Following an abysmal 2013 campaign that saw him slash .209/.306/.357, Rickie Weeks entered the 2014 season as Scooter Gennett‘s very expensive backup. Last season didn’t exactly come out of nowhere either, as it marked the third consecutive campaign in which Weeks’ weighted on-base average declined.
Weeks has started just 11 games this year, but five of those starts have come in the last nine days. Before anyone goes taking that as evidence that Weeks may be working his way back into the regular starting lineup, I’ll note that four of those five games were against left-handed starters. Still, it’s the largest chunk of playing time he’s gotten all year, and he is absolutely crushing the ball.
Through Sunday, Weeks has just 62 plate appearances on the year, but to say that he’s taken advantage of what playing time he’s gotten would be a serious understatement. Obviously, the sample is very small, but the 31-year-old is hitting .351/.403/.509 and, while we’re making a small sample even smaller here, he’s reached base in 12 of his 26 plate appearances against right-handers.
Yet Weeks still finds himself on the bench nearly every time the Brewers face a right-handed starter (he has one start against a righty this year), despite the fact that Gennett isn’t exactly lighting the world on fire with his .269/.312/.385 production. Gennett certainly hasn’t been bad, but he hasn’t been any better than league-average for the position offensively.
I’ll freely admit that I’ve never been that optimistic about Gennett — I think his ceiling is that of a second-division regular. I love his bat speed, a skill that will likely allow him to post batting averages in the .280 range, but he doesn’t have any other plus tools. That .280-ish average is an empty one; Gennett has never hit more than nine home runs or stolen more than 14 bases in any of his four professional seasons.
I’ll also add the note that I absolutely believe the fact that he hit six homers in 230 plate appearances last year was a fluke, just in case someone wanted to make that argument. You’re still welcome to, of course, but I’d love to hear the argument for Gennett’s sudden home-run power being legitimate. This is a guy who hit one home run every 115.25 plate appearances between Double-A and Triple-A.
While Weeks is admittedly a defensive liability, Gennett isn’t really more than an average defender himself, so it just kind of confounds me as to why Milwaukee is sticking so strictly to their “Gennett vs. righties, Weeks vs. lefties” formula, especially when Weeks, a notoriously streaky hitter, is red-hot right now.
But then you’ve got all the weirdness with Weeks refusing to play in the outfield, which is just bizarre, seeing as he’s basically turning down additional playing time. Even with their devotion to Gennett as their second-sacker of the future, the team indicated some desire in getting Weeks’ bat in the lineup, and he refused.
Regardless of circumstance, it seems highly unlikely that Weeks will be getting anything resembling regular playing time as long as he’s with the Brewers, seeing as the team won’t play him at second base, and he won’t play the outfield. Weeks, along with his red-hot bat and $11 million contract, will likely continue to ride the pine for the NL Central-leading Brew Crew.
As I noted on Friday, there are plenty of teams who figure to be in contention this season who could use help at second base — the A’s, Yankees, Giants, Orioles and Cardinals all come to mind. With Milwaukee clearly set on Gennett at the keystone, Weeks could bring back some help for the rotation or corner infield — both of which are areas of need for the Brewers.
It’s obvious at this point that Weeks won’t be wearing a Brewers uniform in 2015, so they might as well get what they can for him. They’ll surely have to eat much of his remaining contract if/when they do trade him, but he’s essentially dead money sitting on the bench as is.
If Weeks does end up getting traded, I wouldn’t be surprised if he has a bit of a resurgence. For as much as I’m well aware that Weeks’ skills have indeed been eroding, he’s a classic change-of-scenery candidate, and to be honest, I believe in that kind of stuff to an extent. He’s also still only 31 years old; it’s not unreasonable to expect that he still has some gas in the tank.
He’s practically unowned in fantasy right now, and for good reason. I just have a sneaking suspicion that won’t be the case a couple months from now. I’m already moving him from Tier Six to Tier Five in June’s second-base rankings, and he could easily slide up further if he’s dealt away from Milwaukee.
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