5 Questions the Milwaukee Brewers Must Answer During Spring Training
The 2014 Major League Baseball Spring Training is just one week away. It is crazy to think that baseball is right around the corner when the World Series feels like it happened yesterday. Whatever, I’m not complaining.
Things are heating up for the Milwaukee Brewers with plenty of optimism to be had by the fans. This is an exciting time because the team looks to be shaping up to be a contender. I’m sure most fans would laugh at such a thing, but the truth is the Brewers have some solid pieces in place. There are youngsters ready to make a name for themselves in the big leagues and there are veterans who want a shot at a ring. It’s the perfect combination for a small market team that is located in a city that is loaded with baseball hungry fans.
Like any other team, Milwaukee has several questions that must be answered in Spring Training. With the slight roster adjustments that were made and a couple of new faces on the team, it is imperative that the Brewers do whatever they can to build chemistry during the preseason. Spring Training is all about putting together the best roster as possible, but it’s also about the players finding a way to help each other get better so that the team can succeed.
Make sure to check out the slideshow that has five questions that the Brewers must answer in Spring Training. Also, don’t forget to comment below on what you are most excited about the Brewers this spring.
5. Who Will Provide Consistent Production at First Base?
The loss of Corey Hart to free agency could prove to be a lot bigger than any of us could have imagined. Hopefully, that won’t be the case. To ease our pain, the Brewers signed slugger Mark Reynolds and veteran Lyle Overbay to minor-league deals. The two will compete in Spring Training for the starting first baseman job.
With that being said, one of them would really have to screw up in order to not make the roster. The reality is Milwaukee will most likely platoon Reynolds and Overbay at first base, depending on who is on the mound. It’s not exactly ideal for an organization that had Prince Fielder at the position just a few seasons ago, but it certainly should prove to be better than last year’s disaster.
4. Can Norichika Aoki’s Leadoff Production Be Replaced?
Norichika Aoki posted the third best batting average (.296) and the fourth best on-base percentage (.367) among leadoff hitters in the National League last season. A big reason for his terrific on-base percentage is the fact that he led the league in singles (140) and at-bats per strikeouts (14.9).
The Brewers decided to trade Aoki in the offseason because of their fear that they wouldn’t be able to keep him after the 2014 season. Also, they wanted to make room for outfielder Khris Davis, who has the look of a player who could be something special.
There are certainly some candidates on the roster for the leadoff spot, but it will definitely be hard to replace Aoki’s phenomenal production from a season ago. Don’t be surprised if the speedy Jean Segura is the leadoff hitter on Opening Day.
3. Who Will Fill Out the Starting Rotation?
Even if we don’t know the exact order, we do know that Yovani Gallardo, Kyle Lohse and Matt Garza will be the top three pitchers in the starting rotation. After that, it’s anybody’s guess. The Brewers will have the privilege of watching Wily Peralta, Marco Estrada and Tyler Thornburg compete for the last two spots.
In my opinion, it will come down to Estrada and Thornburg for the fifth spot. Estrada has been a versatile pitcher who provides consistency. Sure, there are times that he doesn’t have his best stuff, but for the most part, he will give the team a chance to win. Meanwhile, Thornburg is the young gun who was lights out last year. I think it would be a shame for him not to get a shot in the rotation at the beginning of the season.
Regardless of what happens, there’s no question this will be one of the most exciting competitions in Spring Training.
2. Who Will Start at Second Base?
This should be a no-brainer, but unfortunately, Rickie Weeks’ struggles have put the Brewers in a difficult position. The highest-paid player on the team last season certainly didn’t play like it. Weeks is in a funk that he can’t seem to get out of, which has caused all sorts of problems for Milwaukee. The emergence of Scooter Gennett should light a fire underneath him, but that still might not do it.
The battle for second base could turn out to be the most thrilling competition of Spring Training. Gennett did more than enough in his rookie season to win the job outright, but something tells me the Brewers will give Weeks every opportunity to keep his job.
Personally, I believe Gennett deserves the chance to shine. Sure, I would love nothing more than to see Weeks dominate as he did in 2011. And if that’s the Weeks that decides to show up in Spring Training than he needs to be the starter. However, something tells me Gennett will force management to make a difficult decision.
1. Can Ryan Braun Handle the Pressure?
We won’t know the full effect of the Ryan Braun suspension until Opening Day. Nonetheless, we’ll get a pretty good idea of what’s to be expected from baseball fans after what happens in Spring Training.
The kind of pressure that Braun will be under in 2014 is something fans in Milwaukee have never experienced before. It simply isn’t something that teams in small markets witness very often. After the performance-enhancing drugs and then lying about using them, Braun must put up MVP numbers this season. It’s the only way to shut up the critics and get the fans back on his side. Also, it’s the only chance the Brewers have of reaching the postseason.