Benches can play a significant role on pennant winning teams. Good teams have bench players that have many different strengths. Some players provide a spark by being able to steal a base. Others have great gloves or throwing arms. Then there are players who can provide a quality at bat or drive the ball out of the park.
In the past the Brewers have had players on their benches who have provided all of these traits. Players like, Jeff Cirillo and Craig Counsell provided professional at bats each time they went to the plate and gave steady defense all over the diamond. Russell Braynan struck out at an alarming rate, but when he connected with the ball he hit it out of the park. Nyjer Morgan and even for a time Carlos Gomez provided much needed speed on the bases and above average outfield defense.
Last year though, the team did not have the intangibles of a good bench. They had some veterans like Alex Gonzalez and Yunieskey Betancourt, but these players were thrust into starting roles due to injuries and were not effectively able to give quality at bats off the bench. Others like Caleb Gindl and Logan Schafer struggled to adjust to new part time roles. Players all around were forced to see positions and roles that they had never experienced before.
While the 2014 returns some familiar faces, some new ones will give the team plenty of options. They now have pieces off the bench that provide defense, speed, and power.
Left fielder, Khris Davis should provide a ton of power this season in a starting role, but lacks defensive skills. While he has shown signs of improvement, his arm and glove remain below average. Because of these struggles, Logan Schafer should see plenty of time as a late inning replacement, spelling Davis defensively. He showed off a cannon of an arm last season, and aside from Gomez he is the best defensive outfielder on the roster.
While Jon Lucroy is no slouch behind the plate, Martin Maldonado gives the Brewers another defensive upgrade. Maldonado has great pop and an accurate, plus arm. He is Wily Peralta’s personal catcher and he should see playing time at least twice each week.
Mark Reynolds, who should see a majority of his playing time at first base can give Aramis Ramirez a break at third. Originally a third baseman, Reynolds provides a strong option late in games over an aging Ramirez.
If the Brewers need a stolen base late in games, Logan Schafer is their best threat. While he had just seven steals last season, Schafer averaged double digit steals in every full minor league season. Rickie Weeks is also a seasoned base stealer, who has stolen 123 bases in his career. While he does not have the same speed as he once possessed, he can get the job done when needed.
Power may be the biggest upgrade on the bench compared to last season. Mark Reynolds and Juan Francisco should both see some starting time and they possess game-changing homerun power that the bench has not seen in years. They both are prone to strike outs (Reynolds has even led the league four times) but when they do swing correctly it is magic. Rickie Weeks should also provide some power off the bench. While he is not accustomed to a bench role, he should see plenty of at bats against left handed pitching. He is another player who hits rockets.
Statistics Provided by Baseball Reference