Keon Broxton emerging as possible center-field favorite in Brewers camp
The Brew Crew arrived in Arizona with a vacancy in center field, where Carlos Gomez once roamed before then-general manager Doug Melvin shipped him to the Astros at the 2015 trade deadline. At the time, now-GM David Stearns was in Houston, but since the Brewers hired him away in late September, it was Stearns’ job to fill the void created by his predecessor. And if Milwaukee Journal Sentinel beat writer Tom Haudricourt is reading the situation correctly, Stearns may have done so in a relatively nondescript December trade.
As Christmas approached, the Brewers struck a deal with the Pirates, sending first baseman Jason Rogers to Pittsburgh in exchange for two minor-leaguers: right-hander Trey Supak and outfielder Keon Broxton. The latter hit .273/.357/.438 in 133 plate appearances split between Double-A and Triple-A last year and has the athleticism to play up the middle, but with his 26th birthday looming in May, Broxton was running out of time to prove his major-league value. Now, his chance seems to have arrived.
Broxton entered Cactus League play on Monday with a .391 on-base percentage in 23 trips, and he’s now seen time across the outfield, which Haudricourt sees as a positive sign when it comes to his odds of making the roster. An unsightly error later that day made for humorous times on Twitter, but probably won’t derail Broxton’s pursuit of an Opening Day job.
At this point, the Brewers appear poised to enter the year with Ryan Braun in left field, Domingo Santana in right, and a battle for center, ostensibly led by Broxton, but with several others in the mix. Alex Presley and Eric Young Jr., both in camp as non-roster invitees, can play there, as can Kirk Nieuwenhuis, who was claimed off waivers from the Mets in December, not long after Broxton came over from the Bucs. Prospect Michael Reed is another candidate, but might be in line for more seasoning at Triple-A Colorado Springs. Presley and Young have both hit well this spring, while Nieuwenhuis has sputtered to a 4-for-19 showing with nine strikeouts, but it’s not yet clear how heavily Stearns and manager Craig Counsell will weigh exhibition-game results in their decision-making.
Given the menu of options, the Brewers could also end up with a timeshare in center. While all of his camp rivals bat from the left side (Nieuwenhuis, Presley) or switch-hit (Young), Broxton is a right-handed batter—albeit one who showed a pronounced reverse split in Triple-A last year. Based on Haudricourt’s analysis, Broxton’s athleticism and ability to fill numerous reserve roles figures to get him on the roster; the question to be answered in the coming 2-3 weeks is whether the Brewers see enough in his bat to play him every day.
A’s infield glut could be bad news for Eric Sogard
Two years ago, the bespectacled Eric Sogard came thisclose to being named the “Face of MLB.” Now, he might be thisclose to a ticket to Triple-A Nashville, as the A’s sort out their infield depth chart in the latter stages of spring training.
The 29-year-old Sogard hit .247/.294/.304 in 401 plate appearances last year, playing primarily at second base while filling in at shortstop and third. He was a steady defensive presence for an A’s squad that proved prone to miscues in the field, accounting for just six of Oakland’s league-high 126 errors while spending most of his time up the middle. But the A’s set their sights a bit higher this offseason, importing flashier infielders who could bump Sogard off the big-league roster.
If the season started today, Bob Melvin would write out his lineup with Jed Lowrie at second base, Marcus Semien at shortstop, and Danny Valencia at third. Lowrie’s acquisition yanked the keystone away from Sogard, and later, the Athletics nabbed Chris Coghlan from the Cubs, adding another second baseman—and another left-handed hitter—to the fold.
With no starting opportunity in sight, Sogard would have to earn a bench job to stay in the majors, and his path to doing so might be just as rocky. Backup catcher Josh Phegley gets one spot, and reserve outfielders Coco Crisp and Sam Fuld occupy two more. Coghlan ups the tally to four. And at that point, as CSN California’s Joe Stiglich pointed out, the decision comes down to Sogard or Mark Canha.
The A’s grabbed Canha in the Rule 5 draft ahead of the 2015 season and deployed him regularly, giving the 26-year-old 485 trips to the plate over 124 games. Canha only batted .254/.315/.426, far from stellar for a corner player, but that was good for a .270 True Average in the cavernous O.co Coliseum—15 points better than the mark assembled by the A’s primary DH, Billy Butler.
So, unless the A’s venture to go with 14 position players and only 11 pitchers, the question becomes Sogard’s glove or Canha’s bat. And, error volume notwithstanding, the latter would seem to be of greater utility to Melvin off the bench. Both Sogard and Canha have minor-league options remaining, so the A’s could send either to Nashville without exposing him to waivers. Canha has been slowed by a back injury this spring, but was near full strength last week, and should be clear of any medical impediment well before Opening Day.
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