Now that Doug Melvin has locked up two bullpens worth of relief pitching, his quest for a new starting outfielder would seem to be his top priority. Melvin has gone on the record saying that he'd like a hitter with a high OBP (which I would tend to define to be at least .380). But as he's searching for that Holy Grail, he's got another itsy bitsy problem to think about: The Brewers have 7 of their 8 position players in place--and 6 of the 7 hit right-handed. No doubt Melvin is looking for that last piece to be a left-handed hitter, especially since most relievers are right-handed. The lone lefty--Prince Fielder--becomes an easy intentional walk for any right-handed relief pitcher. With the departure of Geoff Jenkins, the Brewers have four remaining left-handed hitting outfielders that played in AAA and/or in the majors:
- Gabe Gross--a .456 OBP for the Sounds during his visit there in mid-summer, but only a 76 AB sample size.
- Anthony Gwynn, Jr.--a .336 OBP over 126 AB's for the Sounds.
- Drew Anderson--a .324 OBP with 89 K's in just 377 AB's in Nashville.
- Mel Stocker--.334 OBP for Huntsville in '07 before his September call-up.
Gross, then, would seem to have the edge among the three players. But Gross had 183 AB's for the Brewers in '07, too...and only had a .329 OBP. One might argue that Gross's lack of playing time hurt his stats, especially when Gross returned from the minors to post a .366 OBP in August after .238 and .235 OBP's in June and July, respectively. But Gross played in 23 games for the Crew in September, and saw his OBP dip to .317 over 54 AB's. He would also need to platoon with a righty when a lefty is on the mound, as Gross only hit .091 vs. lefties in 11 AB's for the Brewers in '07. Gwynn, then, might be the answer? At 25, Gwynn is, realistically, running out of time. Gwynn also saw time for the Brewers in '07, having 123 AB's in 69 games. But his MLB OBP was a mere .326, hampered by 1 K/5 AB's (24 in 123, actually). Naturally, then, I went to MLB.com and did a sort of OBP for left-handed OF's...and found some interesting alternatives:
- Colorado's Seth Smith went 5-for-8 against righties at the end of the season; Smith, just 25, is listed as the #5 RF and #5 LF on the Rockies' depth chart, and likely to return to AAA Colorado Springs, where he had a .381 OBP last year. It might take a Manny Parra or Carlos Villanueva to pry Smith from the NL Champs, however.
- Toronto's John Ford-Griffin, at age 28, had a .330 OBP at AAA Syracuse...but also 144 K's in 133 games.
- Detroit's Timo Perez, will be 33 in April, but had a .427 OBP in 29 games with the Tigers last year, and only 6 K's in 90 AB's. The Tigers don't really need starting pitching, but might be enticed with prospects, such as Hernan Iribarren.
- The Yankees' Bronson Sardinha, age 25 in April, went 3-for-9 and a pair of walks in his cup of coffee with the Bombers, after a .306 OBP with Scranton-Wilkes Barre. Sardinha is also logjammed in the Yankees organization...especially since 4 of the 5 Yankees' projected outfielders hit or can hit left-handed. Again, however, it might take a Carlos Villanueva to pry Sardinha away. Tony Gwynn, Jr., is another possibility, but he's also left-handed. Correction: Sardinha was not offered a contract by the Yankees, and became a free agent on 12/12.
Any of these options would also mean that Joe Dillon would need to be retained for platooning against lefties, and would spell the end of either Gabe Gross' or Tony Gwynn, Jr.'s, career with the Brewers.