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Matt LaPorta: The Next Ryan Braun?


Even though the Brewers already have a surplus of offensive talent with questionable defensive merits, they could not pass up the opportunity to draft another player with a similar pedigree in the first round of last year’s draft. With the 7th overall pick, the Brewers selected University of Florida “outfielder” Matt LaPorta. In his first professional season, LaPorta is already proving he can rake.


While college statistics can be very misleading, it’s hard to misinterpret LaPorta’s line from his senior season. Playing against top-notch collegiate competition in the SEC, LaPorta hit .402/.582/.817 with 20 homers and a ridiculous 55/16 walk/strikeout ratio in 52 games. This season, after seven games in rookie ball, LaPorta was assigned to the Double-A Huntsville Stars. So far, LaPorta has hit .318/.392/.750 with 10 homers in only 32 games. His BB/K ratio of 7/22 leaves something to be desired, but that’s hardly a consideration when a hitter is raking like LaPorta is currently.

The question becomes: where does he fit in? LaPorta is not a good defender – he will likely be relegated to first base or a corner outfield position in the majors, seeing as Designated Hitter is not an option with the Brew Crew. The Brewers have Prince Fielder entrenched at first and Ryan Braun and Corey Hart locked into the outfield. Thus, there seem to be only two solutions:

1)      Make a trade. Everyone loves young (read: affordable) hitting (well…except for the Dodgers), and the Brewers’s already suspect rotation was weakened by the loss of Yovani Gallardo for the year. However, despite the offseason deals between the Rays and Twins and between the Rangers and Reds where Delmon Young, Matt Garza, Edinson Volquez, and Josh Hamilton (amongst others) switched teams, trades involving young studs – especially studs who have not yet made it to the majors – are rare. The Brewers would have to find a team who values LaPorta highly, despite his defensive inability, and also has young pitching to spare. The Angels come to mind (how far apart in value are LaPorta and Nick Adenhart?), but the Angels are not exactly known for making blockbuster trades. The Brewers could also trade one of their more-established young players, who probably have more trade value, but also have more internal value, seeing as they’ve proven they can hit at the major league level.

2)      Move someone to center field. This seems like the more likely option. The question is: who? LaPorta is “passable” in the outfield, according to Baseball America’s Jim Callis, but is relatively unathletic and thus would not be a good fit in center. Ryan Braun is still learning the outfield and is hardly a stellar defender, but is athletic enough that there’s a chance (albeit a small one) that he could play center. However, current right-fielder Corey Hart seems to have the best chance of handling center field. An outfield of Hart, LaPorta, and Braun would be no great shakes defensively, but could be one of the best offensive outfields in recent memory.

I cannot pretend to judge these players’ defensive abilities – I am relying on the opinion of analysts I trust. However, Matt LaPorta simply can hit, and guys who can hit force their way into the lineup one way or another. The Brewers have a plethora of offensive talent already; adding Matt LaPorta to their already potent lineup in the near future should give nightmares to fans of other National League teams.