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Alcides Escobar Fitting In Just Fine In the Bigs

For the last three years, Alcides Escobar has waited in the shadows of minor league ball as he waited for his chance to shine on the big stage.  In AAA Nashville this season, he hit for a .298 average while stealing 42 bases and scoring 76 runs in 109 games for the Sounds.

When J.J. Hardy was designated for assignment on Wednesday of this week, Escobar was given his chance to sign with a call-up from the Brewers.  Hardy struggled throughout the majoirty of the year and could not break out a slump that saw him hit just .229 with 11 home runs.

Escobar did not make it to Miller Park in time for the start of the Brewers’ contest against the San Diego Padres Wednesday night, but once he got there he made his presence felt.

With his team down by one in the bottom half of the ninth inning, Escobar pinch-ran for Prince Fielder after the first baseman shot a single into right field.

With the Crew down to their last out, Escobar got a great jump off Heath Bell and swiped second base.  Mike Cameron would foul out to end the game, but it was great to see Escobar get acclimated to the game so quickly.

In his first career start, Escobar and the Brewers got off to a quick start offensively and ended up hitting five home runs on the afternoon in a 12-9 victory.

Escobar had just one hit in four at-bats, but scorched the ball to left field on one occasion and made the Padres hustle on a routine ground out.  His one hit was an infield hit and was a sneak preview of the speed Escobar will bring to the top of the Brewers lineup for years to come.

In his second start, the Brewers’ offense continued to stay hot as they crushed ace Wandy Rodriguez for eight runs in the first inning of an 11-2 victory at Miller Park.

Escobar reached base twice on the night with a walk and a single and showed more patience at the plate.

Tonight, Escobar stayed on the breaking ball extremely well that resulted in two hits.  He also went from first to third on a single from Felipe Lopez in the second inning.  Running on the play and never slowing down, Escobar did not even draw a throw from Carlos Lee.

He scored twice on the night, and the little plays that Escobar has produced has made things exciting in Milwaukee again.  Many have said he will be a future gold glover, and he has made good on all seven chances he has had in the field.

Alcides Escobar has finally arrived and is showing why he is destined to be a star.

Alcides Escobar has finally arrived and is showing why he is destined to be a star.

While it will take a small miracle to get the Brewers to the playoffs this season, the whole atmosphere at Miller Park has seemed different over the last three games.

Not surprisingly, Escobar has started all three games.

Destined for the lead off spot, Escobar has hit in the nine hole during his first three starts on the team.  There, he has reached base in five of 12 plate appearances, good for a .417 OBP.  He has done everything right in this small sampling of game time.

While I wouldn’t have called Escobar a bust had he performed poorly in his first three games (and pinch running performance), I won’t dub him ready for Cooperstown just yet.  However, it is nice to see the top prospect in the organization play well in his first starts.

Last season, he was a September call-up and had two hits in four at-bats for the Brewers.  He seems much more relaxed and patient this season, as seen by his stats.

When looking at Escobar, he looks like a ballplayer that knows what he is doing out there.  He has been highly touted his whole career and is now making good on all those scouting reports.

The real question is what general manager Doug Melvin will do with former shortstop J.J. Hardy next season.  He will not be a free agent until 2011 because of his demotion this season, and many believe Melvin will look to trade him this off season.

One has to wonder how far Hardy’s stock has fallen with his poor season, but with Escobar taking over, getting something is better than nothing.  If Escobar can keep hitting like he has and continues his perfect glove in the field, there’s no reason to believe the Brewers will have to worry about who is starting at shortstop for at least the next five years.

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August 16, 2009 Posted by | Baseball, Milwaukee Brewers, MLB | , , | 1 Comment

Brewers Clean House: Hardy, Hall Out, Escobar, Bourgeious In

After another embarassing loss to the San Diego Padres, this time in the form of a 13-6 loss in Miller Park, general manager Doug Melvin made a couple of drastic moves in hopes of turning things around.

Pitching coach Bill Castro was fired and replaced with AAA Nashville pitching coach Chris Bosio while the struggling J.J. Hardy was optioned to AAA Nashville and replaced by stud shortstop Alcides Escobar.

For Castro, it was the end of an 18-year run with the Brewers that saw him as the bullpen coach for the first 17 seasons with the club. Unfortunately for Castro, he bit the bullet for a pitching staff that ranks second to last in the National League in ERA, OPS, WHIP, and the number of quality starts.

Things were not made easy for Castro as the Brewers went into the season with an average staff at best and have recently been riddled with injuries to Dave Bush and Jeff Suppan. When players like Carlos Villanueva, Mike Burns, and Seth McClung are making starts for your team, it never makes it easy on the pitching staff.

Melvin is hoping that the move can be a wake up call to the pitching staff that their play has been horrendous this year and that is has hardly gone unnoticed.

Castro’s replacement, Bosio, will have his hands full but also has some experience with the position at the big league level. In 2003, he was the pitching coach of Lou Piniella’s Tampa Bay Rays squad. In 2001, he served as the pitching coach for Triple-A Tacoma (Seattle) and in 2008 was the pitching coach with Double-A Chattanooga (Cincinnati).

It remains to be seen whether he is the long term solution as the pitching coach, but the other move that the Brewers made could very well be long-term.

For as long as he has been on the scene, Alcides Escobar has produced and flashed an outstanding glove. This season in Nashville, he was hitting .298 with with four home runs and 34 RBI’s in 109 games for the Sounds. He also has 42 stolen bases, six triples, and is getting on base at a .353 clip.

Alcides Escobar will finally get his chance to show the Brewers what he can do at shortstop.

Alcides Escobar will finally get his chance to show the Brewers what he can do at shortstop.

As good as his offensive numbers have been this season, Escobar is known more for his glove at shortstop. A potential Gold Glove candidate in the future, Escobar may have just unseated J.J. Hardy for good.

Hardy, who will turn 29 in a week, struggled mightily all season with a .229 batting average and just 11 home runs. He was enjoying his best season in the field, but it wasn’t enough to overlook the struggles at the plate. He was still able to be optioned to AAA, and with the third base situation still a mystery for next year, Hardy’s days at Miller Park might not be over.

The last of the Brewers’ three moves today involved sending Bill Hall down to AAA Nashville and calling up 27-year-old outfielder Jason Bourgeios.

Hall has struggled mightily ever since being awarded a huge salary extension following his 2006 campaign, hitting just .201 in 214 at-bats this season. He homered in last night’s game but it was apparent the Brewers just did not have a spot for him. Having moved from center field to third base and then back to stints in right field, it was time to move on.

Bourgeios has done very well in Nashville this season, posting a .316 batting average with two homers, 41 RBI’s, and a .354 OBP. Known more for his speed, Bourgeios should see some spot starts in right field over the course of the season.

The moves for the Brewers will completely shake the clubhouse and hopefully be a wake up call to the whole team. Hardy was a fan favorite to many and well liked in the clubhouse, while Castro had the longest tenure with the Brewers of anyone in the organization.

More than anything, these moves are a step towards 2010 when the Brewers feel they can start over and try to compete once again. Going back to my article from yesterday, Bourgeios has the potential to start in center field in 2010 if he makes a good showing the rest of the season.

Hall has probably seen his last days in Milwaukee, which is tough to deal with when you consider the money he is set to make for the Brewers this season and next. But a new leaf needed to be turned over, and whenever your top prospect enters the organizaton it definitely says something. Welcome to the Alcides Escobar era, everyone.

August 12, 2009 Posted by | Baseball, Milwaukee Brewers, MLB | , , , | Leave a comment

Brewers Will Be Well Represented During All-Star Festivities

Over the next three days, Busch Stadium in St. Louis will be called home to the best of the best as players take part in the Futures Game, the Home Run Derby, and the 80th All Star Game.  In years past, one or two Milwaukee Brewers would make the trip to the Midsummer Classic while the rest of the team took their extended vacation while watching the game on the television.

This year, the Brewers will be one of eight teams to have a participant in all three of the events.

On Sunday, AAA-Nashville shortstop Alcides Escobar and A-Wisconsin second baseman Brett Lawrie will participate in the Futures Game to show off their talent and give Brewers fans a taste of what is to come in both the near future and distant future.

Escobar was called up last September when the Brewers’ roster moved to 40 and went one for two with a double.  In AAA Nashville this year, he has seen his hitting vastly improve as he enters the game with a .296 batting average with three home runs and 28 RBI’s.  He has also contributed 61 runs and 30 stolen bases in the 87 games he has played in this year.  Known for his outstanding glove in the field, Escobar is waiting quietly in the wings behind J.J. Hardy at shortstop.

Lawrie is farther away from The Bigs than Escobar but is showing signs that he could get there soon enough. Playing for the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers this year, he is batting .269 with nine home runs and 44 RBI’s.  Considering he is just 19 years old and was moved from catcher to second base in the middle of the year, Lawrie has done pretty well for himself.

Escobar, from Venezuela, and Lawrie, from Canada, will play on the World Roster against the U.S. Roster in the matchup Sunday.  The Brewers have had a very good history with players that have appeared in the Futures Game that includes Ryan Braun (2006), Prince Fielder (2004), Rickie Weeks (2004), Corey Hart (2002), J.J. Hardy (2003), and Yovani Gallardo (2006).

The next night, the fireworks will fly as the Home Run Derby takes place.  Contestants in this year’s derby include Albert Pujols, Ryan Howard, Adrian Gonzalez, Brandon Inge, Joe Mauer, Carlos Pena, Nelson Cruz, and Milwaukee’s own Prince Fielder.

Hopefully Prince Fielder will fare better in this year's Home Run Derby.

Hopefully Prince Fielder will fare better in this year's Home Run Derby.

This year, Fielder has torched opposing pitchers for 22 home runs and 78 RBI’s.  His slugging percentage is a gaudy .616 and he is getting on base at a .438 mark.  This year’s derby will be Fielder’s second of his career.  Back in 2006, Fielder hit three home runs in the first round but did not advance.

This will be the third straight year that a Brewer will take place in the Home Run Derby, as last year Ryan Braun advanced to the semi-finals hitting 14 home runs in the two rounds he participated in.

Some skeptics believe that participants in the derby mess up their swing after participating, which has led some of the bigger names to pass on the competition.  Braun, who had hit 23 home runs before the All Star Break, hit just 14 after the break in 2008.  In 2007, Fielder hit 29 home runs before the derby, but connected on just 21 after.

Either way, Fielder has found a new stroke to his swing that has his right elbow lower, and the benefits have been easily seen.

Tuesday, Fielder will join fellow teammates Ryan Braun and Trevor Hoffman in the 80th All Star Game.  Braun will start in left field after receiving the most votes in the National League outfield and Fielder will be a reserve behind slugger Albert Pujols.

Hoffman was added to the roster yesterday after Dodgers closer Jonathon Broxton was ruled out of the game due to a toe injury.  It will be Hoffman’s seventh appearance as Fielder and Braun make their second appearances.

Even Rollie Fingers, who played four years in a Brewers jersey, will be participating in the always entertaining Celebrity Softball Game.

All things combined, the Milwaukee Brewers will be represented very well and will look to bring home some hardware as well as a good representation of the ballclub and organization.

July 12, 2009 Posted by | All Star Game, Baseball, Milwaukee Brewers, MLB | , , , , | 1 Comment

Jake Peavy to the Milwaukee Brewers Makes Sense

Rumors have been swirling the past few weeks involving the Milwaukee Brewers acquiring veteran Jake Peavy from the San Diego Padres.  While most Brewers fans are torn on the argument, there is good reason to bring the ace to the Midwest.

1. Peavy gives the Brewers a definite No. 1 pitcher

Yovani Gallardo has pitched outstanding at times this year, but a weakness of his is overthrowing and missing the strike zone. One of the reasons his control is off at times could stem from the fact that he is pressing too hard to be the Brewers ace.

Everyone in Milwaukee loves to see him step on the hill, but the fact of the matter is that he is not an ace just yet. He would be a great compliment to Peavy just as Ben Sheets was last year to midseason acquisition CC Sabathia.

Jake Peavy would give the Brewers a definite ace and make them contenders in the National League.

Jake Peavy would give the Brewers a definite ace and make them contenders in the National League.

Moving Gallardo to the second spot would also move bust Jeff Suppan out of the rotation. While his contract is most likely too big to trade away and moving him to the bullpen would be admitting a huge mistake, it might be the only option.

Dave Bush has pitched great for the Brewers this year and there is no reason to think he would leave. While Braden Looper has been nothing special, he has not pitched poorly by any means and would keep his spot.

Manny Parra has pitched outstanding lately and gives the Brewers a left-handed starter in the rotation. Also, his bullpen outings last year were a disaster (6.30 ERA) so moving him back would do no good to one of the best bullpens in the National League.

2. The Brewers’ deep farm system allows for a trade like this

The Padres are clearly trying to obtain pitching in the deal and the Brewers have just that. Jared Jeffress, the Brewers first round pick in 2006, probably has the most upside of any pitcher on the Brewers not named Yovani Gallardo.

He would more than likely be the key to the trade. Two other pitching names that would be potentially thrown in the mix are Evan Anundsen or Jake Ordiozzi.

While the Brewers do not have the strongest pitching prospects of the teams interested in Peavy, their position players may do the trick. Alcides Escobar and Mat Gamel are the top two prospects for the Brewers and one of them would more than likely be involved in trade.

While general manager Doug Melvin has stated that he does not want to part with either, getting Peavy would be very hard to pass on if the Brewers stay in the NL Central race.

The more likely of the two to go would be Escobar due to Gamel’s position. The Padres are pretty much set at first and third base, the only two positions Gamel could reasonably play, with Adrian Gonzalez and Kevin Kouzmanhoff.

Escobar has an outstanding glove in the field but his plate discipline has been questioned in the past. Still, he is a top prospect that will start at shortstop in the majors for a long time.

3. The Brewers are a young at many positions

With Mat Gamel inserted at third base, the Brewers average age in the infield with Prince Fielder, Rickie Weeks, J.J. Hardy, and Gamel is 25.5 years old.

Fielder is signed through 2010 and Weeks, Hardy, and Gamel should all re-sign with the team next year. With one of the youngest infields in the league, farm-system players are not the biggest necessity for the Brewers.

It is true that Milwaukee has built within the last few years, but their time to make a run is now and minor leaguers will not help right away. Weeks is the oldest infielder at 27 years of age but last year’s first round draft pick Brett Lawrie looks to be the future whenever Weeks leaves the team.

Alcides Escobar would most likely be involved in a deal for Jake Peavy.

Alcides Escobar would most likely be involved in a deal for Jake Peavy.

As for the rotation, the same can not be said as Peavy would be an all-or-nothing deal for the Brewers. Gallardo and Parra look to be Brewers for quite some time and form a good duo in the front end of the rotation, but past them the future would be uncertain if the trade were to go through.

At the beginning of next year, Dave Bush will be 30, Jeff Suppan will be 34, and Braden Looper will be 35. Losing two of the team’s top pitching prospects in the trade would be a huge risk for the Brewers, but Peavy is worth it.

4. Peavy is not CC Sabathia Part II

Last year when the Brewers traded for CC Sabathia, they knew they were trading for a pitcher that would last them half of a year at most. Sabathia’s contract was up and, even if he had not been the best pitcher on the planet in that span, his price tag still would have been too much for the Brewers to take on.

On the other hand, Peavy’s contract situation would make him a Brewer until 2012, with an option for 2013. Peavy is 28 right now, meaning he would be just 32 at the end of the contract.

There is no reason that he will not continue his dominance on the mound until that time, all while making the Brewers legitimate contenders in the National League.

The financial problems involved in dealing with Peavy’s contract gives some cause for concern, but if Melvin really wants to get the deal done he will find a way to make Peavy a Milwaukee Brewer.

May 28, 2009 Posted by | Baseball, Milwaukee Brewers, MLB, San Diego Padres | , , | Leave a comment