2012 Brewers Bench Warmer Candidates
By Lou Olsen
In 2011, the Brewers went to great lengths to fill their bench with aging veterans to help the team. From what I saw this off-season, the team ran out of money, so they could only afford one or two old guys. From my personal standpoint, this is excellent news. Veterans should be starters, not bench warmers. You need to have the young guys getting some opportunities to play in the big leagues, thus your bench should be littered with promising young talent.
Over the past few seasons, the Brewers have gotten away from that. Thanks to K-Rod and some well deserved raises, the team did not have the funds to add three to four players worthless players to fill the bench. Since that is the case, lets meet the some potential bench candidates for the 2012 Crew.
So, here are our options and who I think will be on the opening day roster.
Options: Carlos Gomez, Norichika Aoki, Logan Schafer, Caleb Gindl, and Brock Kjeldgaard
Lou’s Picks –
Carlos Gomez – You know him, you kind of like him, he’s back. We all love what Gomez brings to the team defensively, but the team has no faith in his abilities at the plate. Last season the team went out and acquired Nyjer Morgan before the season started, because they just did not think Gomez could be the everyday center fielder. Good call. Morgan is much better and will be the starting center fielder in 2012. As far as back-ups go, you could certainly do worse. Let us not forget that Carlos Gomez stole second base, then scored the series winning run in the 2011 NLDS.
Norichika Aoki – Aoki is the player I am most excited to watch this spring. In Japan, he has been compared to Ichiro Suzuki. How can you not like that? This signing was genius. It gives you a great deal of flexibility in the event that Mat Gamel does not produce at 1st base. Then you put Corey Hart at 1st base and move Aoki into right field. I also love the fact that Mark Kotsay was the 5th outfielder in 2011. This is arguably the greatest bench upgrade in the history of this franchise. You will be hearing alot about Aoki over the next month and a half. I am telling you know, this guy will be my spring training focus.
Options: Brooks Conrad, Edwin Maysonet, Travis Ishikawa, Cesar Izturis, Taylor Green, Jeff Bianchi, Eric Farris, and Zelous Wheeler
Lou’s Picks –
Brooks Conrad – In my opinion, it would almost be foolish to not have him on your bench. This guy can only hit in the clutch. The only time that Conrad ever produces offensively is in the 8th inning or later. Now, if we make the playoffs, I do not want that guy on the field for so much as a pitch. If you do not know what I am talking about, read this. In May of 2010, Conrad won the MLB Clutch performer of the month award. Since 2009, Conrad is 2nd in pinch hit home runs behind only Matt Stairs (which is kind of unfair, Stairs ONLY pinch hits). He will make the team and serve as our new Craig Counsell.
Cesar Izturis – While I believe that Ishikawa is probably the best offensive option, he really only plays first base. Where the Brewers need help is middle infield. Conrad can play 3rd base, 1st base, and probably even a little 2nd base. Izturis would be our primary middle infield back-up. Cesar is just two season removed from being the Orioles everyday shortstop, so I think it is pretty safe to say that he will be almost a shoe-in to make the opening day roster. It also doesn’t hurt that his career OBP is .295 and he is a switch hitter.
Taylor Green – Green earned his spot on the roster for 2012. Last season Taylor was a late season call-up, who performed so well that he found himself on the postseason roster. His minor-league resume is impressive and I think that he has a very bright future on this ball club. Green will most likely be Aramis Ramirez‘s personal back-up and RtB staff writer, Brad, thinks he could be an option at 1st base as well. Green is a lock, unless the injury bug rears it’s ugly head. Really looking forward to what the 2012 season holds for this kid.
Options: Patrick Arlis, Anderson De La Rosa, Paul Phillips, Mike Rivera, George Kottaras and Martin Maldonado
Lou’s Picks –
George Kottaras – This one is pretty easy. Kottaras is by far the best option to back up Jonathan Lucroy. He filled in wonderfully last season when Lucroy broke his finger during spring training. He also happens to be the personal catcher for Randy Wolf, so his spot on the roster is probably a lock.
Martin Maldonado – In the event of a catcher injury in spring training, I would really like to see what Maldonado can do. Last season he got one at-bat in the big leagues. It was a strikeout, but that does not really matter to me. So, while Mike Rivera has the most big league experience out of this group, he will get left off the 40-man roster in 2012, along with the other half-dozen catchers reporting to spring training in Arizona.
The Brewers have a lot of legitimate talent showing up in Arizona this spring. There will be some tough decisions and some not so tough decisions, but as long as none of them involve Mark Kotsay or Craig Counsell I will be pleased. Maybe some of the young kids will sneak up on us and force a veteran or two out of the running, primarily in the infield.
Who do you like? Do you think that I am overlooking someone? Did I forget anyone that deserves to be mentioned? Let me know. Only two weeks or so until we can watch these guys take the field. Until then, keep the faith Brew Crew nation.