The Brewers lost more than they gained this offseason but look good entering the season as their crop of former top prospects has had another year to develop.
The Brewers are a sleeper team. Milwaukee has one of the best outfields in the league and an infield capable of doing a lot of damage. Their starting rotation is solid but lacks depth and their bullpen remains shaky.
Can the Brew Crew overcome their inefficiencies that doomed them last season or are they destined to remain mired in mediocrity?
Batting Average: 17th
1B: Adam Lind, Matt Clark
Lind missed close to 70 games last year and saw his power disappear as he hit just six home runs in 318 plate appearances after hitting 23 in 521 appearances the previous year. Overall, though, Lind had a strong limited season despite the lack of power, batting a career-high .321 with a .860 OPS, 40 RBI, 38 R, and 24 2B. Lind does a good job of getting on base and hitting doubles, so even if the home run pop doesn’t return, he’s a worthwhile bat. He struggles against lefties, though, so expect to see Jonathan Lucroy man some of the first base duties against southpaws.
Clark is trying to win a job out of spring training and has impressed with three home runs in 38 spring at-bats thus far. Clark is a powerful bat and showed an ability to hit 20+ home runs regularly in the minors while walking a ton and hitting plenty of doubles. Should Lind struggle or get hurt, the Brewers can do a lot worse than Clark in his stead.
2B: Scooter Gennett, Luis Sardinas
Gennett showed a lot of promise in his first full season in the league, hitting 43 extra-base hits while adding 54 RBI and 55 R. He doesn’t strike out a lot, but doesn’t walk a lot either. He has a bit of speed but is primarily a solid fielder who can consistently make contact and hit for a good average.
Sardinas is a top-100 prospect who came over in the deal that sent Yovani Gallardo to Texas. Sardinas is similar to Elvis Andrus, doing a good job of getting on base with singles and walks and terrorizing the basepaths. In the minors he stole 30+ in back-to-back seasons and sports a solid glove.
Ramirez is entering what is expected to be his last season and it makes sense given that he hasn’t been the caliber hitter we’ve seen for well over a decade over the past two seasons. Despite making the All-Star game for the first time since 2008 last year, Ramirez saw his numbers fall in the second half of the season and finished the year with just 15 HR, 66 RBI, and 23 2B. He hasn’t hit more than 15 homers since hitting 27 in 2012 and hasn’t hit more than 23 doubles since hitting a league-leading 50 that same year. His average is still solid and a healthy Ramirez is certainly a lock for double-digit home runs but he’s clearly not the player he used to be and he knows it.
Jimenez hasn’t been up in the Bigs too much but his minor league numbers are stellar. He’s an excellent doubles hitter, capable of hitting 40 consistently, and hit 21 home runs in 117 games last year. He has double-digit steal speed, doesn’t strike out a lot, and can play anywhere in the infield. If he can snap out of his spring funk, expect to see a lot of Jimenez just about everywhere on the field.
SS: Jean Segura
Segura was one of the biggest busts of 2014 as his average fell from .294 to .246, his steals fell from 44 to 20, and his 42 extra-base hits fell to 25, despite playing the same number of games. At just 25, there’s still work to be done but he has the potential to be one of the best shortstops in the game and his strong glove will certainly keep him in the lineup even if his bat is lacking.
C: Jonathan Lucroy, Martin Maldonado
Lucroy has really blossomed into an elite catcher and has been so good he’ll likely see added time at first once again to keep his bat in the lineup. He led the NL with 53 doubles last season while adding 13 home runs, 69 RBI, 73 R, and walking 66 times to just 71 strikeouts and batting .301. He has a great approach at the plate, hits the ball to all sides of the field, and is among the best defensive catchers in the game.
Maldonado is a solid backup from a defensive standpoint but offers next to nothing at the plate.
Ryan Braun’s return from his steroid suspension didn’t go as planned as he hit a career-low 19 home runs, drove in a career-low 81 runs, scored a career-low 68 runs, and batted a career-low .266. He did hit 30 doubles and six triples but that’s hardly the production we’ve come to expect from the perennial MVP candidate. If he can get right, there’s no reason not to expect Braun to return to a 30+ home run hitter who bats ~.300 with 30+ doubles, 20+ SB, and 100 runs on a regular basis, though.
Carlos Gomez has been stellar over the last two seasons, batting .284 in both years while hitting 24 and 23 home runs, driving in 73 and 73, scoring 80 and 95, and stealing 40 and 34 bases. He’s as good an outfielder as you’ll find, capable of hitting plenty of home runs and doubles while also terrorizing the basepaths when he hits singles. He’s also a stellar defensive outfielder and his two All-Star bids the last two years are just the start.
Khris Davis only batted .244 with a .756 OPS but his 22 HR, 69 RBI, 70 R, and 37 2B are all great production from a 26-year-old outfielder in his first full season and a sign of what’s to come. He’s a solid fielder and is capable of hitting a ton of doubles when the ball doesn’t leave the park. We’d like to see him walk and steal more and strike out less but he’s ready to shine as he enters his second full season in the Bigs. This outfield is going to give opposing pitchers nightmares.
Gerardo Parra has great speed, is a good doubles hitter, can draw walks, and fields his position well. He can play all around the outfield and gives the Brew Crew even more speed off the bench.
Logan Schafer is horrific at the plate, just awful. But he has a very good glove and the speed to cover a lot of ground.
Kyle Lohse isn’t what most teams would consider an “ace” but his two seasons with the Brewers have been very solid. After putting up a 3.35 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, and 125 K to 36 BB in 2013, he followed it up with a 3.54 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, and 141 K to 45 BB. We’d like to see him do a better job of keeping the ball in the park but he limits baserunners and is very reliable.
Matt Garza isn’t a star but he has also hasn’t put up an ERA over 3.95 in any season since 2006. His 3.64 ERA and 1.18 WHIP last season are all par for the course and while his strikeouts have fallen as he’s aged he has done a better job of keeping the ball in the park.
Wily Peralta improved across the board from his fairly solid rookie campaign in 2013, going 17-11 with a 3.53 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, and 154 K to 61 BB. If he can do a better job of limiting hits and home runs, he’s very close to reaching the next level.
Mike Fiers was limited to just 10 starts and four relief appearances last season after spending most of the year in Triple-A but was stellar when he did play, posting a 2.13 ERA, 0.88 WHIP, and 76 K to 17 BB. He’ll need to stay healthy and avoid his propensity for giving up a lot of hits but if he can play anywhere near the level he was at last season he can quickly reach the potential he flashed in the minors.
Jimmy Nelson gave up a lot of hits in his first stint in the Majors last season but showed an ability to limit baserunners and home runs as well as anyone while in the minors. He seems to have the control issues he showed in the minors in check but will need to work on avoiding bats if he’s going to be an impact player this season.
Francisco Rodriguez turned in a strong season in his first full season closing since 2010, saving 44 of a possible 49 games while posting a 3.04 ERA, 0.99 WHIP, and 73 K to 18 BB. He was hurt by the home run ball, allowing a cringe-inducing 1.9 HR/9 but was somehow able to limit the damage. He’ll need to get that number down to stick as the team’s closer but there’s no reason not to expect another strong campaign from the veteran hurler.
Jonathan Broxton is ready to step in if K-Rod does struggle or gets hurt after a very nice bounceback season in 2014. He posted a 1.86 ERA and 1.01 WHIP in 48 innings with the Reds but struggled a bit in 11 appearances with the Brewers, allowing five runs in 10 innings. When healthy he’s proven a reliable mid-2.00s ERA pitcher who can limit the damage despite a big dropoff in strikeouts since his prime years in LA.
Jim Henderson is ready for his own bounceback after he was limited to just 11.1 innings last season and gave up nine runs and three homers in just 14 games. The previous year he was electric as the team’s closer, saving 28 games while posting a 2.70 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, and 75 K to 24 BB. He’ll need to limit the home runs if he’s going to last but there’s plenty of hope for another strong season from the big righty.
Will Smith struggled with baserunners in his first full season as a reliever, giving up 8.5 H/9 and 4.2 BB/9. He has a good strikeout arm and is certainly effective most of the time but he’ll need to limit the baserunners because he can’t keep getting himself out of jams consistently.
Neal Cotts was stellar in 2013, putting up a monstrous 1.11 ERA, 0.95 WHIP, and 65 K to 18 BB in in 57 innings but struggled last season, posting a 4.32 ERA, 1.34 WHIP, and 8.9 H/9. He’s always been a wildly inconsistent pitcher and, at 35, it’s hard to expect him to be better than last year, especially given his six runs allowed through 5.1 innings already this spring.
Brandon Kintzler has now turned in two good seasons as a reliable middle reliever for Milwaukee and while he doesn’t strike out a lot of batters and gets himself into jams at times he does a solid job of working his way out. Still, he’ll need to lower his 9.6 H/9 and 1.2 HR/9 considerably if he’s going to be dependable.
Offense: B- to B
Starting Pitching: C+ to B-
Overall: C+ to B-