Our guest bloggers is Matt Seybold from The Sporting Hippeaux.
Question 1 – Can their rotation be competitve in the NL Central?
Jeff: No — Beyond Gallardo, there is no one who will scare the opposition. Randy Wolf can be OK, but Doug Davis (injuries – control)? Manny Parra (all hat, no cattle)? and then who, Jeff Suppan (innings eater only)?? Don’t think they’re good enough, even with the Brewers powerful offense. St Louis and Chicago should be far superior.
Matt: The performance of this rotation will dictate the outcome of the NL Central race, in my opinion. They are certainly unproven, but I see a few causes for optimism. First of all, Yovani Gallardo, Carlos Villanueva, and Manny Parra are all entering that pivotal third year. When blue chip prospects enter the majors in their early twenties it usually takes a couple years for them to make adjustments. If they are going to live up to the organizations expectations, we’re likely to begin to see results this season.
I think it’s safe to say that Gallardo has already proven he has the talent to become one of the best pitchers in the NL. Parra shows flashes of brilliance, but needs desperately to cut down on his walks. When (and if) that happens – and I’m not saying it happens this season – he immediately becomes a legit #2.
I don’t have particularly high expectations for Doug Davis and Randy Wolf, but both have proven that they are dependable middle-of-the-rotation starters. In Milwaukee, with the thunder in that lineup, 32 starts and ERA between 3.75 and 4.25, which is a pretty reasonable expectation based on Davis and Wolf’s recent track records, will probably be good for 12-15 wins apiece. That alone, combined with 15+ wins from Gallardo and 10 wins from Parra (he won 11 last year), makes the Brewers at least 5-10 games better than they were in ’09 (80-82) and puts them in the playoff hunt.
I don’t think Suppan factors into their rotational plans at all this season, unless they suffer a boatload of injuries or he shows signs of some sort of renaissance. The fifth spot in the rotation should be a competition between Villanueva, Dave Bush, and Chris Capuano. Bush probably gets the first shot and we shouldn’t forget, he was a fine back-of-the-rotation pitcher from ’06-’08 (averaging 11 wins, 31 starts, and a 4.57 ERA). He’s only 29, so there’s no reason he can’t get back to that modest level.
I think you can conservatively project the Milwaukee rotation to yield 60-65 wins, which would be well more than they got from their rotation in ’09 (55) and could be enough to get them to 90+ wins and a postseason birth.
Question 2 – Can Rickie Weeks live up to potential?
Matt: One of the true tragedies of 2009 was that Weeks got injured six weeks into what looked like the breakout season everybody had been waiting for (granted, it was only the middle of May, but he was on pace for 30+ HR and 100+ RBI). I would really like to predict that he picks up where he left off in 2010, but two things worry me. First off all, this is the third time Weeks has a ligament problem in his hands or wrists. What’s to prevent the problem from re-surfacing again? Second, Weeks primary asset is his power. Sure, he’s got good speed, but it isn’t exceptional for a middle-infielder (he stole between 15 and 25 bases in each of his first four seasons). He’s, at best, an average defender and he isn’t particularly disciplined at the plate. Wrist injuries have been known to have long-term effects for players, especially in terms of their power. It took two years for Derrek Lee to regain all his strength after breaking his wrist in ’09. And we all remember Big Papi’s prolonged power drought following his torn sheath (exactly the same injury Weeks has) in ’08.
So, the good news is that the power does come back. The bad news is that it can take a long time. I still think Weeks will live up to his potential, but I’m not convinced it will be this season.
Eugene: I hate using the word bust, but Weeks is looking like one. He was all hype a couple of years ago, but hasn’t produced or when he was producing couldn’t stay healthy. I don’t think that it will change at this point.
Question 3 – Did the Brewer’s get a good deal for J.J. Hardy?
Matt: I think they did. I think Hardy is a good player, who will rebound in Minnesota, but at the end of last year, Alcides Escobar definitely proved he was ready to take over as the Brewers eveyday shortstop. Hardy will make over $5 Million this season, while Escobar and Carlos Gomez make $1.5 Mil. combined. Penny-pinching is a necessity for a franchise like Milwaukee and the Hardy trade likely made the Wolf signing possible.
The Twins had a plethora of outfielders and could not really commit to giving Gomez everyday at-bats (especially when they were already carrying automatic outs like Nick Punto and Matt Tolbert in their lineup). All Milwaukee expects out of him is that he plays an excellent centerfield (something he’s proven he can do). Any offense they get out of him will merely be a bonus. At 24, it’s still very possible he could turn himself into a competent hitter.
Jeff: The thing I really like about the Gomez deal from the Brewers perspective is their batting order — Gomez is slated to hit 2nd, behind Weeks and ahead of Braun and Fielder — can you say ‘pitches to hit’? Gomez should receive a steady diet of heaters in the strike zone, which can elevate his confidence to new heights. Great deal for Milwaukee.
Eugene: I didn’t like this deal from the Brewers point of view. Yes, they had Alcides Escobar ready, but they gave a guy that has had some highs and lows for a guy that really hasn’t proven himself yet. I think Hardy will have a big year with the Twins, while Gomez will probably struggle.
Question 4 – Which place will the Brewers finish in?
Jeff: I predict a solid 3rd place finish for the Crew, behind the Cards and Cubs — however, if all of the aforementioned ‘ifs’ play out to their benefit (especially in the starting rotation), it’s not out of the question for them to contend for postseason play now.
Matt: In my NL Central preview last week I predicted the Brewers would win the NL Central. I’m sticking to that, although it would hardly surprise me if the Cardinals squeaked it out. Whichever team misses out of the division will still be in the hunt for the Wild Card.
Eugene: I think the Cubs and Brewers will battle for 2nd. Both have questions about their pitching. Brewers have an advantage with hitters; the Cubs don’t really have anyone to counter Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder. I say Brewers in second.
Tags: 30 Teams in 30 Days, Baseball, Baseball Preview, Milwaukee Brewers, Prince Fielder