Results tagged ‘ BBtJN ’

Brewers By the (Jersey) Numbers ’14 – #7 Mark Reynolds

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Welcome back to “Brewers By the (Jersey) Numbers” for Monday, March 24, 2014! If you haven’t already done the match, March 31st is just one week away! Seven days. That’s all. We’ve almost made it.

Okay, I’ll try to remain calm and get through the end of this series.

Today, on our countdown to Opening Day, we stop to take a look at the newly named primary starting first baseman…

Mark Reynolds.

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In the last couple of days, this post has taken on a whole different tone. No longer do I have to assure you that Mark Andrew Reynolds will be making the 25-man roster and that he was only signed to a minor-league contract because they didn’t want to have to make any of those 40-man roster based decisions right away.

I suppose I do still need to assure you that Reynolds will be starting on Opening Day. And I can certainly mention that the plan is such that he’ll be getting the vast majority of the starts at first base this season for the Brewers.

I can tell you that at 6’2″ tall, Reynolds makes for an adequately sized first baseman defensively, and that he’s played enough innings there over (500.0 in 2013 alone and over 2000 innings in his seven-year MLB career) that he’s more than comfortable at this point. This is no “work in progress” nor is it a “he’s never played there before” like nearly every option the Brewers tried in 2013. Is Reynolds a defensive whiz? Of course not. But what else Reynolds is not is Juan Francisco, Yuniesky Betancourt, Jonathan Lucroy, Martin Maldonado, Opening Day starter Alex Gonzalez, or otherwise. He’ll be fine.

Where Reynolds will earn — and hopefully exceed — the value of his contract is at the plate. Reynolds has a ton of power and enough patience that manifest together in a very 3TO-like set of results.

Reynolds is going to strikeout. All players do, though some are more prolific than others. Reynolds takes it to the next level though. He’s led all of MLB on more than one occasion and holds the single-season record for strikeouts in a season (ironically coming in the same season he finished 20th in league MVP voting) as well as three of the top 6 single-season strikeout totals in MLB history. He’s cut down on his strikeouts in each of the last two years (29.6% & 30.6% respectively versus a 32.3% career mark), but that hurts the narrative so many people won’t bother to recognize it.

Reynolds is going to walk. All players do, but Reynolds’ 11.6% career walk percentage is more than four points north of league average. To illustrate: In his worst season of batting average (.198 in 2010), Reynolds also posted his highest single-season walks total (83) en route to a .320 OBP. In fact, Reynolds career K/BB ratio isn’t actually terrible out of whack with the league either (2.78 to 2.20) and he was actually below league average (2.18) as recently as 2012.

Reynolds is going to hit home runs. A career HR% nearly twice the league rate (5.1% to 2.6%), a career AB/HR more than twice as frequent as league average (16.9 against 34.6), and a HR/fly ball rate more than 10 points higher than the league. The power is real, it’s always been there for him, and it’ll continue. The key for Reynolds is contact. Will he hit the ball enough to let the rest of his skills affect the outcomes of said batted ball?

The Brewers are willing to give him an opportunity to figure it out. He’ll also have up to 81 games in Miller Park to impact the bottom line, which certainly isn’t going to hurt his efforts.

There will be some windy conditions around home plate when Reynolds steps into the box, but make sure you keep your eye on the ball to know whether that powerful cut sent the ball into the stratosphere…or missed it completely.

Chances are? There’ll be a whole lot of fun along the way, especially for the bleacher dwellers.

Bottom line though is that Reynolds will not be worse than the combined efforts of the 2013 amalgam of Brewer “first basemen”. Quite the opposite in fact. He’ll be better.

Enjoy the power and try not to worry too much about the strikeouts. After all, they only count as one.

Miss anyone along the way? Catch up on the “Brewers By the (Jersey) Numbers” profiles to this point:

Brewers By the (Jersey) Numbers ’14 – #8 Ryan Braun

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We’re eight days from Opening Day. There’s not much point in a fun open here. Let’s get into it.

Ryan Braun.

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There’s also not much point in recapping the on-field results of 2013 season that were first blunted by injury and then truncated by suspension. It was a bad year on the field, and a worse year off it.

There have been many words typed on keyboards over the past 29 months, give or take, about Ryan Braun. Let’s not sugarcoat things. He’s been called everything from a cockroach to a douche bag to worse.

He gave an exclusive interview to Bob Nightengale of USA Today, ironically the first person I saw a tweet from in 2011 that indicated news was about to break that would shake baseball. That news ended up being that the recently named NL MVP had failed a test by way of elevated testosterone.

What followed was a lengthy cycle of denial, finger-pointing, “no comments”, and eventual admission. What you learn in Nightengale’s exclusive (which can and should be read by clicking here) is that part of Braun’s vehement denial stemmed from believing what he was taking was “perfectly legal.” So maybe he didn’t think that he was taking anything would pop positive on a test because it hadn’t in the three months (and only three months) prior in which he was taking it. Certainly not a crazy theory.

Some people want their “answers” and many more refuse to forgive because of some kind of holier than thou mystique applied to professional athletes and other popular public figures who are built up in our minds and then torn to shreds when they do something we deem unsavory.

Charles Barkley said it best when he reminded the world that he isn’t a role model. Not because some people didn’t view him that way but because he’s a human being with flaws like the rest of us. As a father, I want my kids to appreciate excellence and aptitude and the thrill of competition but at the end of the day it’s not about the individuals so much so as it is about the construct in which they perform their individual feats of accomplishment. No one player is going to be able to bring down the machine, nor should they be able to. The sport carries on and the thrill and exhiliration that can be garnered from the same carry on with it.

Ryan Braun broke the rules and was a bit of a dick in a press conference which he regrets. Off the field, he’s apologized to Dino Laurenzi who has, in turn, forgiven him. He’s made statements expressing his regret and feelings of remorse. He’s acknowledged that he lied. He’s acknowledged that he did things he knows now that he shouldn’t have done. Maybe that makes him a bad guy. I’m not going to cast my stone despite the fact that I would hardly be contributing the first.

But on the field? On the field he’s served his league-governed punishment. He’s forfeited the statistics he would have posted in the 65 games lost to suspension. His legacy is tarnished. But he’s also got an opportunity to do what, so far, few other “big” names involved in performance-enhancing drugs have had a chance to. He’s got time to write more chapters to his story.  Ryan Braun will be playing right field, hitting third, and introduced to the home crowd at Miller Park in just over a week. No doubt there will be some boos mixed in, but they will almost certainly be drowned out by the cheers of support, and yes, adulation.

He needn’t be discarded in the wasteland of the anabolic steroid users. He can rehabilitate his image. That of course starts with staying clean in the bathroom. And it might not matter to those who still harbor ill will for Braun. There are those who will never be able to forgive what their once and dishonored hero did to them. Because that’s really what’s at the core of so much of this. People feel wronged, lied to, fooled. People don’t like to feel that way. They want to be made to feel whole again and they don’t see a way for that to happen in this instance so it’s best to shut out the source instead of dealing with the feelings.

But I’m not here to wax philosophic, so I’ll leave this topic with this thought.

Pete Rose, Ty Cobb, Gaylord Perry, Barry Bonds — as examples — are all men who broke the moral rules of baseball, rules down to the core the game.

Last time I checked, there’s a new season starting in eight days.

Miss anyone along the way? Catch up on the “Brewers By the (Jersey) Numbers” profiles to this point:

Brewers By the (Jersey) Numbers ’14 – #9 Jean Segura

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SINGLE DIGITS!!!!!

We’re nine days away from Opening Day, and just five from the Brewers breaking camp and coming north for a pair of exhibition games against the Kansas City Royals.

I’m so excited to have typed all that just now.

Since we’re nine days away from Opening Day, and this is “Brewers By the (Jersey) Numbers”, let’s get to the point and start looking at…

Jean Segura.

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Jean Carlos Enrique Segura is the starting shortstop for the Milwaukee Brewers, a job which earned him a trip to Flushing, New York last year for the All-Star Game at CitiField. It really was a tale of two halves for Segura though in 2013.

Following a strong debut in late 2012 after coming over as the lead chip in the trade that sent Zack Greinke to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, Segura continued his great play at the plate and in the field as 2013 got underway. He struggled every now and then with his hands as he’s still working to develop the necessary softness to be elite, but he more than made up for it with spectacular plays and quality turns in the batter’s box.

Segura earned his All-Star appearance on the field through hustle, determination, a little bit of grit, and that magical quality known as “want.” All of those things combined to give him a “first half” of .325/.363/.487, 121 hits, 11 doubles, 8 triples, 11 home runs, 36 RBI, 27 stolen bases. It had people dancing in the stands and singing the praises of Doug Melvin yet again.

Hidden in those solid overall numbers was the steady, if gradual, decline in his numbers. Granted, nobody maintains a .400 BAbip like Segura had in April leading to a .367 batting average, but that’s not the only thing that worked against him.

In April, May, and June, Segura hit .367, .345, and .277 respectively. He rebounded a bit in July, hitting .281, but his slugging (just .354 in July) began avoiding him like it owed him money.

Here are the month-by-month splits for Segura:

  • April: .367/.418/.567, 33 H, 3 2B, 3 2B, 3 HR , 9 RBI, 7 SB, 7 BB, 12 K
  • May: .345/.373/.538, 41 H, 4 2B, 2 3B, 5 HR, 13 RBI, 8 SB, 4 BB, 17 K
  • June: .277/.296/.429, 31 H, 2 2B, 3 3B, 3 HR, 10 RBI, 9 SB, 2 BB, 13 K
  • July: .281/.327/.354, 27 H, 4 2B, 0 3B, 1 HR, 10 RBI, 7 SB, 5 BB, 16 K
  • Aug: .252/.271/.313, 29 H, 5 2B, 1 3B, 0 HR, 3 RBI, 7 SB, 3 BB, 19 K
  • Sep: .214/.267/.286, 12 H, 2 2B, 1 3B, 0 HR, 4 RBI, 6 SB, 4 BB, 7 K

The BAbip breakdown by month: .400, .367, .292, .325, .302, .245.

As you can see, Segura never stoppped running, though he did get caught more often in the last three months of the season.

What you can’t see in those numbers though, is how Segura’s batted balls behaved differently as the season wore on. For that, we call on FanGraphs.com and their tracking of Line Drive Percentage and Ground Ball Percentage.

  • April: 20.8% LD%, 49.4% GB%
  • May: 20.8% LD%, 59.4% GB%
  • June: 18.8%, 61.5%
  • July: 12.7%, 67.1%
  • Aug: 16.3%, 59.8%
  • Sep: 18.4%, 51.0%

As Segura began to hit more grounders and fewer liners, it caught up to his numbers. He beat out a good number of infield hits in 2013, but that’s not a sustainable method of success.

Two things there. First, the league definitely made some adjustments against the hot “rookie”, but it was widely thought that Segura simply wore down after basically playing baseball non-stop for well over a year by the time 2013 would come to a close.

To combat that, the Brewers decided to prevent Segura from playing in Winter Ball as he has been accustomed. They want him fresh for the entire regular season. That time off has contributed to a bit of a slow start in Cactus League play, but Segura was turning it on lately.

However, as of press time, Segura hadn’t played in a few days and wasn’t likely to play in the field again until Tuesday, March 25 as he rests a balky shoulder. He’s got no problems swinging the bat, so he’s been getting work on the minor league side, but shortstops are known to have to throw on occasion so the Brewers want to make sure he’s healthy in nine days.

Assuming no setbacks, Segura appears ticketed for the second spot in the batting order once the season begins. He enjoyed a good amount of success there in 2013 and should benefit from the return of Ryan Braun to the three-hole. That said, it could cost Segura some stolen base opportunities as they won’t always want to be running into outs in front of the best hitters.

Segura’s game is contact at the plate, quality baserunning, and range/arm in the field. He ended last season still with questions about his hands, but that’s a fixable skill. If he can realize his potential a little more consistently, it could be another All-Star season for the 5’10” Dominican.

And if the Brewers are going to compete in 2014, they’ll need the production from Segura. There’s simply no real alternative.

Miss anyone along the way? Catch up on the “Brewers By the (Jersey) Numbers” profiles to this point:

Brewers By the (Jersey) Numbers ’14 – #12 Martin Maldonado

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Some awfully good things in this world come in dozens. A dozen eggs. A 12-pack of your favorite canned beverage. Your standard box of donuts (provided the baker doesn’t get generous).

Today’s entry in the Terrific 12s is how many days remain before we descend on Miller Park for Opening Day!

The man who’ll be wearing #12 (as is the point of “Brewers By the (Jersey) Numbers”) on Opening Day is none other than the backup catcher…

Martin Maldonado.

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The backstop affectionately known as “Maldy” has been the primary backup for the Milwauke Brewers now for two seasons, although for a good chunk of 2012 he was starting while Jonathan Lucroy was rehabbing from basically a broken hand.

Not known for his offensive prowess, Maldonado’s calling card is his work behind the plate. He’s a very strong receiver, has a cannon for an arm, and is mechanically sound in all facets of catching. He’s maintained a strong caught stealing percentage and his framing is good.

Another benefit that Maldonado has brought is his seeming ability to connect with the pitching staff, particularly the more mentally unique starters. He pairs very well with the combustible Wily Peralta right now, almost taking a “big brother” approach with the young Dominican. He’s worked with the picky Randy Wolf and learned the way he liked to work through games.

Nobody has issues with Maldonado’s in-game prowess at pitch selection and knowledge of how to attack a team’s hitters. One of his idols is fellow Puerto Rican catcher Yadier Molina, and you can see aspects of his game present.

But the bottom line for Maldonado’s value is not in his batting average or RBIs or many other statistics, but rather in many of the advanced metrics that measure the parts of his game where he truly excells.

Maldonado, who is 6’0″ (and dropped over 20 pounds in the off-season through an altered diet) does offer a bit of versatility in being able to play first base in a pinch, but his value is truly in his primary skill set and role.

Whether it’s every fifth day like clockwork, being paired up with a particular pitcher again, or more traditionally subbing in day games after night games, Maldonado will bring a quality work ethic, be well-prepared, and add value in one or more ways.

Not bad for a guy who hit .169 last year in in 183 at-bats across 67 games.

Miss anyone along the way? Catch up on the Brewers By the (Jersey) Numbers profiles to this point:

Brewers By the (Jersey) Numbers ’14 – #13 Will Smith

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A short baker’s dozen of days remain until Miller Park will be overfilled with roughly 44,000 excited fans for Major League Baseball’s Opening Day.

A man who may not have been announced as a lock for the 25-man roster, but certainly has an itinerary being written up for him, is the owner of the 13 jersey in the Brewers home clubhouse. He is left-handed pitcher…

Will Smith.

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Here’s where you probably want a joke or pun or quip with some name-based humor. You’re not going to get it here, and I’m sure Smith appreciates that (despite likely never reading this article), because as he’ll tell you: He’s heard them all. All of them. Every single one of them.

Instead, let’s focus on the player behind the monicker and give you some information on his game, his career, and how he came to be pitching for the Brewers at just 24 years of age.

Let’s tackle that list of topics in reverse order.

Smith (6’5″, 250 lb) was acquired by the Brewers for Norichika Aoki on December 5, 2013 in a trade with the Kansas City Royals. The Brewers gave up value to get value, in a classic trade that was designed to help both parent clubs right away in 2014. The Royals needed a right fielder and leadoff man and the Brewers were able to pick up a coveted asset.

Doug Melvin has made no bones about the fact that he tried to acquire Smith from Kansas City on at least one other occasion but that the two sides didn’t match up at the time. This time, however, the Brewers were encouraged by the play of Khris Davis, Logan Schafer, and even Caleb Gindl in a smaller sample size to believe that they had enough coverage and depth in the outfield.

I’d extoll the plusses and minuses of the deal, but we’re here today to profile Smith, so let’s stay focused.

Smith has been in the big leagues for parts of two seasons (both with Kansas City), but he’s been in three organizations since being drafted in the 7th round of the 2008 First-Year Player Draft by the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. (Note: Smith was drafted in 2007 as well out of Northgate High School in Newnan, GA by the Tampa Bay Rays, but obviously never signed.) Smith has been a starting pitcher throughout the vast majority of his time in the minor leagues, and the Brewers could have designs on him turning back into one in future seasons, but for 2013 and now, Smith really has found his groove in the bullpen.

In 18 relief appearances in 2013 for the Royals, Smith posted a 2.45 ERA in 29.1 IP (110 plate appearances against). Opponents hit a combined .170/.218/.340 with a 0.784 WHIP against reliever Smith. He struck out 38 against just six walks good for K/9 of 11.7 and K/BB of 6.33.

What’s more, even counting his numbers as a starter, left-handed hitters could only muster .157/.204/.353 against Smith. He isn’t a LOOGy by any means though as righties only slashed .235/.273/.412 on the campaign.

And so far this spring? 9.1 innings pitched, nine, hits, 11 strikeouts, zero walks, one earned run allowed (0.96 ERA).

Yeah. That’ll play.

So 2014 is shaping up with Smith lining up for back end bullpen duties alongside Brandon Kintzler and Francisco Rodriguez. Assuming Jim Henderson holds down the closer’s job throughout the season, and that Rodriguez would thrive best in a consistent setup role, Smith and Kintzler could both work themselves into a true fireman-style of reliever.

I’ve talked about the benefits of that idea at length — including on the most recent Brewer Nation podcast – and how much of a strategic benefit that could offer Ron Roenicke in 2014. If all four of the “late-inning relievers” are available on a given day, then you could line up three of them for the 7th-9th innings of work and still have someone in your pocket ready to put out any “fires” in middle relief.

Regardless of the duties, Smith will be an extremely valuable asset in 2014. Roenicke could have as many as three left-handed relievers at any one time this coming season, but Smith may very well prove to be the best of them all. And if he’s able to transition into an effective starting pitcher in 2015? All the better.

Helping him now and possibly to make that transition back in the future is that while Smith was primarily a fastball/slider pitcher in 2013, he also throws a curveball and even sprinkled in a changeup. According to FanGraphs.com, Smith’s fastball sits in the low 90s, the slider averages 81.5 MPH, the curve in the upper 70s and his change up, which doesn’t have strong differential, averages a tick over 85.

Whether a starter or reliever in 2015 and beyond, for now let’s simply enjoy the high strikeout rate, low walk rate, and zeros on the board.

I think we can all agree that’s the best outcome of all.

You can follow Will Smith on Twitter: @White_Willy31

Miss anyone along the way? Catch up on the Brewers By the (Jersey) Numbers profiles to this point:

Brewers By the (Jersey) Numbers ’14 – #14 Jeff Bianchi

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TWO WEEKS! You’re officially allowed to start freaking out, if you haven’t done so already. It’s so close that we can almost taste it. It’s certainly close enough to feel, despite the reluctance of Mother Nature to loosen her icy grip on the nation’s heartland. Thankfully, with Miller Park’s roof and heating system, they’re able to raise the “inside” temperature roughly 30 degrees over outside temps.

So even though it might be cold in two weeks, the thoughts of tailgating and baseball should keep us warm through the balance of the month of March.

Not worried about Wisconsin’s weather — at least not yet — is the man who’s been wearing number 14 during the warm Cactus League season…

Jeff Bianchi.

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Jeffrey Thomas Bianchi is a 5’11” infielder who was originally drafted by the Kansas City Royals in the 2nd round of the 2005 First-Year Player Draft. In other words, this is a guy who’s carried quite a bit of expectation with him throughout his professional career. I outlined his injury troubles last year which helps to explain his delay in debut and his limited successes since then, but he’s been fairly injury prone throughout.

That includes 2013. Bianchi was asked to play in the 2013 World Baseball Classic on behalf of Team Italy but was unable to participate after an early groin injury and a resultant bout of hip bursitis. It was a shame too, as Team Italy was a the surprise of the tournament and could have used the man slated to be their starting shortstop.

Bianchi rehabbd throughout much of the month of April and made his season debut after finally being activated from the DL on May 2. The Pennsylvania native contributed a little bit at the plate and offered some necessarily defensive flexibility, even covering 5.1 innings in left field over parts of three games.

The situation for 2014 though is something of a different set of circumstances. Bianchi is being challenged by a couple of different players who are new to the organization. Both Elian Herrera and Irving Falu have been playing a bit of round robin with Bianchi this spring, covering innings at second base, third base, shortstop and the outfield. And while Bianchi is limited as best in the outfield, Elian Herrera has been playing centerfield as well as the corners.

Herrera has been hitting well (.296/.367/.556) this spring and is more versatile overall in the field, but for his part Bianchi has hit too (.310/.355/.448 at time of posting) and is the best defensively at shortstop of the three.

In a perfect situation the Brewers would be able to structure the 25-man roster such that they can keep both Bianchi and Herrera. However, the roster pinch that exists due to the desire to keep two first basemen and possibly two second basemen could severly hamstring the Brewers’ ability to maximize the flexibility on their bench. The pain could be eased by optioning Scooter Gennett to Triple-A to start the season, but that’s reliant on Rickie Weeks proving he’s worthy of another chance at holding down the every day job at the keystone.

But we’re not here for that discussion. All that Jeff Bianchi can do is try to excell in the areas he can control. He can’t control how Herrera, Falu, Weeks, Gennett, or anyone else plays. He can only perform to the best of his ability and hope that, coupled with his track record of dependability, that’s enough.

The clock is ticking, though, and a decision looms.

Miss anyone along the way? Catch up on the Brewers By the (Jersey) Numbers profiles to this point:

Brewers By the (Jersey) Numbers ’14 – #15 Caleb Gindl

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Welcome back in to “Brewers By the (Jersey) Numbers”! I hope this day finds you well, if cold here in Milwaukee.

Today we profile another one of the many Brewers to make their MLB debuts in 2013…

Caleb Gindl.

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Despite being listed at 5’7″ tall on most sites, Caleb Charles Gindl is actually 5’9″. He bats left-handed and hails from Pensacola, Florida. The Brewers drafted Gindl in the fifth round of the 2007 First-Year Player Draft and, as I told you last year in this space, his rise through the minor leagues was steady up until repeating Class-AAA Nashville due to there being no openings on the 25-man roster.

Gindl had a bit of a down year by his standards in 2012 but still came to camp last year as a non-roster invitee. And while he didn’t make the team, he impressed the Brewers brass enough (.273 AVG, 4 SB) that they had him on their list of potential call-ups last year. Unfortunately, Gindl then got off to a rough start with Nashville, a plague that seemed to permeate much of that roster. But with a BABIP of just .250 in April, Gindl struggled to a .208/.311/.390 slash line. Not exactly confidence-inspiring.

So when the Brewers needed a bat called up, they once again tapped Khris Davis first. Gindl continued to grind and wound up at .274/.341/.456 with eight home runs and 38 RBI over 64 games in Nashville, but the crowning moment was when he finally got the call to head to Milwaukee in mid-July when Ryan Braun finally hit the disabled list with his thumb issues. Overall in 2013 with Milwaukee, Gindl amassed a .242/.340/.439 slash line with 32 hits (14 for extra bases), 17 runs scored, five home runs, 20 walks and 25 strikeouts in 132 at-bats across 57 games.

It was a year of ups and downs for the now 25-year-old Gindl. He would be recalled on three separate occasions during 2013 and would finish the season on Milwaukee’s bench.

For 2014, Gindl came to camp as the likeliest choice for fifth outfielder behind the presumed starters (Davis, Braun, and Carlos Gomez) and the second-best defender of the group, Logan Schafer. Gindl has gotten off to a slow start in Cactus League play however, though they may not have the room on the 25-man roster for a fifth outfielder to start the year anyway.

As a result of several mitigating factors, Gindl is likely to begin 2014 stashed away at Triple-A for at least the short-term. He’ll have the opportunity to get his swing going and could certainly see time this year against some tougher right-handed pitchers at the big league level depending on how things line up both in terms of opponent and situation.

All he’ll truly have to do is what he’s always done: Hit and play solid, if not spectacular, defense.

Something tells me he’s up to the task.

Miss anyone along the way? Catch up on the Brewers By the (Jersey) Numbers profiles to this point:

Brewers By the (Jersey) Numbers ’14 – #16 Aramis Ramirez

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We’re finally back to being on time here in “Brewers By the (Jersey) Numbers”, my annual countdown to Opening Day. Today is March 15th which just so happens to be 16 days away from Opening Day. In case you’re new around here, that means I profile the Brewers player who wears #16 on his jersey. Today that is…

Aramis Ramirez.

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For everything good about 2012 for the 16-year MLB veteran, 2013 was offsettingly negative.

In his first year in Milwaukee, Ramirez played in 149 games, hit .300/.360/.540 with 92 runs scored, 171 hits, a league-leading 50 of which were doubles, 27 home runs and 105 RBI. Ramirez even stole a career-high nine bases.

Ultimately, he finished 9th in the National League Most Valuable Player voting, was a top three finisher for the NL Gold Glove Award at the hot corner, and certainly justified more than his $6 million contract.

It was a solid season, one that contributed a great deal to a very strong offensive season for the Brewers as a whole in 2012. A seemingly harmless spring training game in 2013 would change all that.

It was Saturday, March 2 and Ramirez was doing what any player would have done. He tattooed a ball and was headed into second base for a double but had to slide. It was a bit of an awkward and late slide and the impact that Ramirez experienced resulted in what was first dubbed as a left knee strain.

Ramirez was thought lost for 7-10 days after an MRI came back negative for an ACL rupture. He would miss just under two weeks in full and seemed no worse for the wear. The Brewers broke camp and headed north and Ramirez got off to a hot start over the first few days of the season.

Then some guy named Murphy attended the Brewers’ April 5th game and disaster struck.

Ramirez hit one of the doubles he’d rapidly been becoming famous for in Milwaukee and slid into second base. His previously sprained knee was once again injured and he was placed on the 15-day DL. He missed a month and admittedly wasn’t 100% when he returned. He didn’t play a full nine innings until May 8th and didn’t play in consecutive games until May 17-18.

Manager Ron Roenicke told the media that Ramirez’s knee wasn’t going to be fully healed all season without significant down time.  To his credit, Ramirez wanted to help the team as best he could despite the injury.

After bottoming out at a .254 batting average on August 20, Ramirez got on a patented hot streak to finish the season at a .283 average. It was his lowest since 2010 and second-worst since 2003. In just 351 plate appearances, Ramirez slashed .283/.370/.461 with significantly down numbers when compared to 2012.

With his knee now completely healthy, Ramirez entered 2014 camp on a bit of a delay after off-season surgery. He had an early screening for prostate cancer which prematurely took his father’s life. Ramirez had a polyp removed and he was delayed in his off-season workouts by not quite two weeks.

Since he’s gotten on the field in 2014, he’s hitting over .500 and really swinging a good bat. He’s hoping to avoid another one of his own patents, the ice cold start in the batter’s box. They seemed to have things figured out in 2013 before the knee issues. Hopefully Ramirez has better luck and his knees hold up well.

The Brewers need Ramirez in the cleanup spot in 2014 to approach the needed levels of offensive production to carry this team at the plate.

And if Aramis Ramirez has proven nothing else over the course of his career, he can certainly shoulder the offensive load once he’s gets going.

Miss anyone along the way? Catch up on the Brewers By the (Jersey) Numbers profiles to this point:

Brewers By the (Jersey) Numbers ’14 – #18 Khris Davis

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(Disclaimer: This is being first published on March 15 despite 18 days away from Opening Day being on March 13th. I had some connectivity issues at home but everything is fixed now.)

Nestled snuggly between off-days in the “Brewers By the (Jersey) Numbers” calendar (because Yount’s is retired and they won’t reissue Gantner’s), number 18 has had its share of history.

And I’d take you through some of that, but we’re still playing catch up. Instead, let’s just talk about the man who currently dons it…

Khris Davis.

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Khristoper Adrian Davis is listed at 5’11” and 200 pounds. He hails from Lakewood, California by way of Glendale, Arizona. The Brewers drafted him in the seventh round of the 2009 First-Year Player Draft out of Cal State-Fullerton. He signed relatively quickly and started his career in the short-season rookie league in Arizona. After that, it was basically a rapid rise through the system as he hit everywhere.

It was his bat that earned him a roster spot when camp broke last year. He headed north with the club after an electric spring training performance. He hit well enough right away when the season began, but it was clear that the lack of an everyday job — and the regular at-bats that come with it — was affecting him greatly. Davis hadn’t ever had to learn how to stay sharp in a bench role before. He got a month, but Davis was sent back to the minors to refind his stroke.

He was recalled in mid-July for a couple of games and came back for good a eight days after that, once Ryan Braun accepted his season-ending suspension. He got himself into the starting lineup by the 9th of August and played well down the stretch. He missed a few games with a sore wrist in September and then injured his leg in a game on September 27, costing him the remainder of the season.

Davis’s final line: .279/.353/.596, 136 AB, 38 H, 27 R, 10 2B, 11 HR, 27 RBI, 3 SB, 0 CS, 11 BB, 34 K

So on to 2014.

Braun will be back in the lineup and Davis is limited to left field defensively because of his throwing arm. However, Davis did enough at the plate in 2013 that it combined with a couple of factors to open up an opportunity at an everyday job.

Norichika Aoki was traded to Kansas City which made RF available, but it was discussed that Braun might go over there anyway. Braun was agreeable and the plan was put into motion.

However, that didn’t guarantee Davis the job and to his credit he said as much as Brewers On Deck in January. He knew he’d have to perform again. He’s started off slowly this year, but hopes that a recent pinch-hit double is a sign of things to come.

This much is certain: Davis offers the best offensive potential of the available left fielders, but also the worst defense. He’ll need to hit to get and keep the starting job. Both of the other options are left-handed in Logan Schafer and Caleb Gindl.

As I was typing that last sentence, something came to me. The Brewers left field situation is like the old “Ice Hockey” video game for the Nintendo Entertainment System. Khris Davis is the stocky/power guy. Caleb Gindl is the average guy who is second-best at both offense and defense. Logan Schafer is skinny/fast guy who in baseball terms is best at defense with the least stick of the three. I really like that analogy.

I think Davis will win the job and play the vast majority of the time. I think that Schafer spells him most often unless there’s room early on for a fifth outfielder. Than I think Gindl gets many of the Davis off-day starts as Roenicke holds Schafer in reserve as the only true backup centerfielder on the roster. It’s yet another situation that is very dependent on how things end up going at second base and to a lesser degree first.

But the bottom line is that despite his defensive shortcomings, Davis has hit and hit and hit some more in his career. If he’s able to make the necessary adjustments as he sees the league a few more times, it’ll be just what the doctor ordered as the Brewers transition their outfield.

You can (sometimes) follow Khris Davis on Twitter (though currently he’s got it turned off): @Khrisdkhris24

Miss anyone along the way? Catch up on the Brewers By the (Jersey) Numbers profiles to this point:

Brewers By the (Jersey) Numbers ’14 – #20 Jonathan Lucroy

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(Disclaimer: This is being first published on March 15th due to technical difficulties over the past week at my home.)

No time for a clever open today as we power through our previews. Perhaps it’s appropriate that we’re playing catch up while we profile the Brewers own starting catcher…

Jonathan Lucroy.

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Entering his fifth season in a Brewers uniform, Jonathan Charles Lucroy will be looking for just his third “full” season as a starter. He came up in 2010 after an injury to Gregg Zaun, had a full season in Milwaukee’s most recent playoff season the next year, missed a lot a time due to random injury in 2012, and finally caught a full slate last season.

Lucroy has proven himself to be a quality offensive catcher and while he’ll tell you that he still doesn’t possess the strongest throwing arm, his receiving skills are top notch including being one of the league’s best at framing pitches. That last skill helps his pitchers get borderline strikes actually called as such.

The value of Lucroy goes beyond the field as well. He’s a locker room leader in the truest sense of the word. He works tirelessly to learn his pitchers, learn the opponents and their tendencies and weaknesses, and really prepare himself and his pitchers to give them whatever advantage he can.

As a leader, Lucroy is always the guy willing to speak to the media and more than that never just gives boring, stock, cliched answers. Whether the outcome of the game was good or bad, whether he had a good or bad game personally, he’s always available. He’s honest, sincere, and will tell you what he’s thinking to a degree. He’s also self-depricating, funny, and affable. All of those qualities combined with a good understanding of the game which all quality catchers seem to possess, and you can see why guys look to their backstop for leadership. It doesn’t hurt that he’s willing to answer their questions as well.

There isn’t any question where Lucroy’s plan lies for 2014. He’s the starting catcher. He’ll play in fewer games than in 2013 in an effort to keep him fresher, but also because he won’t be needed to play at first base. Helping things out also will be that Lucroy has been paired with Wily Peralta often this spring as they build their rapport. That will allow manager Ron Roenicke to not necessarily have to sit Lucroy against a tough pitcher simply because Peralta is going for Milwaukee. (Last year, Peralta was caught nearly exclusively by Martin Maldonado.) That should all result in a truer schedule for Lucroy and the result is that he’ll learn best how to keep himself as fresh as possible between days off.

Finally, let’s talk about Lucroy’s spot in the batting order. He hit third or fourth a lot in 2013 with all the games missed by Ryan Braun and Aramis Ramirez. He hit fifth otherwise with a smattering of games elsewhere. He hit best hitting fourth, but that’s a moot point.

So where should Roenicke bat Lucroy in 2014? The options seem to be 2nd, 5th, or 6th. Luc won’t lead off and 3rd and 4th are spoken for. He’s also too valuable to hit lower than 6th (and probably not that low in most lineups). Lucroy has a healthy on-base percentage and handles his bat well enough to hit second. He’d also benefit from the protection afforded by hitting in front of Braun. The negatives, Lucroy is faster than some catchers, but still does run like a catcher and that could clog things up sometimes in front of the heart of the order. His good, not great, power could be a benefit down the order too when Ramirez for sure and possibly Gomez inevitably leave some runners on base throughout the year.

Ultimately, Lucroy should offer enough value wherever he hits. The Brewers just need to keep him at and behind the plate as healthy as possible.

If they can do that, it should be another good season for the 27-year-old Florida native.

You can follow Jonathan Lucroy on Twitter: @JLucroy20

Miss anyone along the way? Catch up on the Brewers By the (Jersey) Numbers profiles to this point:

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