Continuing the trend of opening up season outlooks with song lyrics, Johnny Cash once told me that “love is a burning thing”. If so, then I’m hanging on to the edge of a cliff soaked in flames…all for a non-roster invitee named Brooks Conrad.
On January 7th, the Brewers inked the utility infielder Conrad to a minor league deal with an invitation to camp this spring. If the roster stop was going to be anything but guaranteed, Conrad made sure to do everything in his power to get that spot.
Most National League teams prefer carrying six infielders on the active roster. With Aramis Ramirez, Alex Gonzalez, Rickie Weeks, Mat Gamel, and, most likely, Taylor Green locking up spots on the roster before Spring Training even began, the final spot appears to come down to three players: Travis Ishikawa, Cesar Izturis, and Conrad. At the outset of Spring, I selected Izturis to receive that spot, but now I can asseverate that Conrad has won me over.
The 32-year-old spent his previous three seasons with Atlanta, staking a claim as one of the top pinch hitters in the game. 8 of his 14 career home runs have come off the bench and he has the ability to produce in late-game situations–just ask his .289 average with RISP and .628 slugging percentage in “high leverage” situations, as defined by Baseball Reference. Whomever acquiesces the sixth infielder role will see limited action as a starter and, thus, their value may best be reflected by their hitting ability. This is where the edge goes to Conrad.
Conrad has been one of the bright spots for the Brewers in the Cactus League. He is raking at a .273 clip with 2 homers and 5 RBI in 22 at-bats. Watch how he keeps his hands back on this blast from earlier in the week here. Conrad also has a walk off grand slam to his résumé. *Insert Ryan Braun reference here*.
2012 RtB Predictions: .236, 6 HR, 20 RBI, 15 R, a lack of batting gloves