As Spring Training comes down to its final weeks, we can finally begin to have some fun and do some actual analysis of the players and roster spots that are up for grabs. The bullpen is currently a mess in my opinion, so we'll cover that later. There has been good stuff written the past week on the backup bench spots (more so on the available outfield positions). Everybody seems IN LOVE with Brad Nelson now and he's been getting good love from the local media. Tom H. did a cover story on him last week and Adam McCalvy covered him extensively while writing about the bench spots the other day. Right Field Bleachers also wrote a very well-written statistical analysis of the guys available for the 4th outfield spot. Check it out.
McCalvy wrote that there are 3 "open" spots on the Brewer bench right now, with Counsell a lock and with a backup catching spot a lock obviously (Rivera). For the sake of this argument let's just say that Chris Duffy gets 1 of the 3 open spots. It's pretty clear the Crew is keeping him on as the 4th guy. He's getting every possible at-bat in spring (leads the team) and is playing well enough offensively. Plus he can play any outfield spot and is a speedster. Ship him as the 4th outfielder.
The other two spots come down to a "veteran or rookie" question. It's Mike Lamb vs Casey McGehee in the infield and apparently Trot Nixon vs Brad Nelson in the outfield. If you look at just spring stats, you might not even think this to be a question. Lamb and Nixon have been terrible offensively. I literally just dry-heaved in my cubicle looking at Nixon's stats. Those are like Brad's numbers on his high school freshman team. But there's more to it then just spring stats in my opinion. Ask yourself this question: What is more valuable...having Brad Nelson and McGehee get 25 at bats a week in AAA or 3-5 at bats a week in the bigs?
I think one can say that Nelson is "back on the radar" in the Brewers front office as a potential big leaguer. But again, the guy has only had 1 above average year in AAA and only has what...7 big league at bats? I'm not saying he isn't "deserving" of a spot in the show, but I would think Brewer fans would rather see Nelson get full reps in AAA ball to prepare him for maybe taking over as a full time player next year or the year after (perhaps when Prince leaves??). I just don't see the point of keeping Nelson on the bench when he's still unseasoned in the bigs.
So as far as what they should do for the outfield spot, he's my take: Put Nelson down at AAA ball as the 1st baseman. He plays everyday. Break camp with Nixon as the 5th outfielder and trade TGJ for anything. He's the MOST EXPENDABLE player in the entire Brewers organization. He's an absolute waste of a 40-man roster spot and still should have SOME sort of trade value. Nixon will provide another veteran presence on the bench and in the clubhouse (you know...that "intangible" stuff) and will give Sveum a buddy to chew and swear with. Depending on how Nelson does the first 2-3 months and how well Nixon performs on the field, halfway through the year if Nelson is owning souls in AAA we could call him up, release Nixon and let Nelson take over the spot the rest of the year. Or leave him down there in AAA ball until September. Either way, the value of what the last bench spot gives you on the field is a marginal difference between Nelson & Nixon. However, there is more value with Nelson getting his reps in AAA, which is why I say send him down there.
The battle between McGehee and Lamb is a LITTLE more tricky I guess. But I am leaning towards Lamb for basically the same reasons that I wrote in my Nelson paragraph. Having McGehee get the occasional pinch hit appearance isn't worth keeping him on the team. Here would be our AAA ball infield if both Nelson & McGehee go down: Gamel at 3rd, Escobar at SS, McGehee at 2b (presumably), and Nelson at 1B. Sounds pretty good to me. Each guy will get their reps and if any of them turn into soul owners and prove there is nothing more they have to do at AAA, there's probably a roster spot available to them with a quick release of Lamb or Nixon.
UPDATE: Due to a glaring error on the part of yours truly, I have come to realize through Joe Mama's comment that Brad Nelson is out of minor-league options. That being said, everything I wrote above is basically moot, considering there is no way in hell he makes it through waivers back down to AAA. Barring some tank job the rest of spring, let's welcome Mr. Nelson to the bench of the 2009 Milwaukee Brewers, and hope he can contribute something. K bye Trot Nixon.
Update to the Update: Anonymous has stated that Casey McGehee has no minor league options left. It is my understanding that he had all 3 options left still. So let's put it this way, if he has options left, ship him to AAA. If he doesn't, then let's welcome Mr. McGehee to the bench of the 2009 Milwaukee Brewers and say K bye to Mike Lamb.