Twitter Mailbag 12.27.12: Escobar, Segura, and Rogers | Disciples of Uecker

Disciples of Uecker

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

Following an extended holiday weekend — best wishes go out to you and your families from all of us here at DoU — I opened up the discussion to my followers on Twitter last night. I obviously couldn’t get to all of the questions, but here are some that I picked out for my unreliable answers:

“Who would you rather have going forward: Alcides Escobar or Jean Segura?” — @mjheitk

This is an intriguing question and not necessarily because of the Zack Greinke connections. The two young shortstops offer value in different ways. Segura should provide more value at the plate with his double-digit home run power potential, but Escobar hit .293/.331/.390 last season and owns a distinct advantage with the glove at a premium defensive position. It’s tough to turn down the latter.

Some have questioned Escobar’s uptick at the plate because of his .344 BABIP, but BABIP is too quickly explained away as luck. An above-average or below-average BABIP can be somewhat sustainable depending on the individual’s skill set. Escobar started to utilize his assets at the plate much better last season, putting the baseball on the ground more often and relying on his plus-speed. His GB/FB ratio was the highest of his career at 2.25 GB/FB — and he should continue to find success at the plate if he can stay away from the fly balls. A guy like him lives on line drives and ground balls.

Normally, Segura would get the nod due to his amount of control years remaining, but the Royals signed Escobar to a contract extension in March. It locks up the young shortstop through 2015 and includes option years in 2016 and 2017. Control years being roughly equal, I’m going to side with the proven commodity — especially given the separation with the glove — and take Escobar over Segura.

You can certainly make arguments for either side, though. It’s just difficult to turn down the current two-to-three win player for the next five years over a prospect who scouts largely projected at second base prior to the Brewers’ acquisition in July.

“Is there an affordable middle relief option you’d like to see Milwaukee acquire, either via trade or free agency?” — @kevanfeyzi

Because the majority of relievers are so volatile in terms of performance, I’ve never advocated moving prospects for middle relief. On the free agent market, though, the Brewers will likely acquire a right-handed reliever. The organization has been lightly connected to Kyle Farnsworth, who makes sense depending on the price tag. He dealt with an elbow injury and saw his velocity decline — both of which are red flags — but he still compiled a swinging-strike rate of 11.4% and averaged 93 mph on his fastball. Not to mention he’s a year removed from 2.18 ERA with the Rays and has posted a FIP in the low-threes each of the past four years.

He still struggles with his command and wouldn’t be worth anything more than a one-year deal because of the injuries, but he could be a nice value-buy for Doug Melvin and the Brewers on a two-or-three million dollar deal in January.

“Aren’t the Brewers stuck in the middle, reluctant to reload yet unable to contend?” — @rcon14

This has been a common refrain on Twitter in recent months, though I think it’s been slightly overstated. Milwaukee certainly remains unwilling to embark on a rebuilding effort, trading away assets for young prospects in hopes of building a championship-contending team in 2015 or 2016. Business motives and public relations fears are partially responsible, but at the same time, the Brewers are not looking ahead to the upcoming season with no hopes of contention. This is largely the same team that made a massive run at the postseason in August and September — and no matter how sustainable you feel that run may have been, it still happened.

We saw the Orioles ride an unexpected wave to the postseason last season thanks to a shutdown bullpen that helped them win an extraordinary percentage of one-run games and significantly outplay their pythagorean (93 wins vs. an expected 82 wins). The Brewers, on the other hand, return the National League’s top run-scoring offense and have a slew of young pitching with a wide range of potential performance. It’s unlikely that they make the postseason, but it’s not beyond the realm of possibility. Thus, no one should be surprised that Mark Attanasio and Doug Melvin are unwilling to blow up their squad and start over.

With that said, I have been a proponent of shopping Corey Hart this winter. The organization needs to understand the chances of postseason contention this season remain small (largely thanks to a much-improved National League) and should explore moving one year of Hart for controllable talent. The postseason hopes of the Milwaukee Brewers in 2013 do not hinge on Corey Hart. They hinge on the rotation and the bullpen. So moving Hart for a couple minor league pieces would represent a nice blend of playing for now and building for the future.

I don’t think it makes sense for the organization to shop Aramis Ramirez, Rickie Weeks, etc. at this point. However, if the team tanks during the first half of the season, we could be having a different conversation in July.

“Would you stick Rogers in the bullpen, or make him 5th starter to control his innings to 150-160?” — @Woziszeus

Rogers received an extended look in the rotation last season with the Brewers, and he showed some skills suggesting he could stick as a starter next year. He displayed a nice feel for his slider, throwing it for strikes and even relying on it when down in the count. Opposing hitters only hit .224 off his slider last year. It allows him to work differently the second and third times through the batting order, working off his fastball early in the outing and later working off his slider while flipping up an occasional curveball or changeup to keep hitters honest. He also threw strikes early in the count better than he has throughout his career. The right-hander threw first-pitch strikes 61.2% of the time last year, while the league average only sat at 60.5% for starting pitchers.

Don’t get me wrong, the command is still a legitimate issue. He walked 3.23 batters per nine innings last year and can run up a pitch count in a hurry. Still, he showed improvement last year and even flashed an ability to be a true mid-rotation starter if he continues to develop — which is weird to say about a 27-year-old pitcher.

The real question mark is health, and I’m not a firm believer that a move to the bullpen alleviates that concern. Innings would decrease, to be sure, but overall stress would be different considering usage on back-to-back days and having to warm up more quickly. Tyler Thornburg struggled with that transition last year and was sent back to the minors after discomfort in his arm. Moving a pitcher to the bullpen is not an immediate injury-saving technique.

If I’m Doug Melvin or Ron Roenicke, I give Rogers the chance to build upon the improvements he displayed last season when he posted a 3.81 FIP in seven starts.

“Who are some potential minor league players that could be called up early in the season for the Brewers?” — @connordan92

Logan Schafer is all but guaranteed the fourth-outfielder position behind Carlos Gomez in center field. Otherwise, Hiram Burgos could see time in either the bullpen or the rotation depending on injuries and his performance early in the year. Johnny Hellweg may see time in the bullpen, if the Brewers become desperate, but the organization said prior to the Arizona Fall League that they plan to move him back to the rotation. Multiple scouts have said that Kyle Heckathorn is a big-league reliever and is on the brink of a big-league promotion. Michael Olmsted is an under-the-radar option for the bullpen coming out of spring training.

Otherwise, you’re looking at players such as Jimmy Nelson, Hunter Morris, Caleb Gindl, Scooter Gennett, Josh Prince, and Khris Davis who could make their big league debuts this year if they can dominate in Triple-A. Even a Donovan Hand or Darren Byrd could see some big league time.

The Brewers have a plethora of depth in their minor league system. They have a slew of guys who could be big league contributors. As the narrative goes, however, they still lack the elite prospects that put a farm system on the map.

“Rogers presumably was seen as top of rotation when drafted. Now, he is seen as mid-rotation at best, if healthy. What failed to develop?” — @bachlaw

Before addressing Rogers, it’s important to realize scouting reports that project an 18-year-old pitcher as a top-of-the-rotation arm are talking potential. They’re not guaranteeing anything. They’re simply stating that the projection exists. Few prospects actualize their tools into usable baseball skills, which can be seen in players such as Manny Parra, Ben Hendrickson, and former-first round draft picks J.M. Gold and Mike Jones. Their development can be stunted by injury. Their repertoire could not develop as projected. Or perhaps their command issues never subside.

In terms of Mark Rogers, it has been injuries and command issues. His command showed signs of improvement late last season, though, as discussed in an earlier question. It just doesn’t project to be improved enough to be a true top-rotation starter.

Before I ramble any further, that wraps up this installment of the Twitter Mailbag. Thank you to everyone who participated on Twitter, and my apologies for not getting to everyone’s questions. Until next time, friends, keep the questions coming!

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