Predicting the Milwaukee Brewers’ 2014 Opening Day Lineup
Projecting Ron Roenicke's Opening Day Lineup for the Milwaukee Brewers
With opening day in Milwaukee about a month away, casual fans, passionate loyalists and expert analysts have begun turning their attention to the Milwaukee Brewers' potential lineup to open the 2014 campaign.
Everyone has their own opinions, whether it be who gets the start on the hill, which player begins the year at a particular position or where certain hitters bat in the order. Philosophies on how it all fits together often vary widely and seem to change on a weekly basis, especially during spring training.
The fact is, only one person's opinion actually matters for the Brewers, and his name is Ron Roenicke.
Sure, general manager Doug Melvin may add his two cents and bench coach Jerry Narron will definitely have some pull. In the end, however, Roenicke's name is attached to the team's success most closely, and the critiques of his performance will begin in game one of 162, which includes the first starting lineup.
Thus, this is an effort to predict what Roenicke will actually do.
This is not my suggestion or my personal desire for the lineup. If you'd like to see an optimized lineup, I did this a month ago (Lineup a Challenge to Construct), though I even restricted myself to keeping within some of Roenicke's preferred strategies.
So back to what the skipper is going to do when the curtain goes up on Mar. 31.
He has a couple of position battles to worry about at both first and second base. He needs to figure out the best hitters to go one-two at the top of the order. Then he has to decide how to manipulate the middle and back third of the lineup to put players in the best positions to succeed.
Oh, and let's not forget who gets tabbed to toe the rubber in front of the sellout crowd at Miller Park.
Again, it could all change in a heartbeat, but here's my prediction on how Roenicke will fill out on his opening day lineup card.
9 - Yovani Gallardo - SP
The opening day start is just as much a ceremonial nod as it is an indication of a pitcher's value. Without a true ace on the staff, expect Yovani Gallardo to make his fourth consecutive opening day start for the Brewers. He's homegrown, the longest-tenured pitcher with the franchise and needs some positive vibes coming off a rough 2013 campaign.
8 - Scooter Gennett - 2B
Roenicke claims to emphasize the importance of defense, so he would need to go with Scooter Gennett at second base over Rickie Weeks. He's only an average defender, but that's far better than Weeks. Batting Gennett down in the order will take off the pressure and allow flexibility in that spot throughout the year.
7 - Mark Reynolds - 1B
Mark Reynolds is the best overall option at first base and could hit 35-plus home runs with half his games in Miller Park. The high strikeout rate will keep him in bottom third, but it's a dangerous spot for a slugger. Reynolds' run production will offset any defensive issues, which are nothing compared to Juan Francisco's problems.
6 - Khris Davis - LF
The 26-year-old won a starting job by slugging .596 with a .949 OPS in 56 games a year ago. Khris Davis obliterated the ball last spring, and he'll most likely do the same in 2014. Another strong showing in Maryvale coupled with his results last year makes Davis an intriguing hitter to bat behind the top five guys.
5 - Jonathan Lucroy - C
Jonathon Lucroy is a solid, professional hitter who could probably succeed in any spot in the lineup. Roenicke tends to see Lucroy as "an RBI guy," so he would suit the role of the five hitter quite nicely. Lucroy puts together quality at-bats and gets the job done, a reason Roenicke likes him following Aramis Ramirez and Ryan Braun.
4 - Aramis Ramirez - 3B
The only question here was, "Will he be healthy on opening day?" I believe he will be, as the staff will force him to be cautious. I also think Ramirez is going to have a huge season. Ramirez is accustomed to the cleanup role, still drives the ball well and presents a major challenge for pitchers in the middle of the order.
3 - Ryan Braun - RF
The surprise was Braun's move to right field, though his spot in the lineup was never in doubt. While I'd like to see him bat second in a perfect world, he plays the role of "traditional" three hitter very well. The guy can flat out hit, and he'll continue to produce big numbers in one of the premier spots in the lineup and the location Roenicke prefers.
2 - Carlos Gomez - CF
His career OBP prevents me from liking this choice, but it's easy to see why Roenicke would want Carlos Gomez hitting second. If he puts up similar numbers as last year, the Brewers will be in business. The power-speed combo here is a huge asset and it's a comfortable spot to hit, slotted before Braun and Ramirez.
1 - Jean Segura - SS
No, he's not the ideal leadoff hitter when it comes to taking pitches and driving up his OBP, but he may be best-suited on this particular team. Jean Segura's speed is a natural fit for the top spot, though he's a rather aggressive free-swinger. Considering the rest of the roster and Segura's potential, he could thrive as the leadoff man.