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Brewers Q&A

I answered some questions for my labelmates at Brew Crew Ball, and you can find the link here. Jeff was kind enough to respond by answering five of my questions. If I could do it again, I would have asked "So, any tips on how to keep sane through a decade of sub-.500 baseball?" They're on the other side of the cycle, the lucky stiffs.

My questions:

The Giants have the #5 pick in the 2008 draft, and they're in dire need of position player help. However, their best prospect was recently moved to first, and the best two or three college hitters in the draft are first baseman. How is Matt LaPorta working out so far? Do you agree with the decision to draft him? I'd love to see the Giants do something that practical in the draft.

For the Brewers, I think it was a smart move. LaPorta proved in Single-A and in the AFL that his bat will play in pro ball. From day one it was clearly as much a win-now pick as you can make in the draft: It's possible LaPorta will be ready by September, and some folks even wanted to give him a shot to make the team this spring. I'm not sure it's the type of pick the Giants should be making right now, though, unless you're better set up to contend in 2010-2012 than I think you are.

I bet you miss Wayne Franklin, though I haven't seen any mentions of him on your site. Even though you'll never be able to replace Wayne Franklin, you got a pretty good consolation prize in Carlos Villanueva. Do you see him as a back-of-the-rotation stopgap, or can he be more?

I have fond memories of Wayne Franklin. In 2002, he made four starts with an ERA of 2.63, which made him great in a Strat-O-Matic league with the playing time rules turned off. Not enough to make the '02 Brewers competitive, but enough to make it more fun. I can't say I wish he was on this year's team though. As for Villanueva, I (and a lot of other Brewers fans) really like him. He showed all kinds of versatility last year, and appears to have a higher ceiling than people were expecting when he was in the minors. He's never going to be more than a #3 or #4 starter, but this is the year he's likely to establish himself as just that...pretty good return for Wayne Franklin, I think.

How is the Ryan Braun outfield experiment going? Is there any other player in the game you would trade him for?

He hasn't looked great in left, but Bill Hall has looked pretty good at third, and that's the bigger concern. If I had the option of swapping Braun for Tulowitzki or Sizemore, I'd have to consider it, but it's a very short list that you could even talk about in that vein.

 What is J.J. Hardy's ceiling? He cooled off substantially after his fast '07 start. Is he a stopgap, or is he a part of the contending future? Can we borrow him for a couple of seasons? He'd be our cleanup hitter.

His start last year was probably something of a fluke, but a solid defensive shortstop with above-average offense for the position could certainly be part of a championship team. There is one shortstop prospect in the organization named Alcides Escobar--he's an extremely talented defender, but his bat hasn't yet come along for the ride. It's possible, I suppose, that Escobar could push Hardy to third, or Hardy could end up in a trade, but I would guess he'll be playing short for the Brewers at least through his arbitration years.

How is your bullpen situation? Are there enough promising arms to prevent another Linebrink-type trade?

Doug Melvin's #1 priority this offseason was to put together a bullpen that would not, under any circumstances, need Linebrink-like reinforcements. Aside from Eric Gagne's three-batter disaster on opening day, the pen has looked great. David Riske, in particular, appears to be the guy that Melvin thought he was acquiring when he traded for Linebrink. For the last couple of years, Derrick Turnbow has kept falling on the depth chart, and as long as nothing happens to force his way back up the list, we'll be in good shape.

Bonus question: Whatever happened to Greg Bruso?

At this point, I suspect he's selling insurance somewhere. I hope he makes a Jim Morris-style comeback, though: I have his autograph on a couple of 2003 Bowman cards. Maybe he can play first base.

I think I'd try Glenn Woolard at first before Bruso, but you can make an argument for either over Rich Aurilia. Thanks for taking the time to do this.