Thoughts From March 13: Brewers @ Athletics | Disciples of Uecker

Disciples of Uecker

We'd like to go to the Playoffs, that would be cool.

Milwaukee played two games yesterday: a split squad game at home against the Seattle Mariners and another split squad game on the road against the Oakland Athletics.

I spent the afternoon at Phoenix Municipal Stadium, watching Michael Fiers and square off against Jarrod Parker. The Athletics ultimately won the game, 8-6, on the strength of a big seventh inning at the expense of right-hander Frankie De La Cruz, who was unable to record a single out and largely had no idea where he was throwing any of his pitches.

The game did not feature many notable performances on either side, but here are some observations on the Brewers’ side:

Michael Fiers

The 26-year-old turned heads last season when he won the Pitcher of the Year award in the Brewers’ farm system. On Tuesday afternoon, however, he was rather pedestrian.

Fiers is largely known for his command and his plus-changeup. His change-of-pace was certainly an above-average pitch. It features a solid velocity differential and good fade. The pitch generated multiple swings-and-misses and was obviously his go-to pitch when in trouble.

His fastball was nothing special. It was rather straight, but he did cut it from time to time. He spotted it down in the zone in the first inning. That allowed him to get to his offspeed stuff and cruise through the inning. In the second, though, he lost his rhythm. He started to open his arm side a bit early, causing his pitches to miss high. That forced him to come into the zone with his fastball at times, and opposing batters barreled the ball at that time. Manny Ramirez launched a 400+ foot home run in the second because he was ahead in the count.

Fiers occasionally flipped up a curveball. He showed an ability to throw it for strikes last year, but it didn’t find the zone a single time on Tuesday afternoon.

Logan Schafer

Schafer continued his fine spring. He pounded out a couple more hits, including an RBI-single to right field, and upped his Cactus League batting average to .588. It is largely assumed that he currently has the inside track for the fifth outfielder role on the Opening Day roster.

A scout once told me that the 25-year-old outfielder does everything pretty well, but is not above average in any one skill. Average at the plate. Average in the field. Average on the base paths. That translates rather seamlessly into a fourth outfielder role at the big league level.

The more I see Schafer play, however, I am no longer sure that I agree with that assessment. He is certainly average (at best) at the plate. Solid contact skills across the board and a good idea of what to do at the plate, but Schafer has shown absolutely no power in any batting practice session or game in which I have seen him.

My impression diverges from the scouting report on the defensive end. He shows above-average defense at all three outfield positions right now. His instincts and first step in the outfield are excellent. Schafer even showed a strong, accurate arm on Tuesday and should have thrown out two runners at the plate from left field.

I still believe Logan Schafer profiles better as a fourth outfielder. On the strength of his defense, however, he could be a starting center fielder on a lower-tier team for a few seasons.

Martin Maldonado

Since the middle of last season, Maldonado has quietly made his case to be the Brewers’ backup catcher over George Kottaras for the 2012 season.

He is supremely gifted on the defensive end. The arm strength and receiving skills are well above average and would be a large improvement over Kottaras, and that’s not even be an argument. That’s simply a fact. Maldonado also blocks pitches in the dirt very well, too. In a backup catcher, I value defense. Manager Ron Roenicke values Kottaras’ bat off the bench, but watching opposing teams run at will when Kottaras is in the game has grown old very quickly.

At the plate, Maldonado needs improvement. He is extremely aggressive and tries to jump on pitches early and pull them with power. Often, that leaves him vulnerable to the offspeed pitch. Occasionally, though, he connects and punishes the opposing pitcher. That happened on Tuesday, when Maldonado launched a pitch from Brian Fuentes over the left field wall for a three-run home run.

The young man does not project to be league-average at the plate in the majors because pitchers at that level will be able to feast on his aggressiveness. With his defense and occasional power, however, he profiles as a useful reserve for the Brewers this season.

Quick Hits

  • Taylor Green just missed a home run to right field, pulling it foul by about two or three feet. He definitely has power when he pulls the baseball. Scouting reports say he also has power to left field, though I have not seen it in any of the half-dozen games I have seen of him in person.
  • Carlos Gomez had no clue at the plate all day on Tuesday. Just none.
  • Zach Braddock was okay. His fastball looked to have some life, but Phoenix Municipal Stadium was without a radar gun. The fastball needs to get back around 92-94 MPH.
  • I love watching Cody Scarpetta throw his curveball. It’s not surprising that Baseball America rates his curveball as the best in the system.
  • Mat Gamel was consistently fooled all afternoon on changeups. He whiffed on three changeups and barely made contact with another on a swinging bunt down the third base line.

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