It's been a rough start to the season for fans of the Milwaukee Brewers. With the offseason departure of Prince Fielder and long-winded Ryan Braun saga, the start of the 2012 season appeared to be a welcome sight.
A little more than a month into the season, that hasn't been the case.
Plagued by injuries, the Brewers are struggling to stay out of the NL Central cellar. Most recently, Fielder's replacement at first base, Mat Gamel, was lost for the season due to an ACL tear. Not only does this delay the answer to the question of whether or not Gamel is a long-term solution at first, it also poses a major question for what options they have for the rest of 2012.
The answer is Corey Hart.
In the games since Gamel's injury, Travis Ishikawa has seen the majority of starts at first and is listed as the starter on the depth chart. This is not an acceptable fix. Ishikawa is a fine player off of the bench but has no business being a starting first baseman. Especially not when a better option is available.
Hart has a build that would be well suited for first, but really, that's not why he should be there. Since becoming the starting right fielder for the Brewers, Hart's defense has been, to put it nicely, frustrating.
In 719 games in right field, he's committed 16 errors. That number might not be high, but anyone that's watched the Brewers play enough during Hart's tenure can attest to the numerous times he's misplayed balls or fumbled his handle on a ball in the corner.
Not to mention, for a guy of his stature, an awful lot of balls seem to get hit over his head. Is some of that due to positioning? Sure. That doesn't change the fact that Hart has never really gotten good jumps on balls hit his way.
Switching to a more positive tone though, Hart has the pop in his bat that's necessary for a first baseman. One could argue that aside from Braun, Hart is the best power hitter the team has. Putting him at first would give the Brewers a legit bat at one of baseball's power positions.
When asked recently about possibility pursuing free-agent first baseman Derek Lee, general manager Doug Melvin dismissed the idea. This likely means that the Brewers are content on looking for help within the organization. If that's the case, Hart presents the best possible solution.
The one thing preventing this move from happening is the injury to Carlos Gomez. Upon his return, Gomez would return to center field, sending Nyjer Morgan to an everyday position in right. Morgan has spent all or part of 33 games in right during his career and has yet to commit an error. Morgan's bat as been dreadful this season, but with more consistent playing time, that might change.
Even if Morgan isn't a solution in right field, corner outfielders are a dime a dozen and the free-agent market would likely yield more options at a lesser cost than bringing in a first baseman would.
Going forward, something needs to be done with first base. Platooning Brooks Conrad, Taylor Green and Ishikawa is not going to propel the Brewers to the postseason. They need a legit bat at the position, and if they're staying within the organization, Hart is the only answer.