Prince Fielder

Diving into the depths: Milwaukee Brewers

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This is part of a 30-article series looking at each team’s depth chart headed into spring training.

Rotation
1. Zack Greinke
2. Yovani Gallardo
3. Shaun Marcum
4. Randy Wolf
5. Chris Narveson
6. Manny Parra
7. Mark Rogers
8. Amaury Rivas
9. Josh Butler
10. Sam Narron
11. Cody Scarpetta

Depth is a major issue, but the Brewers have a very strong top three and a solid fourth starter. I’m skeptical that Narveson will last: he has the strikeout rate, but he struggles pitching from the stretch. Ideally, Rogers would stay healthy in Triple-A and secure the fifth spot in the rotation sometime around the All-Star break.

Bullpen
1. John Axford
2. Takashi Saito
3. Zach Braddock
4. Kameron Loe
5. LaTroy Hawkins
6. Manny Parra
7. Sean Green
8. Mike McClendon
9. Brandon Kintzler
10. Justin James
11. Mark DiFelice
12. Mitch Stetter
13. Roque Mercedes
14. Tim Dillard
15. Dan Merkinger
16. Zack Segovia
17. Pat Egan
18. Robert Hinton

The Brewers will be just fine in the pen. Parra was very good in his relief stints last season, and I like Kintzler as a sleeper to step into a setup role as the year goes on. I doubt Axford will be quite so good again in the closer’s role, but he should be able to hold on to his job.

Catcher
1. Jonathan Lucroy
2. Wil Nieves
3. George Kottaras
4. Mike Rivera
5. Shawn Riggans

First base
1. Prince Fielder
2. Casey McGehee
3. Mat Gamel

Second base
1. Rickie Weeks
2. Craig Counsell
3. Edwin Maysonet
4. Eric Farris
5. Erick Almonte

Third base
1. Casey McGehee
2. Mat Gamel
3. Craig Counsell
4. Erick Almonte
5. Taylor Green

Shortstop
1. Yuniesky Betancourt
2. Craig Counsell
3. Luis Cruz
4. Edwin Maysonet

Even though Weeks has improved to the point at which he’s just about average at second base, the Brewers are going to sport one of the game’s weakest infield defenses after swapping out Alcides Escobar and bringing in Betancourt. At least the group should be good for 90 homers or so.

Left field
1. Ryan Braun
2. Chris Dickerson
3. Brandon Boggs
4. Jeremy Reed
5. Brendan Katin

Center field
1. Carlos Gomez
2. Chris Dickerson
3. Jeremy Reed
4. Logan Schafer
5. Caleb Gindl

Right field
1. Corey Hart
2. Chris Dickerson
3. Brandon Boggs
4. Brendan Katin
5. Caleb Gindl

The Brewers need Gomez’s glove in center, so he figures to be given every opportunity to win the everyday job. I like Dickerson, but he’s inconsistent and injury-prone and he’s probably best utilized getting three starts a week as a fourth outfielder.

Gerrit Cole set to begin throwing program

PITTSBURGH, PA - AUGUST 24:  Gerrit Cole #45 of the Pittsburgh Pirates sits in the dugout in the second inning during the game against the Houston Astros at PNC Park on August 24, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images)
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During the Pirates’ FanFest on Saturday, right-hander Gerrit Cole announced that he is back up to full health after being shut down with elbow inflammation in September. Per Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Cole said he’ll start a throwing program on Monday as he works on regaining his form for the 2017 season.

The 26-year-old pitched through 116 innings for the Pirates in 2016, delivering a 3.88 ERA and 2.5 WARP before landing on the disabled list in June with a triceps strain and again in August with elbow inflammation. It was a steep drop for the right-hander, who saw a considerable spike in his ERA and BB/9 rate and struggled to strike out batters at the 8.7 mark he managed in 2015.

The upside? Inflammation was the worst of Cole’s issues in 2016, and while the newfound health issues didn’t help his case for an extension, a more serious injury doesn’t appear to be on the horizon.

The White Sox wanted Astros’ top prospects for Jose Quintana

CHICAGO, IL - AUGUST 27:  Jose Quintana #62 of the Chicago White Sox pitches against the Seattle Mariners during the first inning at U.S. Cellular Field on August 27, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Jon Durr/Getty Images)
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The Astros, Braves and Nationals came sniffing around White Sox left-hander Jose Quintana during the Winter Meetings, but each appeared to find the Sox’ asking price well beyond what they were willing to give up for the starter. On Saturday, Peter Gammons revealed that the White Sox had floated Francis Martes, Kyle Tucker and Joe Musgrove as a possible return for Quintana.

It’s a strategy that worked well for Chicago in the past, most recently when they dealt Chris Sale to the Red Sox for Yoan Moncada and Michael Kopech, among others, and flipped Adam Eaton to the Nationals for a trio of pitching prospects. Astros’ GM Jeff Luhnow didn’t appear eager to sacrifice some of his core talent to net a high-end starter, however, and told the Houston Chronicle’s Jake Kaplan as much on Wednesday:

We’re prepared to trade players to improve our club right now. […] We’re just not prepared to trade away players that are core to our production in 2017, and those are sometimes the players that are required to get these deals done.

While Lunhow was speaking specifically to the inclusion of third baseman Alex Bregman in future deals, it’s not unrealistic to think that top prospects Francis Martes and Kyle Tucker would also be considered instrumental to the Astros’ plans for the next few seasons.

Martes, 21, currently sits atop the team’s top prospect list on MLB.com. The right-hander blazed through his first full season in Double-A Corpus Christi, posting a 3.30 ERA and career-best 9.4 K/9 over 125 1/3 innings in 2016. Tucker, meanwhile, profiles as the Astros’ second-best prospect and made a successful jump to High-A Lancaster last season, slashing .339/.435/.661 in 69 PA. Rookie right-hander Joe Musgrove is the only player left off the top prospect list, but he got off to a decent start with the club in 2016 as well, going 4-4 with a 4.06 ERA and 3.44 K/BB rate in 62 innings during his first major league season.