Milwaukee Brewers: Rickie Weeks Taking His Place Among Baseball's Elite

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Milwaukee Brewers: Rickie Weeks Taking His Place Among Baseball's Elite
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
Although Prince Fielder may leave after the 2011 season, Rickie Weeks and Ryan Braun should provide the Milwaukee Brewers with plenty of offense for the next several seasons.

No one has ever questioned the talent of Rickie Weeks. Since being selected second overall in the 2003 draft as the reigning Player of the Year, many thought that Weeks would be a future star.

He was called up to the Majors by the Brewers in June 2005, and ushered in a new era for Brewers baseball that was built on a very strong Minor League system.

Unfortunately, Weeks had fewer than 1000 professional at-bats before making his Major League debut, and looking back on the situation, he probably wasn't ready to step into his role as an everyday player.

The combination of an early arrival to the Majors and an inability to stay healthy caused Weeks to show flashes of greatness, but he never quite put up the numbers most felt he was capable of producing. In his first four seasons with the Brewers, he was never able to play more than 129 games, while hitting above .250 only once.

Things seemed to be coming together for Weeks in 2009. He hit nine home runs with 24 RBI and 28 runs scored in his first 37 games that year.

However, he was once again bitten by the injury bug with a torn tendon in his hand. Critics began to wonder aloud if he would ever be able to make it through an entire season healthy.

2010 became the season that Weeks and Brewer fans had waited his entire career for. He finally managed to stay healthy, and his numbers showed the talent everyone had talked about for so long.

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In 160 games, he hit .269 with a .366 on-base percentage while slugging .464. He also posted career-highs in runs scored (112), hits (175), doubles (32), home runs (29), RBI (83) and was hit by a pitch a league-leading 25 times.

He did all that while having his finest year in the field as well.

He may never win a Gold Glove, but he has improved his defense each year in the Majors, and is easily one of the best all-around second basemen in the game. With Chase Utley injured and his return date unknown, Weeks has a great opportunity to make his first All-Star game this season, an honor which he should have received last year.

He started this season as hot as he finished 2010. He homered to lead-off the season for the Brewers in Cincinnati last week, and has five extra-base hits in the team's first five games.

The Brewers rewarded Weeks this offseason with a four-year, $38.5 million contract which will keep him in Milwaukee through the 2014 season. With the impending departure of Prince Fielder after this season, it was imperative for GM Doug Melvin to sign Weeks to a long-term deal. 

Now that he has shown the true potential of his game as one of the game's best and most dangerous lead-off hitters, Weeks is poised for far greater heights in the game. However, to take his game to the next level as one of the elite players in the game, the Brewers must better utilize his talents.

Although he has done an amazing job in the lead-off position, moving him down in the order to make him more of a run producer would only enhance his numbers. The Pirates have made the same move with their former lead-off hitter, Andrew McCutchen, with great results so far this season. The move down in the order is likely to happen but probably not until after Fielder leaves the team this winter.

Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images
Weeks is no longer a defensive liability. He may still not be a Gold Glove-level second baseman, but he will make all the plays he should along with some spectacular plays as well.

Now in his seventh season in the Majors but still only 28 years old, Rickie Weeks is poised for an even greater season in 2011 than he enjoyed in 2010. He should begin to enjoy national recognition as one of the game's best talents, combining power and speed. He could very soon take his place among the best overall players in the game.

To read more by Jesse Motiff, click here

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