May. 30, 2016
Five Things to Watch In Brewers' Camp
Spring Training to some is the first sign that winter is on its' way out, and in 60-ish degree weather in Madison, it definitely seems that way. Now that the full Brewers' roster is in Maryvale getting ready for the first Spring Training game in Maryvale against the Los Angeles Dodgers, it is time for baseball. Here are five things to look for in camp this season.
1) THE CATCHER BATTLE
Now that Matt Wieters is officially off the market and in the hands of the Washington Nationals, the Brewers are definitely sticking with the in-house options. Jett Bandy, Andrew Susac and Manny Pina are all going to be fighting for not only the starters job, but the backup job as well, and they all have plenty of team control left. Susac and Pina are the favorites mainly because they know the pitching staff better than Bandy, but Bandy had a solid rookie season in Anaheim. Hopefully this competition brings out the best in these players and we aren't in one of those situations where people say "if you have two quarterbacks you have no quarterbacks", obviously translating this to catcher instead.
2) SCOOTER GENNETT'S ROLE
With the acquisition of Travis Shaw to play third base, plus with the above-average utility play of Hernan Perez, Scooter Gennett's role as the starting second baseman in Milwaukee is gone. He was the guy who shoved Rickie Weeks out the door a few years ago, and I find it sad that the guy who pushed him out of Milwaukee couldn't make it work long-term. However, Scooter is likely still going to get a roster spot, but with only the defensive tools of a second baseman and a guy who can't hit lefties, he doesn't strike anybody as the "utility" type. Craig Counsell hinted at him playing in the outfield, but with all of the outfield prospects plus Ryan Braun, Domingo Santana and Hernan Perez there already, I wouldn't expect him there too much either.
3) WILL SOMEONE CHALLENGE NEFTALI FELIZ AT CLOSER
Neftali Feliz was one of the few offseason signings that the Brewers made, and he was brought in to help stabilize the back-end of the bullpen that GM David Stearns had consistently kept blowing up. He is the only guy with extended closing experience, so he is obviously the favorite, but players like Carlos Torres, Corey Knebel, Jacob Barnes, Jhan Marinez and maybe even non-roster invitee Joba Chamberlain are all going to give him a run for his money. I think all of these guys are going to make it into the pen to start out the year, but at this point none of them are better than Feliz. Carlos Torres was the best Brewers' reliever not named Tyler Thornburg last year, so expect him to be the eighth inning guy again.
4) RYAN BRAUN BUILDING UP OR TEARING DOWN TRADE RUMORS
Ryan Braun is the last "trade chip" the Brewers have, and the Brewers are definitely showing patience to not move him yet. However, his bat and injury history will likely effect how good the offer is and how soon he will be traded. If he starts off hot in the limited spring attempts he will have, expect teams to continue to ask David Stearns about Ryan Braun. If he struggles, he has no chance of being traded. He also earns 10 and 5 rights after May 24th, meaning he can block a trade anywhere, so maybe the Brewers make a move then.
5) PROSPECTS IN CAMP
One of the things that makes Spring Training enjoyable for the fans that travel down there are the young players, especially those among the team's top 30 prospects. Since the Brewers have one of the best farm systems in baseball, that makes it even more exciting for those people, and this year some of the top names are already in camp. Here is a list of them:
OF Lewis Brinson, OF Corey Ray, SP Josh Hader, OF Brett Phillips, SP Jorge Lopez, C Jacob Nottingham, OF Ryan Cordell, SP Brandon Woodruff, OF Michael Reed