The Brewers, as we all are well aware of, have been irregularly quiet this off-season. General manager Doug Melvin hasn’t made any free agent signings, but, despite this, I don’t have much of a problem with how the roster is currently constructed. The offense has run producers, table setters, and second-year players coming off promising seasons. I feel confident about the starting rotation that, unlike last year, is ended by two promising young pitchers. Brandon Kintzler and Jim Henderson anchor the bullpen, both coming off career years.
The glaring weakness in the roster, however, is at first base. I know it. You know it. My grandmother–a noted Juan Francisco critic–knows it. As it stands now, the Brewers are looking at a Francisco/Sean Halton platoon to start the season after losing Corey Hart to the Mariners in free agency. There were rumors of a trade for Ike Davis but (thankfully) none of them panned out.
The idea of a Francisco/Halton platoon, who are projected for a combined 73 wRC this season, isn’t an intriguing prospect for many (Aramis Ramirez is projected for that same total, but that’s a different narrative). One of the options that has been casually tossed around is moving Jonathan Lucroy to first base.
Moving Lucroy from catcher to first wouldn’t be in the Brewers best interest and it’s a good sign that Ron Roenicke and Melvin haven’t given the idea much serious thought. And any discussion of the notion that did exist should end promptly.
In the event that Lucroy was moved to first base, let’s first look at what the effects on the lineup would be. Martin Maldonado (.169/.236/.284 in 2013) would be given the starting catcher duties. Surely Maldonado’s production won’t be that low again this season for reasons I noted in my Home ImpBrewMent series, but if the reason for moving Lucroy to first is to get Francisco and Halton’s bats out of the everyday lineup, what good would substituting them with Maldonado do?
Defensively, it wouldn’t be much of an upgrade, either. Though Maldonado is known for his defense, don’t forget that Lucroy is an upper-tier defensive catcher, also. He led baseball in runs saved by pitch framing and received praise for the way he handled a young pitching staff last season. Though Maldonado, who had a dWAR (defensive wins above replacement) of 0.9 last season per Baseball Reference, is a slight defensive upgrade over the weaker-armed Lucroy, putting Lucroy at first base would be no better defensively than the other options. In 82 defensive innings he posted a UZR/150 of -9.8.
On top of this, moving Lucroy to first wouldn’t give the Brewers the chance to completely evaluate Francisco’s viability as a potential everyday player. I’ll go on the record as saying, despite his crazy strikeout numbers and frustratingly low OBP, I’d like to see what the Brewers have in Francisco over their other options at first base. Our own JP Breen has called him a “lottery ticket”, which is hard to argue with. The Brewers gave up almost nothing for a guy with 30-homer potential. If he doesn’t fulfill that dread P-word, then that’s that, but I’d like to see the team give him a shot.
And if all else fails,I hear Pete Wheeler is still available. Though his awareness is low so I don’t really recommend putting him at first base.