It may not seem like it, but bench players are an important part of a team’s makeup. They are thrust into action when a starter goes down, and they are sometimes called upon to pinch hit in clutch situations. The backups are crucial to a team’s success.
In 2013, the Milwaukee Brewers were without a weapon off the bench, and suffered in the win-loss column because of it. Take a look at how the backups (with at least 100 at-bats) performed last season:
- Martin Maldonado: .169/.236/.284
- Jeff Bianchi: .237/.272/.292
- Logan Schafer: .211/.279/.322
- Sean Halton: .238/.291/.296
- Caleb Gindl: .242/.340/.439
- Juan Francisco: .227/.296/.422
That’s nothing special. And that’s excluding Yuniesky Betancourt, who spent some time on the bench in 2013.
The Brewers should have a very different looking bench in 2014.Gindl, who was the most productive in the reserve role, isn’t guaranteed a spot on the 25-man roster. He’ll need a superb spring training for that to happen. Schafer will almost definitely be the backup outfielder, as his is vastly superior to Gindl’s.
A position battle I’m interested in is the one between utility infielders Elian Herrera and Jeff Bianchi.
Bianchi has spent the last two season with Milwaukee, but doesn’t have much to show for it. Herrera was claimed by the Brewers this winter after being designated for assignment by the Los Angeles Dodgers.
In two major league seasons, Bianchi, 27, is a career .226 hitter with four home runs and 34 RBI. Herrera, 29, owns a .250 batting average with one home run and 17 RBI in 195 career at-bats. They can both play the infield, aside from first base, but Herrera is a switch hitter while Bianchi is stuck on the right side of the plate.
Herrera has put up solid numbers in the minors over his career, but has not been able to break through in the majors. That may change this season, as he is battling for a roster spot.
Frankly, I will be surprised if Herrera doesn’t beat out Bianchi. The Brewers know what Bianchi brings to the table; Herrera is more of a wild card. I think he has the potential to be a 2011 Nyjer Morgan type player; an energetic guy, who will bring a spark to the team.
What do you think?