Twitter Mailbag: Morris, Rotation, Win Totals | Disciples of Uecker

Disciples of Uecker

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

“What to do you believe is Hunter Morris’ true ceiling?” — @mph343

Since the team announced Mat Gamel would miss the 2013 season with a torn ACL, this has become the most popular question in my Twitter feed. Ultimately, his ceiling remains slightly unclear because we’re still waiting to see if the swing/approach changes he implemented last year can carry into 2013. His walk rate increased to 7.0% in Double-A, for example, the highest walk rate of his professional career. A seven-percent walk rate is nothing to write home about, but it’s important to remember that Morris compiled a 3.4% walk rate in 2011 with Brevard County. He essentially doubled it in a single year.

When talking about ceiling, though, we’re assuming the best-case scenario for a player. I spoke with one talent evaluator who said the Brewers see a little Aubrey Huff in him. Before getting too rankled about that comparison, remember that Huff has eclipsed twenty home runs in seven different seasons in his 13-year career in the majors. That’s a valuable comp.

I don’t necessarily see Morris posting four-win seasons, even in his best years. I’d place Morris’ ceiling as a two-win player, who perhaps throws together a three-win season once in a while. A two-win player at first base would be the equivalent of Freddie Freeman last year with the Braves. Freeman hit .259/.340/.456 with 23 home runs and slightly below-average defense. I’m not sure Morris will ever get his walk rate to 10.0%, but that should put a two-win season in context.

And at the league-minimum, a two-win first baseman would be a huge boon for the organization. I still want to see him translate some of those improvements to Triple-A before fully jumping on the bandwagon, but it’s becoming more and more apparent that he will be a big leaguer in some capacity.

“What are the service time implications if Hunter Morris breaks camp with the club? Even if he’s raking, is it a smart move?” — @BeerTheDeer

If Hunter Morris breaks camp with the big-league club, the Brewers will be starting his arbitration clock early, and if he somehow sticks in Milwaukee the entire season, the Brewers would almost certainly allow him to qualify for Super Two status. That would give Morris four years of arbitration, rather than the standard three years. Though, to be fair, Morris breaking camp with the Brewers and subsequently being sent back down to Triple-A Nashville in a month wouldn’t have much effect in the long run.

To me, it would not benefit the organization to rush Hunter Morris to the majors to fill a one-month hole at first base. A small-market team such as the Brewers needs to extract as much value as possible from the six years of control they receive for young players. That means allowing young players such as Morris to marinate in the minors, fully developing prior to making the jump to the majors. That way, the Brewers are not wasting control years at the big-league level on development that could take place at Triple-A.

There’s no need to rush Hunter Morris. Go three or four weeks with a combination of Alex Gonzalez and Taylor Green at first base and simply await the return of Corey Hart at the end of April.

“Having two above average catchers is a great thing, but do you foresee a trade if the brewers get a good offer?” — @JesseManwill

Not this season. Teams reportedly made calls on Martin Maldonado this offseason and were promptly rebuffed by the organization, and Jonathan Lucroy isn’t going anywhere after signing a five-year contract extension (including a $5.25M team option for 2017) this past spring. Manager Ron Roenicke also utilizes his backup catcher in many ways and has proven aggressive in pinch-hitting his backup catcher as early as the sixth inning.

The other issue with trading Maldonado is depth, or more accurately, a lack of depth. The Milwaukee Brewers have nobody at Triple-A who could step into Maldonado’s shoes if he were shipped somewhere this season. You’re looking at Dayton Buller who is a 31-year-old minor league journeyman who is a year removed from a .215 wOBA in Double-A, or Robinzon Diaz who last played in the majors in 2009 for the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Milwaukee should always be listening to trade proposals, but it seems unlikely that the organization would move Martin Maldonado this year unless the team fell deeply out of contention early. And even then, it remains highly unlikely.

“What rotation would you most like to see?” — @TStads20

My rotation would be:

Yovani Gallardo
Marco Estrada
Mike Fiers
Mark Rogers
Wily Peralta

It will be an uphill battle for the Brewers to reach the postseason, and this potential rotation would be best for two reasons: (1) it’s the highest-upside rotation the Brewers possess, giving them the best chance at a postseason run if everything comes together, and (2) it would allow the organization to assess several young pitchers and put together a comprehensive plan of action for 2014.

“What players need to step up or exceed expectations for the Brewers to make the playoffs?” — @rcon14

Throughout the entire offseason, Brewers fans — myself included — repeatedly said this team desperately needed another number-two starter to pair with Yovani Gallardo atop the rotation. The organization made a two-year offer to Ryan Dempster, only to watch him spurn them in favor of a two-year offer by the Boston Red Sox. Aside from that, it seemed from the outside that Milwaukee sat on the sidelines of the free agent pitching market.

So, the team’s need remains the same. They need another number-two starter to pair with Yovani Gallardo and headline the rotation. The individual pitcher doesn’t necessarily make a difference. Wily Peralta certainly has the stuff to be a number two, but can he reign in his command enough to capitalize? Marco Estrada was better than most realize last year, but can he repeat that performance and work deeper into games without an overpowering repertoire?

Questions have danced around the rotation throughout the winter. In the end, though, someone needs to reach the next level in his development and become a three-win starter for the Brewers. If they get that production, the offense should be good enough to carry a league-average rotation to at least playoff contention.

“If the Brewers don’t add anyone, how many games do you expect this team to win?” — @bcschles

Right now, I see an above-average offense, an average bullpen, and an average to slightly below-average starting rotation. That screams mediocrity. Granted, teams can underperform or outperform their run differentials — we saw an extreme version of that with Baltimore last season — however, I don’t feel comfortable predicting the Brewers to do anything but come near their run differential. Since I feel that run differential will be quite middling, I’ll go on record and predict 82 wins this season.

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