Then, one thing turned into another, which turned into another, and, less than the Brewers open up the season against Colorado, Lalli
may just find himself in Milwaukee to start the season.
The Brewers signed the 29-year-old to a major league deal on November 14, but his odds of receiving a roster spot were slim. He was one of seven catchers to report to big league camp and was buried behind Corey Hart, Mat Gamel, and Taylor Green at first base, his secondary position.
But Lalli got his chance.
After Brewers first basemen found a proclivity for injury (all three are set to start the season on the disabled list) and Lucroy and Maldonado were absent from camp for prolonged periods for the World Baseball Classic, Lalli was given sizable playing time. He appeared in 25 games this spring for Milwaukee–the second-highest total on the team–, batting .304 with a homer and 7 RBI.
Though the team won’t announce its finalized roster until after they begin exhibition games at Miller Park this weekend, Lalli figures to be in the mix somewhere. With his play, he’s strongly placed himself in the conversation.
Could Lalli be yet another one of general manager Doug Melvin’s reclamation projects?
Well, the Melvin reclamation player whose path and skill set most resemble that of Lalli’s is former Brewers third baseman Casey McGehee.
McGehee, like Lalli, appeared briefly in one season with the Cubs before Melvin claimed him off waivers. For two seasons (2009 and 2010), McGehee was a run producer for Milwaukee. He hit 23 homers and drove in 104 runs primarily hitting behind Prince Fielder in 2010 a year after coming into camp as an unknown before hitting .301 in 116 games.
So, more specifically, could Lalli be the Brewers next Casey McGehee?
McGehee appeared in nine games with Chicago in 2008, only hitting .167 but driving in five runs, before he rose to success in the Cream City; Lalli hit .133 in six games for Dale Sveum‘s Cubs last year before being traded late in the season to the Oakland Athletics, from where Melvin signed him.
Neither came to Maryvale in February with large chances at making the 25-man roster, but it appears that both might do so.
Lalli and McGehee both are power bats (though McGehee has more) that won’t beat anyone with their speed, but have a knack for driving in runners. Neither makes a lot of noise, but a quiet confidence exudes through both.
Lalli has drawn the reputation of a fundamentally sound catcher that calls a good game, sound first baseman, and solid left-handed bat in camp. He’s done the little things and easily emerged as the third-best catching option for Ron Roenicke‘s squad. The lack of a true first baseman on the Opening Day roster (Alex Gonzalez has never played a major league inning at first yet is set to start over there on Monday) has helped Lalli’s cause, as well.
For the most part, he’s flown under the radar; he was undrafted, unheralded, and largely unnoticed to open up major league camp.
Sure, the cards fell graciously in his favor this spring in regards to injuries, but all any roster hopeful can ask for was playing time–something Lalli took full advantage of.
Much like McGehee, Lalli would primarily serve as a pinch hitter upon his arrival in Milwaukee. However, with no set first baseman and having a left-handed bat, the Gardner-Webb product could find his way into more playing time.
Blake Lalli: remember the name?