Today’s preview looks at the Milwaukee Brewers. The Brew Crew will look to rebound from a sub-par third place finish in 2012. They did make a run in August and September, which was the only reason they finished with a winning record. I am sure the entire organization hopes that the strong finish last year was a sign of things to come. For the second offseason in a row the focus of media attention is on Ryan Braun, as he should be, but not when it is for being associated with performance enhancing drugs.
As with most teams pitching plays a key role in the success or failure of any team, the Brewers rotation is a huge key for them, if they are to compete. After losing two fifths of their starting rotation from last year, one of their strengths has become a weakness and big question mark, in my estimation. The will be replacing Zack Greinke with Marco Estrada, which is not a good start. They will then rely on some combination of Michael Fiers, Mark Rogers, Wily Peralta, and Chris Narveson, who is hoping to rebound from shoulder surgery, to fill the other three rotation spots. Other less likely possibilities are prospects Tyler Thornburg, Taylor Jungmann and Hiram Burgos. Overall there is some potential here but also some question marks.
The offense remains mostly intact from last year, with the exception of Corey Hart who will be sidelined for two to four months, recovering from knee surgery. It looked like Mat Gamel was going to be given another shot to prove his worth in Hart's absence, that was until Monday's announcement that he will miss the entire 2013 with a knee injury. The Brewers have two options as I see it. One, they could go in house with either projected utility infielder Taylor Green, or their top first base prospect Hunter Morris, who hit .303/.357/.563 with 28 homers and 113 RBI's for double a Huntsville last year. The second option is to bring in a veteran, a quick survey of the available options means it would be Aubrey Huff or former brewer Carlos Lee. What they choose to do remains to be seen but my hunch is that they will stay in house. They also appear to be fully committed to having Jean Segura play short, even with the signing of Alex Gonzalez. Finally with the departure of Nyjer Morgan to Japan, it looks like Carlos Gomez will be given his shot as the everyday center fielder, or possibly the emergence of Logan Schafer. Outside of these three moves the Brewers will be running out the same offense they did last year, led by Braun and Ramirez.
The Brewers do not appear to have upgraded anywhere and at best have kept the status quo. Therefore, there is no reason to expect that this team will be any better than last years team, and that almost certainly won't be enough to make the playoffs this year.
Now having said all that, lets look at some numbers and details from the previous year.......
Notable Additions: LHP Mike Gonzalez (Free agent, signed 1/7), LHP Tom Gorzelanny (Free agent, signed 12/21)
Notable Losses: SP Shaun Marcum (NYM), OF Nyjer Morgan (Yokohama BayStars in Japan), RP Jose Veras (HOU), RP Manny Parra (CIN), RP Kameron Loe (SEA), RP Francisco Rodriguez (FA)Youngsters to watch: RHP Taylor Jungmann, RHP Tyler Thornburg, RHP Wily Peralta, CF Logan Schafer, IF Taylor Green, 1B Hunter Morris
Manger: Ron Roenicke
2012 payroll: $97.6 Million (10th in MLB)
Avg. home attendance: 34,955 (11th in MLB)
Vs. NLC: 45-34
Notable 2012 stat rankings:
Runs - 3rd (776)
HRs - 4th (202)
SBs - 1st (158)
ERA - 22nd (4.22)
BAA - 21st (.261)
WHIP - 22nd (1.36)
Errors - 13th (99)
2B Rickie Weeks
LF Ryan Braun
CF Carlos Gomez
SS Jean Segura
RHP Yovani Gallardo
RHP Marco Estrada
RHP Michael Fiers
LHP Chris Narveson
RHP Mark Rogers
CL John Axford
Best Case scenario: They actually get respectable production from spots two through five in the rotation. They also get some kind of production from first base, whether it's from Mat Gamel or someone else. Jean Segura makes strides, proving why he was the centerpiece of the Greinke to the Angels deal. If all these things fall into place, they could be in the hunt for a playoff spot. I don't expect they would make much noise in the playoffs, even if they have Corey Hart back by then. Final record: 90-72 (2nd place in NL Central)
Worst Case Scenario: The rotation, with the exception of Gallardo, struggles to pitch well enough to keep them in games. The offense can't single handily keep them in anymore, with Hart missing and Aoki slumping in his sophomore year. Weeks shows that last year was a trend and not just a blip, and Ramirez starts to show his age with decreased productivity. This would lead teams to just pitch around Braun, as he would be the only threat in the lineup. Absolute worst-case they could end up in the division basement just behind the Cubs, but more likely even with a nightmare season they probably still avoid the cellar and finish 4th in the division, ahead of the Cubs. Final record: 70-92 (4th place in NL Central)
And in case you missed a preview from this week...
NL Central previews:
Monday 2/18: Pittsburgh Pirates
Tuesday 2/19: Chicago Cubs
Wednesday 2/20: Milwaukee Brewers
Thursday 2/21: St. Louis Cardinals
Friday 2/22: 2013 All NL Central Team