Brewers Infield: Well, Only Two Positions Are Platoons

It is the best side versus the worst side for the 2014 Milwaukee Brewers infield. On the left side is two players with job security and talent. On the other side is a 1000 piece blue sky jigsaw puzzle with 50 or so pieces missing. I will go from the good to the bad to the WTF.

Short Stop – With the infield being bi-polar in nature, Jean Segura suffered through a well documented bi-polar 2013 seasonLast week, I looked at the significance of his first and second half stats and found most of his struggles were batted ball related (small bit of BB% decline). Looking over his batted ball data, I found one interesting fact, Segura home run power came from fastballs up in the zone. Here are his fastball home run heat maps from the season’s 1st and 2nd half.

The difference is pretty obvious, Segura hit seven of his home runs off fastballs high or right down the middle of the strikezone.

Pitchers noticed the trend and began to throw their fastballs lower. Here are the totals and locations of fastballs in the two halves.

It is a little tough to see the differences, but pitches in the bottom 1/5 increased by 4% points. Segura owners need to see if he adjusts to pitches lower in the zone by putting them in play or hopefully a few over the fence.

Jeff Bianchi is Segura’s backup, but shouldn’t see much time in the field.

Third Base – The 36-year Aramis Ramirez anchors the left side of the infield. Before 2013, he had 2 seasons with 149 games at 3B while hitting over 25 HRs with a .300 AVG. A knee injury halted his 2013 season. He was on track for similar numbers (12 HRs and .283 AVG in 351 PA). His 2014 projection looks about right considering his age and the injury (.275 AVG and 20 HRs). My only real 2014 worry with him is his health.

The Brewers brought in Mark Reynolds which could give Ramirez a breather every few days. Again, it looks like Jeff Bianchi will be the emergency 3B.

Catcher – The catcher situation is only a mess because the 1B situation is a disaster. The mess does push Jonathan Lucroy into the top 10 catchers because of the extra plate appearances he will likely see at 1B. What is not known for sure is how much playing time Martin Maldonado will have. If someone besides Lucroy or Maldonado stabilizes 1B, Maldonado may not see much playing time. In the long run though, not having Maldonado and his projected .220 AVG in the lineup is a good thing.

Second base – This situation is setting up as platoon with Rickie Weeks and Scooter Gennett, which in the fantasy world generally means, look else where. Gennett only hit .154/.175/.154 against LHP and .362/.395/.522 against RHP in his first MLB season. While Weeks hasn’t hit lefties (.262/.389/.440) a lot better than righties (.242/.331/.416) over his career, a difference exists. What I see happening is what Steamer is projecting. Ginnett will get around 400 PA and Weeks with 200 PA. Combined, they would have (13HR and 11SB). Split apart, they are pretty much useless.

In deep leagues where part timers will be drafted, take Gennett in a heart beat. He is the better defender and will get more playing time because of it.

First Base - How about starting with an image from the Brewers home page:

A team is going into the season with a .243/.300/.432 career hitter as their first baseman.

In the Brewers defense, Juan Francisco will probably platoon with someone since he hits righties somewhat OK (.252/.312/.464 with all 32 of his career HRs in 670 PA).

Now back to the image and the two catchers show up. If the answer to who is the second half of the 1B platoon is a weak hitting catcher, the answer is wrong.

So where does Mark Reynolds fit into the picture. I think he ends up as Francisco’s platoon partner. They may form the first platoon ever where both hackers have a career K% over 30%. In NL-only, I would take a late flier on Francisco and that is about it. No wonder the Brewers started Yuni 46 times at 1B last season.

The Brewers are set on the left side of the infield and at catcher with Ramirez at 3B, Segura at SS and Lucroy behind the plate. The left side of the infield is shaping into two platoon situation which means no one will play enough to be fantasy worthy. I still can’t believe a major league team is planning on beginning the season with Juan Francisco at first base … not alone publishing it on their website.

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Jeff writes for FanGraphs, The Hardball Times and Royals Review, as well as his own website, Baseball Heat Maps with his brother Darrell. In tandem with Bill Petti, he won the 2013 SABR Analytics Research Award for Contemporary Analysis. Follow him on Twitter @jeffwzimmerman.

14 Responses to “Brewers Infield: Well, Only Two Positions Are Platoons”

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  1. SecondHandStore says:

    It won’t be fantasy relevant to be sure, but I kind of like the offensive potential of Francisco/Reynolds. I could see 30-40 HR and a .320-ish OBP. That’ll play.

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  2. Matt says:

    “While Weeks hasn’t hit lefties (.262/.389/.440) a lot better than righties (.242/.331/.416) over his career, a difference exists.”

    Weeks has a .747 OPS versus righties which would have ranked 84th in baseball in 2013. .829 OPS versus lefties which would have ranked 34th in all of baseball in 2013.

    RC+ of 126 versus lefties. RC+ of 101 versus righties.

    That’s not gigantic but it IS a lot and absolutely significant.

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    • Travis L says:

      I agree with your point that his career splits are significant. What are you trying to say when you cite his 2013 statistics? Are those numbers for right handed hitters’ splits, or are a lot of the better hitters against RHP going to be LHH?

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  3. jtkiekhofer says:

    Best part of the article is the next generation double face palm…as a Brewer fan, I can relate

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  4. chrisb says:

    Anything anything anything beats the three-shortstop infield they played for stretches in 2013.

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  5. shibboleth says:

    Thanks for the reassurance about Segura. He’s a tough one to figure out.

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  6. Dayton Moore says:

    So THAT’s who Hal Morris plays for now!

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  7. Chickensoup says:

    For fantasy, staying away from the 1B/2B situations is fair. But from a real baseball perspective a Reynolds/Francisco platoon should be slightly better than league average, which is such a gigantic leap forward from last year that it’s a sigh of relief to Crew fans. That the team could gain 5 WAR platooning Fat Juan and Reynolds is a scarey proposition. Another scarey thought is that even in a timeshare that combo could strike out 300 times this year if they put their minds to it

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    • Travis L says:

      Mark Reynolds is a career 119 wRC+ hitter against lefties. It’s going to take a lot from Juan Francisco for that platoon to create 5 WAR at 1B.

      If I were a Brewers fan, I’d be thrilled with 2 WAR. And pretty aware that they could easily be replacement level. 5 WAR seems… overly optimistic.

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      • Chickensoup says:

        Maybe it was confusing how I typed it but I meant a 5 WAR upgrade from last year which would put them somewhere around +1 WAR instead of -4WAR as they were last year from 1B

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      • Yovani Gallardo says:

        Yeah, I would have a chance to produce more value at 1B than those guys.

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      • llogan says:

        It wasn’t really -4 WAR at 1B for the brewers last year. Fangraphs added up the total WAR for all the players who had playing time there. Yuni wasn’t there all year but his total -1.8 WAR was added in instead of just part of it. Don’t get me wrong, 1B was horrible for the Brewers last year, but probably not -4 WAR bad.

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  8. LHPSU says:

    Didn’t the Brewers sign Lyle Overbay?

    I mean, ok, that’s even less exciting than Juan Francisco at the plate, but at least he was worth a grand total of 0 WAR, which is more than Francisco’s -0.9 WAR.

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