Sunday, April 4, 2010

'10 Season Preview: Outfielders

Last year started with the thought of a Milwaukee Brewers outfield hitting a combined 90 home runs. While Ryan Braun and Mike Cameron flourished, Corey Hart posted another disappointing season.

Exit Mike Cameron and enter Carlos Gomez.

Gomez was acquired in an offseason trade with the Minnesota Twins. While he is an amazing defender, his production with the bat is a huge dropoff from that of Cameron. Also coming in was veteran Jim Edmonds, providing an additional option off the bench.

Let's take a look at the outfielders.

Ryan Braun

In the first two seasons in his career, Braun walked just over 6% of the time. It was easy to overlook Braun's low walk totals because his high batting averages compensated.

Braun's 2009 was just what Braun needed to be put in the conversation with the leagues elite hitters. Braun showed much more discipline at the plate, walking 8.1% of the time. Combining that with a .320 batting average, Braun was able to post a .386 OBP. Sure he could walk more, but he is on the right path.

With more patience developing, there is no reason to think he can't equal his 2009 numbers where he was a near 5.0 WAR player.

Corey Hart

Frustrations with Corey Hart have officially reached a boiling point. Currently rumors are circulating that Hart may be traded to Washington to make room for free agent Jermaine Dye. This would be a huge mistake.

It's very tough to remember, but Hart was a 4.8 WAR player just two years ago. Sure 2008 was very disappointing, but 2009 did have some positives. While Hart looked completely lost in the second half of 2008, he regained his patience in 2009. His walk rate was a very solid 9.1%.

The main concern with Hart is his diminishing power numbers. Hart posted just a .158 ISO (slug%-batting average). An everyday outfielder needs to post better power numbers than that.

So in short, Hart's 2009 leads me to think he could be the best option in the two hole. The Brewers need hitter who can get on base in front of Braun and Fielder. Until he is able to show better power numbers, Hart is best in that spot.

Carlos Gomez

Well, where to begin?

My frustrations with the J.J. Hardy trade have been well documented. Nevertheless, Carlos Gomez is the starting CF for the Milwaukee Brewers. His defense will provide some help in CF, but how bad will his bat bring down this team?

Much of that responsibility lies in the lineup card of Ken Macha. If Carlos Gomez is hitting in the two hole, the Brewers offense is severly impacted. His inability to walk is something that you can't have in front of Braun/Fielder. In his career, Carlos Gomez has never posted an OBP over .300. That's beyond awful for an everyday player. It becomes even worse when he is getting the amount of at bats associated with two-hole hitters.

The main excuse for slotting Gomez here is his speed. What value does Gomez really bring with his feet? On defense a lot. On offense... not much. Over the past two years, Gomez stole 47 bases in Minnesota. Problem is he was also caught 18 times. That equates to a 72.3% success rate. To even begin considering risking a steal, a player should be successful more than 77% of the time. In his time in Minnesota, Gomez' stolen base attempts cost the Twins runs. Sure his speed "puts pressure on the defense," but pressure can easily be releaved by throwing him out, which happens more than 27% of the time.

I do expect his numbers to improve a little bit, but no where near the point of a two hitter. Before a player is given that responsibility, he needs to develop an eye at the plate. As the saying goes, you can't steal first base.

Jim Edmonds and Jody Gerut

These are two players coming off the bench who can be very productive.

While he used to be a very good defender, Edmonds has slowed and simply can't cover the ground needed to play everyday. Also, Edmonds cannot hit southpaws. Even with those shortcomings, Edmonds can still be very productive. He crushes righties. If he is used strictly in that fashion, Edmonds will fit in perfectly in Milwaukee. Even though Corey Hart has struggled mightily, Edmonds can't be an everyday player at this point in his career. At the most, Edmonds should see around 200-250 at bats.

The Brewers best option to start in CF is Jody Gerut. After being traded to Milwaukee, Gerut struggled while seeing little playing time. As his playing time increased, so did his production. Gerut has shown the ability to get on base throughout his career, as well as hitting for power. If he was starting, he is the perfect two-hole hitter. Although he is not as good a defender as Gomez, Gerut is no slouch in the field. He has posted very good UZR's throughout his career. If Gomez struggles to start the season, the key will be how long Ken Macha waits to give responsibility to Gerut.

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