The Milwaukee Brewers ended April better than anyone could have expected, winning 12 out of their 15 games and finishing the first month of regular season play at 14-11. They start out May a half-game back of the St. Louis Cardinals in a very competitive NL Central.
All of these things are fairly surprising, but not so surprising as some of the Brewers players who put up fantastic numbers to start the season. With that in mind, we needed to convene our staff roundtable and begin doling out monthly awards.
Without further ado, here are your award winners for April, as picked by the staff.
Player of the Month: Jean Segura
This was, by far and away, the most contested award. But the young shortstop blew away fans and baseball experts alike with his consistent hitting ability and a defensive prowess in the infield we haven’t seen in at least a decade.
Segura has been able to do it all – hit for average, get on base, stretch extra bases, steal said bases, and field his position with ease. And the best part – he’s still developing as a Major League ballplayer.
It’s easy to try and extrapolate this performance out over a career and declare Jean Segura the next greatest shortstop of all time, and I wouldn’t blame anyone for that kind of hyperbole after seeing his play during April. He’s still young, and he will have bumps and setbacks along the way. He just didn’t have any this month, and that’s why he’s going home with the hardware.
Yuniesky Betancourt is a riddle wrapped in an enigma. He came into the
Brewers organization for the second time as a placeholder – there was no reason to assume we’d see anything of value there and when Corey Hart and Aramis Ramirez returned, we wouldn’t see of much of him at all ever again. Somehow, some way, Yuni has defied all the odds and put up a remarkable month. He’s hitting .280 through April with a team-leading 21 RBI. He’s hit in high-pressure situations well and only struck out 10 times in 82 at-bats.
Carlos Gomez, on the other hand, has been powering his way into fan’s hearts in 2013. Of his 30 hits, 12 of them were for extra bases (including four homers) and he pushed his average to an astounding – if not unsustainable – .360 for the first month. Whether or not he can keep this performance up is ripe for speculation, but he deserves all the credit in the world for being more patient, more prolific, and more entertaining than ever.
Starter of the Month: Kyle Lohse
Lohse and his oft-mentioned Leadership take home the Starter of the Month award for doing exactly what he was supposed to do: provide a veteran presence that can manage a game. He has a 1-2 record after five starts, but boasts a 2.53 ERA with 21 whiffs and a WHIP of .906. He’s given up only 27 hits and walked a scant two batters over 32 innings of work. Its simply a matter of time until his record catches up to what is otherwise a fantastic beginning to the season. Fans may still doubt the size of his contract, but it’s harder now to argue whether or not we need him on this Brewers club.
Reliever of the Month: Jim Henderson
Fear the beard, ladies and gentlemen. In a bullpen that has had far too many bumps and bruises over a single month of play, Jim Henderson has been their port in the storm.
The man who spent nearly a decade in the minors waiting for his shot is taking full advantage of his opportunities in his first full season on an active roster. He has converted six saves in 2013, and given up only one earned run in 12 innings of work. He is by no means a dominant reliever – but he simply gets the job done. If you’re looking for a benchmark for a good reliever, let Henderson’s 0.75 ERA in April be your guide from here on out.
Rookie of the Month: Hiram Burgos
Anyone that watched Burgos pitch during the World Baseball Classic – or during his career in the Milwaukee Farm System – had an inkling that the Brewers had someone worth watching.
In his Major League Debut, Hiram Burgos also got his first Major League win – a short five inning affair in which the rookie gave up only one run on five hits and struck out one. He came out a second time to the Los Angeles Dodgers and performed admirably in a no-decision, striking out three and scattering three runs on four hits. Burgos did not arrive with the flair and the numbers of Mike Fiers, nor the hype of Tyler Thornburg or Wily Peralta – but he settled easily into the starting rotation and could easily develop into a stronger and more effective pitcher in the years to come.
For his mix of poise and potential, he gets the nod for Rookie of the Month.
Most Improved: John Axford
It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish folks. John Axford had, for all intents and purposes, one of the most disappointing starts in 2013. In a mix of bad luck and badly hung pitches, opposing hitters knocked the bearded closer out of his job for the second time in as many seasons.
This concerned many a fan, but didn’t seem to greatly effect Axford himself – who quietly went to work on bringing his velocity up and bringing his ERA down. He moved to a set-up role for the remainder of April, where he has given up only one run on five hits with no walks and eight strikeouts over seven and one-third innings of play. Time will tell if and when he returns to shutting the door on games, but there’s little question that John Axford is turning his season around early.
Who do you think deserves our Monthly Honors for April? Let us know in the comments or on Twitter!