Spring training is over, and it’s time to start looking ahead to the regular season opener on Friday, April 6 against the World Series champion St. Louis Cardinals. But before we do, let’s take a look back at what’s transpired over the past few weeks for the Brewers against Cactus League competition. Here are five winners and losers from spring training 2012.
*All stats updated through April 1, 2012. We will continue to update numbers as spring training continues.*
One of the biggest losers among all of Milwaukee’s farmhands this spring was 22-year-old up-and-coming pitching prospect Wily Peralta.
Peralta, who after four full seasons of minor league ball and undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2007, burst onto the scene between double-A and triple-A ball (11-7, 3.17 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, 157 SO, 150.2 IP) last season. Many surmised his success would lead to a potential September call-up to Milwaukee’s bullpen, but nothing came to fruition. Things haven’t gotten any better for the Dominican Native this spring, and quite honestly, they’ve probably gotten worse. In three preseason appearances — one coming from a start — Peralta allowed eight runs to cross home to go with seven hits, four walks while only striking out four. While this probably won’t affect Peralta’s big league call-up timetable significantly, it will certainly give GM Doug Melvin increased trepidation before calling him up from triple-A Nashville.
Winner: Yovani Gallardo
After a scintillating 2011 campaign in which he led all Brewers starters in many individual categories, Yovani Gallardo came into spring training with the full intention of winning over the opening day start over Zack Greinke. While he may not have pitched exceptionally well (2-2, 4.56 ERA, 23 SO, 23.2 IP) this spring, he nonetheless accomplished what he had originally set out to do. Manager Ron Roenicke announced last week that his 26-year-old ace would indeed take the bump for the Brewers on opening day against the St. Louis Cardinals.
This will be Gallardo’s third straight year as Milwaukee’s opening-day starter, a feat that has only been replicated by former Brewers Jim Slaton, Teddy Higuera. Ben Sheets holds the franchise record for opening-day starts with six.
Carlos Gomez may have been the biggest loser of all this spring.
From a production standpoint, Milwaukee’s co-centerfielder actually performed well. He managed a respectable .241/.267/.431 line with two home runs, 10 RBI and four stolen bases over 19 games. However, it was Norichika Aoki who stole the show and possibly even a good portion of his playing time this season.
Aoki out-shined Gomez this spring by putting up a .305/.349/.458 line with a home run, 8 RBI, seven runs scored with three stolen bases and three triple in 24 games. His left-handed bat will all but certainly take away from Gomez’s playing time this season. Couple that with Nyjer Morgan’s presence, and Gomez may only be looking at 50-game season in 2012.
Winner: Jonathan Lucroy
No player cashed in as much as Jonathan Lucroy did this spring. Literally.
It was announced last Wednesday that the Brewers had finalized a deal that would extend the contract of their star catcher through the 2016 season. The deal guarantees Lucroy $11 million over five years. This, of course, comes in the midst of a superb spring training campaign with the Brewers. In 18 games, Lucroy posted a ridiculous .479/.490/.729 line with two home runs and 9 RBI, nine runs scored and 35 total bases.
Lucroy was one of the better defensive catchers in baseball last season and his bat wasn’t half bad, either. Following such a magnificent preseason and brand-new contract, expectations will be high for him this season. It should be interesting to see how well he performs.
Loser: Shaun Marcum
Shaun Marcum reported to spring camp in Maryvale, Arizona last month with what was reportedly a sore shoulder. The Brewers shut down the 30-year-old starter for the beginning of preseason competition, though he did toss three innings on one start on March 25. The start would prove to be Marcum’s lone spring training appearance.
While recent indications confirm that Marcum will be ready to start the regular season as Milwaukee’s No. 4 starter, it remains to be seen how well his shoulder will hold up. Will he be able to go deep into games and eat innings early on in the season or will his injury flare up? The fact that Marcum made but one appearance this spring is enough reason for concern. Failing to get those crucial reps makes Marcum a clear loser from spring training.
Winner: Mat Gamel
There was much skepticism attached to Mat Gamel coming into spring training, but after a scintillating 2012 preseason campaign, those negative assumptions may have been put to bed altogether. This spring, Milwaukee’s new first baseman put up a solid .264/.339/.642 line with a team-high six home runs, 14 RBI and 14 runs scored. He also nabbed three stolen bases to bring his spring total to 34 total bases.
Replacing Prince Fielder this season was hardly a realistic goal for the 26-year-old former minor league player of the year, but after such a torrid spring, Gamel could be thinking big things in his first full season as Milwaukee’s first basemen. Gamel was by far and away the biggest winner of any Brewer at spring camp.
Loser: Taylor Green
Taylor Green just can’t seen to catch a break.
After witnessing incumbent third-baseman Casey McGehee be dealt away, Green, who was named Milwaukee’s most outstanding positional prospect for his absurd production last season, thought he’d have a legitimate shot at being the team’s starting third baseman on opening day. Not even a week later, and it was announced that the Brewers had agreed to terms with Aramis Ramirez on a lucrative four-year contract. The deal would make him Milwaukee’s undisputed starter at the hot-corner for at the very least the next three seasons.
Fast forward to this spring, and Green still got the short end of the stick. He batted .316 with a home run and 6 RBI before being assigned to triple-A Nashville to start his 2012 campaign. The good guys never win.
When spring training began, Brewers fans had no idea what to expect from first-year shortstop Alex Gonzalez. They knew of his solid glove and defensive prowess, but had no real recollection of his capabilities in the batter’s box.
After a month’s worth of preseason play, it’s safe to say fans have a pretty good scope on what Gonzalez brings to the table offensively. In 19 spring games against Cactus League pitching, Milwaukee’s new infield addition posted a .440/.472/.780 line with four home runs, 14 RBI, 12 runs scored and 39 total bases.
Gonzalez batted .241 with 15 home runs and 56 RBI last season to go with just a .372 slugging percentage. If he’s performs anywhere near what he managed this spring in 2012, Brewers fans will forget all about Alcides Escobar.
Loser: Corey Hart
It was a rough spring for Corey Hart.
Milwaukee’s star right fielder underwent arthroscopic surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his knee. As a consequence, Hart would fail to register even one spring training at-bat, marking his second straight season of missing preseason action. MLB.com’s Adam McCalvy reported Sunday that Hart could be ready for opening-day, though official word on his status isn’t likely to come until Monday at the very soonest. While that’s great news for Brewers fans, it’s unfortunate that Hart was forced to miss his second straight spring-training.
Winner: Zack Greinke
Zack Greinke was filthy good in the second half of his 2011 campaign as the Brewers’ No. 2 starter, but he apparently didn’t get the memo to ease up against the competition this spring.
Over four spring training starts, the former Cy Young Award winner went 1-0 with a 1.04 ERA, 0.75 WHIP and .175 BAA while fanning 26 batters over 17.1 total innings of work. He allowed just 11 hits and walked just two in those starts, additionally.
Head skipper Ron Roenicke announced late last week that Yovani Gallardo will take the mound for the Brewers on opening day against the St. Louis Cardinals. However, Greinke’s production this spring made his decision excruciatingly difficult. If he can perpetuate his unprecedented production from this spring well into 2012, the Brewers will be well on their way to an NL Central title once more.