Starter: Rickie Weeks
On the Farm: Brett Lawrie
I know that at this point many Brewers fans are firmly against Rickie Weeks. He was a first round draft pick in 2003 and immediately received a major league contract. Now it’s 2010, and he has yet to complete a major league season where he’s hit over .280 or hit more than 16 home runs. He hasn’t exactly been the greatest defender at 2B either, failing the eye test and putting up what can only be described as a poor -22.1 career UZR.
I was still firmly in Weeks’s court last year, though, mainly because of the clear potential of a guy with his athleticism and ability to draw walks. I’m certainly not about to give up on a guy who’s put up OBPs over .340 for 3 years in a row, and I was in the course of being proven right before another injury derailed Weeks’ 2009 season. In only 162 PAs, Weeks had 9 HR and a .272/.340/.517 line. Over the course of 600 PAs, that .365 wOBA would be worth about 15 runs above average. Add in the improved defense that Weeks had shown, and it seemed that the all-star status we were expecting when Weeks was taken with the 2nd pick in the 2003 draft would be here.
I still think it will come. Weeks probably won’t show the ridiculous power that he had in those first 6 weeks of 2009, but I don’t think a major dropoff is going to happen either, and he’ll take more walks than he was early last year as well. For me, the main questions are defense and durability. I think we saw some real improvement in Weeks’ defense last season, but at the same time there’s no way that he’s the elite defender that UZR saw in the first month and a half of 2009. Look for weeks to be right around average defensively. I think if he stays healthy, though, he’ll hit at a similar level to what he had last year. I think the real Rickie Weeks has arrived, and I’m excited, as we could be looking at another +4 or +5 win player to join the ranks of Prince and Braun.
Craig Counsell is back, and it’s great to see the Whitefish Bay native return to Miller Park. If anybody in this infield goes down, Counsell should be able to come in and be a good stopgap. He’s got a fantastic glove and can take a walk. Any hitting like we saw last year is a bonus. Counsell is exactly what you want in a super-utility guy, with a reliable glove and the kind of ability to take walks that prevents long slumps.
Joe Inglett is an interesting player. Inglett will be 32 entering this year and looks like the backup 2nd basemen for Milwaukee, but he can also play a little outfield. He’s had one good major league season – with Toronto in 2008, where he hit .297/.355/.407 in 385 PAs, but had a .331 BABIP. It appears that Inglett’s always had a penchant for high BABIPs, so that may not be too anomalous for him. Overall, we’ve seen 711 ML PAs from Inglett and a roughly average .333 wOBA, which is absolutely acceptable out of a backup middle infielder. The only question mark with him is his defense, as we don’t have much data on him, but the 978 inning’s he’s played at 2B have been poor, according to a -6.0 UZR/150.
Brett Lawrie is a pretty exciting prospect, but there’s still a lot of defensive question marks with him. Personally, I’d be pretty surprised if he sticks at 2B, but despite his struggles at AA last year, he had a solid first professional season with a .780 OPS between two levels as a 19 year old. I expect him to be productive in the majors if he can be a 2B, and he should still be a major league player if he has to move to, say, a corner outfield spot.