It has been a little over a year since Scooter Gennett became a regular in the big leagues, and if the Milwaukee Brewers second baseman has proven anything it is that he can hit at baseball’s highest level.
Gennett carries a .322 batting average with 13 home runs and 59 RBI in 152 games since taking over the bulk of the playing time at second base following Rickie Weeks’ season-ending injury in early August of 2013.
Since that point, Gennett has the fifth-highest batting average in baseball and his .480 slugging percentage trails only Robinson Cano among second baseman.
"I think I’ve done OK," Gennett said of his time in the big leagues thus far. "I don’t think I’ve done the best that I can do. I need to work on some things, but from a personal standpoint I’m happy with how the year has gone.
"I feel good. It’s a lot better this year, obviously, now that we’re winning and are in first place and everything. I think that’s a difference between last year and this year. I’m just enjoying it."
This season, Gennett is hitting .307 with eight homers and 43 RBI in 105 games for the Brewers, sharing time with Weeks. The Brewers have stuck to a strict platoon at second base with the left-handed hitting Gennett starting against right-handed pitchers and the right-handed Weeks starting against left-handers.
The platoon has worked, as only Houston with Jose Altuve and Seattle with Cano have a higher second-base OPS than Milwaukee’s .796.
"I think it has done OK," Gennett said of the platoon. "We’re in first place and we are winning, so I don’t think it has been a bad thing. I think from a development standpoint for the both of us, not playing every day isn’t going to help us. But when it comes to a team standpoint and winning ballgames, I think it has worked out."
The knock on Gennett has always been his inability to hit left-handed pitching, the reason why manager Ron Roenicke has used a platoon. Gennett is just 10 for 75 (.133) with one extra-base hit in his career against lefties, including a 4-for-36 mark this season.
Part of the reason why Gennett’s numbers have been so impressive is the fact he has been protected from having to face left-handed pitching thus far in his big-league career. Gennett certainly understands the reason why the platoon system is in place, but the lack of at-bats against lefties makes it hard for him to improve in that area.
"With the limited at-bats, it is one of those things where you see most switch hitters, their numbers are better against right-handed pitchers because they are getting more at-bats against them," Gennett said. "In my case it is even more. I don’t think I’ve faced a lefty starter yet.
"Probably the only negative of the platooning deal is the part of me against lefties. It is something I’m going to have to do on my own. This offseason I’m going to have to try to find people to throw to me that are left-handed to try to get ready for next season."
Gennett has been bothered by a lingering right quadriceps injury of late, as he’s played recently despite not being able to run at 100 percent. The most frustrating part to him is having had to miss time while the Brewers are in the postseason race.
"I enjoy whenever we win whether I am in the lineup or not," Gennett said. "I’m happy for the guys that get to be a part of it, but it does suck when you don’t play. You have to watch everybody else have fun out there on the field. But at the same time, if you are not 100 percent, obviously somebody else’s 100 percent is going to be able to contribute more to helping the team win."
The 24-year-old is inching closer to 100 percent, as he ran at full speed prior to Tuesday night’s game and went hard to leg out an infield single in the eighth inning of Wednesday’s loss to Toronto.
"It limits me in the sense of my explosiveness, what I’m able to do on the bases, certain balls I’m able to get to," Gennett said. "I feel like I’m my normal self but maybe without that extra gear. It would be nice to get that back and be back to my normal self."
The Brewers will likely turn second base over to Gennett without any kind of platoon in 2015. Weeks is currently in the final year of his contract and is likely to seek an opportunity to become a starter again, something he won’t find in Milwaukee.
It wouldn’t be a surprise to see Gennett’s overall numbers slip next season if he does play every day, as his batting average surely will take a hit while he adjusts to facing left-handed pitchers.
Gennett hit .241 with an OPS of .607 against lefties in 2012 with Double-A Huntsville, as he carried a .315 batting average against righties that year. In his time with Triple-A Nashville last season, Gennett’s average against lefties was .257.
Including his time in A-ball, Gennett is a career .274 hitter against left-handed pitching in the minor leagues. Next season he’ll be out to prove he can produce those numbers at the highest level.
"I know I can play every day, and I know I’ve done that in the past," Gennett said. "I think it is just getting the opportunity, and when I do, being as prepared as possible and being as sharp as possible. That’s up to me."