No Brewers player has been scrutinized in the past few years more than Rickie Weeks.
There is no gray area when it comes to a person's feelings on the Brewers second baseman. You're either a fan and believe he is underappreciated for what he brings to the table, or you think he has yet to live up to the enormous hype that comes with being the second player taken in the 2003 draft.
The truth lies somewhere in between. Weeks is a very valuable member to the Brewers, he has yet to tap into all of his potential. He is an inconsistent player who shows flashes of greatness, but he also makes enough bonehead plays to drive fans crazy.
Weeks is only a career .245 hitter, but he has slugged .406 since being called up in 2005. He draws a lot of walks and scores a ton of runs, but he'll strike out far too much for a leadoff hitter.
His defense has been a liability since first joining the Brewers. His error totals have dropped in the past two seasons, but it seems, whenever a ball is hit to him in a critical situation, he cracks under the pressure and butchers a throw to first base or is unable to turn a double play.
The big talk this spring has been that Dale Sveum and Willie Randolph have been working with Rickie extensively both at the plate and in the field. The one comment that comes up over and over is that Rickie needs to slow down. He tends to rush everything, from his bat through the hitting zone to his throws to a base.
Weeks has an extremely quick bat, and if he can develop the patience to know that he does have time to get it through the hitting zone, he should see an increase in his batting average and a decrease in his strikeouts. The same applies in the field. His errors will continue to drop if he can stay balanced and realize he has time to make any throw on the field.
Although Weeks has the speed and on-base percentage to be a solid leadoff hitter, I believe he would be served best by hitting lower in the order. Even if he hit second, say behind Alcides Escobar, he would see more fastballs and really be able to drive the ball more than he does now.
Unfortunately, Weeks is still the best option on the current roster to leadoff. However, Ned Yost is no longer around to serve as his safety net. If his production does not improve, Ken Macha will have no problem finding a replacement for Weeks at second base.
I don't think 2009 will be the year that Rickie Weeks finally lives up to his lofty potential. I do see improvement over his last couple of years, however.
I think a .260 batting average is well within Rickie's reach. While that won't set the world on fire, that's still 25 points higher than either of the last two years. If he can maintain his walk rate, that will translate into an on-base percentage of around .370, a very good clip for a leadoff hitter.
Brewers' fans may never be happy with Rickie Weeks, no matter what he does. There needs to be a happy ground met by all. Weeks is currently an average second baseman, but he still has the time and talent to become an elite-level player. Just don't expect his potential to be fulfilled this season.