With the Brewers’ opening camp on Monday–and the first Cactus League games just 10 days away, I thought I’d post my list of Brewers’ players to watch in Cactus League play. Qualifier: I agree with Jaymes’ assessment that success in Spring Training does not guarantee success during the regular season…however, if a player struggles against AAA bound #3 starters in March, I believe that this is a bad omen that the player is either out of shape, not giving 100%, is still recovering from an injury, etc….
Anyway, here are the Top Ten Brewers’ players that I will be tracking over the next 7 weeks (in descending order of importance, i.e. from least critical to most critical):
10. SS Alcides Escobar–he’s already locked up the starting SS spot for 2010…but just how well he does over 150+ games of MLB pitching remains to be seen…he may be a bit tired from playing in the Venezuelan League over the winter…but his .440 OPB for Cardenales de Lara means he may be better than we think he is.
9. OF Lorenzo Cain–not likely to make the Opening Day 25-man, success in Spring Training–followed by success in AAA–means he may be a June call-up.
8. RP Carlos Villanueva–like Dave Bush, Villanueva can be cut by March 17 and only be paid 1/6th of his salary (1/4th if cut by March 31)…if Bush is relegated to the bullpen, and David Riske seems to be recovering quickly, Villanueva will need to prove in camp that he belongs with the parent club. A slow start, and Villanueva could be dealt or cut.
7. SP Jeff Suppan–Suppan will make the Opening Day 25-man, but a poor Cactus League may mean he’ll be moved to the bullpen or to the #5 starter spot.
6. C Gregg Zaun–A new catcher means a learning curve with knowing the pitchers, and how quickly Zaun learns his new pitching corps will impact their performance.
5. SP Doug Davis–Davis is in the battle for the #3 spot in the starting rotation, and a rocky Cactus League could bump him back to #4 or even #5.
4. 3B Mat Gamel–After a poor MLB debut in ’09, Gamel returned to AAA Nashville and struggled there…and then went to the Venezuelan League and struggled there. Gamel needs a great camp to even be considered for the Brewers’ 25-man.
3. SP Dave Bush–Like Villanueva, Bush can still be released and only paid a fraction of his $4.215 million. If everyone stays healthy–and Chris Narveson has a good camp–Bush cannot afford a poor spring training.
2. OF Corey Hart–Hart should come into camp with a good attitude after having won his arbitration hearing…but now he needs to prove to Ken Macha and the fans that he is worth it. Again, a bad spring training, and stay away from him in your fantasy league.
1. 2B Rickie Weeks–Weeks’ needs to prove that he is 100% healthy and is ready to have the breakout season everyone has been waiting for. A bad camp, and Weeks’ will be put under even more pressure during the regular season…a slow start in April, and Weeks could fall in the batting order.
These are the players I’ll be checking in the box score…any other players have you excited or worried?