COMMENTARY | Prior to the start of spring training, the Milwaukee Brewers were given fairly pedestrian expectations for the 2013 baseball season.
Typically, no matter how well a team performs during exhibition games doesn't change its projected outcome for the actual season. But it's still a good time to evaluate individual performances and see the adjustments players have made during the offseason to improve their games.
It's also a rare opportunity for minor-league players to compete against the best of the best and major-league journeymen to prove they deserve a second chance. In the Brewers' case, they are looking for inspired performances from their inexperienced staff and for a few pitchers to emerge to solidify their bullpen. Milwaukee also needs to figure out its first-base situation and who will make up its bench.
Those areas will be the focal point of our disappointing Brewers. Even though there have been some pleasant surprises thus far, Milwaukee would prefer that the following three players stepped it up by the time opening day commence:
SP - Mark Rogers
It's almost impossible not to root for Mark Rogers. Once a highly regarded prospect in the Brewers' organization, Rogers has been held back by multiple surgeries on his throwing arm and a suspension in 2011 resulting from use of a banned stimulant. Finally, Rogers got an extended opportunity to contribute last season after the Zack Greinke trade and went 3-1 with a 3.92 ERA and 41 strikeouts in 39 innings with Milwaukee.
Now, he is battling for a spot in the starting rotation, but one of the four pitchers he is competing with will end up being the odd man out. So far, Rogers isn't making much of a case for himself, failing to make it through two innings in his first appearance and currently sporting a 10.80 ERA with a 3.00 WHIP. Control appears to be an issue early on for the 27-year-old right-hander, but he will get a few more chances this spring to show he has solved that issue and prove he deserves a chance to make the opening-day roster.
Rogers doesn't have any minor-league options remaining so if he doesn't make the squad, he will be placed on waivers and likely snatched up by another team. That would be a shame for the Brewers, because as long as Rogers can stay healthy, he has the stuff and the live arm to contribute moving forward.
IF - Taylor Green
If the Brewers decide to carry five outfielders and six infielders, that leaves two bench spots for the infield. One of those will be surely be occupied by shortstop-turned-first baseman Alex Gonzalez, which leaves one -- maybe two -- jobs up for grabs. Taylor Green has a great chance to earn a roster spot with the Brewers because of his ability to play multiple infield positions, but that ability will be rendered useless if he can't hit the ball.
Through March 6, Green had received the most plate appearances on the team, yet he has managed only three hits and a .158 average in 19 at-bats. Green's on-base percentage does top .300, but now he is away with Canada for the World Baseball Classic. Knowing that Green was swinging the bat well would give the Brewers confidence in the bench heading into the regular season, but now they can't even guarantee he will make the roster.
Green's big-league experience and versatility compared to several other infielders trying to make the roster will help him in the end, but he has failed to produce consistently in the past and won't be of much use to Milwaukee if his struggles at the plate continue.
RP - John Axford
One of the few holdovers from last year's bullpen, Brewers closer John Axford is coming off a rough season. He received the brunt of the blame for the unit's erratic performance, and rightfully so, as Axford blew nine saves and had a 4.67 ERA last season. The bullpen is full of new faces, and Axford needs to prove why he was deserving of being the only bullpen member from the 2012 opening-day roster to be back this season -- and a $5 million raise.
So far, he isn't proving that. Axford, like Green, recently joined Canada for the WBC, and like Green didn't perform all that well before his departure from the Brewers. In 2 2/3 innings, Axford has a 13.50 ERA while allowing four hits and one home run. Giving up the long ball and control issues were Axford's undoing last season, two things that don't really contribute to closing out a game.
These three players, especially Axford, could all still wind up playing an integral role for the 2013 Milwaukee Brewers. It's important to a point that they work out the kinks by opening day, but we've seen plenty of players struggle to perform in spring training only to put it all together when it really matters.
The Brewers hope that's the case with Rogers, Green and the Ax Man.
Dave Radcliffe is a resident of a little known Milwaukee suburb who contains an unhealthy amount of knowledge about Wisconsin sports. He 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
- Mark Rogers
- John Axford