Category: Roster Rankings

Braun or Fielder?

Finally – we’re down to the two players on the 2011 Milwaukee Brewers who are absolutely, positively, and most definitely essential to the franchise as a whole. Trying to rank the roster 1 thru 25 is tricky at best, but the top 7 on the Brewers seem to be consensus locks. You could place Zack Greinke, Yo Gallardo, Rickie Weeks, Corey Hart, and Shaun Marcum anywhere within the range of 3 and 7. I decided to rank them as I’ve described above, with Greinke being #3, Yo #4, etc.

That brings us to the top two most indispensable players on the team – Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder. Or Prince Fielder and Ryan Braun. Any way you slice it, the tremendous twosome is the best in the Bigs. No two teammates have as many runs batted in as the Brewers’ dynamic duo. Braun out of the three-spot and Prince hitting clean-up – you’d be hard pressed to find a pair more prolific. Both are all-star starters this season and are having career years.

It all starts with Ryan Braun, the fifth overall pick in the star-studded 2005 draft. Braun wasted no time once he reached the majors, winning the 2007 NL Rookie of the Year while smacking 34 homers and driving in 97 runs, all while batting .324 and slugging a ridiculous .634, the best in the National League. Braun followed his breakout campaign with another stellar statistical season, launching 37 long balls while collecting 106 RBI and finishing third in NL MVP voting. In 2008 he made his first All-Star appearance and also snagged a Silver Slugger Award. The next year he led the NL in hits with 203 – 32 being home runs. He drove in a career best 114 runs while impressing with a .320 average. Braun earned his second straight trip to the All-Star game and won yet another Silver Slugger. This past season Braun batted .304 and hit 25 homers; he also collected 103 RBI, 45 doubles, and his third consecutive All-Star honor and Silver Slugger. As of this year, he’s on pace to hit .300 and be a 30/30 player, perhaps 35/35. The Brewers obviously value the Hebrew Hammer, as he’s one of only two players in the game locked up through the 2020 season (the other being Troy Tulowitzki of the Rockies). Braun is as consistent as they come. He’s the definition of a five-tool player and is the exact type of individual that you look for to be the face of your franchise.

Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder have become a prolific pair of power hitters during their time in Milwaukee together.

Fielder, the hefty lefty, was the seventh overall selection in the 2002 draft. After 28 homers and 81 RBI his rookie year of ’06, Prince left the ballpark a National League best 50 times and drove in 119 runs in ’07. He became the youngest player to ever hit 50 home runs in a season and finished third in the NL MVP race. In 2008 Fielder became a vegetarian and saw a drop in his overall production. However he still managed to smack 34 homers, drive in 102 runs, and lead the Brewers to their first postseason birth in 26 years (with the help of CC Sabathia, of course). Fielder followed up by having perhaps the best season of his career. In ’09, Prince played in all 162 games while leading the planet with 141 runs batted in. He also went yard 46 times and hit a career best .299. He was given his second All-Star nod and also finished fourth for NL MVP. Last year Fielder hit 32 homers and only 83 RBI, but led the majors in walks with 114. He’s off to a torrid start in 2011 and looks to be the leading candidate for NL MVP as of now. Prince possesses light-tower power and patience at the plate. Fielder has an excellent bloodline and has become one of the most feared hitters in the game today. He becomes a free agent next season, so enjoy him now Brewers fans.

So who gets the nod as the Brewers cornerstone player? Who’s the most indispensable? Who could the Crew absolutely not go without? Braun or Fielder? You decide.

Ranking the Roster (Player #3)

Since I began ranking the roster many changes have been made. Some players have been moved from Triple-A to the Bigs, some vice versa, and some have been dinged up a bit. So before we get to the third most valuable player on the Milwaukee Brewers, here are the new rankings from 25 to 4.

25. Mark DiFelice, relief pitcher

24. Josh Wilson, infielder

23. George Kottaras, catcher

22. Sergio Mitre, relief pitcher

21. Marco Estrada, relief pitcher

20. Craig Counsell, infielder

19. Mark Kotsay, outfielder/first baseman

18. LaTroy Hawkins, relief pitcher

17. Yuniesky Betancourt, shortstop

16. Tim Dillard, relief pitcher

15. Carlos Gomez, outfielder

14. Kameron Loe, relief pitcher

13. Nyjer Morgan, outfielder

12. Randy Wolf, starting pitcher

11. Chris Narveson, starting pitcher

10. Casey McGehee, third baseman

9. John Axford, closer

8. Jonathan Lucroy, catcher

7. Shaun Marcum, starting pitcher

6. Corey Hart, right fielder

5. Rickie Weeks, second baseman

4. Yovani Gallardo, starting pitcher

3. Zack Greinke, starting pitcher

The former Royals ace and 2009 AL Cy Young winner was Milwaukee’s key off-season acquisition, along with fellow starter Shaun Marcum. Greinke may have started the year on the disabled list, but since his return the Brewers have the best record in all of baseball. Greinke has been a project, but he’s always boasted a tremendous amount of raw talent. He finished 4th in the AL Rookie of the Year race in 2004, winning 8 games with a 3.97 ERA. However, the next season Greinke led the majors in losses with 17. Zack then took time off of baseball to treat his social anxiety disorder and depression. He came back strong in 2004, posting 13 wins, a career best 3.47 ERA, and 183 strikeouts in 202.1 innings – both also career highs. The next year he would shatter all of those numbers. Greinke burst onto the national scene with his phenomenal ’09 campaign – a magical season in which he won 16 games, sported a sparkling major league best 2.16 ERA, a 1.073 WHIP, and an astounding 242 K’s in 229.1 innings pitched, all for a lowly Kansas City ball club. He came back to earth in 2010, posting numbers that looked more similar to his career averages. Nevertheless, Greinke’s trade to Milwaukee was one of the biggest stories in the Hot Stove League. So far he’s lived up to his hype – already sitting at 7-2 with a stellar 80:9 strikeout-to-walk ratio. As we all know, the Brewers are all-in this season. Play ball.

Greinke's gem against St. Louis earned him Sportscenter's Highlight of the Night.

Ranking the Roster (Player #4)

Before we get to player #4, let’s recap the top 10 so far.

10. Casey McGehee, 3B

9. John Axford, RP

8. Jonathan Lucroy, C

7. Shaun Marcum, SP

6. Corey Hart, RF

5. Rickie Weeks, 2B

4. Yovani Gallardo, SP

Gallardo is 44-27 in his career with a commendable 3.69 ERA. Yo was an All-Star and Silver Slugger Award winner in 2010 and looks to be on his way to a second straight Midsummer Classic (8-3, 3.76 ERA in 2011). He also boasts back-to-back 200 strikeout campaigns (2009 & 2010). Gallardo signed a long-term extension with Milwaukee and won’t become a free agent until the 2015 season.

The Milwaukee Brewers have a great collection of players on their current roster. Unlike most teams, however, they’ve built their squad from the ground up with home grown talent. It started in 2002, when Milwaukee took a risk and reached on a hefty first baseman with an excellent bloodline – a guy who is now simply know as The Prince. After taking Fielder with the 7th overall pick in ’02, the Brewers followed up by selecting second baseman Rickie Weeks 2nd overall in ’03. As every Brew Crew fan is aware of, Milwaukee took Ryan Braun 5th overall in the loaded ’05 draft; but for some reason the 2004 draft doesn’t receive much attention. The Brewers whiffed on their first rounder that year, selecting pitcher Mark Rogers who has yet to perform anywhere near where the team thought he would; but in the next round Milwaukee struck gold, drafting a young stud by the name of Yovani Gallardo. Now in 2011, it’s Fielder (’02), Weeks (’03), Gallardo (’04), and Braun (’05) leading the club to what looks to be a promising season – leaving Milwaukee fans everywhere dreaming of a NL Central title, and perhaps even more.

Over the past 2 seasons Gallardo has won 27 games and fanned 404 batters.

Ranking the Roster (Player #5)

We’ve finally reached the top 5 most indispensable players on the Milwaukee Brewers roster. Before we get to the #5 player, let’s recap the first 20.

25. Wil Nieves, C

Wolf’s personal catcher, Nieves has almost zero offensive value.

24. Mike McClendon, RP

This would now be lefty reliever Zach Braddock, who could make a case for being as high as #16.

23. Josh Wilson, SS

Sure-handed in the field, Wilson provides pop off the bench.

22. Tim Dillard, RP

A solid righty who should see his role increase as the season goes on.

21. Sergio Mitre, RP

Can be used in long relief or as a spot starter; has been great for the Crew so far this year.

20.Craig Counsell, SS/3B

A professional hitter who will always give you a good at-bat.

19. Mark Kotsay, OF

Another professional hitter who finds way to contribute either as a starter or off the bench.

18. Kameron Loe, RP

A late inning option who Ron Roenicke can usually rely on – kind of looks like Nosferatu.

17. Marco Estrada, RP

Another guy who can spot start and provide solid innings out of the pen.

16. LaTroy Hawkins, RP

A veteran reliever who has been stellar for Milwaukee this season.

15. Carlos Gomez, CF

Lacks ability to make contact consistently, but makes up for it with his speed and glove.

14. Nyjer Morgan, CF

A competitor who never backs down, usually getting the start in center against righties.

13. Yuniesky Betancourt, SS

Your average major league shortstop who plays good defense and comes up with timely hits.

12. Randy Wolf, SP

A typical crafty lefty who pitches to contact and eats up innings for the Crew.

11. Chris Narveson, SP

Another lefty starter who has shown flashes of dominance, but has yet to put it all together.

10. Casey McGehee, 3B

Led the Brewers in RBI last season with 104 but has struggled mightily so far in 2011.

9. John Axford, RP

Gives Milwaukee much needed stability at the back end of the pen; K’s a high number of hitters.

8. Jonathan Lucroy, C

One of the best young catchers in the Bigs; can handle a staff and hit with the best of ’em.

7. Shaun Marcum, SP

Possesses phenomenal command and seems to always give the Brewers a chance to win.

6. Corey Hart, RF

An All-Star starter in 2010, Hart is a cornerstone in Milwaukee’s future.

Now onto the fifth most valuable player on the roster:

5. Rickie Weeks, 2B

Weeks, the 2003 Golden Spikes Award winner, was the first of the Brewers’ young talent to make it to the majors, joining the team at the ripe age of 20. After being sent back down to Triple-A to get regular at-bats in 2004, he became a mainstay in Milwaukee’s lineup in 2005. Despite nagging wrist injuries in the past, Weeks has had a clean bill of health for the past two seasons. He’s fixed his defensive woes and has become a reliable and flashy second baseman. The dreadlocked superstar provides excellent speed atop the lineup, as well as above average power. Last year during his breakout campaign, Rickie batted .269 with an impressive .366 on-base percentage; he also blasted 29 homers and drove in 83 runs while scoring 112 times. Weeks is signed through the 2014 season and should only continue to get better. He’s humble, plays with passion, and gives his all every time he steps on the diamond. Personally, he’s one of my favorite Brewers of all-time and deserves to get the nod at second base in the 2011 All-Star game.

Weeks continues to rake for the Brew Crew and has established himself as one of the premier lead-off hitters in the game.

Ranking the Roster (10 to 6)

10. Casey McGehee, 3B

Batting behind Prince Fielder, Casey McGehee enjoyed a breakout campaign in 2010, posting a .285 batting average along with 23 long balls and a whopping 104 runs batted in. However he’s struggled mightily out of the gate in 2011, hitting a paltry .234 with only 4 homers and 24 RBI. He’s also been a liability at third, routinely kicking the ball around and forcing manager Ron Roenicke to give him several “days off.” Hopefully he’ll find his swing again; but perhaps he’s not the long-term solution at third base that he seemed to be last season. Mat Gamel anyone?

9. John Axford, RP

The Axe Man gets the job done. Milwaukee always seems to find a closer out of nowhere (i.e. Kolb and Turnbow), but Axford looks like a long-term solution. Last year, as a rookie, Axford went 8-2, posting a 2.48 ERA and closing the door on 24 of his 27 save opportunities. He also struck out an impressive 76 batters in only 58 innings. After struggling early this season, the Axe Man has settled back down, converting 16 of 18 saves (including 13 straight) with a 3.29 ERA while fanning 36 hitters in 27.1 innings. Having stability at the back end of the bullpen can do wonders for a baseball club, and Axford provides that for the Brewers.

8. Jonathan Lucroy, C

Finally, it looks like the Brewers have found a catcher. Drafted in the 3rd round in 2007, Lucroy is one of the best young backstops in the league. He handles the pitching staff very well for his age (24) and has shown excellent pop in his bat – hitting .291 with 6 homers and 27 RBI so far in 2011. Ryan Braun has even gone as far as to say Lucroy should be an All-Star this year. With continued improvement, Lucroy could become one of the best catchers in the game, period.

7. Shaun Marcum, SP

In 2007, Shaun Marcum began to show flashes of his dominating stuff – going 12-6 with a 4.13 ERA and a 1.245 WHIP in the AL East, commonly known as the toughest division in baseball. He improved on those numbers the following year, posting a 9-7 record with a solid 3.39 ERA and 1.163 WHIP before his season was cut short as he underwent Tommy John surgery. After missing all of 2009, Marcum came back strong in 2010, going 13-8 with a 3.64 ERA and a tidy 1.147 WHIP. Marcum made the switch from AL to NL after the Brewers departed with their top prospect, Brett Lawrie, in order to acquire his services. So far he’s pitched like a Cy Young candidate for Milwaukee, posting a 6-2 record with a sparkling 2.78 ERA and an even more impressive 1.017 WHIP. Marcum is a true professional who toes the rubber every fifth day and gives the Crew a chance to win each time. He’ll be a key cog in Milwaukee’s rotation this year and next, and should be handed the ball should the Brewers make the postseason.

6. Corey Hart, RF

The 6’6″ Hart is still one of the best kept secrets around the majors. Hart is a vintage five-tool ballplayer and is a class act as well. The two time All-Star smacked 31 homers to go along with 102 RBI and a .283 batting average in 2010. The Brewers wisely locked him up through the 2013 season, and he’ll become even more valuable to the team should Prince Fielder leave the club to explore his options as a free agent. He bats productively out of the 2 and 5 spots in the lineup, and has even had success leading off. He can steal bags, hit for power and average, has a cannon out in right field, and also sports some of the coolest tattoos in the Bigs. He’s a fan favorite in Milwaukee who should continue to be a monster run producer for the Brewers, giving them the best tandem of corner outfielders in the majors.

Ranking the Roster (15 to 11)

15. Carlos Gomez, OF

Go-Go came to Milwaukee in a trade after the 2009 season that sent shortstop J.J. Hardy to Minnesota. Gomez makes up for his lack of batting average with his outstanding hustle and great defense in center field. His blazing speed makes him look like a lead-off man to the naked eye, but his .292 career on-base percentage makes him better fit to hit 7 or 8 in the lineup.

14. Nyjer Morgan, OF

Morgan adds swagger to a Milwaukee team already overflowing with confidence and young talent. He’s a much better hitter than Gomez, boasting a career .286 batting average along with a .347 on-base percentage. His numbers with the Brewers so far this season are even more impressive (.356/.406), although the sample size is small (68 plate appearances, 59 at-bats). Morgan has speed as well, making him a solid option in the 2-hole.

13. Yuniesky Betancourt, SS

Yuniesky is a serviceable major league shortstop. He’s not going to bash the ball or make highlight reel plays daily (with the exception of the incredible behind the back flip to Weeks to turn two); however, he’s not a liability on defense and has a tendency to come up with timely base knocks. He’s struggling out of the gate with the Brewers, hitting .232/.260/.335 (BA/OBP/SLG), well below his career averages of .269/.294/.389. Shortstop is a key position, so Betancourt has obvious value, but here’s to hoping Milwaukee selects high school SS Javier Baez with one of their two picks in the 1st round today.

12. Randy Wolf, SP

The veteran southpaw pitched fairly well for the Brewers last season, his first year with the club, posting a 13-12 record with a respectable 4.17 ERA in 215.2 innings. This year, as the number four starter, he’s off to a 4-4 start with a 3.69 ERA. He likely won’t be relied upon if the Brewers make the playoffs, but the lefty is crafty and reliable. Pitching is at a premium, and Wolf is an above average fourth starter.

11. Chris Narveson, SP

Why is Narveson, the fifth man in the rotation, ranked higher than Wolf, the fourth starter? He’s five years younger and has much more left in the tank. Narveson had a breakout campaign last season, going 12-9 with a 4.99 ERA and 7.4 strikeouts per 9 innings. He hasn’t come out guns blazing this year, but his ERA is a tad lower (4.85) and his K/9 innings has improved to 8.2. Like Wolf, Narveson won’t be counted on should Milwaukee make the postseason, but he’s a key member of the club and needs to pitch well down the stretch.

Ranking the Roster (20 to 16)

20. Craig Counsell, SS/3B

The two-time World Series champion has bounced around the majors throughout his career. After a one year stint with Milwaukee in 2004, Counsell has been with the Brewers since 2007. The Whitefish Bay native is a solid contributor in spot starts in the infield and is a great asset for Ron Roenicke off the bench. He seems to always put together good at-bats and is sure-handed on defense.

19. Mark Kotsay, OF

Kotsay and Counsell could swap spots on this list, but I give the edge to the veteran lefty outfielder due to the number of at-bats he’s accumulated so far in 2011. Kotsay started many games for the Crew during Corey Hart’s absence early in the season. He’s got a strong arm and still shows some pop at the plate.

18. Kameron Loe, RP

The 6’8″ Loe certainly has an intimidating presence on the mound. He was a major contributor out the bullpen for the Brewers last season, posting a 2.78 ERA in 58.1 innings. His 4.18 ERA so far this year may seem a bit alarming, but his 1.18 WHIP is the same as it was in 2010. His opponent batting average is actually lower this season (.229) than it was last (.245).

17. Marco Estrada, RP

After a horrendous 2010 with the Brewers when he posted a whopping 9.53 ERA (12 earned runs in 11.1 innings), Estrada has turned it around in 2011. He’s a valuable piece of the roster, already having made 4 spot starts and 14 appearances all together in 2011. This season he’s 1-2 with a much improved 3.68 ERA to go along with a 1.12 WHIP (compared to a 1.76 WHIP last year).

16. LaTroy Hawkins, RP

The 38-year-old veteran has been stellar so far this year for Milwaukee, boasting a sparkling 0.64 ERA in 14 innings. He was injured to start the season but has looked unhittable since his return from the DL. He struggled with the Crew in 2010 (8.44 ERA in 16 innings), but looks to have put those woes behind him. He continues to be a reliable option in the late innings for the contending Brewers.