Brewers second baseman Rickie Weeks may find himself in an interesting situation when the 2012 season opens on April 6.
With the departure of first baseman Prince Fielder and the possible 50-game suspension of left fielder Ryan Braun, an offensive drop-off is inevitable. Braun and Fielder accounted for 28 percent of Milwaukee’s runs last season and hit 71 of their 185 homeruns.
With the core of the team effectively disrupted, an opportunity arises for someone else to literally step up to the plate.
Last season Weeks was hindered by an ankle injury that sidelined him at a crucial point in the season, disrupting what had been a successful run. With Weeks’ ankle now healed the Brewers will need his bat to be as hot as ever.
Weeks was fourth on the team in batting average, .269, and homeruns, 20, numbers that would have certainly been higher if not for his injury.
As one of the longest tenured Brewers, the organization will also look to Weeks as a leader in the clubhouse as they move into the post-Fielder era.
The lineup shift also affords right fielder Corey Hart the opportunity to get become the player he has shown flashes of being. After his all-star year two seasons ago, Hart reverted back to his inconsistent production at the plate. Though his 26 homeruns and .285 average ranked third on the team, he also led Milwaukee with 114 strikeouts, often in scoring situations.
Lost among the Prince/Braun talk is the fact that the Brewers signed a solid player in Aramis Ramirez. No one can replace the output or the presence of Fielder. In his time in the organization Fielder became one of the most beloved and productive players in Brewer history.
However, Ramirez should prove to be an upgrade from Casey McGehee following the down year McGehee suffered last season which led to his trade to Pittsburgh. Last season with the Cubs Ramirez hit .305 through 149 games, recording 26 homeruns and 93 RBIs which would have been third on the Brewers.
Life without Fielder is something Brewers fans have not experienced in a number of years. And with the possibility of not having Braun through the first 50 games the emotions of Brewers fans will be as strained as ever.
The good news is Nyjer Morgan is still a Brewer. Call him by whatever name you like, the man is entertaining. Not since the Ole Gunslinger walked Lambeau Field has Wisconsinites had an athlete to watch who seemed as if they played with total enjoyment.
Morgan brought a spark to the Brewers on and off the field last season and became a fan favorite almost immediately. As tortured as we may be in the beginning of this season, at least we can watch Morgan work his hands and just tickle it for another season.