This is Part II of a series of stories previewing the 2016 Brewers, which has already covered their bounceback candidates and moves now to newcomers. The series will also look at prospects who could contribute, lineup and bullpen possibilities and details for fans planning their own visits to Maryvale Baseball
This is Part II of a series of stories previewing the 2016 Brewers, which has already covered their bounceback candidates and moves now to newcomers. The series will also look at prospects who could contribute, lineup and bullpen possibilities and details for fans planning their own visits to Maryvale Baseball Park. It culminates Feb. 19, when Brewers pitchers and catchers formally report for the start of Spring Training.
MILWAUKEE -- The long list of Brewers newcomers reflects the club's full-blown rebuilding effort, which began in the middle of last season under then-GM Doug Melvin and has continued under David Stearns. Since taking over, Stearns has made nine trades and five waiver claims while adding three players to the 40-man roster to protect them from the Rule 5 Draft, making two Rule 5 Draft picks from other teams in the Major League phase and signing one Major League free agent.
Those moves add up to 18 new players on the 40-man roster since season's end, two of whom have since been removed. On top of the 40-man turnover, the Brewers will host a large crop of non-roster invitees to Spring Training camp, all vying for jobs.
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In rough order of their projected role on the team, here's a rundown of some of the new names:
1B Chris Carter: Stearns' first Major League free-agent acquisition was a familiar one, since Carter's three years in Houston coincided with Stearns' run as that club's assistant GM. The Brewers needed a first baseman after trading Adam Lind to the Mariners for a trio of teenage pitching prospects, and Carter could slide into the cleanup spot for manager Craig Counsell. He hit 90 home runs over three seasons in Houston, batting .199 with 24 homers and 64 RBIs in 2015.
After helping one team emerge from a long rebuilding period, Carter joins a Brewers club in the beginning stages of one.
"It's a fun process to watch happen," Carter said. "It was a fun clubhouse there [in Houston]. We had a good time. It stinks to leave right when they get to success, get to the playoffs. But it's a new chapter for me, a fresh start in my career.
RHP Chase Anderson and IF Aaron Hill: Two of the three players (along with 19-year-old shortstop prospect Isan Diaz) acquired in Stearns' biggest trade to date (a Jan. 30 deal that sent Jean Segura and Tyler Wager to Arizona), both Anderson and Hill should see significant playing time this season. Anderson slides into the starting rotation after going 15-13 with a 4.18 ERA over two seasons with the D-backs, while Hill could start at third base or bounce between second and third. Hill batted .302 for the D-backs with 26 home runs and 85 RBIs in 2012; in the past three seasons, he batted .253 with 27 total homers.
IF Jonathan Villar: Another former Astro who is familiar to Stearns, the switch-hitting Villar batted .236 with 10 home runs, 46 RBIs and 42 stolen bases in 198 Major League games over the past three seasons. It appeared he would back up Segura at shortstop or vie for at-bats at third base until last month, when Segura was shipped to Arizona and Villar moved to the top of the team's depth chart at shortstop. How long he remains there depends on the Brewers' plans for top prospect Orlando Arcia, who is ticketed for Triple-A Colorado Springs to start the season.
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OFs Kirk Nieuwenhuis, Rymer Liriano, Keon Broxton, Ramon Flores, Eric Young Jr., Alex Presley: Six players acquired in separate transactions who will participate in the Brewers' most wide-open position battle: center field. Nieuwenhuis, the former Met claimed off waivers by the Brewers two days before Christmas, has made the most Major League starts in center field of the group, though Young and Presley, both non-roster invitees, have also logged significant big league time. Liriano, Broxton and Flores were acquired in trades -- Liriano from the Padres, Broxton from the Pirates and Flores from the Mariners. Liriano, 24, ranked among MLBPipeline.com's top 60 prospects three years ago and is out of options.
"I think center field is probably the place where we are going to have to make the most evaluations in the spring," Counsell said at Brewers On Deck.
3Bs Garin Cecchini and Will Middlebrooks: Each once considered the third baseman of the future in Boston, Cecchini and Middlebrooks are getting an opportunity to seize that position with the Brewers. Milwaukee paid cash at the Winter Meetings for Cecchini, a former Top 100 Prospect coming off a disappointing season. First he was nudged off third base when the Red Sox signed Pablo Sandoval, then he struggled to a .213/.286/.296 slash line at Triple-A Pawtucket while learning the outfield. Middlebrooks was also once a Top 100 Prospect, but after hitting 32 home runs with 103 RBIs in his first 169 Major League games from 2012-13 and manning third base in the '13 World Series, he has struggled with injuries and poor performance. He hit .212/.241/.361 in 83 games for San Diego last season and was non-tendered in December. The Brewers picked him up as a non-roster invitee.
IF Colin Walsh and RHP Zack Jones: The Brewers have not carried more than one Rule 5 Draft pick on the roster since 2003, but they will take a look at a pair of players this spring. Walsh will vie for a backup infield job after posting a .447 on-base percentage with the A's Double-A affiliate last season. The hard-throwing Jones came from the Twins and will compete for a bullpen job.
SS Arcia and RHPs Jacob Barnes and Damien Magnifico: All three are born-and-bred Brewers, added to the 40-man roster in November to protect them from the Rule 5 Draft. Arcia, Milwaukee's consensus top prospect, is closest to the Majors.
LHP Chris Capuano: The most well-known of the Brewers' non-roster invitees is Capuano, who won 18 games for Milwaukee in 2005 during a stint that covered eight years, parts of six seasons and the second of his two career Tommy John surgeries. He said his intent in camp is to win a job in the Brewers' starting rotation.
1B Andy Wilkins: Claimed off waivers from the Rangers, Wilkins has traveled through seven organizations in the past calendar year. He's a left-handed power hitter who briefly played in the Major Leagues for the White Sox in 2014 and has hit 111 home runs in parts of six seasons in the Minors.
RHP Junior Guerra: A 31-year-old who has only pitched four Major League innings, Guerra has options remaining and might not make the Opening Day cut. Whether he contributes or not, he'll forever be a bit of Brewers trivia: The first player acquired by Stearns.
Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @AdamMcCalvy, like him on Facebook and listen to his podcast.