Sep 25, 2015; St. Louis, MO, USA; Milwaukee Brewers relief pitcher Francisco Rodriguez (57) pitches to a St. Louis Cardinals batter during the ninth inning at Busch Stadium. The Brewers defeated the Cardinals 4-3. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports
Closer Francisco Rodriguez has again been traded by the Brewers, this time for minor league second baseman Javier Betancourt and a player to be named later. There are also conflicting reports that the Brewers are sending a PTBNL back to the Tigers, but the implication seems to be that this would be simply an organization filler.
JBetancourt is a 20-year-old who, by several accounts, has a “chance to be an above-average defender” at the keystone. MLB.com slots him in at the 20th ranked prospect for the Crew, and he is easily the best 2B prospect the team has.
Betancourt has an average bat with below average power, hitting .263/.304/.336 in the pitcher-friendly Florida State league in 2015. His bat is actually rather advanced given his age, but his walk rates are always quite low.
The Venezuelan is a below average runner, minimizing his range, though he can play shortstop in a pinch. He has an average arm, but makes the most of it, with very few errors for his age.
Betancourt would easily be the best defensive second baseman the Brewers have fielded in a number of years, given the fringe to below-average glove work of Rickie Weeks and Scooter Gennett. A lot has been said about the increasing importance of strong defenders given the Brewers’ groundball tendencies, and Betancourt fits that mold.
Given his advanced position in the minor leagues relative to his age, the Brewers have the luxury of giving Betancourt a redo if his offense doesn’t improve next year, where he figures to join AA Biloxi.
On the Major League end of things, the departure of K-Rod opens the closer door for a number of relievers that pitched well for the Crew in 2015. Corey Knebel and Will Smith each demonstrated big strikeout ability, while Jeremy Jeffress and Michael Blazek set down hitters with ERAs under three and walk rates under three per 9 innings.
For me, the obvious choice is Smith, who posted a 2.70 ERA (2.47 FIP) while striking out nearly 13 batters per 9 innings, good for fourth most in the Majors (min. 60 IP). He also demonstrated the ability to dominate righties in, actually posting reverse splits. Righties hit just .193 against the big lefty.
Jeffress and Blazek were similar players in 2015, but I think Jeffress has the edge toward setup man thanks to his lengthier resume and better strikeout numbers. Knebel’s 4.03 FIP makes him fourth in line in my opinion.
Of course this all assumes the Brewers don’t just run a closer by committee situation, but most managers still prefer to know who they are sending out there every day.