The Week In Review: Spring Training Begins (February 28 – March 6)

Each Sunday night throughout the season I’ll be looking back at the previous week – who performed well, who wasn’t so good, what to look for next week and other points of interest from the week.

Zealous Wheeler had a good week.

Well, spring training games finally arrived, and with it the realization that we still have a few weeks left until any of this actually matters. Players are underachieving and overachieving all over the place, and everything that happens is taken with a grain of salt. Any pitcher can pass off a bad outing as “I was just throwing fastballs and changeups” and anyone who knows remembers Corey Hart last year knows that batting statistics don’t really matter either. It is, however, great to have legitimate baseball back, and let’s take a look at what happened on the field this week.

Who’s Hot?

In the first week of spring, several young guys came out of the gate swinging the bats. Of players with ten at bats or more, Zealous Wheeler and Caleb Gindl both have hits in half of their at bats – Gindl is 5 for 10 and Wheeler 6 for 12. Of course, neither of them has a shot at making the team out of spring, so good for them. Casey McGehee got out to a hot start, and hit three home runs this week, the only Brewer with more than one. Rickie Weeks finished the week with a .533 OBP, despite slugging only .364 – but the high number of walks (4 in 15 plate appearances) is an encouraging sign that once the season starts Weeks will be performing similarly to last year.

On the pitching side, Shaun Marcum got over a somewhat sketchy first start by throwing three shutout innings with three strikeouts and no walks, while giving up just two hits. After one week, Marcum leads the team in innings pitched. Brandon Kintzler has been pretty sharp, giving up one run in 4.2 innings thus far. Zack Greinke has been a little erratic thus far, but says he feels good and has only given up one run in 3.1 innings. John Axford made his spring debut on Friday by throwing a scoreless inning. Takashi Saito pitched against three batters and didn’t give up a run on Saturday, and Mark DiFelice made a nice return this week as well, picking up two scoreless, hitless innings while striking out three.

I should also mention that Yuniesky Betancourt went 5 for 13, and even drew a walk.  He made some comments earlier in spring about wanting to draw more walks, so I’m hoping he is sincere and gets a few more as spring training continues.

Who’s Not?

Craig Counsell is just 1 for 14 so far this spring. Brandon Boggs has gotten a lot of action, and is second on the team with 17 at bats, but has only three hits. He has knocked in three runs, however. Prince Fielder didn’t have a hit until Saturday, but that hit was a two run home run that ended up being the difference. He finished the week 2 for 11 with a homer and four RBIs. Luis Cruz, battling for a spot on the bench, hit just .231 for the week, but did hit a rare home run.

Most of the starting staff has struggled at least a little bit, but it’s hard to get too worked up over any pitching performances this early in spring. Tim Dillard and Randy Wolf especially struggled, with Dillard giving up five first inning runs on Friday to the Giants and Wolf giving up five in one inning against Oakland, while giving up five hits, a walk, and hitting a batter.

I’m also going to give a little mention to the men in the Brewers starting lineup on Friday versus the Giants, who managed only one hit and no runs in three innings with Jeff Suppan on the hill. Ouch.

Injury Update:

Corey Hart aggravated a strained oblique and appears to be out longer than the two weeks initially expected. We already knew about Jonathon Lucroy’s broken pinkie, and he recently resumed baseball activities. Expect him back in about three weeks. Manny Parra hasn’t pitched yet due to back tightness – a problem that the training staff seems to be having trouble figuring out. Mat Gamel, unfortunately, hasn’t been able to come back as he was expected to due to an oblique strain and it is anyone’s guess when he will get back on the field. Pat Egan, the Brewers’ Rule 5 draft choice, hasn’t pitched in a game yet either due to hip and groin tightness.

Position Battle Update:

Backup Catcher – With Lucroy out, the other guys have been getting their chances. Last week George Kottaras went 3 for 14 with a home run and 2 RBIs, Wil Nieves was 3 for 10 with no RBIs and Mike Rivera was 1 for 7 with a solo homer. Unfortunately I am having trouble finding defensive statistics for those guys, so if anyone has them please post them in the comments! Anderson De La Rosa, who will not make the team, actually had the best week of all, hitting a walk off homer on Thursday.

Backup Infielder – As I mentioned before, Luis Cruz went 3 for 13 with a home run, two RBIs, a walk, and a stolen base. He also got a little playing time in left field after Hart was injured to see if he could play there. It didn’t go particularly well. With Mat Gamel out, Cruz doesn’t really have any obvious competition, but some of the younger guys (like the aforementioned Zealous Wheeler, and Scooter Gennett and Edwin Maysonet) had a pretty good week.

Backup Outfielder – At this point it looks like the team plans on keeping Mark Kotsay on the roster, and right now if you project the 25 man roster to have the normal 12 pitchers and 13 hitters, you would project the hitters to be Lucroy, Prince Fielder, Rickie Weeks, Yuniesky Betancourt, Casey McGehee, Ryan Braun, Carlos Gomez, and Corey Hart as starters. That leaves five bench spots: a backup catcher, Kotsay, Craig Counsell, Chris Dickerson, and another infielder, probably Cruz. That would make it seem that guys like Brandon Boggs (the only other outfielder on the 40-man roster) don’t really have a shot at making the team out of spring training.

The Twelfth Pitcher – Projecting the bullpen, if you put the five starters, Axford, LaTroy Hawkins, Zach Braddock, Takashi Saito, Manny Parra, and Kameron Loe in the bullpen, that leaves one open spot. Sean Green is often mentioned as the frontrunner for that spot – this week the right-hander didn’t give up a run or a walk in three innings of work, allowing four hits. Others in contention for that spot include Brandon Kintzler (4.2 innings, 1 ER, 3 K, 0 BB), Mike McClendon (4 IP, 4 ER, 0 K, 1 BB) and, if he can continue to pitch well, Mark DiFelice (2 IP, 0 ER, 0 H, 1 BB, 3K).

What to watch for next week:

Injuries, mainly. If Parra continues to struggle with his injury, an additional bullpen spot could open up. Hopefully Hart doesn’t suffer any more setbacks, and Lucroy continues to improve. It would also be nice to see Gamel get back on the field and challenge Cruz for the last bench spot. Keep an eye on the backup catcher battle, as no one has really gotten ahead of the pack yet.

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3 Responses

  1. These are all stats I found for the catchers:
    http://mlb.mlb.com/stats/sortable_player_stats.jsp?c_id=mlb&baseballScope=mlb&subScope=teamCode&teamPosCode=SE1&statType=3&timeSubFrame=23&sitSplit=&venueID=&Submit=Submit&timeFrame=1

    Not sure if they are deep enough for your analysis. We in Europe are not that keen on stats 😉

  2. i love seeing difelice pitch well. i hope he can make it back to the club this season. also, the guy gives haircuts to other guys on the team. haircuts. he’s like a toolshed of talent.

  3. […] of Erick Almonte as a legitimate candidate for the last bench spot, the same bench spot that I suspected Luis Cruz had all but locked up. Apparently, I was wrong. Almonte was huge this week, going 12/18 […]

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