In today’s fast-paced world of technology and social media, one thing that is always being preached in personal or professional life is versatility. Heck, as a hopeful future sports journalist, it’s expected that we as such be able to write, shoot and edit video, and several other tasks. The same desire and demand for versatility applies to the world of sports as well. In baseball especially, switch hitters are increasingly valuable, as are those who can play multiple positions, including both infield and outfield.
As offseason transactions and recent cuts for teams such as the Milwaukee Brewers have shown, versatility is going to be one of the defining traits of their clubs for the upcoming season. For this reason, in order to survive in the new Milwaukee under David Stearns, you as a ballplayer must be versatile.
On Tuesday, the Cincinnati Reds claimed 2B Scooter Gennett from the Milwaukee Brewers, ending his 4-year tenure with the big-league team. Gennett expressed disappointment in having to leave the team he was drafted by, but acknowledged that he may receive a friendly ovation upon his return. There may have been several factors as to why the Brewers put Gennett on waivers, from his relative inability to hit against left-handed pitchers to his fielding of the position (14 errors in 2016), but his potential downfall with the team was this fact: Scooter Gennett could only play one position.
Looking at the currently known position players the Brewers will suit up at the MLB level this season, a certain pattern can be seen:
Note: Postions listed are those played more than 25 innings in a player’s MLB career, listed from most to least innings played
C: Jett Bandy (C), Manny Pina (C)
1B: Eric Thames (1B, LF, RF), Jesus Aguilar (1B)
2B: Jonathan Villar (SS, 3B, 2B, LF)
SS: Orlando Arcia (SS)
3B: Travis Shaw (3B, 1B), Hernan Perez (3B, 2B, RF, CF, 1B, SS)
OF: Ryan Braun (LF, RF, 3B), Keon Broxton (CF), Domingo Santana (RF, CF, LF)
Out of those players listed above, five have played three or more positions, with Travis Shaw also having played two in the past. This, however, does not take into account positions that the player could potentially play, such as Arcia playing other infield position or Bandy and Pina playing first base.
This versatility really benefits the Brewers, as their roster allows for easy switching around due to factors like right vs left-handed pitchers or injuries. For example, the team’s lineups could change like so:
vs RHP C: Bandy/Pina (Both right-handed)
1B: Thames (L)
2B: Villar (S)
3B: Shaw (L)
SS: Arcia (R)
LF: Braun (R)
CF: Broxton (R)
RF: Santana (R)
1B: Aguilar (R)
3B: Perez (R)
This type of variation could help the Brewers in terms of changing how opposing teams are forced to pitch against them and gives them different lineup variations. The left handed lineup provides a little more speed, most notably at first base, while the right handed lineup provides more power with the addition of Aguilar at first.
Last season, the Brewers became one of the few teams in MLB history to have a 180 HR/180 SB season. This season, this Brewers lineup could be much better than many people seem to expect. Will Thames and Aguilar prove to be a solid platoon at first base? Will Jonathan Villar replicate his breakout 2016 stats, including his MLB leading 62 stolen bases? Can the outfield live up to its much-talked-about potential and become one of the better trios in MLB? All of these questions and more will be answered come Opening Day and beyond.
Baseball is here, folks, and just like the Brewers, there are plenty of ways it can go.