We are still living in a world without a real first baseman. Try not to let that worry you too much.
That’s because as we speak there is a cadre of people presumably much smarter and more capable than we trying to sort all of this out. Just a little bit earlier we speculated on some of the options available to the Milwaukee Brewers in filling the absence left by Mat Gamel, who was filling the absence of Corey Hart in a position that is increasingly seeming like one that curses the knees of players willing to fill it.
All that aside, the Brewers have several options of the in-house variety that can take over first base while Hart rehabs from surgery. It’s always nice to see an organization that promotes from within, isn’t it?
Let’s just get the big one out of the way first, shall we?
Hunter Morris. Hunter Morris, Hunter Morris, Hunter Morris. That’s about one tenth of one percent of the amount of time you are going to see this young man’s name connected with the first base position of the Milwaukee Brewers. That’s because he’s young, he’s well fit for his position, and he had himself one hell of a year in the Southern League. He was Player of the Year, earned himself a roster spot on the Arizona Fall League and an invitation to the Spring Training camp with Milwaukee where he could hone his skills for a legitimate shot at the roster the year after that. What a difference a week makes.
Hunter Morris is about to have a lot more eyes on him than he likely expected. Just don’t expect him to get a clear path on to the Major League roster.
Look, it’s not that I don’t like Hunter Morris – I do. It’s just that he’s very young and while being a stud at AA works for some people – like our own Jean Segura – I’m not sure it’s the rule. And I’m not sure if rushing the guy is going to help anybody – the Brewers included. Sure, he’ll get plenty of time to get a look at big-league caliber pitching in Spring Training (he was going to get that anyway) but do not read into it any further than that.
The person you should look at is most likely Taylor Green. Green has a
pedigree that fits bench relief perfectly – he’s a jack of some trades and master of even fewer. Now that’s not meant as a slight, just as the truth. In Major League players there are plenty of people like him, and there is a reason he is still on this team. Obviously, it should be clear to Brewers fans that it is not as the future shortstop or third baseman for this team. So why not use him at the position that he’s truly meant to be?
He’s not incapable of swinging a bat and his defense is far from a liability – not that first base requires the delicate touch that the other side of the infield dictates. So, as a fill-in for one month on this position Taylor Green looks like a front runner if there ever was one. It’s certainly not sexy, but then no one would confuse that with Taylor Green’s career and it’s certainly not a slap in the face to say that Green would do just fine in a role he was already playing anyway.
But if, for some unforeseeable reason, the Brewers would not use Green in that position there are contingency plans within the roster. None of these come with the preparation of the aforementioned candidates and are even further down the list of usable and likable experience, but what’s a back up plan without a few wild cards thrown in for good measure?
One of those is Bobby Crosby. Crosby is just north of thirty years old and hasn’t played a Major League game since the 2010 season. 61 of his 739 games have been played at first base – so as far as experience goes he is the leading candidate in front of Taylor Green’s 18 games at the position. It’s still up in the air as to whether or not Crosby will even have a roster spot come April, but certainly this predicament with the first base position is playing into Crosby’s hand.
The second Wild Card is Alex Gonzalez. Yes, that Alex Gonzalez. The one we signed to shore up the shortstop position. The one that has never played a game at first base. The one that has never played a position outside of shortstop in the Major Leagues. This is as much as I’m going to say about this for the rest of Spring Training: desperate times call for desperate measures.
In the final, and just as improbable wild card solution is Martin Maldonado. The 26 year-old catcher has four games of experience – and admirable efforts at that – in the first base slot, and all told it would not be a bad idea. Were push come to shove, Maldonado would probably do just fine as a fill-in role at first and there may come a game or two where a defensive substitution would place him there. The reality, however, is that the team would probably be much more comfortable keeping him to a schedule behind the plate and shifting him full-time to first (albeit on a temporary basis) would be a distraction neither the team nor Maldonado would need considering the other options available.
If you haven’t detected it by now, this first base issue scratches at a deeper issue that concerns me about the overall depth of the roster. Injuries are a natural occurrence on any baseball club, but the Brewers have several players with which injuries occur at a rate of some regularity, and the club finds itself scrambling for answers with the same amount of regularity.
I don’t know what the answer is in this particular situation – I just know that I wished it had already been solved.