In trading last year’s leadoff man, Norichika Aoki, and failing to add the quality left-handed-hitting first baseman they wanted, the Brewers have left themselves with the most unbalanced lineup in baseball.
Here are the likely starters, along with my projection for each:
C: Jonathan Lucroy (R) – .283/.337/.443
1B: Mark Reynolds (R) – .231/.328/.455
2B: Scooter Gennett (L) – .270/.311/.382
3B: Aramis Ramirez (R) – .277/.350/.470
SS: Jean Segura (R) – .283/.336/.379
LF: Khris Davis (R) – .231/.315/.428
CF: Carlos Gomez (R) – .250/.306/.444
RF: Ryan Braun (R) – .297/.376/.525
From a production standpoint, that’s not bad at all. A Braun-Ramirez-Lucroy middle-of-the-order should work out fine. Figuring out what to do with the rest of the group is the tough call. It’s clear that Segura is going to get a look as a leadoff man. There’s only the one lefty in Gennett, and he projects as the worst hitter in the group. In fact, Rickie Weeks may still be a better player than Gennett, though if he starts, that leaves the Brewers without any lefties at all, unless maybe Reynolds misses out on the first base job.
Ignoring handedness, Gennett would probably hit eighth, with Segura and Gomez occupying the top two spots in the lineup. But seven righties in a row would be tough. My thought would be to hit Gennett eighth anyway, simply because I don’t think either Davis or Reynolds would do well there. Those two would see oodles of breaking balls out of the zone while hitting ahead of the pitcher.
If Davis and Reynolds both produce well enough to get 450-500 at-bats, the Brewers have a great shot of leading the league in homers. I’m not sure that would put them into the top five in runs scored, though. That will hinge more on Segura, who tapered off badly as last year went along, and Gomez, who had a lifetime .294 OBP and .673 OPS before busting out with a .338 OBP and an .843 OPS last year.
According to Jorge Castillo of the Washington Post, Nationals infielder Danny Espinosa declined to attend the team’s annual Winterfest because of his dissatisfaction with management following their trade for outfielder Adam Eaton.
A source told Castillo that Espinosa’s unhappiness stemmed from a belief that the acquisition would jeopardize his starting role in 2017. With Eaton in center field, Trea Turner will likely return to his post at shortstop, leaving Espinosa out in the cold — or, as the case may be, on the bench. The move shouldn’t come as a big surprise to Espinosa, however, as Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo spoke to the possibility of trading the infielder or reassigning him to a utility role back in early November.
Offensively, the 29-year-old had a down year in 2016, slashing just .209/.306/.378 with 24 home runs in 601 PA. Defensively, he still profiles among the top shortstops in the National League, with eight DRS (Defensive Runs Saved) and 8.3 Def (Defensive Runs Above Average) in his seventh year with the club.
Espinosa will reach free agency after the 2017 season.
The Red Sox might be trying to move the wrong pitcher, according to the Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo. Cafardo revealed that while the Sox have been trying to market right-hander Clay Buchholz, more teams would be interested in trades involving southpaw Drew Pomeranz.
The club appears reluctant to deal Pomeranz, especially because his price tag comes in at a cool $4.7 million to Buchholz’s $13.5 million in 2017. Those who have already expressed interest in the veteran hurlers, including the Twins, Mariners and Royals, also seem put off by Buchholz’s salary requirements as he enters his 32nd year.
Health could be another factor preventing teams from jumping to make trade offers, as Cafardo quotes an AL executive who believes the “medicals on both Pomeranz and Buchholz probably aren’t that great.” Neither pitcher suffered any major injuries during the 2016 season, though Pomeranz missed just over a week of play due to forearm soreness.
Pomeranz outperformed his fellow starter in 2016, pitching to a 3.32 ERA and career-best 9.8 K/9 through 170 2/3 innings with the Padres and Red Sox. He got off to an exceptionally strong start in San Diego, where his ERA dropped to 2.47 through the first half of the year before the Padres dealt him to Boston for minor league right-hander Anderson Espinoza. Buchholz, on the other hand, struggled with a 4.78 ERA and saw a decline in both his BB/9 and K/9 rates as he worked out a career-low 1.69 K/BB through 139 1/3 innings with the Sox.