As spring training begins its final stretch, Brewer fans have grown accustom to trying to figure out who the last 10 or so no-named, washed up, Texas Rangers cast offs are going to be filling out the opening day roster. However, this year is different. As you look at it, there are very few roster battles. Which is a good thing… and a bad thing. Competition brings out the best in everyone. I know there is little correlation between spring training statistics and regular season outcome, and rarely does the 25-man roster look the same in September as it did in April, but none-the-less, it’s important to put the best team on the field at all times. As Mark Kotsay said in the beginning of spring training, “What makes a championship clubs is the 25th guy being just as important as the first.” (Easy to say when you are battling to be that 25th guy I guess)
It’s pretty safe to assume, barring some kind of horrific smelting accident, that Ryan Braun, Corey Hart, and begrudgingly… Carlos Gomez, will make the club. Therefore, there are probably two outfield spots that are up for grabs and four guys competing for the jobs. I’ve taken some time to break down each of the four below and then will provide you with my expert analysis as to why Gabe Gross will never be one of them again.
Brandon Boggs – Boggs is a 28 year old outfielder who came up in the Texas Rangers organization (shocker) and has been having a very nice spring training thus far (.275/.333 2HR, 12 RBI’s). Boggs 12 RBI’s currently lead the club, but that can be misleading because he has 10 more at bats than any of the Brewers projected starters . One of the things I like about Boggs is that he is a switch hitter who has a bit of pop in his bat. However, his numbers this spring, and historically, show that he is a bit of free swinger and strikes out a lot! The Brewers already have plenty of those, so that gives me some concern. I haven’t read too much about his defense, but I’ve seen some decent plays in the field so far. I like Boggs, but unfortunately he is out of options. I have a feeling he may be squeezed out and would have to clear waivers to remain in the system, which at this point, may be unlikely.
Chris Dickerson – Dickerson, a.k.a Mr. Universe, is the 28 year old outfielder who came to the Brewers in the “blockbuster” late season trade that sent Jim Edmonds to the Reds. Dickerson played sparingly in the Brewers final month, and showed very little at the plate, but did prove to show some versatility in the outfield. Much like Boggs, Dickerson strikes out too much, but unlike Boggs, Dickerson has a much better Major League resume (albeit a small one) and has proven to be a decent outfielder. Dickerson has battled injuries during his time with the Reds and continues to battle a bit during spring training… however, when you make great catches like this one, you’ll have that from time to time.
Mark Kotsay – The K-Say Kid hopes to be the next in line of the savy veterans that resurrect their career in Milwuakee. Gabe Kapler, Jim Edmonds, Marc Newfield… oh wait, forget about that last one. The Brewers have shown success squeezing the last few drops out of the Sham-Wow that used to be a players career. Kotsay hopes to be the next folk hero in that line. Kotsay, far and away, has the most impressive resume of the players vying for the final outfield spots. A former 1st round pick, Kotsay has a World Series ring, finished 14th in the AL MVP Voting in 2004, and has a series of highlight reel catches to his name. All that said, at age 35 Kotsay has been a mere shell of his former self over the last 4 years, logging only 340 games over that span. Kotsay’s season last year on the Southside was one to forget hitting only .239 and being used primarily as a DH. Mark has had a nice spring training hitting .343 and playing outfield and some first base. His veteran leadership could be a boon to the dugout and club house, but one has to wonder if at some point during the season he and Craig Counsell will have some sort of barnyard rooster fight in the dugout to finally establish who is the saltiest, most grizzled vet of the bunch. No offense to the Warlock, but my money is on Kotsay.
Jeremy Reed – Although I’ll always prefer Jerry Reed more, there is a lot to be impressed with in Jeremy Reed. Other than Kotsay, Reed has the most Major League experience (476 games) of the four players competing to be Mr. Irrelevant in the outfield. You may think Reed is the elder statesmen of this young bunch, but at 29, he’s only one year older than Boggs and Dickerson. However, Reed has never been able to put together a decent MLB season bouncing around with the Mariers, Mets, and most recently the Blue Jays. Reed is putting together a GREAT spring training though, hitting .393 with 11 RBI’s (second only to the aforementioned Boggs). I look at Reed as one of those guys who could really go either way. He could end up being a scrappy can-do outfielder who finally puts it all together a-la Scott Podsednik when he turned 27, or a dud like Chris Duffy was in 2009 with the Crew. Time will tell, but as a non-roster invite, Mr. Reed is clearly on the outside looking in.
Prediction: At this point, I’d put my money on Dickerson and Kotsay. Although I was very confused as to why the Brewers even signed Kotsay to begin with, if he can keep it going in spring training and get enough AB’s during the regular season, he may be a decent player off the bench. Kotsay has been a relatively effective pinch hitter over the last few seasons, and Dickerson is young and spry enough to play any of the outfield positions and spell Gomez when he gets thrown out on the base paths for the second time that game. I’m not a huge fan of either of these guys, but I’m just afraid the Brewers options are limited. Reed seems to be a good, scrappy, hustle guy but has never been able to put it all together. Boggs is a nice young player, but being out of options and a lack of a real MLB resume may make him too much of a risk this early. Everything changes if Hart starts the season on the DL, but at this point, I’m expecting Kotsay and Dickerson to be the 4th and 5th outfielders on your 2011 Opening Day Brewers Roster. All that said, it sure would be nice to have Lorenzo Cain still…
Future: The future does look bright for young Brewers outfielders, Caleb Gindl, Logan Schafer and Kentrail Davis. Davis is one of the Brewers highest rated prospects, and unfortunately, Gindl and Schafer’s springs were cut short due to injury. But the Brewers do have some ponies in the stables to keep an eye on.