We’re ten games into the Cactus League season for the Brewers. We haven’t talked much about individual performances, but a few tidbits are noteworthy and deserve a quick mention.
ESTRADA STARTING STRONG
Those who have followed me on Twitter or over at FanGraphs know I’m constantly chirping about right-hander Marco Estrada and how he’s extremely underrated heading into the 2013 season. He compiled a 3.33 FIP last season as a starter. That was identical to CC Sabathia and seven point better than Matt Cain. I’m not suggesting he’ll develop into a borderline ace this year, but people have slept on his impressive ’12 season due to his unimpressive fastball and low-innings total due to an injury.
This spring, Estrada has come out of the blocks strong. He has thrown seven scoreless innings with seven strikeouts and only two walks. Sure, the small sample size caveat is a massive elephant in the room, but it’s encouraging to see such an important cog in the rotation get off to a good start.
SET BACK FOR KELVIM ESCOBAR
#Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said Kelvim Escobar did not have a sore elbow. Said had trouble with hand strength gripping ball.
— Tom (@Haudricourt) March 3, 2013
Right-hander Kelvim Escobar hasn’t thrown a big-league inning since 2009 with the Los Angeles Angels. He signed with the Brewers this winter and hoped to work his way into a rebuilt bullpen, but that comeback trail now has serious roadblocks standing in his way with this injury.
Lacking enough hand strength to grip the baseball properly is obviously a huge issue, and it reminded me of two separate injuries to Brewers pitchers in the last couple years: (1) Mark Rogers’ carpal tunnel issue that inhibited him from gripping the baseball, and (2) Brandon Kintzler’s nerve issues in his elbow. Neither injury was short-lived and it appears Escobar’s comeback story just got that much more difficult this season.
SEGURA IMPRESSING IN EARLY ACTION
Shortstop Jean Segura is hitting .438/.471/.688 early this spring, and he’s impressing scouts in Arizona. Former big-league scout Bernie Pleskoff wrote a piece for MLB.com that lauded Segura’s potential at shortstop and says only a lack of raw power keeps him from having true five-tool talent. A contact I spoke with in Arizona also praised Segura’s ability to barrel the baseball consistently and has liked how he’s used all fields this spring.
He may not walk much, but don’t be surprised if Segura hits somewhere between .280 and .300 this season. Bill James’ projections have the young man hitting .291, while the more conservative ZiPS projections have Segura hitting .278. Considering the 30+ stolen base potential and the average defense that he showed last season, the Brewers may have themselves a two-to-three win player much earlier than expected.
>> Outfielder Caleb Gindl continues to impress this spring. He’s 7-for-14 at the plate, and the fact that Ron Roenicke and the Brewers continue to play him in center field makes me wonder if the organization is seriously looking at Gindl for the fifth outfielder role.
>> Scout Bernie Pleskoff notes that Tyler Thornburg is overthrowing this spring, which is causing him to lose his command. Down in the count, that forces him to come in the zone, and big-league hitters will take advantage.
>> Left-hander Jed Bradley is reportedly touching 93-94 mph in short stints. That’s much more aligned with the velocity I saw him throw last spring, when he was sitting 91-92 and touching 93. Over the summer, he dealt with fatigue and a groin injury, and I received reports that said he was struggling to hit 87-88 mph with the fastball before the Brewers shut him down.