Before getting hurt last season, veteran second baseman Rickie Weeks (left) hit .209 with 10 home runs and 24 RBI in 104 games. Scooter Gennett, in his first year in the big leagues, hit .324 with six home runs and 21 RBI in 69 games and will challenge Weeks for playing time at second base in 2014.
Rick Scuteri/Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports
This is the sixth part in a nine-part series previewing the Milwaukee Brewers by position heading into Opening Day on March 31.
ON THE ROSTER
Scooter Gennett (.324, 6 HR, 21 RBI, 11 2B in 69 games in 2013)
It was an all too familiar ending for Rickie Weeks, as the veteran ended a frustrating season on the disabled list after rupturing his left lateral hamstring tendon while running to first base on Aug. 7. Six of Weeks’ nine seasons in the big leagues have been shortened by a serious injury, but the ruptured hamstring ended what was arguably the worst year of his career.
Weeks hit a career-low .209 in 2013 with just 10 home runs and 24 RBI. Hitting .160 on May 31, Weeks went 22-of-62 (.355) with five home runs and nine RBI in June and appeared to be potentially turning his year around. But he hit just .168 in his final 33 games before getting hurt.
Gennett was up with the team for the first time in June but didn’t get to play every day until Weeks went down. The 23-year-old took advantage of his opportunity and hit .324 with six home runs and 21 RBI in 69 games while playing solid defense. Gennett hit better in the big leagues than he did in Triple-A and was a bright spot late in a long year.
Jeff Bianchi made 11 starts at second base in 2013, while Yuniesky Betancourt played in five games with three starts at the position.
What will the Brewers do with both Weeks and Gennett on the roster? A platoon seems like the early answer. Set to make $11 million in the final year of his contract, Weeks has had a strong spring training and has proven his surgically repaired left hamstring is fine.
Weeks is hitting .323 with 10 walks and just seven strikeouts in 31 at-bats this spring, while Gennett started slow but is hitting .310 in his last nine games to raise his Cactus League batting average to .220.
How manager Ron Roenicke splits up the playing time won’t be known until the season starts, but he has made clear he plans to play the hot hand. Gennett had just six hits in 39 at-bats against left-handed pitchers in 2013, meaning Weeks will likely play when a southpaw is on the mound.
Weeks has a vesting option for 2015 at $11.5 million if he reaches 600 plate appearances in 2014, and the Brewers will likely not let that happen unless he’s healthy and playing at a high level. Gennett needs to follow up his solid first season in the big leagues by continuing to hit. If he does that, Gennett will be the long-term answer at second base.
But in order to contend, the Brewers will need to get something out of Weeks. He’ll be a prime candidate to be traded at the deadline if he’s playing well and the club is struggling.
KEY TO SUCCESS
Finding balance. Either Weeks or Gennett will step up and claim ownership to the stating spot or somehow a platoon situation has to give the Brewers enough production out of the position. Splitting playing time between two players can be tricky, but this could work. If it is a platoon, Roenicke will have to find a way to give both enough playing time to get in a groove.
THEY SAID IT
"Whoever is playing better. We’ll see how it goes. I’m not worked up about what is going to happen at second. I really believe that they will show me who should be playing more." â Roenicke
"I started out a little slow, but I guess it is how you finish. I feel better each day. I’m seeing the ball better and putting together better at-bats as we go on. I’m just looking forward to Opening Day." â Gennett
"As you get older, you learn to do different things. I think sometimes you just realize that, ‘I’m not successful in this and I’ve got to make some improvements.’ Sometimes it’s with stance, sometimes it’s your thinking that changes. He’s made some adjustments, and right now, it looks really good." — Roenicke on Weeks