It is no secret that second baseman Rickie Weeks and third baseman Bill Hall had off years in ’08–really off years I should say. Weeks hit only .234, a point less than in ’07 total, while Hall hit just .225. Neither were defensive gems (Weeks’ fielding percentage was .975, while Hall’s was .939) and, while Weeks’ .342 OBP would have been alright for a #8 hitter, that stat, in his role as a lead off hitter, is anemic.
Both are looking to rebound in ’09…and both could be gone by next year if that doesn’t happen.
Weeks would seem to have a bit more job security–still under the Brewers’ control for two more years, Weeks, at 26, would still seem to have some upside potential. Still, Weeks is entering his fifth season as a starter for the Brewers and has yet to play more than 129 games in a season, and has yet to hit better than the .279 he hit back in ’06.
Ray Durham was added to the Brewers’ roster late last year, partly, at least, to push Weeks. Durham is gone, and the only reserve middle infielder returning in ’09 is the aging Craig Counsell, who only hit .226 himself last season. Counsell, a lefty, is likely to see a fair amount of playing time at second base in ’09, especially if a) Weeks struggles out of the gate, or b) new skipper Ken Macha opts for the left-handed Counsell in late innings to hit against relievers, most of which throw right-handed, or c) as a late inning defensive replacement when the Brewers have the lead, or d) all of the above.
To hedge his bets, however, Macha has used Casey McGehee at second base during Cactus League play. McGehee, a right-handed batter like Weeks, is penciled in to platoon with Mike Lamb at third until Bill Hall returns from the DL. At that time, either Lamb or McGehee will need to come off the 40-man roster. Lamb would need to clear waivers, but could be dealt if McGehee takes advantage of Hall’s injury to prove he can hit at the major league level…McGehee is 6-for-17, .353, so far in Cactus League play (Lamb is 4-for-20, or .200).
In addition to McGehee, prospect Mat Gamel is likely to start the season at AAA Nashville, but could be ready in June if he has success at the AAA level; Gamel, a third baseman and a left-handed bat, could platoon with either the right-handed Hall or McGehee until he is ready as an everyday third baseman.
Also waiting in the wings–’08 #1 draft pick Brett Lawrie. Lawrie realized that his chances of becoming the Brewers’ everyday catcher in 2-3 years were greatly hampered by the quick ascension of Angel Salome…so Lawrie asked for, and received, a switch to second base. Never outstanding defensively behind the plate, Lawrie knows that he was drafted for his bat…but, since the Brewers don’t use a DH, he has to play in the field somewhere…and second base seemed to be the most glaring option, with Alcides Escobar slated for shortstop, and Gamel for third, with Prince, hopefully, playing first for a few more years. Lawrie will probably play in A ball this year, possibly in Appleton with the Timber Rattlers and just a 90 minute drive from One Miller Way…if successful, he could reach AA Huntsville midway through the season, and be ready to take over at second as early as September.
The Brewers have plenty of options now at the infield…the only question is how long a leash will new skipper Ken Macha give Rickie Weeks and Bill Hall to turn into the hitters everyone thought that they would be.