No Prince Fielder, but better fielding

Greg Heinen, Advertising Manager

The Major League Baseball season begins tomorrow for the Milwaukee Brewers. They will face the Albert-less St. Louis Cardinals. In light of a new season, a position by position report card.

Spring Semester 2012 Semester GPA: 3.05

Catchers: Jonathan Lucroy, George Kottaras
Grade: BC
Comments: Jonathan Lucroy is coming off his first full season in the big leagues in which he hit .265 with 12 home runs and 59 runs batted in. I expect progression offensively, and defensively he is solid. The Brewers just inked a 5-year extension with Lucroy. George Kottaras has always been a catcher with good pop in his bat, but his defense has always been below average. He catches every fifth day, and offense out of a backup catcher is valuable.

1st base: Mat Gamel
Grade: BC
Comments: This is the spot with the biggest drop-off from last year. Prince Fielder signed a mega-million deal with his hometown Detroit Tigers. The perennial MVP candidate will be dearly missed for his big bat that cleaned up behind Ryan Braun. Mat Gamel has been a long-term minor league baseball star that averaged around 25 home runs a year. He is out of minor league options, and will finally get a starting opportunity in the big leagues. He has not been known for his glove, but the move he made from 3rd to 1st base will help.

2nd Base: Ricky Weeks, Cesar Izturis
Grade: B
Comments: Ricky has what every major leaguer desires: bat speed. He is always an injury risk with his aggressive style of play. He hits a lot of home runs as a leadoff hitter; if healthy, he will knock out around 25 homers. Cesar Izturis is a seasoned veteran that doesn’t contribute too much with the stick, but he makes up for it with his versatility as he can play any infield position.

Shortstop: Alex Gonzalez
Grade: BC
Comments: Alex hit 15 home runs last season with Atlanta. He is a veteran that has great defensive skills, and he will hit for a mild average with some good pop in his bat.

3rd Base: Aramis Ramirez
Grade: AB
Comments: Ramirez is a definite upgrade from last year. He will field well, and he will hit around .300 with 25 homers and 90 RBIs.

Left Field: Ryan Braun
Grade: A
Comments: Ryan Braun is the reigning National League MVP and he avoided a potential 50-game drug suspension. He started slow in spring training, but was white-hot by the end. He should dominate just about every statistical category that baseball has to offer.

Center Field: Nyjer Morgan, Carlos Gomez
Grade: B
Comments: Center field features perhaps the most flamboyant big leaguer out there in Nyjer Morgan, who is formally known as his ultra-ego Tony Plush. They also have a speedy backup, Carlos Gomez. Nyjer seems to love Milwaukee, because Milwaukee loves him. He loves running over catchers and talking trash to enemy fans, but why should he change? After all, he is a former hockey player, and he is entertaining. Carlos Gomez would be a superstar if he knew how to consistently get on base, but he hasn’t figured it out yet. He is a steady fielder, which helps his case.

Right Field: Corey Hart, Norichika Aoki
Grade: AB
Comments: Corey Hart is an all-around good player. He hits for average and power, can steal bases, and is solid defensively. Norichika Aoki was signed this off-season out of Japan. He always hit the ball well, and he should be a good backup in all outfield positions.

Starting Pitchers: Yovani Gallardo, Zack Greinke, Shaun Marcum, Randy Wolf, Chris Narveson
Grade: AB
Comments: This is one of the better staffs in the MLB. Gallardo and Grienke are both potential Cy Young candidates. Greinke won an American League Cy Young with the Kansas City Royals. The Brewers feature two steady left handers in Randy Wolf and Chris Narveson. Shaun Marcum was great most of the year last year, but his arm was dead by playoff time.

Early Inning Relief Pitching: Kameron Loe, Marco Estrada, Manny Parra, Tim Dillard
Grade: CD
Comments: This is the major weakness of the Brewers. Manny Parra cannot stay healthy. Kameron Loe is young and inconsistent. Marco Estrada is the best early inning guy and he has stamina. Tim Dillard is older and has spent most of his time in the minors for good reasons.

Late Inning Relief Pitching: Jose Veras, Francisco Rodriguez , John Axford
Grade: A
Comments: The Brewers are stacked at the back end of their bullpen. Jose Veras is new to the staff and will pitch in the 7th inning. He posted a 3.75 earned run average last year which is average for a reliever. Francisco (K-Rod) Rodriguez was a closer for the New York Mets before coming to the Milwaukee bullpen. Surprisingly K-Rod stayed with the Brewers this season. He will serve as the setup man, and he can also close games when John Axford is tired. Axford is a phenomenal closer—and his mustache is beyond phenomenal. Axford recorded 46 saves last season, a Brewers record. The ex-bartender and cell phone salesman has developed quite nicely.