3.16.2010

Position Shakedown

The position battles rage on for the 2010 Milwaukee Brewers. Although some in the professional media would have you think the bench spots are all but sealed, here at the Tap we don't think it's over until the keg starts spitting. So, 14 games in and this is where they stand.

Backup Catcher

T-1. George Kottaras
T-1. Matt Treanor

The Skinny: That's right, this is now a two-man race. While I would rather see Angel Salome or Jonathon Lucroy I would also rather see them as starters and Gregg Zaun will be preventing that. So with all due respect to the rookies, it's between Kottaras and Treanor.

So with the two most veteran options fighting for the backup role, who has the edge? The inclination of the Brewers media is to say that Treanor is a better defensive Catcher while Kottaras provides more upside as a hitter.

By the Numbers: It's a fair expectation that both players will get plenty of at-bats over the next week and a half. So far, Kottaras is 5 for 14 with three walks and two strike outs. Three of his hits have gone for extra bases (two doubles and a home run).

Treanor has been no slouch either, he's 4 for 13 in the seven games he's played. At the same time, he has yet to walk and has struck out five times. Treanor does have a pair RBIs but half as many total bases (5) as Kottaras has (10).

The Decider: Flip a coin, that's about how good your chances are to pick who will win this spot. One day you might think Kottaras is the guy, the next you see Treanor winning the role. Essentially, it's too early to tell. But one thing is certainly true, whichever player doesn't win the backup job won't be in the organization when the season starts.

Bench Hitters

T-1. Joe Inglett
T-1. Jim Edmonds
3. Adam Heether
4. Trent Oeltjen

The Skinny: This would be the position that many consider to be as good as claimed. Edmonds has done a terrific job and demonstrated an ability to play more than just center field. Joe Inglett can play multiple positions and has a .293 batting average in over 700 big league plate appearances.

Still, I refuse to just concede that both of these spots are won. If Jim Edmonds doesn't get another hit this spring will the team honestly not consider Oeltjen? The role isn't won until the rosters are set. Both Heether and Oeltjen have played very well this spring as well.

By the Numbers: Edmonds (left) has had a solid spring both defensively and offensively. He's hit .316 with an OBP over .400. He's also driven in three and hit a home run.

Inglett has shown an ability to play several positions well, but his offense has been just okay. He's hit .222 but he has walked six times in 18 AB's.

Adam Heether has had a very nice spring, which is one good reason to not count him out just yet. Heether has hit .250 with a .400 OBP, three of his five hits this spring have been doubles.

Lastly, is the hard luck Trent Oeltjen. Considered a contender for the fifth outfield spot, Oeltjen was hit on the wrist with a pitch in his very first game this spring and has had his playing time limited. He's had some good moments, but will need to really take off to have any sort of chance.

The Decider: As much as I'd like to see Adam Heether win a roster spot, all signs are pointing to Edmonds and Inglett filling out the Brewers bench.

Starting Pitcher

T-1. Jeff Suppan
T-1. Dave Bush

The Skinny: It appears that we will find out just how bad Jeff Suppan has to be to not make the team. Manager Ken Macha can talk all he wants about Chris Narveson and Manny Parra also competing for a rotation spot, but that's just smoke screen. Parra will make the rotation and there is no way the team will go into the season with four left-handers in the starting rotation.

So who will it be? If Dave Bush has a near perfect spring and Suppan pitches like we are all used to (that would be terribly) who gets the roster spot? It's likely the most important question the team faces this spring.

By the Numbers: In 6.2 innings pitched, Bush has yet to walk a batter and has an ERA of 2.70. He's also kept the ball in the ballpark and struck out four.

Suppan has been the pitcher we all know and love, in nine Cactus League innings he's given up five gopher balls and 12 hits. On the plus side, he's only walked one... so... yea... there's that.

The Decider: Just how bad does a $12.5 million pitcher have to be to get released from the team? This is something that the Brewers will have to ask themselves as spring winds down. Suppan has been absolutely terrible and it's very unlikely he'll get better.

Bush has been quite the opposite, if he pitches like he did before his injury last season the front office will have a hard time explaining to the fan base why they kept Suppan in the rotation.

Bullpen

1. Chris Narveson
2. Bush/Suppan loser
3. Chuck Lofgren
4. Scott Schoenweis

The Skinny: It's safe to say that the final member of the Brewers pen will be coming out of this group. The more you look at the options available the more it looks like the final member of the bullpen will also be a left-handed pitcher. Whether it's Narveson or Lofgren (if he really has a chance) or the veteran Scott Schoeneweis.

But the more you see Chris Narveson dominate this spring the less likely it is the loser of the Bush-Suppan battle will wear the barley and blue on opening day.

By the Numbers: Narveson (left) has been outstanding, giving up just one hit and two walks in his two starts. If he maintains his production it will be nearly impossible for the team to keep him off the roster.

Lofgren has done everything he possibly could to make the roster but it's hard to see how he can make the roster without the team making some pretty big changes. Lofgren hasn't given up any runs in his four appearances and even logged a save.

Last we have Scott Schoeneweis, the most veteran member of the bullpen competition. He's been mostly good but has an ERA of 9.00 due in large part to one bad outing. At this point he seems like a long shot for the roster though.

The Decider: Bold prediction time, Dave Bush and Jeff Suppan will not both make the opening day roster. That may not actually be that bold but it seems to be the path the team is headed down. The last bullpen spot has to be Narveson's to lose.

You really have to feel bad for a guy like Chuck Lofgren though, he's done everything right and been productive but may not have any real shot at the opening day roster. If the team is lucky, maybe the Indians won't want him back and they can keep him in Triple-A, but that seems very unlikely.

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