2007 Milwaukee Brewers Capsule

Mar 1, 2007 - 2:17 AM By Jim Keller PA SportsTicker Baseball Editor

Say Hello To: Cs Johnny Estrada and J.D. Closser, IF Craig Counsell, RHPs Jeff Suppan, Claudio Vargas and Greg Aquino.

Say Goodbye To: 3B David Bell, IF Jeff Cirillo, C Chad Moeller, LHPs Doug Davis and Dana Eveland, RHPs Tomo Ohka, Dan Kolb and Rick Helling

Projected Starting Lineup:

C - Johnny Estrada (one of two catchers s to hit .300, 70 RBI in 2 of last 3 years) 1B - Prince Fielder (set rookie club records with 28 HR, 81 RBI; .230 last 2 months) 2B - Rickie Weeks (on pace to score 111 runs until hurt wrist; 20 E in first 52 games) 3B - Craig Counsell (has played just 8 games at hot corner in last 3 years; no power) Tony Graffanino (poor defender reached in 50 of 60 games for Brewers) SS - J.J. Hardy (solid defender missed most of 2006 with severe ankle injury) LF - Geoff Jenkins (was benched in August; .409 7 HR last month; .133 vs. LHP!) Kevin Mench (.230 with 1 HR in 126 AB for Brewers after leaving cozy Arlington) CF - Bill Hall (led NL shortstops with 27 HR; 78 of 145 hits were for extra bases) RF - Corey Hart (hit .287 with 5 HR and 20 RBI when playing everyday last month)

Projected Starting Rotation:

RHP - Ben Sheets (since 2004, 1.22 BB/9 IP ranks 2nd, 3.13 ERA 4th, 9.38 SO/IP 3rd) LHP - Chris Capuano (10-4, 3.21 ERA before All-Star break; 1-8, 5.17 ERA afterwards) RHP - Jeff Suppan (5-0, 1.76 ERA at Miller Park; averaging 193 IP last 8 years) RHP - David Bush (7th in NL in runners/9 IP (11.01) and 2nd in SO/BB ratio (4.37)) RHP - Claudio Vargas (inconsistent 2006 season but won career-high 12 games)

Projected Closer:

RHP - Francisco Cordero (bad arm cost him job in Texas; converted first 16 NL saves)

Spring Training Battles: Both Mench and Jenkins told management they would rather be traded than share left field. A likely platoon is set unless one outshines the other thsi spring. Third baseman Corey Koskie really has struggled to beat post-concussion syndrome. Graffanino and Counsell could share the position while backing up Weeks and Hardy. Another option is top prospect Ryan Braun, who can hit and run but defense needs experience and work with the glove

Minor League Report:

Ready in 2007:

Ryan Braun, 3B

Drafted one spot behind Washington's Ryan Zimmerman in the 2005 draft, Braun could provide an encore to Zimmerman's by emerging as the National League's top rookie third baseman in 2007.

The fifth overall pick in 2005, Braun batted .289 with 22 homers and 77 RBI between the advanced Class A and Class AA levels in 2006. One of the keys to Huntsville going from last place in the Southern League's North Division at the close of the first half to first place in the second half, Braun hit .303 with 15 homers for the Stars.

Braun carried the momentum of an impressive Class AA debut into the Arizona Fall League, in which he batted .326 with six homers and 25 RBI. He also swiped four bases in as many attempts, giving him a success rate of 88 percent (30-for-34) in stolen base attempts in 2006.

The biggest weakness to Braun's game is his defense, as evidenced by an error total (31) that ranked tied for sixth most among all minor league third baseman. A tireless worker, Braun is expected to make steady improvements that should ward off a move to the outfield.

Yovani Gallardo, RHP

Two years after being selected in the second round of the 2004 draft, Gallardo emerged as one of the best pitching prospects in the game last season.

Armed with a fastball that effortlessly reaches the low to mid-90s and a devastating curveball, the 21-year-old Gallardo led the minor leagues with 188 strikeouts in 2006 and ranked third among full-season starting pitchers with a 1.86 ERA. Like Braun, he was an integral part of Huntsville's about-face last year, going 5-2 with a 1.63 ERA in 13 starts following a midseason promotion to the Class AA Southern League.

The 6-2, 190-pound Gallardo held both lefthanders and fellow righties to batting averages under .200 last season, posting an overall average against of .192. With a calm demeanor on the mound, Gallardo limited the opposition to a .180 mark with runners in scoring position and two out in 2006.

Down the Road:

Will Inman, RHP

Inman did Gallardo one better in 2006, finishing second among all minor league starting pitchers with a 1.71 ERA.

A third-round pick in the 2005 draft, Inman dazzled in his first full professional season by going 10-2 with 134 strikeouts in 110 2/3 innings for Class A West Virginia of the South Atlantic League. He limited the opposition to a .190 average, allowing more than five hits in only three of 23 starts.

The 20-year-old Inman does an excellent job of locating a low-90s fastball, which will appear harder once he gains better command of his secondary offerings. Although he missed more than a month with shoulder soreness midway through last season, he rebounded to win his first seven decisions upon returning.

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