2023 MLB Season Preview: Milwaukee Brewers


2022 Record: 86-76 (.531 win%, 2nd in NL Central)

2023 Payroll: $106,644,960 (19th)

2023 Projected Lineup:

1. LF Christian Yelich, .250 AVG/.355 OBP/.419 SLG, 3.1 fWAR

2. SS Willy Adames, .243 AVG/.315 OBP/.438 SLG, 3.8 fWAR

3. 1B Rowdy Tellez, .251 AVG/.329 OBP/.483 SLG, 2.3 fWAR

4. C William Contreras, .245 AVG/.317 OBP/.441 SLG, 2.0 fWAR

5. DH Jesse Winker, .255 AVG/.359 OBP/.428 SLG, 1.7 fWAR

6. 3B Luis Urias, .241 AVG/.329 OBP/.407 SLG, 2.7 fWAR

7. RF Brian Anderson, .226 AVG/.308 OBP/.373 SLG, 0.8 fWAR

8. CF Garrett Mitchell, .236 AVG/.308 OBP/.366 SLG, 1.3 fWAR

9. 2B Brice Turang, .237 AVG/.308 OBP/.346 SLG, 1.0 fWAR

10. INF Mike Brosseau, .218 AVG/.296 OBP/.364 SLG, 0.1 fWAR

11. 1B Luke Voit, .228 AVG/.311 OBP/.409 SLG, 0.2 fWAR

2023 Projected Starting Rotation:

1. Corbin Burnes, 197.0 IP/3.14 ERA/1.09 WHIP, 4.9 fWAR

2. Brandon Woodruff, 173.0 IP/3.47 ERA/1.13 WHIP, 3.5 fWAR

3. Freddy Peralta, 138.0 IP/3.98 ERA/1.24 WHIP, 2.0 fWAR

4. Eric Lauer, 156.0 IP/4.30 ERA/1.32 WHIP, 1.3 fWAR

5. Wade Miley, 125.0 IP/4.39 ERA/1.42 WHIP, 1.1 fWAR

2023 Projected Top 4 Relievers:

1. Devin Williams, 65.0 IP/3.12 ERA/1.20 WHIP, 0.7 fWAR

2. Matt Bush, 63.0 IP/3.54 ERA/1.19 WHIP, 0.6 fWAR

3. Hoby Milner, 62.0 IP/3.88 ERA/1.27 WHIP, 0.2 fWAR

4. Peter Strzelecki, 63.0 IP/4.03 ERA/1.40 WHIP, 0.1 fWAR

What Does Baseball Mean to Milwaukee?

Baseball is a staple to a Milwaukee summer, especially before Packers football and after Bucks basketball. While the Brewers did experience a slight drop in attendance, a winning season and a playoff push should help with that. 

Additionally, there have been some motions in trying to renew a stadium lease to keep the Brewers in Milwaukee for at least the next 20 years. Nothing has been signed yet, but this shouldn’t be a huge concern in the long run.

2022 Offseason Recap:

The Brewers finished the 2022 season with an 86-76 record, one game out of the playoffs. This was a huge disappointment for a team with World Series ambitions only a year earlier, so there was a lot to do. 

This offseason began not with a player transaction, but with a front office shift. President of baseball operations David Stearns stepped aside into an advisory role while general manager Matt Arnold took over in his place. While Stearns is still committed to the Brewers through 2023, he will most likely be departing for a similar position after the conclusion of the year. Arnold will most likely operate in a similar fashion to Stearns, so there will not be a big change in approach.

Several players departed in free agency, such as Andrew McCutchen, Taylor Rogers, Omar Narvaez, Jace Peterson, and Brad Boxberger. Others such as pitchers Trevor Gott and Jandel Gustave were non-tendered. Fan favorite reliever Brent Suter was claimed off of waivers by Colorado.

Personnel wise, Milwaukee began by acquiring RHP Javy Guerra from Tampa Bay in exchange for prospect Victor Castaneda. Guerra posted a 3.38 ERA in 16 innings of relief for the Rays, but his low strikeout rate of 12.9% leaves room for improvement.

Milwaukee’s first major offseason move was trading outfielder Hunter Renfroe to the Angels in exchange for 3 minor league pitchers, RHP’s Janson Junk, Elvis Peguero, and LHP Adam Seminaris. While all three of these pitchers are minor league players, Junk and Peguero have some major league experience, so they could be used in low-leverage innings. However, this will not heal the loss of Renfroe, who was one of Milwaukee’s most consistent hitters. 

The Brewers then traded 2B Kolten Wong to the Seattle Mariners in exchange for OF Jesse Winker and INF Abraham Toro. Winker had a rough season in Seattle posting several career lows in offense, along with some rough fielding. However, he has played much better in previous seasons with Cincinnati, as the Brewers would well know. Toro posted a .185 AVG in spring training and was sent to Triple-A Nashville, so expect to wait for him to heat up his bat before seeing him in the Brewers infield. 

Both of these moves were met with praise, but also a fair amount of backlash, as some accused the Brewers of cutting payroll by removing Wong and Renfroe, two of their better hitters. However, Milwaukee quickly made up for it by sliding into a three-team deal that sent star catcher Sean Murphy from Oakland to Atlanta. The Brewers obtained catcher William Contreras and pitcher Justin Yeager from Atlanta, along with reliever Joel Payamps from Oakland. All it cost them was prospect OF Esteury Ruiz.

This move was seen as a major victory for the Brewers, as Contreras was an all-star catcher who filled a major hole after the departure of Omar Narvaez. Contreras had an .860 OPS with 20 home runs in 97 games for the Braves in 2022. While his defensive framing is below average, the Brewers have had a history of improving catchers behind the plate, as shown with Omar Narvaez. As the cherry on top, Joel Payamps should get some playing time with Milwaukee’s bullpen. 

During the remainder of the offseason, the Brewers acquired pitcher Bryse Wilson from Pittsburgh and INF Owen Miller from Cleveland. They additionally signed LHP Wade Miley, INF/OF Brian Anderson, and 1B Luke Voit. Expect Miley and Anderson to get significant playing time at the beginning of the season in particular, but these moves are depth moves that shouldn’t move the needle a lot, barring an injury.

Finally, all players who were eligible for arbitration signed one-year deals to avoid it, with one notable exception: Corbin Burnes. Burnes lost his arbitration case against the Brewers and thus will make $10.01 million instead of his requested $10.75 million. In the days to follow, it was very clear that he was upset about the hearing, stating that his relationship with the Brewers was definitely hurt by the hearing. While he will still be a Brewer in 2023, this all but solidifies in stone a trade from the team in the offseason, barring a change.

2023 Regular Season Preview:

The Brewers will be trying to return to the playoffs in 2023, and there is a realistic path to them doing so. Their best chance of making the postseason is by winning the NL Central. While Chicago and Pittsburgh have improved, they most likely will not pose a legitimate threat to winning the division, and Cincinnati is in the midst of a rebuild, leaving St. Louis as the primary threat. The Brewers and Cardinals matched up extremely well with each other last season, and this shouldn’t change in 2023.

Milwaukee’s outfield will consist of Chrisitan Yelich in left field, however, that is where the certainty ends. With Tyrone Taylor injured, this opens the door for opportunities, especially in regard to younger players. While Jesse Winker is a right fielder, his -16 defensive runs saved were one of the worst in MLB in 2022, so expect him to mainly play designated hitter. 

Garrett Mitchell will get lots of time at center field, and expect prospects such as Sal Frelick and/or Joey Wiemer to get chances once they make their major league debuts. If necessary, infielder Brian Anderson can play right field to help provide some depth.

In the infield, there is a bit more diversity. First base and shortstop are locked up with Rowdy Tellez and Willy Adames respectively holding down these positions. On the other hand, second and third base will be open for internal competition. Luis Urias is the most likely to lock down an everyday position, rotating between 2B and 3B. 

Prospect Brice Turang will get playing time at second base while the newly signed Brian Anderson should get time at third. Additionally, Mike Brosseau will be able to slot in for most left-side infield positions.

Finally, William Contreras and Victor Caritini will be behind the plate catching for the pitchers. Given that Contreras has a high batting average against lefties compared to Caratini’s sub-.200 average, expect him to start on days when Milwaukee is facing a left-handed pitcher. Both catchers will most likely equally split against right-handed pitchers.

Pitching should be Milwaukee’s strength this year, led by a 3 headed monster that could rival almost any rotation in the league. Corbin Burnes and Brandon Woodruff should once again post excellent seasons sans any potential injury. On this front, Freddy Peralta will try to rebound after injuring his shoulder in 2022 and pitch a full season. 

The southpaw Eric Lauer will once again try to replicate his excellent 2022, with Wade Miley bringing up the rear of the 5 man rotation. One could include a 6th starter in Adrian Houser, and once Aaron Ashby recovers from shoulder fatigue, he may also get some starts. In the bullpen, Devin Williams will be the surefire closer, while others such as Matt Bush, Hoby Milner, Peter Strzelecki, Javy Guerra, Joel Payamps, and Gus Varland will get opportunities in various forms of relief.

Player to Watch #1: LF Christian Yelich

As has been the case the past few years, we will again play the “what Christian Yelich will we get this year” game. He has made progress in returning back to form, but he is still leaps and bounds away from his MVP form in 2018-19. His rank in the 90th percentile of hard-hit balls in 2022 demonstrates that he is able to make contact, but a lot of these hits bounced off of the ground and right into the fielder’s glove. With the banning of the shift, look for further improvements from Yelich’s bat.

Player to Watch #2: Brice Turang

Milwaukee’s No. 5 prospect Brice Turang made the team out of training camp and is projected to make his major league debut on opening day. Turang posted 13 home runs and a slugging percentage of .412 at Triple-A Nashville, along with posting excellent defense at 2nd base. With no obvious frontrunner for 2B, aside from Luis Urias, expect Turang to get a lot of playing time to help him get adjusted to the major leagues.

Player to Watch #3: OF Jesse Winker

Winker’s 2022 season with the Seattle Mariners left much to be desired, as he posted career lows in batting average, slugging, and on-base percentage. Milwaukee is obviously counting on a big bounceback from him in a more hitter-friendly ballpark, where he has had lots of success, especially in 2020 and 2021 with the Reds. It will be important for the Brewers offense to get big at-bats from Winker, especially to help fill the departures of Kolten Wong and Hunter Renfroe.

Position Group to Watch: 7th-8th inning bullpen arms

Milwaukee’s bullpen, usually a strength in previous years, was one of the main reasons for their collapse in August and September 2022, as they could not get the consistency that they desperately needed from their arms. With the trade of Josh Hader in August and the departure of Brad Boxberger to the division rival Cubs in free agency, the Brewers will be looking to see who can lock down late-inning relief appearances, especially when they have a lead. While Devin Williams has the 9th inning locked down and is an extremely reliable closer, the 7th and 8th innings are up in the air.

Matt Bush is the most likely candidate for a lockdown role, as he held opponents to an average under .200 in 2022. However, the home run ball is what really hurt him, as he gave up six homers in 17 appearances. Hoby Milner and Peter Strzelecki both ensured their spots in the bullpen last year by posting good performances in high-leverage spots, so expect them to get opportunities as well. Looking at long relief, pitchers like Adrian Houser and (eventually) Aaron Ashby could assist in this role.

2023 Record Prediction: 89-73

This feels like one of the most “up-in-the-air” seasons that the Brewers have had in recent memory, as there is a vast array of possibilities on how the season goes. Vegas and Pecota have the Brewers at 86 wins, while Fangraphs has them at 84, and this is a more-or-less reasonable assessment. 

There is a world in which Milwaukee’s offense rebounds, their bullpen finds consistency to match previous Brewers seasons, and their pitching holds down the fort as they take back the division from the St. Louis Cardinals. 

There is also a world in which they fail to find consistency with both hitting and pitching and fail to take games from weaker opponents, thus sputtering them to a win total in the 70s.

I predict the Brewers to reach a slightly optimistic 89 wins in 2023, as I think the starting pitching will rebound and Milwaukee’s core pitching tandem of Burnes, Woodruff, and Peralta will hold down the fort. The bullpen will most likely be shaky during the early months until Counsell finds the right people to hold the later innings during close games. 

The hitting should remain where it was last year, with Tellez and Adames carrying the bulk of the power. I expect young players like Garrett Mitchell, Brice Turang, and eventually others such as Joey Wiemer and Sal Frelick to get some playing time, however, none of them will most likely provide a Juan-Soto-like injection to the team.

Eight-nine wins might be enough to win the relatively-weak NL Central, as St. Louis is once again the main competition. A wild card is unlikely with the stacked NL East and the Padres and Dodgers competing in the west. The Brewers will be in the hunt for a playoff spot right until the wire, but whether they make it or not remains to be seen. If they fall out of contention, expect some major shakeups, especially with players such as Corbin Burnes and Willy Adames approaching high arbitration values and looking at potential extensions and/or trades.

Categories: 2023 Season Preview, Articles, Season Analysis

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