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What’s Relevant from the First Spring Training Weekend?

Feb. 27, 2017
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Photo Courtesy: Milwaukee Brewers

The Brewers’ first weekend of spring training games is in the books, and it’s important not to overreact to them. A week ago we all would have more or less acknowledged that most or all spring training statistics and results do not matter, but after a winter without baseball it’s hard to resist the temptation to try to assign value to them.

So, another reminder: There’s not much signal in with the noise in spring training statistics and standings. With that said, there were a handful of developments from the first few days of play that could be worth noting.

Scooter Gennett’s utility transition is underway

The Brewers weren’t kidding when they said incumbent second baseman Scooter Gennett was going to get an opportunity to play more positions this spring, and they wasted no time getting started on that move. Gennett has never started a regular season game in left field or at third base at any level, but he was in the lineup in those spots on Friday and Sunday, respectively.

The biggest challenge in evaluating Gennett this spring might be sample size. Odds are he’ll make more Cactus League appearances than the typical MLB veteran, but a decision on his ability to help the team as a utility player may need to be made following just a handful of appearances at various new positions.

Brinson, Cordell getting an early look

As the near-consensus number one prospect in the Brewers organization, Lewis Brinson has been a frequent topic of conversation this winter. With all the talk about him, it’s easy to forget that this is his first spring training with Milwaukee since coming over from the Rangers last summer.

Brinson is likely a long shot to make the Opening Day roster but the Brewers haven’t been shy about getting him early work, putting him in the lineup in the leadoff spot for the exhibition opener against UW-Milwaukee and getting him back in the game again in the Cactus League opener against the Angels. He got off to a strong start with a pair of home runs on Friday and showed impressive range in the outfield on Saturday.

Ryan Cordell is a less-heralded prospect but is also in his first spring training with the Brewers and also got into a pair of games over the weekend. His results were a bit more mixed, as he struggled with a tough sun while tracking fly balls in his start on Sunday but also hit the Brewers’ first Cactus League home run.

WBC players see mixed results

Most of the players in camp with the Brewers won’t play in games that count for more than a month, as we’re still 35 days away from the April 3 Opening Day at Miller Park. The exceptions to that rule, however, are the Brewers’ representatives in the World Baseball Classic. For them, competitive baseball starts almost a month ahead of schedule when pool play starts in Miami and Guadalajara, Mexico on March 9.

As such, the first weekend of spring training games featured a heavy dose of players preparing to participate in that tournament. The highlights include:

  • Jonathan Villar, who has appeared in each of the Brewers’ first two Cactus League games in his new position at second base. He was picked off of first base and scored from first on a double on Sunday, so it feels like he’s in midseason form and ready to represent the Dominican Republic at this point.
  • Hernan Perez, expected to play left field for Venezuela, has already started games in left and at first base for the Brewers this spring.
  • Carlos Torres, scheduled to pitch for Mexico, made a somewhat rare multi-inning appearance in his first outing of the spring on Saturday, retiring all six batters he faced.

Unfortunately, not all of the Brewers’ WBC participants got their spring off on the right foot. Wily Peralta (Dominican Republic) struggled with control and was bailed out by his defense and the Dodgers’ poor baserunning on Sunday, while Jorge Lopez (Puerto Rico) was not as fortunate and had his first outing cut short due to an elevated pitch count.

Realistically, the best news of the spring to date is this: We haven’t had to hold our breath yet. Through three days we haven’t seen the trainer come on the field, we haven’t seen anyone limp back to the clubhouse and we haven’t had to wait for an x-ray or MRI. And, with over a month left until Opening Day, that’s more or less the best news we could hope for. 

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