Brewers Add Felipe Lopez To Infield Mix

The Brewers, hanging around in the National League Central, moved to bolster their infield’s offensive production Sunday, acquiring second baseman Felipe Lopez from the Diamondbacks. In exchange, Arizona’s thinned-out farm system gets a boost in outfielder Cole Gillespie and righthander Roque Mercedes.
The Young
Gillespie entered the season ranked ninth among Brewers prospects, but he took a step back when he had right elbow pain in spring training. While he didn’t miss much playing time, he did start the season back in high Class A as a DH before reporting to Triple-A Nashville after 12 games. Gillespie was hitting .242/.332/.424 for the Sounds, and told his hometown paper, the West Linn (Ore.) Tidings, that his elbow was feeling better. He hit .267 in June and July for the Sounds after hitting .210 in his first 105 at-bats for Nashville.

Gillespie, 25, helped Oregon State win the 2006 College World Series championship as a three-hole hitter and run-producer. He doesn’t have an above-average attribute but has gap power, a sharp batting eye and average, well-rounded tools. He profiles more as an extra outfielder as a righthanded corner bat without profile power.

Mercedes, 22, has had his best season as a pro this year with a move to the bullpen at high Class A Brevard County. He entered the year 20-22, 4.50 in his career but was thriving as the Manatees’ set-up man and occasional closer, going 1-1, 1.08 with six saves. He had 45 strikeouts in 41 2/3 innings pitched (9.72 per nine) and had been effective against lefthanded hitters, who were just 11-for-64 against him. Mercedes, signed in August 2004 for $375,000, passed through the Rule 5 draft last year unselected and has to be protected this year on the 40-man roster or be exposed to the process again. He has a live arm and a 90-95 mph fastball, according to one scout who has seen him in the Florida State League, and he also has improved his slider this season.

Lopez makes some sense for a Brewers offense that misses Rickie Weeks’ on-base ability ahead of boppers Prince Fielder and Ryan Braun. Lopez was hitting .301/.364/.412 for Arizona prior to the trade and performed well down the stretch in a pennant race last season for the Cardinals, hitting .385 over the last 43 games. He offers defensive versatility but has played exclusively second base in 2009.

The Brewers didn’t pay a particularly high price to get Lopez, as Gillespie and Mercedes look like future role players rather than key pieces. Lopez, a switch-hitter, is a slight offensive upgrade over Craig Counsell and allows Counsell to return to more of a utility role. With J.J. Hardy struggling offensively, that could mean more time for Counsell at shortstop or third base. Casey McGehee also factors into this mix, and Bill Hall—hitting just .198 and with 34 home runs the last three seasons since hitting 35 in 2006—should grab a bit more bench.