While dangerous to draw overarching conclusions from spring training performances, we can still glean useful information from the past week of Cactus League action.
Right-hander Tyler Thornburg is turning heads with his performance thus far in big league camp. Jonathan Lucroy said Thornburg threw one of the best bullpens that he has ever caught in his career, while Nyjer Morgan voiced his approval from behind the cage during a live BP session.
I also spoke to a scout, who told me that he believes Thornburg is “extremely underrated as a prospect” and possesses a legitimate chance to stick in the starting rotation. His throwing motion has noticeably gotten smoother. It will be interesting to see if the young man can better sustain his velocity in the fourth, fifth, and sixth innings this season than he did in 2011. That should prove to be the best indicator as to whether he will eventually move to the bullpen or remain a starting pitcher.
Thornburg threw 2.1 innings of scoreless baseball on Saturday afternoon against the San Francisco Giants.
Schafer vs. Gindl
Not many legitimate positional battles are taking place in Brewers’ camp this spring. With the injury to Corey Hart, however, the battle for fifth outfielder has heated up between top prospects Logan Schafer and Caleb Gindl.
Schafer, who turned 25-years-old last fall, has garnered the most praise of any prospect in camp for his defensive talents in center field. He shows good instincts, fluid motions, and speed that rates a tick above average. The hits have been falling, too. Schafer currently owns a .545 batting average with five extra-base hits and was a home run short of the cycle on Saturday afternoon.
Not to be outdone, Gindl has a .375 batting average with two walks in seven games. The extra-base hits have not come as of yet, but promising reports about his bat continue to come out of camp. Unfortunately, though, he will never be an above-average defender due to his body type. That causes many to believe Schafer will break camp with the big league club and serve as the utility outfielder until Hart can return from his knee surgery.
After a season marred by carpel tunnel syndrome and extended stints on the disabled list, right-hander Mark Rogers returned to the mound on Saturday afternoon against the Chicago Cubs and tossed a scoreless frame. Pitch f/x is largely not available for spring training games, but the WGN telecast featured a radar gun that had Rogers throwing up to 97 MPH.
The Brewers will reportedly continue to groom Rogers as a starting pitcher this season, though it remains unclear where he will be assigned.
Considering his velocity, injury history, and command problems, Rogers seems to be a better fit for a move to the bullpen. The young man does not carry as much value as a reliever than he would as a starting pitcher, but in an effort to usher him to the big leagues and maximize his talents, a relief role seems to be much more prudent for the organization.
The old baseball adage says to keep a pitcher a starter until he fails. Rogers has not necessarily failed at this point in his career. He simply hasn’t been able to remain healthy long enough to reach the big leagues on a full-time basis. On some level, though, the organization has to understand that Rogers has a cross-body delivery and a history of arm troubles. Minimize the potential for another career-threatening injury and move him to the bullpen for the 2012 season. He could be an impact reliever for the club as early as the second-half of this year.
- Wily Peralta shows promise, but has made it clear with his early performances that he needs more time in Triple-A. Manager Ron Roenicke reiterated that much earlier in the week.
- Brooks Conrad appears to have the inside track on the final Opening Day roster spot over third baseman Taylor Green.
- The projected difference between Alex Gonzalez and Yuniesky Betancourt with the glove at shortstop this season is massive.