COMMENTARY | Over the years, Milwaukee Brewers general manager Doug Melvin has done a nice job of adding obscure veterans to the roster that turn out to be pretty good players. From Nyjer Morgan to Mark Kotsay to Jim Edmonds to Gabe Kapler, all turned out to have a lasting impact in some shape or form during their short stints in Milwaukee.
Will the Brewers make any more moves before opening day? Possibly, but there are some unfamiliar names that were brought into camp this season that will get a shot at making the 25-man roster over the next month or so. An outsider would be defined as a player Milwaukee has yet to acquire or recently brought in via trade or free agent signing.
It doesn't necessarily need to be a home run acquisition like Aramis Ramirez, but what the Brewers lacked last season was someone in the bullpen who could stop the bleeding, which is an area Milwaukee is still working to solidify heading into the 2013 season.
Along with the bullpen, figuring out the back-end of the rotation and finding a part-time replacement for Corey Hart at first base are also areas of intrigue for fans. See where those positions figure in as we make the case for three outsiders to earn a spot on the opening day roster.
RHP -- Kelvim Escobar
You may be wondering what interest the Brewers could possibly have in a pitcher that hasn't played a full season at the major league level since 2007. Well, Kelvim Escobar was at the peak of his game back in '07 when he was a starting pitcher with the Los Angeles Angels, winning 18 games and logging nearly 200 innings with a 3.40 ERA.
Then, shoulder injuries sidelined Escobar in 2008 and once again in 2009 after he made one start. Now, he's 36 years old, but this winter, Escobar impressed Melvin enough in the Venezuelan Winter League to give him a chance as a non-roster invitee to spring training. Escobar won't figure into the starting rotation battle, but will rather fight for one of the two remaining spots in the bullpen.
Right now, Escobar is getting eased back into things despite his experience in winter ball, but he felt good after a throwing session and shouldn't be too far off from making his debut in exhibition play. The Brewers could be rewarded handsomely by this low-risk move, just the type of move Melvin has made in the past that has a knack for paying off.
Escobar has been there before and knows how to pitch in the league judging by his ERA never surfacing 4.00 in his four years with the Angels. If Escobar can regain that form, there's no reason he can't make the final roster come final cuts.
1B -- Daric Barton
As a player that has fallen out of favor in Oakland, Daric Barton was once a highly regarded prospect. But now, the Athletics don't have much use for the 27-year-old who has bounced between Triple-A and the big leagues over the past two seasons.
Now that all the top free agent first basemen have been snatched up, Barton could be the best option to fill in at first base for the Brewers should they decide to look outside of the organization. Obviously, a lot depends on how some of the in-house candidates progress at the position, but Barton is slick with the glove and isn't as bad at the plate as one would suspect.
While Barton's average has been pedestrian -- he's a career .249 hitter -- his on-base percentage is always over 100 points higher than his batting average, so he knows how to be patient at the plate and get on base. Barton wouldn't hurt the Brewers in the field and if he could find some pop in his bat, he would be a solid option at first for the first month of the season, and a good backup option and insurance policy thereafter.
RHP -- Michael Olmsted
If you think Escobar's story is a good one, then you'll get a rise out of the journey Michael Olmsted took to get to Brewers' camp. After being drafted in the ninth round by the New York Mets in 2007, Olmsted underwent Tommy John Surgery in 2008, missed all of 2009 rehabbing his blown out arm, and then missed time in 2010 while spending time with his ailing mother. After three years, the towering right-hander -- he's 6'6" and at least 245 pounds -- had to start from scratch.
But get this -- last season in the Boston Red Sox's system between High-A and Double-A ball, Olmsted had a 1.52 ERA and 14.0 (!) K/BB ratio. And yet somehow, Boston couldn't find a way to squeeze him onto its 40-man roster. The Brewers did, and the signing could pay incredible dividends down the road, if not this season.
Olmsted can touch the upper 90s with his heater and turned heads before even entering a game in his batting practice session. Through Wednesday's exhibition play, Olmsted had pitched 2 and 2/3 scoreless innings with five strikeouts and allowed just one hit. Yes, his past arm issue is a concern, and he's never pitched higher than Double-A, but Olmsted throws hard and throws strikes, and might just have what it takes to make the 25-man roster.
Dave Radcliffe lives in a little known Milwaukee suburb and is a self-proclaimed Wisconsin sports expert who has contributed to JSOnline and as a featured columnist among other sites and publications.
You can follow Dave on Twitter @DaveRadcliffe_ .
- Sports & Recreation
- Milwaukee Brewers
- Daric Barton
- Kelvim Escobar