Monday, January 28, 2013

Packers 7 Round Mock Draft 1.0

This is my Mock Draft 1.0 for the Packers. I should have another one after the NFL Scouting Combine to get a better idea on what direction the Packers will go in. By then, there should be some cuts and trades. Ted Thompson will likely do a little bit of radio during that time as well where he could hint a few things. Until then, we can only follow the news and do our own research, investigating, and speculation as to who Green Bay will take in the 2013 NFL Draft. Here's what I think initially.

Round 1 Pick 26: Jonathan Cooper, G/C, North Carolina - The Packers had major problems at center after letting Scott Wells walk away, so they'll have to address that area this spring. Jeff Saturday didn't hold up as a replacement and was benched mid-season and later announced his retirement as Evan Dietrich-Smith took over at center for the remainder of the season. Cooper played an important role in North Carolina's running game, which averaged 193.8 yards per game, the highest per game average since 1994. Cooper has excellent agility, demonstrating the ability to quickly get to the second level and block on the move. Ted Thompson will like Jonathan Cooper's versatility, as the North Carolina product can play all three interior positions.

Photo: ESPN
Round 2 Pick 55: Desmond Trufant, CB, Washington - A lot of people have Trufant going in the first round. I think otherwise. It's not that I don't think he's good enough to be a first round pick. It's just that it will be one of those things where he will get lost in the shuffle. Desmond Trufant is younger brother of Marcus Trufant (Seahawks) and Isaiah Trufant (Jets). It's pretty much been his destiny to join the NFL since he committed to Washington. Rob Rang says "He (Desmond) has the fluidity and straight-line speed to handle coverage duties and has proven ball skills (five career interceptions). To improve his standing with scouts, Trufant will need to show continued improvement as an open field tackler." With news coming out from the Packers that Tramon Williams will have to compete for a spot on next year's depth chart at cornerback. Trufant would give Williams a run for his money, and spot.

Round 3 Pick 88: Aaron Dobson, WR, Marshall - I think we all know the reasoning for this pick. With Donald Driver pondering retirement and Greg Jennings putting his home in De Pere, Wisconsin up for sale, it looks like the Packers will need to look to add a wide receiver in the draft. Dobson accumulated 2,398 yards and 24 touchdowns. Aaron has a good reputation as a leader on and off the field, a good work ethic according to his coaches as well. He possesses good height and bulk to play the position. Speed is not the best but it's definitely good. He has deceptive speed as he uses long strides to get down the field and stretch the defense vertically. Finally, his excellent hands that would rate as elite in this year's draft.

Round 4 Pick 119: Gerald Hodges, OLB, Penn State - Hopefully I'm not the only one who doesn't want Erik Walden back on the Packers next year. If the Packers cut him, there would be a void at the line backer position. In the 4th round, Gerald Hodges would be a steal for the Packers and he could honestly still be on the board. Hodges seeks out ball carriers and delivers a physical pop upon contact. He has above average athleticism for the position, showing the range to make plays all over the field and the agility to avoid blocks and quickly arrive to the play.

Photo: Zimbio
Round 5 Pick 152: Stepfan Taylor, RB, Stanford - It's evident that the Packers need to figure out the running game and make it relevant again. James Starks has yet to prove himself. Cedric Benson will likely be gone next year, as will Ryan Grant. Alex Green and DuJuan Harris are our only two semi legitimate running backs, but neither of them strike me as premiere backs to lead a running game. Stepfan Taylor could bring that leadership to the Packers. He is well-built with a thick, powerful lower half. He commits quickly to the hole and possesses great initial burst to clear it before it collapses. He doesn't shy away from contact, and keeps his feet churning on impact. He forces his weight forward through the hole and on contact, and is able to grind out the extra half-yard falling down. He protects the ball well through traffic, and exhibits awareness to shift the ball to his outside hand prior to engaging defenders.

Round 6 Pick 182: Chris Gragg, TE, Arkansas - There's a chance that Jermichael Finley could be cut this offseason to preserve some cap room. The Packers have some depth at tight end, but no one is a stand out as the leader. Chris Gragg may not be a big household name going into the draft, he has the potential to be a team's top option at tight end. In terms of his blocking, he uses his hands well and extends his arms with a good base, and does a solid job of sealing the edge for backs. However, he will really get noticed by scouts for his ability to catch the ball and make plays down the field. Gets off the line really quickly and does a good job of making plays after the catch. Big target who can play in-line as a tight end, out wide as a receiver, or in the backfield as a fullback.

Round 7 Pick 216: Eric Martin, DE, Nebraska - It wouldn't hurt the Packers to look for defensive line help. Jerel Worthy had knee surgery a few weeks ago, Raji was a little banged up last year, and C.J. Wilson needs someone to compliment him better. Dane Brugler writes: "Martin uses his long arms well to rip past blockers, sticking his foot in the ground and exploding to the play. Martin is a little tight-jointed, but has the quick feet to drop and cover in space, making plays away from the line of scrimmage. He plays the game with a physical attitude and arrives to the ballcarrier with a nasty demeanor, making him a tough player to contain."

Until next time, Beers, Brats, and Championships.

-Andrew Vrchota (@AndrewVrchota)

Follow us on Twitter for up to date news on Brewers, Packers, Badgers, Bucks and more. Live in game commentary, breaking news, previews, and post game discussion. @WISportsBlog @AndrewVrchota, @JoeP_Norton, @Brandon_BFP, @SMahon2Go @ryan_937, @Mik3_Schu. Finally, find us on Instagram! (wisportsblog)

Sunday, January 27, 2013

NFL Draft: Packers Offseason Needs

Another Green Bay Packers football season has come and gone and our beloved green and gold fell short of the super bowl once again. While the year certainly had its highlights, one can’t really help but feel a bit disappointed in the overall result of the season. The team’s Super Bowl championship just two years ago and the fantastic play from Aaron Rodgers at the quarterback position have led to very high expectations for cheese-heads everywhere and hopes of tasting the super bowl again each year. The 2012 squad was good, but was certainly not without flaws. Below I list the three biggest positional needs that the Packers need to address if they hope to get back to the Super Bowl in 2014.

Photo: Sports Illustrated
Running Back. The team thought it had something special with the acquisition of Cedric Benson just prior to the start of the 2012 NFL season. Benson was coming off back to back 1,000 yard seasons and immediately became the most experienced and talented running back on the roster the moment the Packers signed him. While he wasn’t spectacular, the Packers certainly had a more consistent, threatening rushing attack in the weeks prior to his injury. Once Benson went down, the trio of Alex Green, James Starks, and Dujaun Harris was less than impressive. The team tried to add some spark with the late season signing of Ryan Grant and while he wasn’t terrible, he also doesn’t look to be a long term solution to the Packers’ running problems. I think that Ted Thompson needs to throw in the towel on an aging Benson and invest in a running back with one of his first two picks in April’s draft. Alabama’s Eddie Lacy (right), North Carolina’s Giovani Bernard, and Wisconsin’s Montee Ball project to be the top three backs in this year’s class. I think it would be wise of Thompson to set his sights on getting one of these three in order to establish a running future in Green Bay.  As a lifelong Badger fan, I am also spearheading the “Montee to Green Bay” campaign if anyone would like to hop on that bandwagon with me.

Offensive Line. Aaron Rodgers spent way too much time on his back last season. In fact, he was sacked 51 times, the most in the NFL during the regular season. While I know many fans like to place part of the blame on Rodgers himself for holding on to the ball too long, the bottom line is that more often than not, he did not have the time he needed to find an open receiver down field. I truly believe that Josh Sitton is one of the best guards in football and I don’t think T.J. Lang is very far behind. Bryan Bulaga was drafted to be the left tackle of the future but the team seems set on keeping him on the right side going forward. I believe those three men are capable in those positions, however I am not even close to convinced that Marshall Newhouse and Evan Dietrich-Smith are going to be better than someone Thompson could find in the top five rounds of the upcoming draft. I think some serious consideration needs to go into replacing these two guys in an effort to better project Rodgers in the future.

Photo: Fan Nation
Tight End. Jermichael Finley is no doubt one of the most talented tight ends in football. He is not, however, one of the best tight ends in football. Many may disagree with this, but to me, consistency must factor into rating a player at this level. Finley simply disappears far too often when the team needs to rely on him to be a presence in the passing game. Yes, he drops the ball a lot, but to me it is more a matter of consistently making plays. This is something that I have not seen much of when looking at Finley over the past two seasons. I think the team needs to cut ties with this reportedly disgruntled under-performer and move forward with a tight end from the 2013 draft class.

Some might wonder why I don’t feel that any part of the defense ranks among the top three positional needs on my list. While I don’t feel that the Packers’ defense is elite, I believe that they made some significant steps in that direction last offseason. I think this unit can certainly be elite with the players that it currently has on the roster. I am excited about the futures of Casey Hayward, Nick Perry, and Jerel Worthy and I am confident that Thompson will add some quality depth in coming drafts. I think that the current defensive unit needs some time to grow and mature, and hopefully stay healthy, before we can start looking to replace them.

Until next time, Beers, Brats, and Championships.

- Joe Norton (@JoeP_Norton)

Follow us on Twitter for up to date news on Brewers, Packers, Badgers, Bucks and more. Live in game commentary, breaking news, previews, and post game discussion. @WISportsBlog @AndrewVrchota, @JoeP_Norton, @Brandon_BFP, @SMahon2Go. Finally, find us on Instagram! (wisportsblog)

Saturday, January 26, 2013

LiveBlog: Mailbag Questions From My Followers

This is the first installment of something new I'm going to try in 2013 for the blog. I feel like the main area I need to improve in is more reader/fan interaction. So, once a month I will open up my mentions on Twitter for you all to ask me whatever questions you have for me. I would prefer them to be sports related, but I won't turn down questions regarding world affairs etc. This first installment actually had a great turnout, which makes me feel like this will be a huge hit for my followers. Without any further ado, let's jump into these questions.

Q1: How do you think the Brewers will handle Hunter Morris, assuming Mat Gamel wins first base job? MLB bench, or every day at bats in Minors? - @saw111671

I am confident the Brewers will be smart with Morris. They know the potential they have and see in him. Morris was the Southern League Most Valuable Player after hitting .303/.357/.563 with 28 home runs and 113 runs batted in in 2012. He also won the Robin Yount Performance Award as the Brewers Minor League Player of the Year that same year. Morris is still a year away from even being considered as a call up as he needs more at bats. However, if he excels in Triple-A this year, I could see him being a September call up for sure. But as of right now he should be one hundred percent in the minor leagues getting a rapid amount of at bats and experience.

Q2: What are your postseason hopes for the Brewers this year? - @AGruett32

It's not that I don't have any hopes, it's just that I know there are better teams than Milwaukee in the National League. The Brewers might be the fourth best team in the NL Central, and I don't think we have a terrible team at all. The Reds are clearly the best team, the Cardinals will be the Cardinals, and the Pirates have improved by leaps and bounds. Hell, even the Cubs have a better pitching rotation than Milwaukee. Offensively, the Brewers are one of the top tier line-ups in the entire National League. But, competitively put up against teams like the Cardinals, Reds, Dodgers, Giants, Braves, Nationals, and Diamondbacks, we don't really hold a candle to them. Even with the second Wild Card, the playoff chances are looking awfully slim right now.

Q3: Do you really think Gamel can hold down 1st base? - @IKnowSportsBall

He's the best option we have. Remembering his start to 2012 before he got injured, I remember his bat was working just fine. One thing he needs to work on this offseason is his defensive movements when converting 3U, 1-3, and 3-1 plays. He was very sloppy last year and it's something he will need to address in Spring Training. If Gamel doesn't cut it this year, I'm afraid he will be out of second chances with the Brewers and could turn into trade bait.

Q4: What are the chances of the Packers getting Darrelle Revis? - @brunybrewer

I wish they were a lot greater than what they really are. The Jets are said to be looking for a first or second round pick for him in a trade, and I don't see Ted Thompson giving either of those picks up to be honest. I would say the Seahawks, Broncos, Falcons, Bills or 49ers would be the most ideal places to see Revis land if he ends up being traded.

Q5: What do you see in the Brewers' pitching staff this year? - @jfassy20

High risk. High potential. High reward. In a comparison you will see a lot this year, the Brewers' rotation this year reminds a lot of analysts and executives of last year's Athletics pitching staff. It's going to start with how well they can stay healthy. In the past two seasons, the Brewers have lined up some fantastic looking rotations, but both years injury lingered throughout the year. I know right off the bat that if Narveson and Rogers start the year off in the rotation, I believe both will have some sort of innings limit on them. How many? No clue at this point. It all falls on how their spring goes.

Q6: Will the Brewers make a move for another starting pitcher before Spring Training or after or are they confident with who they've got? If so, who is the x-factor? - @SaintsDSP

Well, I'm not sure if confident is the correct word. I mean, Melvin believes in his guys. More recently on radio interviews it sounds more like Melvin is accepting the fact that the Brewers don't have the most ideal rotation in the works and Doug expects there to be struggles in the season. However, there will be about four or five guys competing for three spots in the rotation. I don't think there will be anyone signed in addition to what we have unless there is some sort of injury sustained to Gallardo, Fiers, or Estrada. As far as who the x-factor is, I would say it's the leadership of Gallardo. He's got four young guys under his wing that will need guidance this season. If he can keep their confidence up, we could see some magical things from this staff.

Q7: What's your favorite website for Brewers prospect scouting reports? - @AlecDopp

Bleacher Report...........just kidding. I would have to say is pretty good. Otherwise, Baseball America and Fangraphs provide great information on prospects as well as any good fantasy baseball magazine.
Photo: Sports Illustrated

Q8: Any sleeper football signings by Gary Anderson and the Badgers? - @rovolution99

I've been reading for the past few days that there is some potential that Anderson might be swaying Chuckie Keeton (right), the current quarterback at Utah State, to Madison. Keeton is a sophomore and would have a few years of eligibility left to get some serious play in with the Badgers. The rest will just have to play out I suppose. We might look to transfer in a wide receiver. But other then that, I think we have a very solid team to look forward to in 2013.

Q9: Who do the Bucks need to strengthen their team and become a tougher competitor? - @jfassy20

I don't think it has anything to do with needing to add someone. It has to do with cutting the extra baggage. We need to cut ties with Drew Gooden, Marquis Daniels, and Samuel Dalembert and keep guys like Doron Lamb, Tobias Harris, and John Henson in the regular rotation so they can play more consistent basketball. Boylan has done an outstanding job as our new coach since Skiles was fired a few weeks back. If we aren't going to do anything with this season as far as the playoffs are concerned, then we need to evaluate our trade potential candidates as well as who we want to keep for next year.

Q10: Who do you think the Packers will draft? - @purplebadger_12

This all depends on who they cut this offseason as well as who they lose in free agency. Here's a couple scenarios: If the Packers lose Finley, we would have our eye on Zach Ertz, the tight end from Stanford. If we lose Greg Jennings and Donald Driver retires, the Packers may look for a wide receiver like Robert Woods from Southern Cal. Barrett Jones or D.J Fluker out of Alabama could be on the radar since Jeff Saturday is retiring and our offensive line needs a lot of work. The running game has been in question for years now. Does Thompson address it and draft a running back? Monte Ball from Wisconsin and Eddie Lacy from Alabama would address that concern. Finally, AJ Hawk has been rumored to be on the chopping block. Alec Ogletree from Georgia or Kevin Minter from LSU could replace Hawk at inside linebacker. Many options available for sure.

Q11: Where do you think Montee Ball will go? - @purplebadger_12

Unforunately for Montee, the draft class for running back this year is slim pickings. Ball might fall to a late second round pick unless a team like the Rams fear they won't be able to bring back Steven Jackson, they might look at drafting an option at running back. The top three teams he's be the best fit for would be St. Louis, Green Bay, and Pittsburgh. Maybe Arizona? Every team in the NFL seems to be set on running backs right now.

Q12 - Anyone have a pulse on Mark Attanasio buying the Bucks? - @BrwCrw1307

I hate to give you the shortest answer of the night, but as of right now it's all speculation that Mark Attanasio (left) wants to buy the Bucks. He's been asked a few times in interviews and press conferences about it. He doesn't say he would do it, but he doesn't rule it out either. From what I know is that Kohl hasn't gone to Mark about a sale, and Mark hasn't gone to Kohl about a sale, yet.

Q13: Will Peralta's offseason effort get him a crack at the rotation? - @wisco_guy

I think it gives him a great chance, to be honest. It shows he's one-hundred percent dedicated to himself and his pitching career with the Brewers. For those who missed it earlier in an interview with Doug Melvin, during the offseason Peralta paid out of his own pocket to work with a trainer from the Nashville Sounds. That earned oodles of approval rating points with me. If Peralta can ease the wildness in some of his pitches, and make it to his expected innings number, I think Peralta could be a nice sleeper hidden amongst the Brewers rotation.

Until next time, Beers, Brats, and Championships.

-Andrew Vrchota (@AndrewVrchota)

Follow us on Twitter for up to date news on Brewers, Packers, Badgers, Bucks and more. Live in game commentary, breaking news, previews, and post game discussion. @WISportsBlog @AndrewVrchota, @JoeP_Norton, @Brandon_BFP, @SMahon2Go @ryan_937, @Mik3_Schu. Finally, find us on Instagram! (wisportsblog)

Sunday, January 20, 2013

The Brewers Projected Starting Rotation

A few weeks ago I took a look at the Brewers new bullpen. Had some great feedback on that, so to continue this preview of sorts of the 2013 Brewers, I will be taking a look at the projected starting rotation. As I began writing this piece, I asked my followers who they thought would be in the starting five. This created quite the stir, as my mentions blew up through the roof. It's probably the hottest subject going into Spring Training for the Brewers, as the starting line-up is pretty set in stone barring injury and the bullpen is somewhat set minus one core spot to fill in spring. Ideally, Gallardo and Fiers are likely the two pitchers that are pretty much a lock for the rotation. After them, however, is when things get mighty interesting. Out of the four other leading candidates, only one has an option to be sent to Triple-A; which makes this very simple to decide on my projected starting five.

1. Yovani Gallardo - I don't think this is a surprise to anyone that Yo will be in our rotation in 2013, and rightfully sitting at the top. In 2011, Yo had one of his best pitching years since becoming a pro as he finished 7th for National League Cy Young. Though still posting a decent record in 2012, Gallardo became very inconsistent. It took Gallardo a good portion of the season to get into a rhythm. Gallardo finished out the 2012 season going 8-1 (July 31st - September 28th) with three no-decisions and an ERA of just under 3.00 (2.9998 to be exact). If Yo can get into a rhythm to start the year out, he could easily have his eyes set on 18, 19, or 20 wins this up coming season. And, any of this three win counts would be a career high (17 wins in 2011).

2. Mike Fiers - Barring an extremely bad spring, Fiers more than proved himself last season to be a starter in the Brewers' rotation. And, as a rookie last year, he is likely to get better this year. A fatigued arm made him slow down towards the end of last season, but in my eyes that was to be expected as a rookie. Last year, he lead the National League in lowest ERA for about three months or so. I would expect Fiers to go between 160-170 innings this year and easily having 150+ strikeouts to add to his resume. I'll go as far as to say his ERA will lower significantly. The good thing about Fiers is that even if he does can to start the year, he does have an option left to be sent down to the minors to tweak any issues that could arise.

3. Marco Estrada - Above I mentioned consistency and rhythm with Gallardo. The same goes for Estrada, if not more importantly than Gallardo. On April 21st, Estrada moved to the rotation to take over for Chris Narveson. He didn't get his first win until August 21st. Granted, he had eleven no decisions mixed in with his 0-5 start, but nevertheless the Brewers cant afford to have a stretch like that in 2013. As a full time starter this year, I would expect Estrada to pitch about 180 innings this season, with a strikeout total of about 170. In 138 innings in 2012, he accumulated 143 strikeouts. Estrada has to come off strong to start the year to have a consistent season as a full time pitcher in this very young and in-experienced rotation.

4. Chris Narveson - I don't think I am the only one who is very concerned for the bottom of the rotation. Narveson is my first worry. It has already come through the Brewers news wire that Narveson is "100% ready to go and cleared to pitch with no restrictions in Spring Training". Not to compare football to baseball or apples to oranges, but Packers' Jerel Worthy recently had a "bruised knee" and then had ACL reconstruction surgery a week later with Dr. James Andrews. Narveson is coming back from rotator cuff surgery on his throwing arm. Besides having Tommy Johns, it is the most difficult surgery to come back from as a pitcher. I would imagine regardless of what percentage of ready Narveson is, he is going to have some kind of innings limit this year. Depending on how his production and record is at the All Star break, I wouldn't be surprised if they shut him down then, and replace him with a young arm in the minors. The thing to remember is that the Brewers organization takes extra care of their pitchers.

5. Mark Rogers - Rounding out the bottom of the order will be Mark Rogers. Rogers made it to only 39 innings pitched before the Brewers shut him down with precautionary intentions. I would be surprised if Rogers went more than 100 innings this year. He too could be on the same path as Narveson where he gets shut down at the All Star break. Rogers is another healthy year away from being a regular starter in our rotation without any innings restrictions. Luckily, the Brewers have young, talented arms that will fill in nicely for our pitchers who might get shut down.

I can think of three starters in the minors that will be on the outside looking in and are thirsty for their chance for a spot in the Brewers' rotation. First and foremost, the first pitcher to have dibs on a spot has to be Wily Peralta. I think for him to start in the minors to start 2013 is a fantastic idea simply because he still has a few things to work on before he embarks on full time status. Control issues and fatigue are his two main concerns. Giving him half the season in Nashville will give him enough time to work out his kinks to make him fully available for a call up at the All Star break. The second pitcher that comes to mind is Tyler Thornburg. Thornburg has a chance to be called up first out of all the pitchers in our minors because he can serve as a starter or he can fill in the bullpen if need be. Thornburg could use the time in the minors as well. He needs to develop better locations on his fastball when behind in counts, which will improve his 8 homeruns in 22 innings pitched ratio he had last year. Finally, top pitching prospect Hiram Burgos has a chance to make an appearance this season. Say Thornburg and Peralta are already up for Narveson and Rogers and someone needs to hit the DL, Burgos would likely be the guy we would call up unless we look to spot start someone in our bullpen like Tom Gorzelanny. Nonetheless, regardless of how our rotation pans out, the Brewers are a few steps ahead of the game for fill ins and replacements.

Until next time, Beers, Brats, and Championships.

-Andrew Vrchota (@AndrewVrchota)

Follow us on Twitter for up to date news on Brewers, Packers, Badgers, Bucks and more. Live in game commentary, breaking news, previews, and post game discussion. @WISportsBlog @AndrewVrchota, @JoeP_Norton, @Brandon_BFP, @SMahon2Go @ryan_937, @Mik3_Schu. Finally, find us on Instagram! (wisportsblog)

Friday, January 18, 2013

Corey Hart's Injury Isn't As Bad As It Seems

Today it was announced that outfielder converted first baseman Corey Hart will be undergoing knee surgery on January 22nd and will be out for approximately 3-4 months, or about 6 weeks if you're looking at our schedule. Initially, this news really bugged me out and I was already concerned for our 2013 season. But, after taking a few deep breaths I was actually alright with it. Don't get me wrong, it's unfortunate and potentially could hurt the team depth wise in the beginning, but production wise I don't think there will be a difference that early in the year, too be honest.

As easily as I can, I want to buckle down and hopefully show that having Gamel in the lineup isn't a bad thing and could potentially benefit the Brewers in the long run. I will also take a look at a few other options the Brewers have at first base other than Mat Gamel, which I can tell you right now isn't much. Fear not, Brewer Nation. Everything is going to be already without Hart for a few weeks to start the season. Here's why...

We will first go with some semi-arbitrary statistical projections for each party, starting with Mat Gamel. According to Bill James of FanGraphs Baseball, Mat Gamel is now projected to bat .287/.351/.473/.824 with 65 R/17 HR/72 RBI/42 BB (8.7 BB%)/91 SO (18.8 K%) and a total of 127 hits in 442 at bats in 114 games plays. On the other hand, Corey Hart was originally projected for playing in 150 games. We know that isn't going to happen. So, taking off the 6 weeks he's guaranteed to miss plus other days off he will receive for rest, I'll say he'll play in around 100 games this year (not accounting for pinch hits etc.), or 1/3 of what he was expected to play. After taking Hart's projected stats and taking 1/3 off of each appropriate stat, these numbers may surprise you. Hart would still be rightfully projected as a .270/.330/.490/.820 hitter for sure, but here is where things get interesting. Hart would be projected at 60 R/18 HR/62 RBI/32 BB (8.3 BB%)/96 SO (25.0 K%) and a total of 104 hits in 384 at bats in 100 games. Now, granted the projections for Gamel could be way off with the amount of games he plays, but with his ability to play corner infield and outfield spots, he may see more opportunities in 2013, especially with a scarce lefty line-up the Brewers have.

As far as other options the Brewers have at first base, there really isn't too much to chose from. Taylor Green would serve the same purpose as Gamel, though Gamel would produce more than Green. You don't want to interrupt Hunter Morris' minor league progression path by having him up on the main roster for 6 weeks and then optioning him down to Nashville. Moving Aramis Ramirez over to first base is not an option, however moving back-up catcher Martin Maldonado is. Free agency is absolutely picked to the bone of free agent first basemen, unless anyone wants a 42 year old Jason Giambi or a blast from the past Carlos Lee. Casey Kotchman or Lyle Overbay would be alright with me, but the deals would have to be dirt cheap because the understanding would be "Look guys, you're going to be playing first base for about 6-7 weeks, and then after that we're likely to release you.". And I don't see trading for a first baseman is logical, either. Looking over these options, giving Mat Gamel one last chance to shine is our only sensible option on the table.

Benefits, you ask? In the event Gamel lights up the majors like a Christmas tree and there are no set-backs with Corey Hart come June-July, you have the option of putting Mat Gamel out on a hook to see what kind of fish bite. By fish, I mean a contending team looking for a power hitting left handed utility guy such as Mat Gamel. Granted, the return on Mat wouldn't be much; not even close to Zack Greinke. But, I could see the Brewers swapping Mat Gamel in return for a prospect pitcher or infielder. Or, vise versa, Gamel still lights up the majors, but Corey shows that he's playing well too. Mark Attanasio and Doug Melvin decide they want to save a few dollars, they could end up putting Corey Hart on that fishing hook barring any setbacks with his knee. The return on Corey Hart would be much larger than Gamel, hands down. But, with this second knee surgery in as many years, a red flag will pop up for many teams.

In the ever classic song by Journey "I'll Be Alright Without You", a line from the chorus reads "I'll be alright without you - there'll be someone else, I keep tellin' myself". We will be fine without Corey Hart. Someone will be playing first base for the Brewers on opening day. And, if he has a great spring coming back from his ACL injury in 2012, I can comfortably say it that person will be Mat Gamel.

Until next time, Beers, Brats, and Championships.

-Andrew Vrchota (@AndrewVrchota)

Follow us on Twitter for up to date news on Brewers, Packers, Badgers, Bucks and more. Live in game commentary, breaking news, previews, and post game discussion. @WISportsBlog @AndrewVrchota, @JoeP_Norton, @Brandon_BFP, @SMahon2Go @ryan_937, @Mik3_Schu. Finally, find us on Instagram! (wisportsblog)

Friday, January 4, 2013

Milwaukee Bucks Quarter Season Recap

Who are the 2012-2013 Bucks?  They’re cerebral, clutch and potent. 

Not many experts had the Bucks in 2nd place a quarter’s way through the season, and fewer expected an opening night like they had in Boston to kick off the season, trumping the Celtics 99-88.  The next night would really spark the season as Brandon Jennings drained a game winning three pointer at the buzzer after the Cavaliers’ Kyrie Irving tied the game with under two seconds on the clock. 

The Walking Dead
Milwaukee radio was buzzing and the team has showed its promise.  The Andrew Bogut for Monta Ellis trade has already justified itself as Bogut sits injured on the Golden State bench while Ellis has averaged 19.6 PPG through his first 30 games of the season.  The improvement of Larry Sanders as a defensive beast and the presence of Ekpe Udoh have filled the void of Bogut.  Simply put, the trade is looking like an absolute steal and Ellis leads the team in scoring and lives up to his scouting report as a dynamite transition player and lightning quick guard.  Meanwhile, in Golden State, Andy Bogut sits.  (Though we sincerely wish him the best of luck going forward, a former fan favorite).

Breaking Bad
The scary thing?  Ellis hasn’t even flashed his best looks yet; Ellis has not played up to his career norms from the shooting side.  He’s shot just 22% from 3-point territory, down from his career average of 32%, and he’s been less efficient from the field to date, too (39% in ’12, 46% career).  So where does Ellis go from here?  The Mississippi native needs to learn how to play with Jennings on the court—with efficiency.  Having two similar backcourt players on the court at the same time can sometimes negate the way they play.  Using Monta Ellis’ PER of 16.3 (Player Efficiency Rating statistic, used to measure per-minute production), he has been less “efficient” than his career norm of about 17.  The best is yet to come… 

Brandon Jennings, the Bucks fringe All-Star (currently 9th for Eastern backcourt stars), continues to improve each year in the league.  The 23-year old veteran has seen spikes in most all of his efficiency stats (3P%, FT%) and with Ellis at his side, has the ability to dish the ball and get his share of assists (6.1 APG—highest of his career).  Also following his career trend, Jennings has been a fourth quarter force, demanding the ball and putting up strong numbers in the game’s closing minutes.   

The Bucks have played solid at home—not incredible, but their 9-7 record will allow them to remain competitive as long as they play .500 on the road (just as they’ve done at 7-7).  Moreover, the Bucks backcourt is the highest scoring backcourt in the NBA, which is pretty impressive with duos like Ginobli and Parker, Kobe and Nash, and Deron Williams and Joe Johnson lighting it up. 

The Americans
Nobody had a tougher start to the season then Erysan Ilyasova, but after Coach Scott Skiles starting using him as the 6th man off the bench, Ilyasova has begun to replicate his breakout 2011-2012 season.   After a pitiful November where he shot under 35% from the field, Ilyasova countered by shooting 46%  since the calendar struck December and has been draining three pointers at a 52% clip.  While he went on an offensive vacation for most of November, his defense has continued to be top notch and its one of Ilyasova’s major assets to his game.  Coming into the season, we were worried that last year was a fluke, aberration for Ilysavoa, but the 25 year old Turkish Tornado has followed up with a great month of basketball and is on the right track to rebound after a disturbing first month.

Modern Family
The Bucks are really starting to come together and learn how to play together.  For the majority of the team, this is their second year together.  Mike Dunleavy and Larry Sanders deserve big ups and credit for much improvement (specifically on the defensive end) in their game this season, and a few masterful performance this season (Dunleavy’s 29 point outburst against the Cavs as the Bucks went to win by 2 in early December / Sanders’ evolution in becoming a one man SWAT team as supported by his league leading 3.0 blocks per game).

The Bucks Outlook: The Bucks have had a very adequate quarter+ to their season as they sit in the no. 6 spot in the Eastern Conference.  They remain one game behind the Chicago Bulls in the conference and while they’ve lost their last two (5-5 in their last 10), the Bucks have a realistic chance to get the no. 5 seed in conference and, if everything goes right, even a shot at the no. 4 seed (just 2 GB the Pacers).

Until next time, Beers, Brats, and Championships.

-Sean Mahon (@SMahon2Go)

Follow us on Twitter for up to date news on Brewers, Packers, Badgers, Bucks and more. Live in game commentary, breaking news, previews, and post game discussion. @WISportsBlog @AndrewVrchota, @JoeP_Norton, @Brandon_BFP, @SMahon2Go @ryan_937, @Mik3_Schu. Finally, find us on Instagram! (wisportsblog)

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Top 10 Brewers Prospects in 2013

Pitchers and catchers are set to report for the Milwaukee Brewers in 40 days. It is time again to look over our farm systems and rank the top prospects the Brewers have. Last season, we seen many players in the likes of Mike Fiers, Wily Peralta, Jim Henderson, and Mark Rogers come up through our system and succeed in 2012. We also seen Jean Segura, Angels' top prospect, come over in a trade, who also opened people's eyes last year. With all of those men now on our major league roster, I really don't consider them prospects anymore, with the exception of Wily Peralta. With that, here's a rundown of who I see as the Top 10 prospects for the Brewers.

10. OF Victor Roache - The Brewers drafted Victor with the 28th overall pick in the 2012 draft. Not many people knew where Victor would fall on the draft board because of his broken wrist he suffered during his sophomore year in college. Before he broke his wrist, he was on an absolute tear in college, mustering up 30 home runs. He will be ready to go this spring, and will likely be assigned to Helena or the Timber Rattlers. projects him making his major league debut in 2015. He has one of the best power bats in our minor league system. His average speed and range will  compliment him nicely as a corner outfielder. He is definitely someone to keep an eye on in 2013 to see how he progresses after his wrist injury.

9. C Clint Coulter - Just like Roache, Coulter was also picked in the first round in the 2012 MLB Draft. Coulter was 27th overall, one pick ahead of Roache. This pick was awarded to the Brewers from the Tigers when Prince Fielder signed his contract with Detroit last January. Clint is only 19 years old, however he is 6'3" 210 pounds and is full of integrity. He didn't hold out for a large contract after the Brewers drafted him. He quickly signed and began playing for the Brewers rookie level Arizona league in June. Clint has about as much power as Victor Roache, but he isn't a a pure hitter like Victor potentially could be. As for catching, he has a great arm. He needs to most work on his footwork and fluency behind the plate, as well as spotting balls from going past him. projects him making his debut in 2016.

8. LHP Jed Bradley - Bradley is an interesting placement here. Last year, the southpaw was in everyone's Top 5 or better. But, after a very down 2012 season, he has a lot of work to do to be ready for the majors. He finished with a 5-10 record in the minors last year with an extremely high ERA of 5.53. He was sent to the DL mid-season with a groin injury. Then, in August, Bradley was shut down for the rest of the season with arm fatigue. His statistics and tired arm will both be set-backs for Jed. projects Jed to arrive in the majors in 2013. However, I would say 2014 or 2015 is more realistic. Jed has a 4 pitch mix when he's on the mound. He has a mid-90s level fastball, a on or off slider, and also mixes in a change up and curveball. Keep an eye on Bradley this season to see if he can bounce back after his off 2012. With the Brewers already running on empty with a honorable lefty in the rotation, the Brewers hope to see Bradley sooner, rather than later.

7. OF Logan Schafer - Schafer is one of those good stories in our farm system. Logan has been dealt with injury after injury since being drafted in the 3rd round in 2008. His first set-back injury was a nagging thumb injury. Following that, in 2010 he was on and off the DL with numerous other injuries. In 2011, he bounced back nicely and played great ball in Triple-A. Logan then made his major league debut for the Brewers in mid 2012. He doesn't have much power, nor a lot of speed. He hits to all over the field, he is a smart baserunner, and he players great defense in center field. Logan is projected to be the number four outfielder on the Brewers 25 man roster to start the 2013 season, which is very convenient as projected his MLB debut would be in 2012.

6. 1B Hunter Morris - Morris was drafted by the Brewers in the fourth round of the 2010 Draft. Morris is coming off his best year as a minor leaguer. In 2012, Morris was the Southern League Most Valuable Player after hitting .303/.357/.563 with 28 home runs and 113 runs batted in. He also won the Robin Yount Performance Award as the Brewers Minor League Player of the Year. Hunter Morris is currently ranked the 4th best first base prospect in the MLB. Depending on how serious the Brewers are about retaining Corey Hart, or seeing how Mat Gamel turns around this season, we may be seeing Hunter Morris sooner rather than later. MLB projects him to debut in 2013, which I see as an accurate arrival time. Hunter will likely be a September call up in 2013, which could be a nice preview heading into the 2014 offseason.

5. 2B Scooter Gennett - Gennett was drafted by the Brewers in 2009 in the 16th round of the MLB Draft out of Sarasota, Florida. Many call Scooter an "undersized overachiever". Standing at only 5'10" and weighing a buck sixty five, he is the little engine that could. Scooter is currently ranked the 8th best second base prospect in all the MLB. Gennett represented the Brewers at the 2012 All-Star Futures Game. Scooter's biggest accomplishment in 2012 was when he was still 21 years old, he hit for the cycle against the Royals farm team in March. Many wonder how long Scooter will remain in our organization before he becomes trade bait. With Rickie Weeks currently at second base, Scooter doesn't really have another option other than wait it out. However, if the Brewers decide they need more cap space, freeing up Weeks may be a future option and Gennett would be in line to take over the helm at second.

4. RHP Johnny Hellweg - Hellweg is another interesting story. Hellweg was a relief pitcher for the Angels organization until 2011 when they switched him to a starter. Now, in normal circumstances, the success rate of this kind of switch is next to nothing. The exact opposite scenario is where the success is found, as in when a starting pitcher is converted into a relief pitcher. But, Hellweg has proved that statistic wrong. Johnny came over to the Brewers along with Jean Segura and Ariel Pena from the Angels in the Zack Greinke trade. Hellweg stands at 6'9" 210 pounds. He has the potential to be a great strikeout pitcher, as he carries a good fastball, a moving change-up, and a few off speed pitches. If he can control his walks, he could see some time later on in 2013 if and when Mark Rogers gets shut down again.

3. RHP Taylor Jungmann - Out of all of our starting pitching prospects not currently in Triple-A Nashville or on our major league ball club, I would say Jungmann is the closest player to be ready for our starting rotation. In Single-A ball, Jungmann had a pretty decent line in 2012. In 26 starts, Taylor went 11-6 with a 3.53 ERA with 99 strikeouts and 46 walks. One stat that is alarming is that he gave up about 1 hit per inning. (159 hits in 153 innings pitched). 2013 will be a huge test on Jungmann's progression as he looks like advance in our minor league system. If all goes well, I see Yungmann ending 2013 in Triple-A Nashville, and maybe even a spot on the Brewers' roster when rosters expand in September.

2. RHP Tyler Thornburg - Tyler is probably the most ready pitcher in our farm system coming into 2013. We saw him make a spot start in 2012 when the Brewers were shorthanded in their rotation due to injury. The one thing Thornburg needs to pick up to become ready for the big leagues is that when you're behind in a count, you cannot serve up a fast ball done the middle. You will be punished every time. As a result, Thornburg gave up a lot of home runs during his short time in the Brewers rotation. Thornburg was most dominate in Double-A ball last year, going 8-1 with a 3.00 ERA with 71 strikeouts on 24 walks. If Tyler can make a few tweaks in his game plan when behind in a count, there is no doubt he is ready for the Brewers' starting rotation.

Photo: Fox Sports Wisconsin
1. RHP Wily Peralta - Peralta is here by default, too be honest. I see him being the odd man out of the Brewers rotation once spring ball is over with. Peralta no doubt will have his spot in the rotation when the time is right, but I think between the control issues Peralta had last season and his arm fatigue that shut him down before the 2012 season concluded, I think the best choice is to put Peralta in Triple-A to start the season off. Similiar to what Washington should have done with Stephen Strasburg last year, the Brewers could choose to not start up Peralta until May to preserve his arm for any potential success the Brewers have come October. But, in any case, Peralta has all to potential in the world to have a bullpen built around him, much like what the Brewers are doing with Yovani Gallardo in 2013.

Until next time, Beers, Brats, and Championships.

-Andrew Vrchota (@AndrewVrchota)

Follow us on Twitter for up to date news on Brewers, Packers, Badgers, Bucks and more. Live in game commentary, breaking news, previews, and post game discussion. @WISportsBlog @AndrewVrchota, @JoeP_Norton, @Brandon_BFP, @SMahon2Go @ryan_937, @Mik3_Schu. Finally, find us on Instagram! (wisportsblog)

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

A Look at the Brewers New Bullpen

In light of the magical ride to cap off the regular season, the 2012 season will be remembered as the year the Brewers bullpen couldn't preserve a lead if our life depended on it. On paper the combination of Axford and Rodriguez was groundbreaking, much like what we saw in 2011. So to have that same duo for a full season spoke volumes of the potential greatness our pitching could have accomplished. But, as we know, the exact opposite occurred. The Brewers blew a league worst 29 saves out of 73 save opportunities which resulted in a 60 percent save percentage, which was second worst in the MLB. Furthermore, the bullpen pitched in all 162 games in 2012, to which they accumulated the worst earned run average in all of baseball, a 4.66 ERA.

Coming into this offseason, it was all but inevitable that Doug Melvin planned to clean house on our bullpen. As a result, John Axford, Jim Henderson, and Brandon Kintzler were the only three left after the dust settled. Kameron Loe, Jose Veras, Livan Hernandez, and Francisco Rodriguez all elected free agency after the Brewers optioned them off the 40 man roster. A month later, the Brewers decided to non-tender Manny Parra, thus making him a free agent as well.

During the winter meetings in Nashville, it became apparent that the Brewers would not be making huge offers to top free agent relief pitchers. However, it came at no surprise. The Brewers had been linked to names like Sean Burnett, Jason Grilli, Kyle Farnsworth, J.P. Howell, and others throughout, though none of the rumors were strong enough and they eventually signed elsewhere. Melvin's game plan was to sign relief arms to inexpensive deals and not go over the 2 year mark on contracts. That turned out to be a difficult offer to make free agents interested in our team, as many middle to high level relief pitchers were signing for 3 years and making 5 to 6 million dollars annually. Even with the strict standards Melvin had, he was able to walk out and head into spring with a very formidable, revamped bullpen.

Photo: NBC Sports
Closer - John Axford - Not that this should be a surprise to anyone, but John Axford will be our closer in 2013. Let's not be so quick to forget his mere dominance in 2011 before we jump right into his off 2012. Mentally, John was not 100 percent last season. I'm not here to make excuses as to why, but I am confident when I say that I believe it was nothing more than a minor hiccup in his progress as being one of the league's best closers. If John can stay away from worrying about what the fans are saying to him via his Twitter account, and focus more on pitching a smart game of baseball, we will have nothing to worry about.

Set-up - Jim Henderson (replacing Fransisco Rodriguez) - Although Henderson all but replaced Rodriguez in the middle of the season as the set-up man, it will take full effect this year as we reestablish our pen. Henderson is not only a really great pitcher, but Jim is just a good story to tell. After spending 10 years in the minor leagues with 3 different organizations, Jim finally got the call last year for the Brewers and pitched in his first big league game. Henderson finished last season with a 1-3 record, 3.52 ERA, 45 strikeouts, and 13 walks over 30 2/3 innings. He had a team low 0.3 HR/9IP. Not a bad start to his major league career. A bigger upside to him is that we have team control until 2019.

Innings eater - Tom Gorzelanny (replacing Livan Hernandez) - The Brewers signed free-agent left-hander Tom Gorzelanny to a two-year contract in mid-December. The Nationals non-tendered Gorzelanny in November instead of offering him arbitration. At 30 years old, Gorzelanny, 30, joins a Brewers pitching staff that previously lacked left-handed pitching. Other than left-handed starter Chris Narveson, the Brewers didn't have an established lefty on their pitching staff after non-tendering Manny Parra. Gorzelanny appeared in 45 games for the Nationals this past season, posting a 2.88 ERA with 7.8 K/9, 3.8 BB/9 and a 42.9% ground ball rate in 72 innings. The eight-year MLB veteran started 23 games for the Cubs in 2010 and 15 games for the Nationals in 2011, before making one spot start in 2012. So with his starting experience, you'd have to assume he will be the guy Ron Roenicke goes to in case one of his starters has a rough outing in addition to seeing some LOOGy (Lefty Only One-Out Guy) opportunities as well. In all honesty, though, I could see the Brewers using Tom in any situation other than closing or set-up.

Lefty specialist - Mike Gonzalez (replacing Manny Parra) - As I wrote and somewhat predicted in a previous blog, Mike Gonzalez will be our primary LOOGy pitcher for 2012. The Brewers signed Gonzalez to a one-year deal a few days ago. The deal the 34 year old signed is worth roughly 2.25 million dollars, plus incentives. Gonzalez pitched a 3.03 ERA with 9.8 K/9 and 4.0 BB/9 in 35 2/3 innings for the Nationals last season after. He held left-handed batters to a .179 ERA, .257 OBP, and .269 SLG% batting line with 23 strikeouts in 75 plate appearances. Compared to Manny Parra, all of Mike's stats are leaps and bounds better. In other words, Pedro Alvarez will never get another hit off of Brewers' relievers again.

Photo: CBS Sports
Righty specialist / Groundball guy - Burke Badenhop (replacing Kameron Loe) - I've read a lot about how people didn't quite understand why we would get a guy like Burke when Loe is essentially the same pitcher. In a sense, people are right. They are pretty much the same. However, the philosophy Doug Melvin (I assume) has behind it is quite simple to understand. If you're going to rebuild something, don't use the old pieces for your new structure. Loe wasn't especially good in 2011, and he sure wasn't good in 2012. The Brewers acquired the 29 year old right-hander from the Rays for Raul Mondesi Jr. You'll all remember Raul as the young man who hit a walk-off home run last year for the Helena Brewers but forgot to touch home plate, thus resulting in an out, and a loss for his team. Anyways, Burke pitched a 3.03 ERA with 6.1 K/9 and 1.7 BB/9 in 62 1/3 innings for the Rays last season. He does an acceptable job at generating ground balls (52.9%) and keeping right-handed batters in control (.239/.260/.350). Lefties on the other hand give him a tough time (.300/.356/.488). He has everything written on the walls to be a much better ROOGy (Righty Only One-Out Guy) than Loe was.

7th inning / "We're getting blown out" guy - Brandon Kintzler (replacing Jose Veras) - We didn't see much of Brandon last year, as he was a late call up when rosters expanded in September. In 14 games, Kintzler pitched his way to a 3-0 record, a 3.78 ERA, 0.5 HR/9, 3.8 BB/9, and a 7.2 SO/9 over 16 2/3 innings. Out of all the pitchers in our bullpen, Kintzler is tied with Badenhop for the lowest games-entering Leverage Index (gmLI). Long story short, it's a statistic of the level of pressure situations a relief pitcher encounters throughout the season. To better understand it, try this link: Get To Know: Leverage Index. Back on track, I don't see Kintzler having a specific role in our pen, especially in any where the game would be on the line, but his arm is much needed and desired. I liked what I saw last year from him. A good spring will help me be reassured of that.

Non-save 9th inning guy - Too be determined - I honestly can't say for sure just because anything could happen in spring training. There are a handful of guys that I could see making this final spot. Anyone from Fautino De Los Santos to Zach Kroenke or Jairo Asencio to Travis Webb or Arcenio Leon to Tyler Thornburg could make it in all honesty. However, if I had to put money on the last spot in the bullpen, I'd go with 6'7", 245 lb, 25 year old Michael Olmsted. Mike pitched a 1.52 ERA with 14.0 K/9 and 2.3 BB/9 in 59 1/3 relief innings between Double-A and Triple-A in the Red Sox's system last year. The Brewers signed the right-handed minor league free agent and placed him on the 40-man roster back in early November after the Red Sox failed to make room for him onto their 40-man roster.

Lets make one thing clear. I don't care how our bullpen pitches this season. I really don't. I do however know that it will not amount to how bad it was last year. This bullpen has a lot going for it, a lot of promise, and definitely a lot of potential to be very good in 2013. They are good baseball minds. None of them (that I know how) have had clubhouse issues. If all goes well, the Brewers could have a well oiled bullpen who will yield a lot less blown saves this coming season.

(Stats courtesy of and Link courtesy of

Until next time, Beers, Brats, and Championships.

-Andrew Vrchota (@AndrewVrchota)

Follow us on Twitter for up to date news on Brewers, Packers, Badgers, Bucks and more. Live in game commentary, breaking news, previews, and post game discussion. @WISportsBlog @AndrewVrchota, @JoeP_Norton, @Brandon_BFP, @SMahon2Go @ryan_937, @Mik3_Schu. Finally, find us on Instagram! (wisportsblog)