November 2013

Jungmann struggles with command in finale

You can probably tie a bow on Taylor Jungmann’s second professional season after the right-hander threw 56 pitches over two-plus innings in the Arizona Fall League on Tuesday.

Starting for the Surprise Saguaros for the second time after a groin injury forced a month-long absence, Jungmann was charged with four earned runs on four walks and two hits, including a flyball single to left field that fellow Brewers prospect Jason Rogers lost in the sun. Jungmann walked three batters in a two-run first inning that could have been worse if not for a defensive gem from his third baseman, retired the side in order in the second inning, then walked the leadoff man in the third inning before that sun-ball single ended his afternoon. Both of those runners scored and were added to Jungmann’s pitching line.

According to the MLB.com Gameday readings at Surprise Stadium, 49 of Jungmann’s 56 pitches were fastballs (including a handful that registered as cutters) and only one of those pitches exceeded 90 mph — a first-pitch ball in the dirt to Giants prospect Angel Villalona that followed Jungmann’s third walk in the first inning and a visit from his pitching coach. Jungmann threw 24 more pitches after that 91 mph in the dirt and all but two were four-seam fastballs from 87-90 mph. None of his 11 fastballs in the abbreviated third inning topped 89 mph.

Coming out of the Draft, scouts had Jungmann in the 91-93 mph neighborhood with the occasional 95. In his two regular seasons as a Brewers farmhand, Jungmann is 21-16 with a 3.91 ERA in 52 starts between Class A Brevard County and Double-A Huntsville. At Huntsville in 2013, he was 10-10 with a 4.33 ERA and 82 strikeouts versus 73 walks in 139 1/3 innings. In three appearances in the AFL — one before the groin injury and two after — he allowed eight earned runs, nine hits and seven walks in 7 1/3 innings.

If Jungmann pitches again, it would have to be on three days’ rest in the AFL championship game on Saturday. He will turn 24 next month and is rated Milwaukee’s second-best prospect by MLB.com.

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Brewers optimistic about Nashville ballpark plan

Brewers officials expressed cautious optimism Friday after Nashville Mayor Karl Dean announced an agreement between the state of Tennessee, the Triple-A Nashville Sounds and a developer to construct a new ballpark for Milwaukee’s top Minor League affiliate.

The plan still requires approval by the Nashville City Council and the Nashville Sports Authority, according to several news reports. If all of the relevant agreements can be finalized before the end of this year, the Sounds could be playing in their new home by 2015.

The Brewers have been optimistic before. When the club signed a player development contract (PDC) with the Sounds in 2005, a similar plan was in the works for a ballpark on the bank of the Cumberland River, but it never materialized. In the meantime, the Brewers pushed for improvements to aging Greer Stadium, which opened in 1978.

“From what I understand, there seems to me much better cooperation between the various levels of government this time than there was the last, and the new Sounds ownership group led by Frank Ward has done a tremendous job in ensuring that they took it step by step,” Brewers assistant GM Gord Ash said. “There is a much different tone to this discussion than there was seven or eight years ago.”

The Brewers current PDC with the Sounds runs through the end of 2014.

“We’ve always said that we’re thrilled with Nashville as a destination, that it’s geographically sound for us and a well-rounded town with a lot of life and entertainment,” Ash said. “The only thing missing was a ballpark of Triple-A caliber. Hopefully we can have a long-term partnership.”

The new ballpark would be located north of downtown in Sulphur Dell, the site of a stadium famous for a right-field embankment. That ballpark was in use from 1870 until it was demolished in 1969.

According to Friday’s news release, the new stadium would have a recessed field and offer sweeping views of downtown. It would hold 10,000 people, with 8,500 fixed seats. A new 1,000-space car lot would be constructed just south of the ballpark, and a new greenway would offer easy pedestrian access and give the ballpark a park-like feel.

“We love being a part of the Nashville community and thank Mayor Dean and [Tennessee Gov. Bill] Haslam for providing leadership on this exciting ballpark proposal,” Ward said in a statement. “Greer Stadium has far outlived its useful life, and we can’t wait to give Nashvillians a top-notch experience at Sulphur Dell. Our investments, plus those of all our partners, will truly transform this area of North Nashville, and we are thankful for this opportunity.”

In other Brewers Minor League news, Ash said that No. 2 prospect Taylor Jungmann was back on track in the Arizona Fall League after missing time with a groin issue. Jungmann surrendered four earned runs on five hits in 2 1/3 innings for the Surprise Saguaros on Wednesday, his first appearance in nearly a month, and is scheduled to make one final appearance on Tuesday.

“He was a little rusty [in his return to action],” Ash said, “but was otherwise OK.”

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Brewers claim utility man Herrera from Dodgers

The Brewers on Monday claimed utility man Elian Herrera off waivers from the Dodgers, pushing to 36 the number of players on the team’s 40-man roster.

Herrera, who will turn 29 before the start of Spring Training, is a switch-hitter who split each of the past two seasons between Triple-A Albuquerque and the big-league Dodgers, hitting .305 with 10 home runs and 83 RBIs in 172 games in the Minors, and .251 with a .336 on-base percentage in the Majors over that span.

He has played every position but catcher during a professional career that began in 2003, when Herrera signed with the Dodgers out of the Dominican Republic. For the Dodgers, he started at least one game at all three outfield positions, plus second base and third base.

Herrera was first added to the Dodgers’ 40-man roster in 2012, so he has at least one Minor League option remaining.

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No qualifying offer for Hart

The Brewers opted not to tender a qualifying offer to rehabbing free agent Corey Hart on Monday but remain open to re-signing the first baseman to a lesser contract later this winter, general manager Doug Melvin said.

Teams had until 4 p.m. CT on Monday to extend one-year, $14.1 million contracts to their free agents in order to secure a compensatory pick in next year’s Draft should that player decline the offer and sign elsewhere. The Brewers deemed that too big a risk with Hart, who missed the entire 2013 season while recovering from surgery on both of his knees.

Hart, who contributed 30 home runs and 83 RBIs while transitioning from right field to first base in 2012, is one of three Brewers free agents, along with reliever Michael Gonzalez and infielder Yuniesky Betancourt.

“I talked to Corey’s agent [Jeff Berry] last week and just said we would check in again a little bit further down the road,” Melvin said. “I’ve seen some video on him. He’s working out; it looks like he’s moving around. We’ll eventually follow up on it.”

During a September visit to Miller Park, Hart suggested he was “optimistic” about re-signing with Milwaukee and said he would be “generous,” but stopped short of providing financial parameters.

“I would take a discount to stay here, because I think I owe it to them to stay here and be a cheaper player, because — nobody wants to play for free — but I’ve basically sat there and watched all season,” Hart said then. “I think I owe it to them and the fans to come back. That’s kind of what we’re hoping for, but at the same time, you don’t know what’s going to happen.”

At the time, Hart was just shy of getting clearance to begin running. He underwent right knee surgery in January to repair a depression on the joint surface, then needed a similar procedure on the left knee in July for an injury that developed during rehab.

First base is wide open for the Brewers, who used a patchwork group of players at the position in 2013 that included shortstops Betancourt and Alex Gonzalez, third baseman Juan Francisco and catcher Jonathan Lucroy. They combined for a .629 OPS, worst of the 30 Major League teams.

Francisco is arbitration-eligible as a Super Two player and batted .309 with two home runs and 12 RBIs in his first 14 games in the Dominican Winter League while implementing some adjustments to his batting stance prescribed by Brewers hitting coach Johnny Narron. Brewers coach Mike Guerrero is managing Francisco’s team, Licey. Another internal option is former Minor League player of the year Hunter Morris, but his OPS slipped more than 150 points with a promotion to Triple-A Nashville last season, and was not among Milwaukee’s September call-ups.

If the Brewers opt to fill first base from the list of free agents, “It’s not a very deep list,” Melvin said. “You would think that there would be more first basemen, but [Justin] Morneau is out there, [James] Loney is out there, and it pretty well stops at that point, I think.”

He added: “The whole first base situation, we have to take a look at.”

As of 11 p.m. CT on Monday, Hart and all of baseball’s other free agents were free to sign with any team. It was Hart’s first foray into free agency after 14 professional seasons with the Brewers beginning in 2000, when he was Milwaukee’s 11th round Draft pick.

In his six full seasons with the Brewers, Hart averaged 24 home runs and 78 RBIs with an .830 OPS. He will turn 32 on March 24, about a week before Opening Day.

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Bill James on the Brewers

Statistical guru Bill James published his 25th annual “Bill Hames Handbook” on Friday, including some new sections on hitter analysis, a no-hitter summary, and a compilation of home run robberies (Carlos Gomez, anyone?).

It includes another wrinkle that Brewers fans may be interested in. From a news release put out by ACTA Sports, the publisher of James’ books:

“One of the stats developed for the Handbook is called Manufactured Runs,” said Ben Jedlovec, a vice-president of Baseball Info Solutions, which produces the stats for the Handbook. “Many managers, coaches, and broadcasters will tell you that teams need to be able to move the runners over and manufacture runs to be successful. Get ‘em on, get ‘em over, get ‘em in. You can’t always wait for the long ball to score runs, so they say.”

Clearly, some teams do this better than others, the 2014 Handbook reveals. The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim have led the league in manufactured runs five times since 2002 and have finished out of the top four only once in that span. Though it’s odd that a team with Albert Pujols, Josh Hamilton, and Mark Trumbo had to resort to manufacturing runs (178 last season), only the Texas Rangers manufactured more this year (201). The Rangers have led the league in manufactured runs three of the past four years, and they’ve gone to the World Series twice in that span. Individuals can’t manufacture runs on their own, of course; that’s the whole point. They can, however, play a role in manufacturing runs via bunts, stolen bases, and productive outs, among other things.

The Milwaukee Brewers were sixth in manufacturing runs in the major leagues last year, tied with the New York Mets at 158, and just behind the Kansas City Royals and ahead of the St. Louis Cardinals. The worst team in baseball at manufacturing runs was the hapless Marlins of Miami, who could manage only 106 manufactured runs all last season. Three of the 40 best contributors to manufacturing runs in the Major Leagues — right fielder Norichika Aoki (with 27), shortstop Jean Segura (with 23), and center fielder Carlos Gomez (with 19) — played for the Brewers last season and were credited with contributing to a total of 69 manufactured runs. In comparison, shortstop Elvis Andrus and second baseman Ian Kinsler, the dynamic keystone duo of the Rangers, had 43 and 35 respectively — 78 between the two players.

Makes sense, considering the Brewers were forced to manufacture runs last season after losing so much of their power — Ryan Braun to suspension and Aramis Ramirez and Corey Hart to injuries. Just another statistic to think about as we enter the offseason.

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