After seven seasons of calling games at the Single-A level, one of the biggest changes for me in a move up to the Triple-A level is that it’s much easier to predict at this time of year who’ll be on “my” team’s roster. In previous years, someone would ask me at this time of year, “How’s the team looking for this season?” I’d have to respond, “I really have no idea,” and I would be half-serious. Of course, predicting baseball at any level is a foolish man’s game, especially during Spring Training. Nonetheless, here on February 26, I and the rest of the Sounds’ front office have a fairly good idea of how things could shake out by the time the Brewers head northeast from Phoenix and the Sounds head southeast from Phoenix in just over a month. What aids that sense of predictability is the success the Brewers enjoyed last season. When you’re the reigning Division Champion, typically there are not a lot of changes on the roster for the ensuing season, which directly affects the minor league rosters. If you compare the Sounds with a couple of their fellow PCL teams like the Sacramento River Cats (Oakland) or the Oklahoma City RedHawks (Astros), for example, chances are those rosters are a little more tenuous this time of the year because more spots seem to be up for grabs on the major league rosters.
Let’s take a look at what we think we know about the Brewers roster before looking at the Sounds. (Reminder: this is very unofficial and is merely the personal opinion of yours truly).
Catchers: Jonathan Lucroy
First Base: Mat Gamel
Second Base: Rickie Weeks
Shortstop: Alex Gonzalez
Third Base: Aramis Ramirez
Left Field: Ryan Braun
Center Field: Nyjer Morgan
Right Field: Corey Hart
Catcher: George Kottaras
Infield: Taylor Green, Cesar Izturis, Travis Ishikawa
Outfield: Carlos Gomez, Norichika Aoki
That’s 14 position players, and Ishikawa and Izturis are the only guys listed above who are not on the 40-man roster, so something would have to give elsewhere on the 40-man for them to make the team. But I would think the Brewers would like to have a true first baseman (Ishikawa) break camp as a back-up for Gamel, even though Green and Hart reportedly are taking some reps at first base this spring. Green, who was the Sounds’ Player of the Year in ’11, is very valuable to the Brewers because he can play just about anywhere on the infield. Jeff Bianchi is a possibility instead of Izturis and is already on the 40-man roster but hasn’t played in the major leagues, and Izturis, to me, seems the unlikeliest of the guys listed above to make the team.
Randy Wolf (L)
Chris Narveson (L)
John Axford (closer)
Manny Parra (L)
All of these pitchers are on the 40-man roster, and it’s a total of 12, which is a working number if Izturis doesn’t make the roster as a reserve infielder. A side note regarding Parra: Zack Braddock is the only other left-handed reliever on the Brewers’ 40-man roster. Wow, it’s amazing how quickly 25 spots can fill up. See what I mean about Division Champion teams not having a lot of open jobs?
I think it’s important to remember that if non-roster invitees (i.e. not on the 40-man roster) don’t make the major league club out of Spring Training, they’re not locks to go to Triple-A. Many times these players will be released or traded so they can try to latch on with another team, perhaps one that suffered an injury late in Spring Training.
IF that’s how things shake up with the Brew Crew (again, IF), who would seem ticketed for Music City at this point? (* indicates player is on 40-man roster)
Catchers: Martin Maldonado*, Mike Rivera
First Base: Erick Almonte (Rivera can play 1B)
Second Base: Eric Farris*, Brooks Conrad (Conrad is in the mix for a back-up job in Milwaukee)
Shortstop: Edwin Maysonet
Third Base: Zelous Wheeler*
Left Field: Corey Patterson, Jay Gibbons
Center Field: Logan Schafer*
Right Field: Caleb Gindl*
Other/Bench Possibilities: Brock Kjeldgaard*, Jeff Bianchi*
This doesn’t add up to a 25-man roster, but it leaves room for something that happens every spring — a guy surprising his coaches and “playing his way” onto the roster of a club for which he wasn’t originally ticketed. I’m sure there are a handful of players that seem headed to Double-A Huntsville but could change some minds. In a couple of weeks this entire picture will seem much clearer, too. I’ll re-visit it at that time.
After spending the last hour putting together this roster forecast, I am sure of these three baseball-related things:
1. It’s a lot of fun to picture lineups, rotations and rosters on February 26.
2. We are 26 days away from 2012 Opening Night (April 5).
3. I am excited for 2012 Opening Night (April 5).
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