Projections for Milwaukee Brewers Opening Day Roster 2014
Milwaukee Brewers: Projected Opening Day Roster
Full squads don’t officially report until next week. However, several players on the Milwaukee Brewers have already shown up to spring training. That alone tells us there’s going to be plenty of competition amongst the players for various roster spots. It also shows that the players are confident they are going to a part of a productive ball club in 2014.
Spring training is by far the best preseason in all of sports. The competition is fierce as players are determined to win over their coaches. Not to mention, it’s a great way for fans to see the younger potential-filled players perform with big leaguers. A majority of those players won’t reach the majors for several years, but it’s still a way for them to showcase their talent. On top of that, spring training is a way for those same players to move up their timetable.
Baseball is all about progression from season to season. Spring training can make or break a player’s chances of clinching a spot on the Opening Day roster. For instance, pitcher Mark Rogers was someone the Brewers had high hopes for last season. Unfortunately, the right-hander faltered in spring training, which led to him missing out on the active roster completely. He’s a prime example of what happens to players who don’t take care of themselves in the offseason. He’s also an example of how anything is possible, which means players fighting for a roster spot must go hard the entire spring.
Even though it’s still early, I still wanted to show my predictions for what the 2014 Opening Day roster should look like.
Jean Segura – SS
With Norichika Aoki no longer on the team, it makes sense for the speedy Jean Segura to take over the leadoff spot. Segura’s ability to consistently get on base and steal bases makes him a prime candidate for the job. The hope is that Segura will be able to build off his impressive performance from last season, which certainly will be no easy task.
Carlos Gomez – CF
Behind Segura in the batting order will be Carlos Gomez. The 2013 Gold Glove Award winner had a career year last season. It’s hard to imagine him repeating the success, but the good news is he’s just entering his prime. Gomez is another player who can consistently get on base and loves to steal. There shouldn’t be any downfall in his game on defense as he’s arguably the best in the business in center field. What Milwaukee really wants to see is more progression at the plate.
Ryan Braun – RF
With Segura and Gomez constantly causing problems on the base paths for opposing pitchers and a healthy Aramis Ramirez in the cleanup spot, slugger Ryan Braun should be primed for another outstanding season. The fact that he was suspended for half of 2013 gives him even more motivation to have a career year. He might just have to have it too because the fans in every ball park in America are going to be all over him every time he steps up to the plate. Anytime Braun can consistently stay in the lineup means the Brewers have a chance to win, which should be a common theme this year.
Aramis Ramirez – 3B
Ramirez’s health already appears to be an issue, but the Brewers are confident that it’s a minor one at that. It’s true that it might take a while for the veteran to get going at the plate. However, Milwaukee should be able to hold steady until he catches fire. Ramirez is in the final year of his contract, which means he’s motivated to put forth a top-notch effort. Not to mention, the Brewers, if they can stay healthy, have all the right pieces to make some serious noise in the NL Central. That’s all Ramirez needs to show why he’s a force to be reckoned with on offense.
Jonathan Lucroy – C
Jonathan Lucroy stated that he focused on his defense in the offseason, which is something he will continue to work on in spring training. Obviously, that’s great news. However, it would be an even better bonus if he can continue improving at the plate. Lucroy has the potential to be one of the best offensive catchers in baseball. He’s got good power and can hit for average, which is something that is rarely seen out of the catcher position. If he can continue an upward trend in that area, Milwaukee will be in great shape.
Mark Reynolds – 1B
The first base position is up for grabs and will be a key area of focus in spring training. With that being said, I believe it’s Mark Reynolds’ job to lose. The slugger may strike out more than anyone would like to see, but he’s got tremendous power that could become the stuff of legend at hitter-friendly Miller Park. Reynolds has been cast off more teams than he would like to admit. The Brewers is a great opportunity for him to make a name for himself, especially with a Milwaukee fan base that loves to adore their superstars.
The competition will be close but I would be shocked if Reynolds wasn’t the Opening Day starter at first base. Even though his batting average will be a major issue, his average of 28.8 home runs per season is all that matters in the end.
Khris Davis – LF
Aoki was traded and Braun was moved to right field because of the emergence of Khris Davis last season. Davis got my vote for Milwaukee’s Rookie of the Year in 2013 based on his outstanding offensive performance. The 26-year-old showed incredible power and enough patience to get on base. There’s no question that he could become an All-Star with the right guidance. At this point, the hope is that he absorbs all of the good from Braun and none of the bad.
Rickie Weeks – 2B
I understand that some fans don’t think Rickie Weeks deserves to be in the starting lineup. I’ve had my doubts as well. The biggest competition of spring training will be the second base position in which Weeks will face off against Scooter Gennett. In my opinion, I believe Weeks will win the competition to become the Opening Day starter. The fact that he’s in a contract year and has legitimate worry about losing his job just might be exactly what he needs in order to kick it into high gear.
The reality is Weeks is loaded with talent. Unfortunately, anyone who became a fan of the Brewers within the last two years would never know it. A second baseman who combines power with average is very rare. However, Weeks is someone who has shown the ability to possess that capability. I won’t hold my breath but don’t be surprised if the All-Star version of Weeks makes a miraculous return in 2014.
Yovani Gallardo – SP
Yovani Gallardo will remain the ace of the starting rotation until manager Ron Roenicke states otherwise. I understand that Kyle Lohse pitched good enough to become the ace and Matt Garza is someone who could fulfill the role. However, the Brewers are Gallardo’s team, which means he will remain in the lead spot until he proves that he can’t handle it. Obviously, if he falters in spring training than a move will have to be made. Until then, expect Gallardo to take the mound on Opening Day.
Kyle Lohse – SP
Lohse was outstanding last season. It’s actually a shame that Milwaukee wasn’t able to take advantage of his stellar performance. Hopefully, he will be able to continue his dominance on the mound in a season in which the starting rotation could very well prove to be the strength of the ball club. As long as he continues to pound the strike zone and record outs, he should be in good shape for another great year.
Matt Garza – SP
Milwaukee’s big offseason acquisition has the potential to be a game changer. The hope is that Garza’s NL Central magic rubs off on the Brewers and gives the team a season to remember. Like Gallardo, Garza is someone who could pitch lights out every fifth day. He also has the ability to disappoint, which is something Milwaukee simply can’t afford this season. The good news is three talented veterans at the top of the rotation will give the Brewers plenty of chances to win ball games.
Marco Estrada – SP
Marco Estrada is someone I want fans to watch this season. The 30-year-old has steadily made significant progress over the past two years and should be set for a breakout season in 2014. He’s not going to overpower pitchers or record a lot of strikeouts. However, every rotation needs a pitcher who can eat up innings, which is exactly what Estrada will do. If he can stay healthy, there’s a good chance the right-hander will be a difference maker on the pitching staff.
Wily Peralta – SP
Wily Peralta didn’t excel as many hoped he would in his first full season in the big leagues. With that being said, he certainly showed enough bright spots to give the Brewers hope that he can give an above-average performance this year. Peralta needs to consistently find the strike zone and rack up the strikeouts in order to be effective. Like the rest of the rotation from last year, there was too many times in which he was surrendering the long ball. This is something that simply can’t happen if he expects to progress this season.
Tyler Thornburg – RP
The competition for the fifth rotation spot will be fierce, but ultimately I have to imagine Milwaukee will feel more comfortable with Tyler Thornburg in the bullpen. The 25-year-old is a great example that the minors can’t always properly evaluate a player. Thornburg struggled in Triple-A last season but several injuries to Milwaukee’s active roster forced the Brewers to call him up. It was a decision that they definitely didn’t regret as the right-hander dominated on the mound. Whether it was a start or coming in for relief, Thornburg solidified his position on the team going forward.
Milwaukee wants to see him build off his 3-1 record and 2.02 earned run average from last season, opposed to falling towards his 4.50 ERA in eight appearances in 2012. The good news is all signs point to him continuing in the right direction.
Tom Gorzelanny – RP
Tom Gorzelanny was up and down last season. Overall, he did enough to give Milwaukee confidence that he can improve his performance in 2014. Once again, the pitching staff is supposed to be the strength of the Brewers this year, which means Gorzelanny will have to step his game up to where he was in 2012. It shouldn’t be a problem, especially if the relievers use each other’s positive energy as motivation.
Alfredo Figaro – RP
Alfredo Figaro has shown plenty of success in the minors but has struggled to find that same success in the big leagues. The good news is that the 29-year-old’s stint with the Brewers in 2013 was by far his most successful in the majors. Even though his 4.14 ERA needs plenty of work, he did shown enough promise to give Milwaukee enough reason to give him another shot in 2014. Injecting some confidence in him, which is something he really hasn’t had at the professional level, could go a long ways.
Brandon Kintzler – RP
Brandon Kintzler had his best season in the majors in 2013, which means he has plenty of reason to beam with confidence in spring training. The 29-year-old must not get complacent, as the Brewers will need him to put forth another great effort in order for the bullpen to be considered one of the best in the National League. Kintzler’s job will continue to be providing stability later in games, which will be incredibly useful.
Will Smith - RP
Will Smith will be considered the wild card of the bullpen as the team progress through spring training. The 24-year-old, who was acquired in the Aoki trade, doesn’t have an overpowering fastball that relievers typically have. With that being said, he does have an above-average slider that should prove to be useful out of the bullpen. Smith’s stint in the starting rotation a couple of years ago didn’t fare too well. However, he did manage to show promise out of the bullpen last season, which should give confidence that he should excel in the role with the Brewers.
Jimmy Nelson – RP
In my opinion, Jimmy Nelson is Milwaukee’s No. 1 prospect in 2014. He will enter spring training with an outside shot of clinching an Opening Day roster spot. I believe that his performance will give the Brewers the desire to see what he can do during the regular season. The groundball pitcher has three solid pitches and he’s working on a fourth. Even though the Brewers see him as a possible starter down the road, don’t be surprised to see him continue to get his feet wet as a member of the bullpen.
Francisco Rodriguez – Setup
The Brewers made an outstanding decision to bring back Francisco Rodriguez, who should do a great job in the setup role in 2014. K-Rod pitched very well for Milwaukee last season as he posted a 1.09 ERA in 25 appearances. Even though that success didn’t continue once he was traded, the hope is that his comfort with the Brewers will prove to be the difference. The reality is the 32-year-old still has plenty left in the tank and is just itching to get back to the postseason.
Jim Henderson – Closer
Jim Henderson continued to be a breath of fresh air after John Axford faltered in the closer role. The 31-year-old was fantastic last season in which he recorded 28 saves and a 2.70 ERA in 61 appearances. At this point, the Brewers really need him to step up his game and continue to improve. More importantly, the organization needs him to close the door on opponents when they have the lead in the ninth inning. It will be exciting to see where Henderson will rank among the other closers in the NL in 2014.
Martin Maldonado – C
Martin Maldonado will continue to hold down the catcher position, rightfully so. Even though he struggled mightily at the plate last season, he was stellar behind the plate on defense. His .997 fielding percentage in 317 total chances was inspiring and a big reason why Lucroy was motivated to improve his defensive skills. Hopefully, Maldonado will find similar offensive success to what he displayed in 2012.
Scooter Gennett – 2B
Gennett’s performance last season gave Milwaukee all the confidence in the world that he’s their second baseman of the future. In the meantime, he will simply have to settle for competing against Weeks for playing time. Gennett isn’t someone who will display a lot of power, but his .324 batting average in 213 at-bats is very encouraging. He must improve his defense and find a way to not commit so many errors if he wants to be an everyday player.
Juan Francisco – 1B
Juan Francisco will battle veteran Lyle Overbay for the backup first baseman position. It will be an exciting competition that I believe will see Francisco emerge as the victor in the end. Like Reynolds, he strikes out more than anyone would like to admit. However, he also displays enough power to force the Brewers to give him a chance. Milwaukee has confidence that he made the necessary adjustments in the offseason to be consistent at the plate. Of course, no one will know for sure until spring training gets underway.
Logan Schafer – OF
The final bench spot belongs to Logan Schafer. The Brewers need a backup outfielder and the 27-year-old is the man for the job. Last season, Schafer saw extensive playing time due to Braun’s extension. It didn’t go as Milwaukee planned, with the left-handed batter struggling mightily on offense. The good news is he’s shown success in a pinch-hit role, which is exactly where the Brewers will like to keep him.