(Image: Call to the Pen)
by Ryan Castellano
2017 Record: 86-76 (2nd in NL Central)
2017 Payroll: $83,488,679 (30th)
All player projections from Steamer
Projected 2018 Lineup:
- LF Christian Yelich .296 AVG/.381 OBP/.491 SLG, 3.9 WAR
- CF Lorenzo Cain .283 AVG/.344 OBP/.437 SLG, 2.8 WAR
- 3B Travis Shaw .249 AVG/.323 OBP/.454 SLG, 1.5 WAR
- 1B Ryan Braun .277 AVG/.344 OBP/.496 SLG, 1.4 WAR
- RF Domingo Santana .258 AVG/.353 OBP/.468 SLG, 1.4 WAR
- SS Orlando Arcia .262 AVG/.313 OBP/.405 SLG, 1.2 WAR
- C Manny Pina .251 AVG/.306 OBP/.388 SLG, 0.7 WAR
- 2B Jonathan Villar .250 AVG/.323 OBP/.398 SLG, 0.2 WAR
Projected 2018 Rotation:
- Chase Anderson 168.0 IP/4.77 ERA/1.35 WHIP, 1.8 WAR
- Zach Davies 176.0 IP/4.71 ERA/1.42 WHIP, 1.9 WAR
- Jhoulys Chacin 139.0 IP/4.58 ERA/1.43 WHIP, 1.6 WAR
- Junior Guerra 69.0 IP/5.03 ERA/1.49 WHIP, 0.3 WAR
- Wade Miley 106.0 IP/4.36 ERA/1.44 WHIP, 1.4 WAR
The Brewers are exiting their rebuild and attacked this offseason to field a team that is much improved over the team that finished one win short of a wild card game berth last season. They bolstered their rotation depth by signing Jhoulys Chacin. They also added a few relief options in signing for Matt Albers, Yovani Gallardo, and Boone Logan. While the Brewers failed to improve at second base following the departure of Neil Walker, they managed to improve the overall lineup by signing former Royals star Lorenzo Cain and took advantage of the Marlins teardown, acquiring Christian Yelich in exchange for prospects.
Last year, the Brewers shocked everyone by remaining competitive until the last day of the season. They finished in second in the NL Central and even led the division by 5.5 games at the All-Star break. The question this year is to see if the Brewers can renew their competitive spirit and prove that last year was more than just a lucky break.
The Brewers’ success this season will depend largely on the ability of the starting rotation to overcome the injury to Jimmy Nelson (175.1 IP, 4.9 fWAR in 2017) in the early months of the season. While the Brewers managed to add much rotation depth, they will still need to rely heavily on Chase Anderson (141.1 IP, 3.3 fWAR) and Zach Davies (191.1 IP, 2.8 fWAR) to improve on their already stellar numbers from last season. Jhoulys Chacin and Wade Miley will be expected to eat up innings in the rotation, and Junior Guerra will have the chance to prove he belongs in the big league rotation. In addition, Brent Suter and Brandon Woodruff will get the chance throughout the season to step up if someone starts to falter. If Anderson, Davies, and Guerra can post great numbers this season, the Brewers will have a solid chance of repeating their record from last year.
The Brewers infield will be interesting to watch this season as Travis Shaw will attempt to prove himself as a viable option at 3B, as the offseason acquisitions of Christian Yelich and Lorenzo Cain force Ryan Braun to 1B. Second base was a major area of need in the offseason but was not addressed. If the Brewers are in contention around the trade deadline expect them to be on the hunt for a new second baseman.
The new and improved Brewers outfield will be the heart of the team’s lineup, with Lorenzo Cain and Christian Yelich adding more firepower and on-base skills to a team that was already 6th in the national league in walks last season. Domingo Santana also projects to have a well-above-average bat while providing solid defense in right field.
The Brewers bullpen was nothing short of fantastic last year, led by Corey Knebel who dominated the ninth inning, finishing with 39 saves and putting up 2.8 fWAR in the process. Given the volatility of bullpens from year to year, the projection systems do not expect him to repeat his incredible season but do expect him to put up another solid campaign. The offseason additions to the bullpen add much-needed depth that will prevent the bullpen from becoming a problem in the season.
The Brewers are on track for an interesting season. Last year they benefited from phenomenal performances in the bullpen and rotation, and they will need their young players to step up and their top performers to repeat their accomplishments from last year to have a shot at the playoffs. While the Cubs look like they will be tough to top within the division, expect the Brewers to be strong contenders for one of the two wild-card spots come October.
Projected Record: 82-80
Player to Watch: Ryan Braun
As Braun enters the season at 34 years old, expectations will fall on him not only to achieve more than he did last season (.348 wOBA, 1.5 WAR) but to also act as a leader to a very young and competitive Brewers team. A return to form for Braun would signal that this is a Brewers team that will not be taken likely.
Player to Watch: Orlando Arcia
As the youngest player on the roster, there is lots of room for improvement for Orlando Arcia. While his defense is solid at shortstop, his performance at the plate the past few seasons was not special. Another step forward in his development at the plate should be expected of Arcia this season as he grows into an everyday player for years to come.
Player to Watch: Christian Yelich
Yelich is coming off of back-to-back 4.5 WAR seasons from his time as a Marlin. The Brewers need a true star to lead them to their first postseason berth since 2011, and Yelich is the best candidate for the job. Moving to hitter-friendly Miller Park should boost Yelich’s offensive numbers, and it will be interesting to see how well he handles playing left and right field in the Brewers defense. A strong season and quick adjustment to the new surroundings for Yelich will leave pitchers uneasy against the Brewers lineup.