NL Central Previews: Milwaukee Brewers


Cubs fans don't need to be reminded of how the Brewers season went in 2018. This is a season preview, however, so I really have no choice here. Milwaukee rode a late surge to finish with a 95-67 record and a tie for first-place with Chicago. The Brew Crew won the bonus game 163 and won the division with a 96-67 mark. They blew by the Colorado Rockies in the NLDS, before dropping the NLCS to the Dodgers in six games. The front office was mostly quiet this winter, other than signing catcher Yasmani Grandal and re-signing infielder Mike Moustakas. So the question entering 2019 is a simple one: Can Craig Counsell's squad repeat the magic of 2018???

Probable Starting Rotation

1. Jhoulys Chacin (R)

2. Freddy Peralta (R)

3. Brandon Woodruff (R)

4. Zach Davies (R)

5. Corbin Burnes (R)

Chacin has gone from cheap starting pitching pickup to staff ace in just a year. Despite his 15-8 record, the 3.50 ERA and only 2 WAR (Cole Hamels generated 2.5 WAR just for the Cubs in 2018) aren't exactly number one starter material. Peralta had a decent rookie season and will have to take on a bigger role in 2019. Woodruff spent a lot of time in the pen last season in preparation for entering the rotation this season. The highly thought of right hander is supposed to be the ace of the future. Davies continues his career of being a not-as-good version of Kyle Hendricks. Jimmy Nelson is trying to return from missing 2018 with a shoulder injury. It's unclear when that will happen, so young Corbin Burnes moves from the 'pen to the rotation. Losing lefty Wade Miley to the Astros could be a big blow, he was the number two starter at the end of last year.

Projected Starting Lineup

1. CF Lorenzo Cain (R)

2. RF Christian Yelich (L)

3. 1B Jesus Aguilar (R)

4. LF Ryan Braun (R)

5. 3B Travis Shaw (L)

6. 2B Mike Moustakas (L)

7. C Yasmani Grandal (S)

8. SS Orlando Arcia (R)

The Brewers maintain a deep and powerful lineup in 2019. Yelich, of course, had a tremendous second half en route to the MVP award. Cain had an excellent year out of the leadoff spot hitting over 300 with nearly a 400 on base percentage. Aguilar and Shaw provide 30-plus homer power at the infield corners. Mike Moustakas moves to second base in an attempt to get all the Brewers bats into the lineup. Orlando Arcia may need to do yeoman's work on defense at short, his bat is an afterthought. Grandal is an excellent framer with a power bat, the rest of his defense is iffy, as the Brewers saw in the NLCS. Cubs' fan favorite Ryan Braun is still lurking in the lineup, even if he's a bit long in the tooth.

Projected Bullpen

1. Closer Josh Hader (L)

2. RP Jacob Barnes (R)

3. RP Junior Guerra (R)

4. RP Jeremy Jeffress (R)

5. RP Corey Knebel??? (R)

6. RP Alex Wilson (R)

7. RP Chase Anderson (R)

8. RP Alex Claudio (L)

The Brewers strongest area last season was the bullpen, which was leaned on heavily down the stretch. That reliance may have come at a big cost this spring. There are already two significant injuries to Jeffress and Knebel this camp. Jeffress is out until at least late April with shoulder pain. More troubling, Knebel has a partially torn UCL in his elbow and he may need Tommy John. That puts even more pressure on the left arm of elite closer Josh Hader. Hader threw 81 innings last season, even Steve Cishek can't compete with that workload. Anderson has fallen all the way to a bullpen role after a rough 2018 in the rotation, as has Junior Guerra. Wilson was just signed after the rash of injuries. Barnes is a hard thrower and Claudio is a lefty option brought over from Texas. The elephant in the room is Craig Kimbrel, honestly if Jeffress and Knebel are out for a long time they will need to sign him badly.

Projected Bench

1. OF Ben Gamel (L)

2. IF Hernan Perez (R)

3. IF/OF Eric Thames (L)

4. C Manny Pina (R)

Gamel has earned a bench spot this spring and will get some time in the outfield. Perez can play pretty much anywhere on the diamond. Thames provides a lot of power off the bench for pinch-hitting opportunities. Pina will be the backup catcher to Grandal. The Brewers are keeping a short bench with all the bullpen uncertainty.


The Brewers have a lot of question marks entering this season. The rotation is very young and will rely on three starters who have never pitched a full season in the majors. The bullpen already has major injury questions before the year begins. The offense looks good with a very deep lineup. They may have to outscore opponents a bit more in 2019. A lot will ride on Josh Hader's ability to be as effective as he was last season. One thing that should be avoided at all costs is writing them off, this is an overachieving team.




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  • I don't think that the Brewers will repeat. Yelich will. It was not an accident that he was mpv. The 'score early win often' ingredient will be less effective because Cain will not duplicate, and others, most likely, will not either.

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    Maybe it is my rose-colored (Cub-colored) glasses but only 2 LHP on a staff of 13 pitchers seems REALLY low to me. Unless they have some significant "reverse-split" guys that might come back to bite them. Especially when one of those LHP is the "closer."

    I think moving Hader out of a "set-up" role might hurt them as well. Managers tend to "save the closer" for the 9th only to lose the game in the 7th inning. A good/great set-up guy--someone who can kill a potential rally when the starter tires but before the closer can come in--is more valuable to me than the ability to "slam-the-door" in the 9th.

  • In reply to Joel Mayer:

    Cardinals have only Miller as a lefty on their entire staff.

  • If Milwaukee makes it to the playoffs again this year it's going to be all about their offense, and as this article clearly points out - what sort of shape is their bullpen in? Their rotation is - indeed - suspect.

    Solid Article Sean - happy almost season opener!

  • F the Brewers

  • I'm with ya -- Buck the Frewers. LOL!!!

  • Zobrist and Bryant are both ending spring training at an identical .200 BA. Add Heyward into the lineup and it's gonna be a long, long season. Bryant has shown no evidence of improvement and Z is just old. Joe insists on playing Z over Bote. He keeps thinking things are going to change. Doesn't understand age doesn't improve.

  • In reply to veteran:

    Zobrist hit .206 in Spring Training last year and had a pretty decent 2018. Contreras, Russell and Schwarber all hit better than .300. Mike Freeman hit .407. Tell me again how important those Spring Training stats are?

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    In reply to Cliff1969:

    Zobrist and Bryant are just trying to get into "game-shape" and "get their timing." BA is a poor measure of their success in what they are trying to do.

    Besides, why look at the glass as "half-empty." We sent Happ to the minors presumably to allow us to put Johnny Field (which is one of the great baseball names EVER) and his .321 BA (and impressive .406 OBP and .536 SLG!) and 4 HR on the roster. That is an MVP type season. We can forget about Russell (and Baez for that matter) with Adames at SS hitting .408/.455/.735 and 3 HR. They went ahead and cut a guy with a 1.000 BA for crying out loud (Tazawa).

    Afterall, the best way to judge a guys readiness for play in the regular season is their ST BA. LOL

    All kidding aside, maybe Bryant will struggle. Maybe Zobrist is "old." That is not impossible nor even implausible. But, as I said above, it is not their goal to put together impressive BA in the spring. There are likely other things that they are working on.

  • In reply to Joel Mayer:

    I'm not sure you meant your reply to go to me, as we agree 100% on the issue. I was using a few ST BAs from 2018 to illustrate the absurdity of depending on them.

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    In reply to Cliff1969:

    Correct. It was meant for the previous poster. We do agree according to our comments.

  • In reply to Joel Mayer:

    For what it is worth...the Cubs outscored every team in Spring Training this year.....

  • In reply to Joel Mayer:

    And don't forget Nico Hoerner too, we will probably bat .800 in MLB if he's already batting over .600 and 1.800 OPS in spring training.

    Maybe he forgot about how great Ian Happ looked in spring training of the 2018 season. He was poised for a great season just like many low-experience MLB players have over many March's of the past.

  • LOL worrying about Spring Training batting average is like worrying about your penis size at age 4. Zobrist and Bryant are going to be fine.

  • I know that if is just Spring, but that was a pretty sweet victory last night vs Boston.

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    In reply to 44slug:

    Victories are always preferable to losing (provided everyone stays healthy). But I won't read anything into it.

  • Kyle Hendricks signs what appears to be an extremely team friendly 4 year extension that locks him up for the next 5 seasons with a $16 million club option for 2024. I absolutely love this deal and lets give a kudos to Hendricks for being reasonable with the organization. Honestly and I'm not just saying this now I think he's one of the most obvious guys to extend on the entire roster and that includes Baez and Kris Bryant in my book. Those 2 will be looking for huge money while they're entering their physical decline years.

    Hendricks doesn't have that problem because he doesn't rely on physical tools. I feel like pinpoint command guys like Hendricks age better than most types of players and I truly believe that Hendricks will perform at a high level throughout the entirety of this deal and it wouldn't surprise me whatsoever to see him sign another extension in 5-6 years I think players of his profile age well once again. He's the type of teammate and intelligent player with his preparation that you want to keep in your locker room and I'm happy for Kyle and his family that they're taken care of for the rest of their lives.

  • In reply to kkhiavi:

    Extension is for $55 million FYI over 4 years with a $16 million team option for 2024

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