MILWAUKEE -- Brewers pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training in four weeks, but there's no shortage of questions. Let's get to a few in the latest Inbox:
Is the Brewers’ primary third baseman for 2020 on the roster right now?
General manager David Stearns suggested last week that the answer is yes, but I’m still going to say no, in part because I have been predicting that Stearns has a splashy solution for third base up his sleeve and I’m a stubborn old mule who is going to stand by that prediction until Jedd Gyorko or Eric Sogard runs out to that position on Opening Day against the Cubs. Right now, the Brewers think they have upside at catcher (Omar Narváez) and are hoping for bounce-backs at first base (Justin Smoak), shortstop (Orlando Arcia or Luis Urías), left field (Avisaíl García) and center field (Lorenzo Cain). Are they going to take the same fingers-crossed approach at third base, a position from which teams traditionally expect production? Thanks to the payroll flexibility they have maintained this winter, the team still appears to have room to spend if it chooses, and that means not only free agency but a trade. My guess -- and that’s all it is at this point, because Stearns has kept his wishes close to the vest -- is that he surprises us with something.
If not, then it looks like a timeshare at third base between right-handed hitter Gyorko and left-handed hitter Sogard. On MLB Network last week, Brewers manager Craig Counsell noted that Sogard has been a productive offensive player two of the past three years and is coming off his best big league season.
“We’re going to count on him at third base for a lot of our third-base time,” Counsell said.
How much time? We’ll see.
Is Urías penciled in as the starter at shortstop, or will Arcia get first shot?
Here’s how Counsell answered that question:
“I think what we’re going to do is – [Keston] Hiura is obviously locked in at second base, and Justin Smoak and Ryan Braun will man the duties at first base. The left side of the infield is a little more up in the air. We’re certainly going to give Urias every shot to prove he can play shortstop for us. That’s why we traded for him. We also have Orlando Arcia.”
The Brewers have been searching for ways to get the most out of Arcia for a couple of years now. The trade for Urías, however, took the competition to a new level. That is shaping into the most compelling Spring Training battle this year. There’s also the possibility that Arcia, still just 25 and controllable for two more years beyond 2020, is trade bait at some point.
Any word on how Cain's feeling coming into 2020? Best shape of his life, I presume.
Normally, I would predict that a player utters exactly those words coming off a disappointing season. But Cain is a different kind of cat, and I suspect he will amble into Brewers On Deck looking like he leads the league in arthritic joints. You never know with Cain until someone hits a fly ball his way and he goes and gets it.
Cain is on our list to corner at the Brewers’ annual fan fest for an update of his health after he dealt with a bad thumb and a whole array of lower-body injuries in 2019. We’ll see what he has to say then, but the Brewers surely are counting on a level of production that much more closely resembles Cain’s sensational 2018 season.
Has MLB officially set the maximum number of pitchers a club can carry on its 26-man roster, and if so, what is it?
As far as I am aware, that limit has not been finalized. But the topic was discussed with managers during the Winter Meetings, and the expectation is that there will be a cap of 13 active pitchers through Aug. 31. Stay tuned.
Does Josh Hader or Corey Knebel get the ball at the end of the game? Who bats behind Christian Yelich? Would you want to know what pitch is coming?
1. If the question is about Opening Day and early in the season, Hader. Knebel probably won’t be at full strength off Tommy John surgery until May, and then the Brewers could have some flexibility.
2. In my 2020 lookahead, I went Cain, Yelich, Hiura and García as the top four in my projected lineup as things stood at the time. I’m sticking with that. Stubborn mule, remember.
3. Yes, I would want to know what pitch is coming. Though my youth baseball career proved it wouldn’t make a difference.
Do you think the Brewers will add another starter toward the end of the offseason?
History says Stearns will indeed make some late pitching adds, although I cannot vouch for the impact of said move. The Brewers have had some hits recently (think Wade Miley) and misses (Josh Tomlin) with late additions to camp.
With no obvious candidates on the horizon, who are your dark-horse prospects that you think might impact the big league club at some point this upcoming season?
I’ll go with two pitchers from Triple-A San Antonio: Left-hander Quintin Torres-Costa and right-hander Luke Barker. I’m intrigued by Torres-Costa, who blew out his elbow at the end of 2018, when it looked like he might be in line for a September callup. And all Barker does in the Minors is get outs. With the Brewers’ strategy of shuttling fresh pitchers up from the Minors, he has as good a chance as anyone to get a shot.
Where do you see Brice Turang ending up in 2020, [Double-A] Biloxi or [Class A Advanced] Carolina?
I’ll put my chips on Biloxi. The Brewers have pushed Turang in his pro career, and the Brewers' top prospect, according to MLB Pipeline, has responded.
How bad are you going to feel wasting the talent of Yelich and not putting together a competitive team around him? Why every year do you think our rotation and internal pieces will take us deep in the postseason? Why do you refuse to spend money on proven talent?
Can’t waste my journalist’s salary on baseball players. I need to save it for the dental work that is surely in my future.
First time headed down to Arizona for Brewers Spring Training. Any “must do” things while down there other than going to American Family Field of Phoenix?
I’ll spare everyone my Phoenix restaurant list and simply say get to as many different stadiums as possible -- and go early. The best part of Spring Training is ambling around and watching the morning practices.
OK, one restaurant tip if your group is all 21 and up, because it’s as much of an activity tip as anything: Culinary Dropout/The Yard on 7th Street in Phoenix or on Farmer Avenue in Tempe. I’ll see you at the pingpong tables.
What does it say about the state of baseball today that Counsell (who seemingly just started this job) is already the longest tenured National League manager?
When that came up in the wake of Bruce Bochy’s retirement, I think I looked it up five different ways to make sure it’s true. It’s a great example of the old adage that managers are hired to be fired. It’s a fleeting gig.
When will the Brewers be releasing their promotions schedule? Also, when do single-game tickets go on sale?
Late January for the promotional schedule and mid-February for single-game tickets. Fingers crossed for a Mike Vassallo bobblehead day this year.
Adam McCalvy has covered the Brewers for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram and like him on Facebook.