The Brewers are interesting. They are a team who, much like the 2011 Cubs, thinks they can compete this season for a playoff spot. They’re delusional. They are better than they were last season, but they are not better than the Cardinals, Reds, or Pirates in the division. They have no depth to speak of, and with the injury risks on the roster, that’s a terrible combination for a team hoping to make a run at the postseason.
Projected Record: 78-84, 4th Place in NL Central
There are a lot of question marks with this team that makes it unlikely that they top the .500 mark this season or make a significant run at October. That being said, there is still plenty of capable talent to make them a team that can’t be taken lightly as long as they can run out a consistent line-up that stays healthy.
Brewers starting pitching was brutal last season. The addition of Garza will help that, as long as his elbow holds up. If it doesn’t, they can head over to the Home Depot and get more screws for it, though. Gallardo and Lohse are a capable duo to team with Garza at the top of the rotation. With no true ace, though, this team appears to have a group of three starters who are, at best, third starters in a playoff caliber rotation and two more that would make up the bottom. The only true depth is youngster Tyler Thornburg. Injuries to this group could make it a long year in Milwaukee.
This group overachieved last season after Henderson took over for John Axford. Axford figured it out after being demoted, though, and was traded to the Cardinals. The only projected newcomer is the lefty, Will Smith, acquired from the Royals for Nori Aoki. Francisco Rodriguez is back…again…and should be the eighth inning guy in front of Henderson. In Milwaukee, that’s a role he’s served in quite well in his “on again, off again” affair with the organization. As a group, it would be somewhat of a surprise if they were as good as they were last season, but it would be equally surprising if the group was bad. This should be a top 5-6 ‘pen in the National League this season.
Lucroy is one of the best catchers in the game. As a hitter and defender, he’s not the best in either direction, but there are not too many who can flaunt the combination of skill he has at the position. Maldonado is almost purely defensive, but has a great arm, and is more than capable of filling in, handling pitchers, and doing the job. This may be the strongest position group the Brewers have, which is to say, it’s a good set of catchers.
Between Mark Reynolds and Juan Francisco, they sure will hit some pretty home runs. They will also strike out. A lot. First base was a gaping hole for the Brewers last season, and this year it doesn’t figure to be very good, either, beyond the batting practice shows they can put on. Rickie Weeks and Scooter Gennett are probably going to split some time at second base, unless one clearly steps out and performs above the other. The left side of the infield is the strongest, assuming Aramis Ramirez stays healthy. Jean Segura was awesome last year in the first half and cooled off considerably as the season came to a close. He probably settles in around the .280/.330/.420 range. If he stays an above average defender, that’s solid production from short.
The biggest wild card of this group is Ryan Braun. He may or may not be off the juice. He’s moved beyond his physical prime into a time where he should start a slow decline with a rapidly increasing salary, as a 30 year old. He moved over to right to accommodate Khris Davis. And he is going to get booed out of every building he plays in, save for Miller Park…where he’ll probably still hear all about his PED use. Carlos Gomez really put it together last season and is everything you’re looking for in a center fielder. It would be nothing short of shocking if he weren’t as productive this season. Khris Davis takes over in left for his bat. He has a ton of power, but after only 56 games last season, there is probably more of a book on him. He’ll likely struggle some at times as teams adjust to him…but if he gets a hold of one, it’s going to go a long way.
Overall, this looks like a typical Brewers team. They are going to hit the ball a long way a lot. They’re going to score some runs. They may have stretches where they look really, really good. But, they have a lot of question marks from the health perspective and they will also probably go cold for long stretches. They’re going to live and die by the long ball. Chicks dig ‘em, the playoffs don’t. Without depth and high quality top of the rotation pitching, the Brewers will be fun to watch, until the end of September.