Apr 14, 2014; Milwaukee, WI, USA; Milwaukee Brewers third baseman Aramis Ramirez (16) bats during the game against the St. Louis Cardinals at Miller Park. The Cardinals won 4-0. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports
The Brewers early season success has large part been due to their quality starting pitching, a retooled bullpen that has been lights out and the return of a healthy Aramis Ramirez. The 35-year-old third baseman played in only 92 games in 2013, missing time with two separate trips to the disabled list because of knee issues. Enter 2014, where Ramirez has returned to form filling the Brewers clean up spot and third base.
Ramirez, who signed a 3 year 36 million dollar deal entering the 2012 season, holds a mutual option for 2015 for a fourth year. If he and the Brewers agree to the option the Brewers have the position filled with a proven middle of the order veteran for the short-term. However, if Ramirez and the Brewers would part ways the void would be magnified as no legitimate options exist in the system currently. While the system is not void of potential the options have as many questions as potential answers.
Taylor Green returns to Nashville in 2014 after missing all of the 2013 season with a hip injury. The former Brewers minor league player of the year (2007 and 2011) resigned with the team as a non-roster invitee this past off-season in an effort to regain his position as a legitimate prospect. His return to Nashville also marks a return to third base full-time as the Brewers evaluate his future with the organization. Through 18 games, Green is batting .268 with two home runs and seven runs batted in. This season is critical for Green, regardless of Ramirez’s future in Milwaukee.
In Huntsville, Jason Rogers has transitioned this season to third base full-time after spending the majority of his career at first base. The move signals the Brewers view of Rogers as a real prospect long-term with no other real candidates in the system to replace Ramirez in the future. Rogers, the Brewers 2013 minor league player of the year, has looked good defensively through 24 games with only two errors on the season and a .973 fielding percentage. His bat has always profiled well and his defense moving forward will be the key to how he moves through the system in the future.
Brandon Macias fills the position in Brevard County currently, although he is probably just holding the position until Nick Delmonico arrives in Viera full-time. Delmonico, who was acquired last season from the Orioles in the Francisco Rodriguez trade, entered 2014 as the Brewers sixth ranked prospect according the Jonathan Mayo at mlb.com. After taking some time off for personal reasons it appears Delmonico will return to baseball soon. His potential leaves fans and the Brewers obviously intrigued about his future.
Taylor Smith-Brennan occupies third base for the Class A Wisconsin Timber Rattlers. Smith-Brennan ranked amongst the Pioneer League leaders in home runs last season in Helena with 12. The 22-year old Smith-Brennan is an intriguing prospect but it is too early to tell if he is going to fit into the Brewers plans long-term.
Tucker Neuhaus, the Brewers pick at number 72 in 2013 gives the Brewers another high potential high school prospect. Neuhaus spent time in Helena last season and most likely will see his way to Appleton at some point in 2014. While it can’t be guaranteed where he projects, third base seems to be home for the near future.
With Ramirez future in doubt after the 2014 season, third base remains a position that the Brewers have to proactively be looking at. While prospects like Rogers has potential to fill the spot if he continues to profile defensively he is still never played above Double A and potential is the only word you can use to describe Neuhaus and Delmonico. The immediate outlook for the Brewers is exciting as long as Ramirez is healthy but once he leaves the “hot corner” questions will replace the answer that he has provided at the position.