, on the spot.
Ryan Braun will prove to be most valuable to his team in 2012.
Ryan Braun has become the first player to overturn a positive drug test. Thursday, he was informed that a third-party arbitrator had ruled that he is, indeed, innocent and will not be suspended 50 games. To my knowledge, it is because something went wrong with the test, which sound a lot like the news I broke last week.
Braun released the below statement following the news of the successful appeal.
“I am very pleased and relieved by today’s decision.
“It is the first step in restoring my good name and reputation. We were able to get through this because I am innocent and the truth is on our side.
“We provided complete cooperation throughout, despite the highly unusual circumstances.
“I have been an open book, willing to share details from every aspect of my life as part of this investigation, because I have nothing to hide. I have passed over 25 drug tests in my career, including at least three in the past year.
“I would like to thank my family and friends, my teammates, the Brewers organization led by Mark Attanasio, Doug Melvin, Gord Ash and Ron Roenicke, and other players around the league who have expressed their support and our great fans in Milwaukee and around the country who stuck by me and did not rush to judgment.
“I’d also like to offer special thanks to Michael Weiner and the Players Association for believing in me since day one and to my attorneys.
“I’d like to thank my agent Nez Balelo and Terry Prince of CAA Sports and Matthew Hiltzik of Hiltzik Strategies for all of their help and counsel through the process.
“This is not just about one person, but about all current and future players, and thankfully, today the process worked.
“Despite the challenges of this adversarial process, I do appreciate the professionalism demonstrated by the Panel Chair and the Office of the Commissioner.
“As I said before, I’ve always loved and had so much respect for the game of baseball.
“Everything I’ve done in my career has been with that respect and appreciation in mind.
“I look forward to finally being able to speak to the fans and the media on Friday and then returning the focus to baseball and working with my Brewers teammates on defending our National League Central title.”
Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun has been informed along with the Associated Press that he has won his appeal to overturn a positive drug test, and will avoid a 50 game suspension. Braun is the first player in Major League history to have a positive drug test overturned. The decision comes after five weeks of deliberation in the court hearing.
Major League Baseball is reportedly upset with the decision of neutral arbitrator Shyam Das. They released the following in a statement:
“As a part of our drug testing program, the Commissioner’s Office and the Players Association agreed to a neutral third party review for instances that are under dispute. While we have always respected that process, Major League Baseball vehemently disagrees with the decision rendered today by arbitrator Shyam Das.”
Braun appealed the positive test that took place in early October, at the outset of the playoffs. His hearing before a three-man arbitration panel was held in New York on Jan. 19-20, when noted attorney David Cornwell presented his case against the test result and suspension. Braun won the appeal 2-1, with the MLBPA and the arbitrator in his favor with, obviously, the MLB against it.
An official with knowledge of the situation said the test was overturned primarily on evidence that something went wrong with the test. Sounds EXACTLY like what Plushdamentals reported last week. A source exclusively told me that the test was mishandled and sent in later than it should have been. Read that article here.
Braun is expected to report to Brewers Spring Training facilities in Maryvale, Arizona on Friday. The announcement comes right at a time when Braun and the Brewers would be faced with their toughest media situation in team history. Now that the cloud of doubt and suspicion are gone and Braun’s image has been restored, the team can resume baseball activities without anxiety.
ESPN’s Outside The Lines reported in December that Braun tested positive for a performance enhancing drug at the outset of the Playoffs, which was reportedly synthetic testosterone. From the beginning, Braun denied any allegations, telling the Journal Sentinel that the report was “BS”. The test reportedly contained “insanely high” levels of testosterone, far above any test ever before.
Not only does Braun retain his reputation of one of the game’s elite, but the Brewers avoid a huge blow by avoiding a 50 game suspension to the reigning National League MVP. After losing Prince Fielder to the Detroit Tigers, suffering without Braun could have been excrutiating.
More to come.
While there is a flurry of questions surrounding Corey Hart entering the 2012 season, one thing is for sure: with the loss of Prince Fielder, Hart’s production in the lineup is crucial.
Hart is coming off of his first back-to-back productive seasons. Production from the 6’6″ right fielder had been sporadic throughout his career, to say the least. In 2011, however, he simplified his swing, removing any unnecessary movements that tended to get him off balance. Hart batted leadoff for Ron Roenicke’s squad in 63 games last season, including 11 Playoff games in addition 62 consecutive games to finish the season. Despite not fitting the prototypical mold of a leadoff batter, Hart flourished in the role. He batted .301 with 15 home runs and 36 RBI, providing a jolt of pop at the top of the lineup.
Hart enters the season as the leading candidate to bat leadoff for the Brewers, but recent comments by Rickie Weeks may play a role in how that turns out.
Dario Melendez tweeted that Weeks said, “I’ll like to bat anywhere else but 5. I just feel stagnant when I’m there like ‘drove in run, what’s next?”
Though the decision still remains ambiguous, the looming suspension of Ryan Braun would open up the 3-hole for the first 50 games until its rightful owner called its name. Neither Hart nor Weeks has ever batted third significantly in their careers (Corey only has 20 starts in the third slot). It wouldn’t surprise me to see Weeks hit first and Hart move down to third with Nyjer Morgan smushed in between. I wouldn’t read too much into his comments, however.
The loss of Fielder opens up more than vacant spots in the batting order; the opening at first base has been a point of emphasis and speculation throughout the off-season, now seeping into Spring Training. Mat Gamel, the former top prospect known for hitting cannon shots but being an ancient mariner at third base, is finally getting his chance at consistent playing time in the Majors. Roenicke considers Gamel to be the front-runner now at first, but the option of Hart’s lanky frame switching from right to first hovers over Gamel. Most likely, the Brewers will carry four additional outfielders (Morgan, Carlos Gomez, Nori Aoki, Ryan Braun) throughout the season, leaving the door open for Hart at first if need be. Odds are that Corey will stay in right and Gamel and, possibly, Taylor Greenwill man first base.
Hart’s production at the plate in 2012 will need to be consistent with that of the past two seasons. Continual work with former batting coach and current Cubs manager Dale Sveum got Hart back to an All Star level of play. Hart raked the ball all over the pasture in 2010 and 2011, hitting a combined 124 extra base hits. Last season, in only130 games, he finished with 26 home runs and a modest 63 RBI given the fact half his season was spent in the RBI-deprived leadoff spot. One spot of emphasis will be improving upon last season’s mark of .236 with two outs and RISP. The Brewers lost one of the best two-out hitters in Fielder (.299, 25 RBI with 2 outs & RISP in 2011) and two out production from hitters such as Hart is a key to repeating as National League Central champs.
Expect nothing short of an All Star-type season from Hart in 2012. I predict he, not Aramis Ramirez or Weeks, will be the bat that carries the offense throughout the season.
2012 prediction: .281, 28 HR, 81 RBI, 7 SB, .345 OBP, still does that funky one-hand-in-the-air-and-hip-twist celebration after a base hit.
I’ve decided to run a season outlook on every player that is expected to play even a minor role on the Big League club in Milwaukee this season. The schedule is tentative and subject to change, but here’s what can be expected:
#1 Corey Hart- Thursday 2/23
#24 Mat Gamel- Saturday 2/25
#48 Tim Dillard- Sunday 2/26
#13 Zack Greinke- Tuesday 2/28
#9 George Kottaras- Thursday 3/1
#5 Taylor Green- Friday 3/2
#38 Chris Narveson- Saturday 3/3
#50 Kameron Loe- Sunday 3/4
#11 Alex Gonzalez- Tuesday 3/6
#43 Randy Wolf- Thursday 3/8
#40 Jose Veras- Saturday 3/10
#27 Carlos Gomez- Sunday 3/11
#23 Rickie Weeks- Monday 3/12
#20 Jonathan Lucroy- Wednesday 3/14
#61 Brandon Kintzler- Saturday 3/17
#3 Cesar Izturis- Sunday 3/18
#22 Logan Schafer- Tuesday 3/20
#41 Marco Estrada- Wednesday 3/21
#49 Yovani Gallardo- Thursday 3/22
#7 Norichiki Aoki- Friday 3/23
#60 Wily Peralta- Saturday 3/24
#26 Manny Parra- Sunday 3/25
#16 Aramis Ramirez- Tuesday 3/27
#18 Shaun Marcum- Wednesday 3/28
#14 Brooks Conrad- Friday 3/29
#57 Francisco Rodriguez- Saturday 3/30
#33 Eric Farris- Sunday 3/31
#8 Ryan Braun- Tuesday 4/2
#2 Nyjer Morgan- Wednesday 4/3
*Expect additional posts on any player that impresses during Spring and creates a chance at making the Brewers. (i.e.- Travis Ishikawa, Mike McClendon, Michael Fiers, Tyler Thornburg, Zach Braddock, Caleb Gindl)
For the sake of my inability to type words at the moment, I’m just going to cut straight to the chase. It saves you the obligatory feeling of having to read my opening morceau and restrains me from writing some sixth grade level jibberish. So let’s just cut to the chase, you and I.
With Opening Day now a mere 46 days away, there remains large speculation as to which players will fill out the 25-man roster. To spare you the agony of predicting which guys will begin the season in a Brewers jersey, I stepped up to the plate. Heroically, I know.
Short enough of an intro? Good.
Quick key: *=starter, (1)=batting order slot, +=Opening Day pitcher
LF*- (2) Nyjer Morgan- Plush will platoon with Carlos Gomez in center with Ryan Braun in the lineup, but will get the majority of starts in left to begin the year, assuming the MLB hands out a 50 game suspension to Braun.
CF*- (7) Carlos Gomez- To me, the defensive whiz’s key to keeping a regular role in the Brewers outfield rotation is, simply, to hit over .220. For most players, offensive numbers like Gomez’s would find them a spot on the bench, but the 26-year-old’s prowess in center field saves enough runs to put up with his offensive struggles. A place towards the bottom of the order would place much less of an emphasis straining to draw walks, Gomez’s primary struggle, and more toward driving in clutch runs and stealing bases.
RF*- (1) Corey Hart- Not the league-accepted ideal leadoff hitter, the 6’6″ Hart filled the role well for Ron Roenicke in 2011. He posted a .301 average with 15 homers and 36 RBI in his last 62 starts, all coming as the leadoff hitter. Expect him to keep the spot atop the Brewers lineup until Roenicke has to play his hand because of any struggles from Hart.
Norichika Aoki- The off-season transfer from Japan has yet to prove what he can do at a Major League level, but beats out any other competition from youngsters Caleb Gindl and Brock Kjelgaard. Once again, the Brewers won’t have any shortage of left handed bats on the bench.
Logan Schafer- Based on a whopping five plate appearances in 2011, Schafer appears to be the leading candidate to take the fifth outfield spot. He provides speed off the bench (swiped 16 bases in the Minors last season) and could find a spot on the Big League club even with Braun’s return if he outplays Aoki. It wouldn’t be surprising, however, to see the Brewers go with only four outfielders and leave Schafer off the roster to add a right handed bat.
**Each of these outfield predictions is assuming Braun is suspended for the first 50 games.
3B* – (4) Aramis Ramirez- It’s going to take a good month or so to get used to it, but let’s face it: Aramis Ramirez is a Brewer. All I ask in order to forgive him for being a Cub is 100 RBI. Nothing much.
SS*- (6) Alex Gonzalez- Another offseason acquisition by Doug Melvin, Gonzalez is an obvious upgrade at shortstop, both offensively and defensively. He may not possess the pop of Yuniesky Betancourt, but his glove and patience at the plate make up for it. Maybe he can make Brewers fans not cringe as much anymore when JJ Hardy goes yard in Baltimore.
2B*- (5) Rickie Weeks- Coming off back-to-back productive seasons, including an All Star Game start in 2011, Weeks needs to produce even more with RISP in 2012. With no Fielder and, most likely for the first 50 games, Braun, teams will find ways to work around Ramirez in the cleanup spot if Weeks and Gamel don’t produce. Just as he is the pivot man on a double play, Rickie is the pivotal hitter for Milwaukee this year.
1B*- (3) Mat Gamel- Young man, it’s your time. I mean, it’s not like you’re taking over for a three-time All Star, Home Run Derby champ, All Star Game MVP, the youngest player to hit 50 homers in a season, career .282 hitter with 230 homers in six seasons. No pressure.
UTIL- Taylor Green- The youngster impressed in 20 games in 2011, batting .270 and making the Postseason roster. I like him. You like him. Ron Roenicke likes him. This kid better be on the Opening Day roster.
UTIL- Cesar Izturis- He was invited to camp as a non-roster invitee, but Izturis’ experience and glove will be beneficial off the bench. Brooks Conrad, a notorious pinch hitter, could pose a challenge for this spot. Conrad has a career 14 home runs while in Atlanta, most of which came off the bench. Izturis, a Gold Glove winner in 2004, provides a more reliable option to back up Gonzalez, Ramirez, or Weeks and is a much better contact hitter (averages one strikeout per 10 at-bats over 11 seasons).
C*- (8) Jonathan Lucroy- With yet another year of experience behind the plate, Lucroy enters 2012 uncontested for the starting catcher role. Pitchers love his improving abilities behind the plate. He’s no slouch at the plate, either. He hit .265 with 12 dingers and 59 RBI in front of the pitcher throughout 2011.
C- George Kottaras- Randy Wolf’s personal catcher was solid as a backup in his second season as a Brewer. He set career highs in average, OBP, SLG, and OPS in 2011. There’s no reason to think he won’t improve both behind and at the plate this year.
1- + Yovani Gallardo
2- Zack Greinke
4- Randy Wolf
5- Chris Narveson
Expect nothing less than a great season from the intact staff from 2011 that was one of the National League’s best. Greinke, barring any setbacks and pick-up basketball games, will have a full season under his belt after striking out over 200 in 28 starts in 2011. Randy Wolf’s ability to pick up the dreaded stat of quality starts and Chris Narveson’s first couple innings are focal points for the season. We know what to expect out of the three studs at the top, but will Wolf and Narveson be as productive as they were last year?
John Axford (closer)
Francisco Rodriguez (set up man)
As much as I would love to see a guy like Wily Peralta or Santo Manzanilla or last year’s extra inning hero in Philadelphia, Brandon Kintzler, make the Opening Day roster, there isn’t the space to fit in all the options. I don’t see Roenicke and Melvin sending Parra down again and, essentially, ending his chances with the Brewers. With a lack of southpaw options for the ‘pen, his job will primarily be to retire possibly multiple left handed hitters in an inning. The Dillard selection, however, can be attributed more to an educated guess. With Estrada and Parra, Roenicke doesn’t need any more inning eaters and The Tim Dillard Experience has a repertoire much more suited to retire one or two batters than Brandon Kintzler. Just ask the Marlins.
* Predicting the Milwaukee Brewers Opening Day Roster is the “fifth inning” in a series of nine posts on An Infectious and Unconditional Love for The Game. Read each of the first four posts here.