The double play is one of the more exciting plays in baseball. It can energize a crowd, kill a potential rally and look really good on the highlight reel. It takes a lot of skill to turn a good double play: quick feet, quick hands, and a strong arm. A player has to have good range to get to a ground ball, be able to get the ball out of his glove to toss it to his infield mate and then he has to be able to catch, pivot and throw the ball over to first base all in one motion. Today we're going to look at the Brewers' double play combinations in the minor league system, and see how they stack up against each other.
AAA Combination: Billy Hall (SS) and Dionys Cesar (2B)
The Brewers have one of, if not the, youngest double play combos in AAA. Hall (22) and Cesar (25) are both good, quick young players. At shortstop, Hall has exceptional range, and a nice, strong arm. He is prone to mental lapses from time to time, but he can get to pretty much anything. He can do deep in the hole and still fire the ball off to second or first base, with accuracy. He also has quick feet that allow him to pivot well on second base, and he could play second base down the road, too. Cesar, while not as quick or strong as Hall, is still a good second baseman. His best asset is his good range, which also allows him to play third base and shortstop. He has a decent, though not above average, arm at second base, and paired with quick feet, makes him a good pivot man at second base.
AA Combination: Steve Scarborough (SS) and Elvis Pena (2B)
The pair of Scarborough (24) and Pena (27) are actually older than their AAA counterparts, though probably not quite as good defensively. Scarborough is a very good defender, especially at second base, but his big knock is his arm strength. From second base, it's about average, but from shortstop, it's a little lacking. This doesn't really hurt him when starting a double play, though, because the second baseman is a lot closer to him than the first baseman. Scarborough has nice actions at short, and has good range, though not quite as good as Hall's. Pena is another guy that has played both second and short in the past, and he is pretty much average at both. His arm is a little better than Scarborough's, but his range at shortstop is a little worse, hence he is playing second base beside him. Pena has a slightly above average arm from second base, which allows him to snap throws over to first on close plays, a key to the double play. He also has nice, quick, pivot feet, and will make accurate throws.
A+ Combination: J.J. Hardy (SS) and Todd West (2B)
This pair is hands down, the best double play combo in a system full of pretty good ones. Hardy, who doesn't turn 20 until August, has virtually major-league ready defense right now. Everything about his defense grades out above average. He has superb range, and will make extraordinarily tough plays look easy. He is the most fundamentally sound shortstop in the system, too. He is not prone to mental errors, and knows when to eat the ball and when to chance a throw. He has smooth, quick feet that allow him to pivot and throw to second, or to pivot and throw from second, and as good as he is at short, if the Brewers wanted him to play second base, he could be even better there. The worst part of his defensive game is his arm, but it is still well above average, and he can nail runners from deep in the hole as well as make quick, snap, accurate throws to second base. Ironically, the second best shortstop in the system is right beside Hardy, playing second base. West, 23, is almost as good as West, if less unspectacular. He is such a good shortstop that he is easily the best second baseman in the system. He has fluid, agile body actions and will get to a lot of balls other second basemen won't. He has a decent arm for a shortstop, but that means he has a very good arm for s second baseman. Like Hardy, he is also not prone to mental mistakes, though there have been some learning pains as he adjusts to second base. His arm is not quite in the same caliber as Hardy's, but he too could play defense in the majors right now.
A Combination: Ozzie Chavez (SS) and Ralph Santana (2B)
The most raw of all the double play combos, which is to be expected, given both of the players' youth. Chavez, the Brewers' youngest fullseason ballplayer, is just 18, and doesn't turn 19 until next month, and his actions on the field mimic his youth. Looking at him play, you can see a ton of defensive potential, and sometimes that potential turns into amazing plays, but at other times, he looks awkward. He has the tools to be as good of a shortstop as Hardy, but he is not close yet. He already has a good arm and good range, but both will get even better. The big thing with Chavez right now is consistency and instincts. He is so young and inexperienced that while he'll make spectacular plays, routine ones will often cause him trouble. Santana, 21, is probably the worst of the Brewers' fullseason minor league infielders. Nothing about his game really stands out, though it's not like he is horrible. His biggest problem is mental lapses, which shouldn't be happening at second base regularly. Santana doesn't have a strong arm, or above average range, which will keep him at second base and limits his utility options. His strongest suit is his good feet, which are very quick on the pivot, though poor mechanics sometimes negate his quick feet.
Offensive Player Of The Week:
D.J. Clark once again put up monster numbers in the past week, and for the second time this season, he is out offensive player of the week. D.J. hit .409/.519/.818 this past week in 22 at-bats, with a double, a triple, two home runs, ten RBIs and five walks. While he is losing playing time at third base to Corey Hart, his bat is heating up. He played two games at first, three at third and two more in the outfield this past week as manager Mike Caldwell had to find a way to keep Clark's hot bat in the lineup. D.J. was drafted in the 17th round of the 2000 draft by the Brewers, after playing at UNC Charlotte. He is 6'2, 205, bats left, throws right and turns 23 after the season.
Last Week: Steve Scarborough, SS, Huntsville
May 27th: Corey Hart, 1B, High Desert
May 20th: Brad Nelson, 1B, Beloit:
May 13th: DJ Clark, 3B, High Desert
May 6th: Pete Zoccolillo, OF, High Desert
April 29th: Corey Hart, 1B, High Desert
April 22nd: Ryan Thompson, OF, Indianapolis
April 15th: Ryan Knox, OF, High Desert
Pitcher Of The Week:
After having a wealth of pitchers to choose from last week, things were a bit slower for Brewers pitching in the past week, and as a result, we have our first reliever to win the award, and the name is pretty unlikely, Luis Martinez, whose ERA in Huntsville has been between 6 and 8 all year, didn't allow a run last week in 7 and a third innings pitched. He allowed only two hits and three walks, while striking out seven. A member of the rotation at the beginning of the season, Luis has since moved into the bullpen full time as he tries to get straightened out against AA hitting, and the move to the pen appears to be working, so far. The 22 year old Dominican native was signed as a 16 year old by the Brewers have in 1996. Luis is lefthanded, 6'1 and 183 pounds.
Last Week: Ben Hendrickson, SP, High Desert
May 27th: Jimmy Osting, SP, Indianapolis
May 20th: Derek Lee, SP, Huntsville
May 13th: Ryan Miller, SP, High Desert
May 6th: Doug Dent, SP, High Desert
April 29th: Justin Gordon, SP, High Desert
April 22nd: Brian Nielsen, SP, Beloit
April 15th: Andrew Lorraine, SP, Indianapolis