Posted on March 25, 2018, by Bryan Zarpentine
The Milwaukee Brewers made a lot of noise in 2017, officially announcing the end of their rebuilding process, only to fall a few games short of a playoff spot. However, the Brew Crew did not mess around during the winter, having arguably the best offseason of any team in baseball. But will it be enough to catch up with the Cubs in the NL Central and claim a playoff spot?
Last season, Milwaukee’s rotation was on par with those belonging to the Cubs and Cardinals. However, the Brewers may have done themselves a disservice by not adding one of the top free agent starters available, most notably Jake Arrieta, Alex Cobb, and Lance Lynn. It’s a little surprising Milwaukee didn’t sign at least one of them. Instead, the Brewers added Jhoulys Chacin and Wade Miley, who should add depth to the rotation but don’t really move the needle much.
Without a major addition over the winter, the Brewers will be relying on Chase Anderson and Zach Davies to lead their rotation in 2018. Anderson was outstanding last year, winning 12 games and posting a 2.74 ERA while Davies went 17-9. Both should be above-average starters this year. But unless Anderson can continue to perform far better than his career numbers, the Brewers could be lacking a true ace.
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The good news is that young starters like Brent Suter and Brandon Woodruff could be on the verge of breakout seasons, potentially pushing Chacin and Miley out of the rotation. However, the bad news is that Jimmy Nelson will start the season on the DL after offseason shoulder surgery. Nelson was 12-6 with a 3.49 ERA in 29 starts last year, but coming off surgery, it could be tough for him to replicate those numbers in 2018. That means the Brewers need to get more than expected out of the likes of Chacin, Miley, Suter, and Woodruff.
In the bullpen, the Brewers should be stable at the closer’s spot after Corey Knebel emerged there last season. Obviously, Knebel will have to prove last year wasn’t a fluke, but even if he struggles, Milwaukee’s bullpen should have enough depth to at least be middle of the pack in the National League this year.
Former Milwaukee closer Jeremy Jeffress is back with the Brewers. The Brewers also have Matt Albers, who was sensational last season, and Jacob Barnes, who was a steady performer last year. From the left side, the Milwaukee bullpen has both veteran Boone Logan and hard-throwing youngster Josh Hader. The Brewers don’t project to have a dominant bullpen, but they should have enough arms to prevent it from being a weakness in 2018.
Despite a winning season in 2017, the Brewers were below-average in most offensive categories last year. However, that could change after the additions of Christian Yelich and Lorenzo Cain over the winter. Both are proven difference makers poised to make a significant impact on Milwaukee’s lineup. Of course, the addition of both Yelich and Cain could have veteran Ryan Braun fighting for playing time with Domingo Santana, who slugged 30 home runs last year. But that kind of competition may not be such a bad thing.
On the infield, the Brewers should be set with Eric Thames and Travis Shaw at first base and third base, respectively. Shaw was arguably the team’s best player last year, as he and Thames both his 31 home runs. Jesus Aguilar also provides plenty of power from the right side to complement the left-hand hitting Thames. The Brewers also have three solid options for the two middle infield spots. Orlando Arcia should only get better with a full season in the big leagues under his belt. Both Eric Sogard and Jonathan Villar are also capable of providing steady productivity at second base.
The Brewers would love to improve upon their 86-win season in 2017, but it’s possible they overachieved a bit last year. While the Brewers should be better offensively this year, it may be tough for their pitching staff to replicate last year’s success. Milwaukee should be a balanced team in 2018, but they may only be slightly better than average. Look for the Brewers to finish 82-80 this season, a slight step back after last season’s surprising success.