The Sounds Grow Up

Nestled in Nashville, Herschel Greer Stadium is the home of the appropriately named Triple A franchise called the ‘Sounds’. They have been to the top of the mountain as a Milwaukee Brewer affiliate. In 2005, a group of players including Rickie Weeks, Prince Fielder, Cory Hart and Nelson Cruz won the Pacific Coast League Championship. All four became All-Stars in the Major Leagues. Later, the Sounds had another interesting group of players, all capable of moving up to the major league club an hour airplane ride to  Milwaukee. Scooter Gennett, Sean Halton, Caleb Gindl, Khris Davis and Logan Schafer all made their mark in the ‘Athens of the South’. Gennett was the young second baseman who many figured would be some years away from making it into the Show because Rickie Weeks, an All-Star filled that position in the Cream City. Sean Halton was the first baseman. A star position in Milwaukee, the legacy of first baggers from Mike Hegan, an original Brewer via the Pilots to George ‘Boomer’ Scott, onto St. Cecil of Cooper to Richie Sexton, from Lyle Overbay to Prince, was a position the Brewers rarely changed.
Sean Helton (26), from Fresno, CA, is a first baseman and outfielder. He attended Lewis-Clark State College and was drafted by Milwaukee. In limited action with the big club, he hit .238, with 4 home runs and had 17 RBIs.
Caleb Gindl (25) from Pace, FL, an outfielder by trade, has been a minor league All-Star in nearly every stop he has made. He was an All-Star with teammate, Jonathon Lucroy in the Rookie League. He was an Arizona Fall League Rising Star. He hit .307 in Nashville. Last year, for half a season, he batted .242 with 5 home runs and 14 RBIs in limited action with the Brewers.
Schafer (27) with one of the most graceful left-handed swings in baseball and graced with blinding speed, hit only .219 with 4 home runs and 38 RBIs in 2013 seeing limited duty behind Gomez and Aoki in the outfield.
Scooter Gennett from Sarasota, FL, the youngest of this group (23) was the surprise of the season as he took over for Weeks at second base and batted .324 with 6 home runs and 21 RBI during the last part of the 2013 season with Milwaukee.
Khris Davis (26), an Arizona high school All-State player at Deer Valley High School playing outfield, turned down offers to sign with the Washington Nationals and attended Cal State Fullerton. He has been a .280 hitter in Single A Appleton and a .280 hitter in Double A Huntsville. In Nashville he found he could hit at a .310 level. While moving up to the Brewers last season, he hit .279, 11 home runs with 27 RBIs in limited playing time.
Five young ballplayers who have been top performers in the minors within the Brewers farm system and are now at the gateway to their future. Davis is being given the chance to win the left field position as management has traded away Aoki and moved Braun from left to right. Will he be the star player in left everyone believes he can be? Gennett will beat out Rickie Weeks this season if not injured. A huge fan favorite, the undersized second baseman could become the fixture that began with Gaintner which was passed down to Weeks. Now is Scooter’s time.
But the other three face a daunting task. Are they ‘tweeners’ or are they the stars of the future many believed they could become. Helton will have a tough job at keeping his roster spot as he will have to compete and excel above the recently acquired Mark Reynolds who is on the downside of his career. He will have to hope that Juan Francisco doesn’t learn the art of being patient at the plate. And he has to bang the cover off the ball in Spring Training when given the chance to play. And that will be an issue. He has to excel in the split games and make the Brewers want to put him in the lineup come the last two weeks of Spring.
Schafer will have to fly around the outfield like the gazelle he is and make all of those Carlos-type catches he can also make. He has to hit like he has never hit before in Spring Training. This is the make or break season for Logan. Is he an Oglivie or a Travis Lee? Is he a legit Big Leaguer or a Tweener?
Gindl may be the odd man out. He is not as fast as Schafer but he has proven he can hit. In baseball, that is the defining factor. He can and must hit to make this team and become a factor everyone thought he would be.
Of these three, who will make the Show this season or return to the music madness in Nashville? In a few days we will find out.
For those who do not, they may have to be  ready to call an end to their boyhood dream.
Play Ball!
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Top Two Catchers In the National League

There are some good catchers in the National League. To understand the importance of this position in baseball, all you have to do is understand that this is the quarterback of a baseball team. The best, therefore, are usually associated with the best pitching staffs. With little question, and in no certain order, the five best pitching staffs are the Philadelphia Phillies, Milwaukee Brewers, San Francisco Giants, St. Louis Cardinals and the Atlanta Braves. Each of these teams have an exceptional catcher behind the plate.

On offense through Sunday, for the ‘Fightin’s’ there is Carlos Ruiz, hitting .327 with a slugging percentage of .582 with 22 RBI. For the BrewCrew, Jonathan Lucroy has a .341 BA; .505 SLG and 16 RBI. For the Giants, coming back from a serious injury last season, Buster Posey, the 2010 Rookie of the Year,  has a batting average this season of .282; .486 SLG and has driven in 12 RBI so far this season. For the Cards, the All-Star, Yadier Molina has a BA of .296; .504 SLG and 16 RBI so far this year. For the Braves, Brian McCann, an All-Star for the past six seasons, has a .284 BA; .406 SLG and has driven in 20 RBI.

On defense this season, Ruiz has thrown out 11 of 28 runners and 1 passed ball in 236.2 innings. Lucroy has thrown out 9 of 35 runners and has 3 passed balls in 222.1 innings so far. Posey, just beginning his season after the injury has only 57.0 innings played. As for Yadier, the perennial All-Star behind the plate, has thrown out 6 runners out of 19 attempting to steal. He has 3 passed balls in his 253.0 innings. McCann has thrown out 6 runners out of 22 attempting to steal a base. He has 2 passed balls in 239 innings this season.

As you can see, all are exceptional back stops. But for the two top catchers so far this season, you have to probably throw out Posey because he is just coming back and  doesn’t have the innings yet this season. Now you are down to four.

The past performances of Molina and McCann automatically puts them into consideration. But this season, their hitting has not been up to par and they are behind both Ruiz and Lucroy in throwing out runners. Ruiz and Lucroy are also the top two hitting catchers in the National League.

But so far this season the arm of Ruiz appears to be on fire. Therefore through the first 35 games, Carlos Joaquin Ruiz appears to be the best the National League has to offer.

Play ball.

Time To Pick Your National League All-Stars Before The Season Begins

Let’s get to it. We’ve seen the first couple of weeks of Spring Training and now the regulars will be in the lineups until the season begins. This is also the time when many get their fantasy teams together. Now you get to pick who you think are the All-Stars in the National League (American League next week) before the season begins. You can do this by going to:

First Basemen to consider:  Joey Votto, Cincinnati. Now that Howard is not yet ready to play after his off season operation and both Fielder and Pujols this year are in the American League, Votto seems like the logical choice to top this position. Also in the race are Mike Morris, Washington; Lance Berkman, the former right fielder from St. Louis and Freddie Freedman of Atlanta.

Second Basemen to consider: Last year’s top selection, Rickie Weeks from Milwaukee is bashing the ball again this Spring. But Brandon Phillips, Cincinnati; Chase Utley, Philadelphia and Freddy Sanchez, San Francisco seem the likely contenders.

Third Basemen to consider: Amaris Ramirez, Milwaukee; David Wright, New York; Ryan Zimmerman, Washington and Pablo Sandoval, San Francisco seem like the top choices.

Shortstops to consider: Troy Tulowitzki, Colorado, is once again having a great Spring. But then again, so are Starlin Castro, Chicago, Jose Reyes, Miami and you can’t forget Jimmy Rollins, Philadelphia. Probably the best depth in all of baseball. I’ve seen both Tulo and Castro play this Spring and they are terrific.

Left Field is also another crammed position. Last year’s All-Star and league MVP, Ryan Braun, Milwaukee leads the list. Alfonso Soriano, Chicago; Matt Holliday, St. Louis; and Ryan Ludwick, Cincinnati seem ready. You decide.

In Center Field there is real race. Matt Kemp, Los Angeles, is once again ready to begin his MVP hunt. But then there is one of the most consistent Center Fielders in all of baseball, Andrew McCutchen, Pittsburgh. Do not forget Christ Young, Arizona and Shane Victorino of Philadelphia. The ‘Flyin Hawaiian’ is always exciting. You make the choice.

In Right Field, last year’s All-Star selection, Cory Hart, Milwaukee, will be ready for Opening Day. The exciting Justin Upton, Arizona; Carlos Beltran, St. Louis and Hunter Pence, Philadelphia will all be vying for the top spot. You choose.

And behind the plate, we have Yadier Molina, St. Louis; Buster Posey, San Francisco; Jonathon Lucroy, Milwaukee and Carlos Ruiz, Philadelphia. Who do you like?

Go to the survey link above and let’s see who we will collectively choose. I announce it before the season begins.

Now, go vote.