Prince Fielder Is Leaving the Milwaukee Brewers, Who Can Replace Him?
Whether you believe that Prince Fielder will be with the Milwaukee Brewers when the 2011 regular season begins or not, there is one seemingly inevitable truth that is staring the collective known as Brewer Nation in the face...
Prince Fielder will not be a Milwaukee Brewer forever.
This is a certainty. There is no getting around it. There is no point in trying to figure out a way that it might not happen. It's an effort in futility.
Perhaps you'd like to argue about the money coming off of the payroll after this season. Maybe a look into the pre-arbitration salary situations of some of the younger players on this team complete with a fiscal breakdown of how to fit a mammoth salary into a mid-market-sized budget would make you happy.
Again, the fact must be stated that it simply does not make a bit of a difference. Prince Fielder is leaving the Cream City sooner or later.
So with that non-question put to bed, we can move on to more pressing matters. We need to figure out who can replace Fielder at first base for the Milwaukee Brewers.
The following slides will each name a potential replacement and will breakdown why they could work out and also why they might not.
I welcome your thoughts and suggestions on the men I named and anybody that you feel I left out.
Why It Could Work: Casey McGehee has played more than one position for the Milwaukee Brewers already. He hit his way onto the 25-man roster a couple of Spring Trainings ago but got the majority of his work in at second base initially. He settled in at his natural position of third base and hasn't looked back since.
The question remains, though, whether or not he'll have to start looking at the field from a different angle again. McGehee actually got the emergency start at first base the other day when Prince Fielder's longest active games played streak in the majors came to an end due to Fielder being sick with flu-like symptoms.
McGehee filled in admirably, especially when you consider that Fielder isn't exactly in the upper-echelon of defensive first basemen in the league.
Finally, McGehee has had some knee problems already while at third base. First base does offer a little bit easier situation for staying healthy than does third base.
Why It Might Not: McGehee doesn't hit enough to be compared favorably to other first basemen around baseball. Don't misunderstand, 20-25 home runs and 100 RBI are good, solid figures but when the big thumpers reside opposite the hot corner and hit 40-plus home runs with 125 or so RBI...there's a disparity there, that's all I'm saying.
McGehee also doesn't have much experience at all at first base. He's only played a total of 12 innings there as a Major Leaguer. He's only played first in only 32 games during his six-year minor league career as well.
Final Thoughts: McGehee has shown in a real game that he's capable of manning first base defensively, but knowing Doug Melvin's love of the long ball, Casey's bat might be what ultimately causes him to be passed over for the job. I wouldn't rule it out though.
Why It Could Work: Dubbed the next big bat in the minors after Ryan Braun joined the parent club, the left-handed hitting Mat Gamel has primarily played third base throughout his career. Gamel has long been seen to have enough pop in his bat to survive at the Major League level.
What's been lacking, however, is any real ability at toning down his propensity for errors at the third base position. His throwing accuracy is usually the culprit there. The position on the baseball field that does the least amount of throwing as a rule? First base.
Why It Might Not: Gamel's footwork is what causes the majority of his throws to go awry, and footwork is an important part of a first baseman's game. Getting into proper position, knowing which balls to go after and which to let go...all things that need to be perfected.
Gamel has also gone on record as saying that he doesn't like first base and doesn't feel that it's an easy position at all to play defensively.
Final Thoughts: Changing positions at the major league level is not an easy thing to do. Then again, Gamel could very well begin 2011 in the minor leagues with Triple-A Nashville for another year. That would give him some time to learn a new position if he was going to change.
Why It Could Work: Corey Hart has enjoyed a career-year in the offensive categories in 2010. He responded to his critics (of which I was a very vocal one) by not only living up to the dollar amount he was awarded in arbitration last winter but exceeding that necessary level of production to the point of earning a three-year contract extension. He should hit plenty for first base if he maintains these levels.
Hart was, believe it or not, originally drafted as a first baseman. His 6'6" frame lends itself well to the position, and it's not completely foreign to him.
It's been a while since he's played the position, but he's certainly logged more innings there during the course of his career than have either McGehee or Gamel.
Moving Hart to first base could also help clear up a potentially burgeoning situation in the outfield in Milwaukee. Carlos Gomez will no doubt be given an opportunity to compete for a starting job next spring. Lorenzo Cain has also shown plenty of ability in his short time with the parent club. Chris Dickerson appears capable of backing up at all three outfield spots as well. All of these players are under team control for a few more years at least.
Why It Might Not: Hart has become a serviceable outfielder, and while he might not have forgotten what it takes to play first base, it's certainly a tool in his toolbox that has a bit of rust on it.
Also, the Brewers' manager might not like Gomez and Cain as starting outfielders together and might want Hart to maintain his spot. A major position change on defense and the resultant struggles have been known to carry over into a player's offensive focus. The Brewers simply cannot afford a regression for Hart, especially if they are putting him at such an offensively-charged position on the field.
Final Thoughts: While Hart has some experience at the spot, I fully expect whoever the manager is for Milwaukee in 2011 to leave well-enough alone by keeping Hart in right field.
Hart isn't a great defensive outfielder, but he's not terrible either. To put it another way, he's no Roberto Clemente, but he isn't exactly Alfonso Soriano or Carlos Lee.
Still, my gut tells me that Hart simply won't be the answer to the question of who will take over once Fielder heads out.
A Free Agent
Why It Could Work: A name like Derrek Lee or Adam Dunn or even Russell Branyan could be enticing to the Brewers. An established veteran from whom you know exactly what you'll get over the course of the season would be a nice thing for Doug Melvin to secure.
Why It Might Not: The Brewers will most likely be spending most of their free agent dollars in the 2010 offseason on pitching again. There are a few spots to fill, and you can't hope to put together a pitching staff that's good enough to take the Brewers to the playoffs if you have to spend big money for bats in free agency.
Final Thoughts: I sure wouldn't mind bringing in Adam Dunn's offense to Milwaukee. He is, after all, the only man to park a home run on the Dew Deck above right field. The problem like I mentioned before is simply whether the Brewers would have enough money available.
Signs point to no.
So who will take over for Prince Fielder when he leaves Milwaukee? Time will tell.
It's fun to speculate and guess, but ultimately it's not up to any of us. It will be up to the 2011 Milwaukee Brewers' manager and general manager to answer that question.
Hopefully, I've gotten your gears turning, and you have another idea you'd like to propose. Please do. Let's discuss my thoughts and yours in the comments.