Twitter Mailbag: Trading Hart, Bullpen Issues, Lucroy | Disciples of Uecker

Disciples of Uecker

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

“Using only players in the Brewers system, what’s your ideal 2013 25-man roster? Injuries don’t count, so you can include Hart, etc.”  — @GregSchueller

The position players are rather easy. Injuries aside, the Brewers have entrenched starters at every position around the diamond, and the bench is essentially solidified as well with Schafer, Maldonado and Gonzalez being locks for any hypothetical Brewers’ 25-man roster. I would choose Taylor Green over Yuniesky Betancourt and Jeff Bianchi because I still believe in Green can hit right-handed pitching — something that’s currently lacking with Gonzalez and Betancourt.

In the outfield, Khris Davis gets the nod because he can provide a right-handed power bat off the bench, a perfect complement to the line-drive stroke offered from the left side by Schafer. Davis would probably benefit from everyday reps in Triple-A. However, he doesn’t have a home at the big league level — no matter your feelings about his offensive potential — due to the presence of Ryan Braun. So, if he’s blocked anyway for the foreseeable future, get his bat into the fold however possible.

The most difficult decision is what to do with the fifth starter. Currently, right-hander Mike Fiers holds the position, but it’s a tenuous grasp, at best. I like what Fiers brings to the mound — or perhaps more specifically, what he’s capable of bringing to the mound. His command must be pristine for him to have success at the major-league level. For his first couple months with the Brewers, it was, and his numbers reflected that fact. Recently, though, I’ve found myself wondering if his immaculate run to start his rookie campaign last year was nothing more than a stretch of near-perfection with his mechanics and command. His command suffered in September, and opposing hitters mashed against him. This spring and into his first start against the Diamondbacks last week, his command (especially with his fastball) has been sub-par.

Fiers doesn’t have the stuff to succeed when he isn’t commanding his fastball. Perhaps moving him to the bullpen will allow him to fine-tune his mechanics, and the organization can really see what he can provide at the big-league level. Most likely, it’s something between his blistering start and his recent below-average stretch dating back to September — but will something between that still be effective enough to regularly start?

That leaves an opening in the starting rotation. As much as I respect Chris Narveson for rehabbing a tough injury and as much as I liked him a couple years ago, I’m not confident that he can reverse his career numbers in the season immediately following serious shoulder surgery.

For me, the decision boils down to Tyler Thornburg or Hiram Burgos. Thornburg possesses the superior stuff and the higher upside, while Burgos is more polished with his command. It’s a bit of a coin toss for me. One could make quality arguments for either pitcher. With the current state of the Brewers’ rotation and the bullpen, though, I’m going to opt for Burgos because he represents more certainty and has a better chance to work deeply into games more frequently. If everything comes together, Thornburg is admittedly the better pitcher, though.

With that said, here is my 25-man roster:

Pos. Player Pos. Player
C Lucroy SP Gallardo
1B Hart SP Lohse
2B Weeks SP Estrada
SS Segura SP Peralta
3B Ramirez SP Burgos
LF Braun
CF Gomez RP Axford
RF Aoki RP Henderson
RP Gorzelanny
C Maldonado RP Figaro
INF A. Gonzalez RP Badenhop
INF T. Green RP Kintzler
OF Schafer RP Fiers
OF K. Davis

“If the Brewers are in position to trade Hart, how will his injury affect that?”  —  @Flyerboy10

His move to the 60-day DL certainly complicates matters, but the 31-year-old slugger will still have roughly two months to re-establish his trade value prior to the July 31 Trade Deadline. Considering he would be a two-month rental whether or not he underwent knee surgery, I don’t believe it would significantly affect his trade value. Teams won’t be investing long-term with Hart, and clubs such as the Texas Rangers and Oakland Athletics could still come calling.

Of course, this assumes the Brewers are nowhere near the postseason race, and I’m not ready to throw in the towel. This club will have a much different feel once Aramis Ramirez and Corey Hart get back into the fold. The starting rotation also has three very solid starters in Gallardo, Lohse and Estrada — with Peralta showing signs that he could be very effective this season. The bullpen still needs to shake itself out, obviously, but the Brewers should still be a .500-ish team. Don’t expect Doug Melvin and Mark Attanasio to transition into sell-mode if that’s the case this summer, especially given the team’s impressive run late last season after they were left for dead in July.

“Donovan Hand keeps putting up zeroes. Any chance the Brewers put him on the 40-man for a call-up?”  —  @JTabaska

Absolutely. As we recently saw with the promotion of Blake Lalli over other possible candidates, the Brewers still value their impressions from spring training. Donovan Hand was in the discussion to break camp with the big-league club. I cannot imagine the Brewers have suddenly soured on him, especially if he continues to perform well at Triple-A.

“How long before Hellweg and Olmsted are called upon to replace the next injured and/or highly disappointed relief pitcher?”  —  @scander12

People who have followed the site throughout the winter know I’m high on Olmsted. The right-hander threw the baseball very well this spring and had a 92-to-15 strikeout-to-walk ratio last year in the minors. One pro scout told me this spring he didn’t feel Olmsted was quite ready for big-league action. If the Brewers’ bullpen continues to struggle, though, he will likely be high on the list of potential replacements.

Hellweg, on the other hand, isn’t likely to receive a promotion to Milwaukee until September. The Brewers presented him with a full opportunity to win a bullpen job this spring, and he struggled with repeating his mechanics and commanding his fastball. Since then, the organization transitioned him back to the starting rotation in Triple-A Nashville. Unless something dramatically changes, I expect him to remain in the Sounds’ rotation throughout the minor-league season.

“I feel like Lucroy has been struggling behind the plate as much as at the plate. Just a slump or something to worry about?”  —  @BadgerNoonan

I haven’t noticed anything glaring with Lucroy behind the plate. He’s thrown out the only potential base stealer he’s attempted to gun down, and while he already has a passed ball and only had two all of last season, I haven’t seen anything with his technique that would be a cause for worry. It’s an interesting question, though. I’m going to pay more close attention to that in the coming weeks.

(Side note: I thought this article from Baseball Prospectus on Jonathan Lucroy and his pitch framing was excellent.)

To touch on the other portion of the question, Lucroy is currently hitting .185/.281/.185 through his first eight games. Don’t get too caught up in his early struggles, however. He’s not stinging the ball yet, but he is putting together quality at-bats and doesn’t look lost at the plate. This season, he has seen 4.00 pitches per plate appearance — compared to only 3.82 pitches per PA in 2012. The lack of power is slightly concerning, but until his approach starts to fall apart, I’m not going to press the panic button.


To participate in next week’s Twitter Mailbag, ask me your questions via Twitter at @JP_Breen.

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