This is one of a series of posts in which I will be breaking down every team in the National League. I am by no means a credible source—merely a casual fan who knows a little about baseball and would like to share my observations.
Today we look at the Brewers, who in just a few short years have fallen from a position of respectability and the occasional playoff appearance to a place that can best be described as a swirling abyss with little hope for the future. Or, as the locals call it, Milwaukee.
Projected Lineup: SS Jean Segura, 2B Scooter Gennett, RF Ryan Braun, 3B Aramis Ramirez, C Jonathan Lucroy, CF Carlos Gomez, LF Khris Davis, 1B Juan Francisco
The time has finally come, Milwaukee.
Yes, there has been a changing of the guard in the NL Central. Thanks to a few bold acquisitions and ill-fated playoff pushes, the Brewers have depleted their farm system and strongly asserted themselves as the new basement-dwellers of the division for years to come.
Credit should go where it’s due. GM Doug Melvin, shrewd businessman that he is, assured the team’s futility by investing in yet another free agent starter the team doesn’t need. Anyone in Milwaukee will tell you, “we could’ve finished last with Kyle Lohse,” but that wasn’t good enough for the Brewers’ brass, who inked Matt Garza to a completely unnecessary four-year deal this offseason. The over-the-hill starter should struggle with consistency, tax the bullpen, all while preventing development of young starters by blocking several worthy prospects from rotation spots.
The team still has Ryan Braun under contract, from whom no one knows what type of production to expect this year. It’s quite possible Braun himself doesn’t even know what to expect. After his latest performance-enhancing drug fiasco, there’s some skepticism over the extent of his drug habits. Sure, he admitted to only juicing the one time, but come on, that public apology was just about as far-fetched as a politician making promises about taxes.
The point is, no one really knows exactly how long he’s been “playing clean”. And in any case, there’s too much animosity between Braun and the Brewers’ fan base for him to ever play comfortably in Milwaukee again.
What Braun needs is a change of scenery. His contract would seem very attractive to a team that believes, as I do, that Braun could reattain superstar status in a different uniform. The Brewers need to decide whether to pull the trigger on a deal to ship Braun away that would signal the beginning of a years-long rebuilding process. A deal to bring a couple high-profile prospects to Milwaukee might be what the team needs at this point. It would be a good move if the Brewers are well out of contention at the trade deadline, which seems like a likely scenario.
If you had to pinpoint one bright spot on the team, it’d be the bullpen. Milwaukee finished fifth in the majors in bullpen ERA last season, thanks in a large part to the best closer you’ve never heard of, Jim Henderson. He’s got lights-out stuff, and should remain Milwaukee’s closer, despite the Brewers re-signing former closer Francisco Rodriguez.
Also look out for Tyler Thornburg, who at the season’s outset will be blocked from a rotation spot. He should at least make the bullpen and become insurance in case one of the starters goes down.
In summary, don’t place any bets on the Brewers in the coming season. But it might be worth seeing what odds you could get on Khris Davis hitting more dingers than Chris Davis. It’s a long shot, sure, but Milwaukee’s gotta have something to root for.
Projected Finish: 69-93, Fifth place in NL Central