Posted on March 7, 2020, by Bryan Zarpentine
In 2018, the Milwaukee Brewers made an amazing run, making all the way to Game 7 of the NLCS. However, that’s now a distant memory after losing to the Nationals in the Wild Card Game last season. Sustaining success has been difficult for Milwaukee in the past. Can the Brewers remain contenders in the National League in 2020 or is this a year when they start to fall away?
Milwaukee’s rotation will look a lot different in 2020 than it has in past years. One of the few holdovers is Brandon Woodruff, who will assume the responsibilities of the team’s ace. Of course, because of an injury last year, Woodruff is yet to pitch a full season in the majors, which is a concern. The Brewers also hope Adrian Houser can carry over a promising performance from 2019 and become a frontline starter for them. They’ll also look to veteran lefty Brett Anderson to provide the same kind of stability he did last year when he started 31 games and registered a 3.89 ERA.
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Meanwhile, the back end of the rotation will include some new faces. Josh Lindblom is back in the majors and will get a chance to earn a rotation spot despite just five career starts to his name. Milwaukee is also hopeful that Eric Lauer can continue to be a steady back-of-the-rotation starter after starting 52 games for the Padres the past two seasons. Fortunately for the Brewers, the likes of Freddy Peralta, Corbin Burnes, and Brent Suter give them a fair amount of depth and competition for the final spots in the rotation.
Once again, the Brewers will look to their bullpen to be a strength. Josh Hader took the loss in last year’s Wild Card Game, but he remains one of the best closers in baseball. Corey Knebel is also a capable closer and should help in some capacity despite missing all of 2019 because of Tommy John surgery. Veterans David Phelps and Alex Claudio also give Milwaukee trustworthy options to help get the ball to Hader.
Of course, the rest of the bullpen could be in a state of flux depending on the rotation. The likes of Suter, Burnes, and Peralta could end up playing key roles as relievers if the Brewers can avoid needing them to start. Some of the veterans who took on middle relief roles in past seasons are no longer in Milwaukee, so the Brewers will have a much younger bullpen than the past couple of seasons.
When it comes to scoring runs, the Brewers have some key pieces to replace. Christian Yelich and Ryan Braun are still around to lead the way, but Mike Moustakas, Yasmani Grandal, and Eric Thames are all gone, leaving huge holes in Milwaukee’s lineup. It doesn’t help that Lorenzo Cain is coming off a disappointing season. To their credit, Milwaukee signed Avisail Garcia, who should help, and catcher Omar Narvaez, who mashed 22 home runs a year ago, to help replace the players who signed elsewhere.
That being said, the Brewers are assuming that second baseman Keston Hiura will continue to be an impact player offensively. They also can’t be sure of what they’ll be getting at either shortstop or third base. Luis Urias is the favorite to become the regular shortstop, but he’ll miss the early part of the season and isn’t a proven hitter in the majors. The other option is Orlando Arcia, who’s had two poor seasons to follow up his breakout 2017 campaign. Finally, utility players like Eric Sogard, Jedd Gyorko, and Ryon Healy are expected to handle third base with the hope that at least one of them can emerge as a consistent run producer.
Coming off an 89-win season in 2019, expectations are more modest in Milwaukee for 2020 with the win projection set at 83.5. However, even that could be a struggle for the Brewers. There are questions about both the rotation and bullpen, while the biggest questions relate to who they can rely on to hit aside from Yelich. Look for the Brewers to fall short of 83.5 wins in 2020, likely finishing fourth in the NL Central.