Wednesday, July 20, 2011

NL North - Part I

Milwaukee Willie Diggins and Luther Becker prove The Rich Get Richer

How deep is the Brewer’s farm system?

Well, consider that Milwaukee’s arms combined for the 2nd best team ERA (3.47) and the 2nd best WHIP (1.17) in the entire league to carry the team and its average offensive attack – 19th in Batting Average and 18th in Runs – to their second straight division title and their first World Series appearance. You would figure after posting statistics like this, the needs to be addressed in the offseason to transform the team into a World Series champion would be obvious.

It’s surprising then that Milwaukee continued to do more than just tinker with one of MLB’s best pitching staffs over winter meetings. In a blockbuster five-for-two player deal, Milwaukee sent minor league prospects packing primarily in return for Reds ace and prize acquisition from the Dodgers last season, Willie Diggins. While Diggins “struggled” a bit playing in a hitter-friendly park, he should see his numbers (1.25 WHIP, 3.78 ERA) rebound somewhat in Milwaukee.

The Brewers also aggressively traded for the Braves set-up man David Rojas, who’s 1.16 WHIP and 2.94 ERA certainly won’t adversely impact the team pitching stats. Opponents fighting their way through the Brewers’ starting five will not be happy to be staring down the gun of Rojas late in the game.

All that tinkering says a lot about the depth of talent stockpiled in the Brewers minor league system. Milwaukee has the luxury to continue to trade away major league prospects in bundles to bolster an otherwise already dominant pitching staff. And they did all that without trading their top prospects. Expect the Brew-crew to promote a potential future all-star in left fielder Carlos Ordaz and a prize prospect at short, David Macias, who can field his position and hit. Ordaz rarely strikes out, drives the ball well against right-handers with decent power and has a good eye for the strikezone. His weakeness is probably his defense. Likewise, don’t expect Macias to win a Gold Glove at short, but his defense is more than adequate and his bat will work some magic at the plate.

In addition to the trades for pitching, a key free agent signing was made to address the offense. The team opened up the checkbook and paid (some might add “over-”) for the services of third baseman Luther Becker (career .278/.388./.438), who netted a five-year $51 million deal. The signing of Becker fills a void in the lineup at third base, apparently one of the few holes the team had at AAA. The promotions of Ordaz and Macias coupled with the addition of Becker’s bat should only improve the club’s offensive attack that last year relied mostly on their version of the Six-Million-Dollar Man, Alex Gomez.

dwb’s take: After losing to the Rangers in Season Two’s World Series, the Brewers tap their talent-laden minors both to bolster their offense and to acquire Major League talent to win now behind a pitching staff that’s a couple seasons away from seeing their best years behind them. The moves should pay off. Expect Milwaukee to improve upon their win total this season, topping 100 games and securing its third straight division title.

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