What’s Brewing at First Base

stevenjewell
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Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

When Brewers fans heard that first base would be manned by Mark Reynolds and Lyle Overbay in 2014, expectations were modest, to say the very least. Neither was known for their offensive prowess, and Overbay was chosen in favor of defensively-challenged slugger Juan Francisco, who is 10 years his junior.

In fairness, both Brewers hit well enough in March/April, and both have solid RISP numbers, but their play has significantly fallen off in the second half. Reynolds is slashing .174/.248/.394 since the All-Star break, while Overbay owns a dismal .298 SLG%.

Thus, when two corner infielders – longtime minor league journeyman Matt Clark and Brewers 2013 Minor League Player of the Year Jason Rogers– were called up earlier this month, speculation was that the Crew might try to phase the former starters out of the lineup.

Since his call up, Clark has appeared in three games and started two, and is making his third start tonight. Rogers has been used more sparingly, likely because the Brewers want to get the most out of Clark, who has a SAC fly and a home run in his few appearances.

Clark was the more obvious choice coming out of the minor leagues, as he was not only white-hot (.976 OPS and 16 HR in just 53 games in AAA Nashville), but he also had a strong season in Japan last year, earning a .785 OPS with 25 home runs. Clark has topped 20 HR in his last five professional seasons.

Rogers was also a standout with AAA Nashville, posting a .947 OPS in 57 games, and has been named the prospect with the best strike-zone discipline in the Brewers minor league system two years running by Tom Haudricourt, in conjunction with Baseball America.

Looking to get the most out of him as a prospect, the Brewers moved Rogers to third base, where he last played over five years ago. With this in mind, Rogers performed very well at the hot corner, posting a .938 FLD%, something to build off of for next year.

While it is difficult to speak candidly about the Brewers’ playoff hopes these days, it would behoove the Brewers to find a permanent replacement for Reynolds/Overbay regardless of what happens in the remainder of 2014. Overbay should not be back next year, and Reynolds belongs as a corner infielder/utility player.

It remains to be seen what the Brewers will do at first base in 2015, but bringing Reynolds back would do little harm, and could be necessary if Clark and Rogers fail to stick. Both of the latter are rookies this year, and are under team control for the foreseeable future.

This could be a key detail going into next year, as pay raises for key veterans, as well as the addition of Gerardo Parra and Jonathan Broxton, will make money tight in Milwaukee. This necessitates making the most out of oft overlooked players.

While neither has much experience in the Majors, Clark is getting a chance to show he can take over at first base, and Rogers will likely be given that same luxury in Spring Training 2015, if not before the season’s end.

The Brewers have not had a strong presence at first base since 2012, and the Crew could greatly benefit from a true slugger. These newcomers hope to be just that.

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