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Saturday, February 5, 2011

Previewing the 2011 Season: Casey McGehee

It's easy to overlook Casey McGehee with Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder in the lineup. Yet he not only avoided the sophomore slump in 2010, he led the team in RBI (104), hit 23 home runs, and played in 157 games despite a balky knee. McGehee put together a fine year in 2010 and the Brewers need him to do the same in 2011.

McGehee had cleanup surgery in his right knee after the 2009 season and again had surgery this October to remove two loose bodies in the same knee. Described as "a very minor procedure," he should be 100% by Spring Training. If his knee bothered him throughout 2010 it didn't seem to hinder him much at the plate. Batting behind Prince Fielder again paid dividends for McGehee, the principal beneficiary of Fielder's record 114 walks.

Still, considering the strength of the 2010 Brewers' top five hitters, combined with opposing pitchers not quite giving Fielder the Barry Bonds treatment, one might have hoped for McGehee to knock in even more runs from the five spot. Ryan Braun and Corey Hart also broke 100 RBI on the season and neither enjoyed the privilege of batting behind Fielder.

McGehee's primary strength at the plate lies in his ability to hit the ball with power to the opposite field, a trait that can separate great hitters from good hitters. He worked on this as a youth, a fact that shows to this day. Like most of the starting lineup, we can again expect him to play slightly below-average defense. Entering his third year of Major League service, his production these past two seasons blew away what's expected of a player earning a salary near the league minimum. Brewers fans should expect another big year from him in 2011. If he can get his batting average and on-base percentage back to where they were in 2009 there's no reason he can't improve his HR and RBI totals from 2010.

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