Milwaukee Brewers: Why the Crew Will Be World Series Contenders in 2013

Dave Radcliffe@DaveRadcliffe_Contributor IIIAugust 29, 2012

Milwaukee Brewers: Why the Crew Will Be World Series Contenders in 2013

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    The Milwaukee Brewers have been one of the most disappointing teams in baseball this season.

    Considering they are a year removed from being two wins from their first World Series appearance in 29 years, the Brewers' current 61-67 record leaves much to be desired. 

    Many would agree that this team is better than its record indicates. And as of late, Milwaukee has been playing some inspired baseball, winning seven of their last eight games. 

    Dreams of a World Series—or even a whiff of the playoffs—are already dashed in 2012, but fans are already beginning to look ahead to a potential bounce back season in 2013.

    It may sound far-fetched that the Brewers could compete for a World Series once again so soon, but here are some reasons why Milwaukee will be contenders in 2013.

An Emergence of Youth

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    At the beginning of 2011, the Brewers' farm system was depleted after trading for Zack Greinke and Shaun Marcum as part of an "all-in" effort to reach the World Series.

    The tables have turned this season, with the Brewers quickly coming to the realization that 2012 wasn't their year. As a result, they dumped Greinke for prospects, and all of a sudden, Milwaukee has some promise for the future.

    Most notably, the 22-year-old Jean Segura arrived and is already solidified as the Brewers' future at shortstop.

    There are also pitching prospects galore in Milwaukee's farm system with the likes of Wily Peralta (23), Tyler Thornburg (24), Jesus Sanchez (24), Ariel Pena (23) and Johnny Hellweg (24). Hellweg and Pena were each involved in the Greinke deal along with Segura.

    Other position players figure to make some noise in spring training, such as first baseman Hunter Morris (24), outfielder Logan Schaefer (25), second baseman Scooter Gennett (22), shortstop Jeff Bianchi (25) and outfielder Khris Davis (24).

    Nobody should be surprised to see any of these names crack the big league squad in 2013—they are all deserving of a chance based on their performance.

Prospects Becoming Big Leaguers

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    Having a bevy of prospects in your system is nice and all, but it's even better when those prospects reach their potential and become Major League mainstays.

    In 2012, the Brewers have seen this transpire before their very eyes.

    We've already mentioned Jean Segura, but it's difficult to say there's been a bigger surprise in Milwaukee this summer than Mike Fiers.

    The 27-year-old Fiers has struggled a bit as of late, but in his rookie season, Fiers has posted a 7-6 record with a 2.98 ERA while averaging more than a strikeout per inning.

    Reliever Jim Henderson, who is 29 and finally getting his shot at the Bigs, has also been impressive and given a disaster of a bullpen a breath of fresh air.

    And then there's the 26-year-old Mark Rogers, who has undergone multiple surgeries on his path to Milwaukee. Finally, Rogers is getting some extended time at the Show and just put together back-to-back victories.

    We'd also be naive to discount Martin Maldonado, who filled in admirably in the absence of Jonathan Lucroy and gives the Brewers great depth behind the plate.

    Assuming at least a few of the youngsters listed on the previous slide can make some contributions next season, the Brewers will be in great shape to make a World Series push.

Prince's Replacement(s)

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    Even with the loss of Prince Fielder to free agency last offseason, the Brewers managed to dull the pain by signing Aramis Ramirez to a three-year deal. 

    Ramirez has surprised just about everybody with his performance this season. After a slow start, Ramirez has been on a flat out tear, currently hitting .292 with 20 HR and 81 RBI.

    Prince Fielder? 23 HR, 93 RBI and a .311 average. 

    If anything, this proves that losing Fielder is not the reason for the Brewers' struggles this season, and that Ramirez has shown he is more than capable of protecting Ryan Braun in the lineup.

    Let's not forget that someone had to fill in at first base for Prince as well.

    At first, that duty was assigned to Mat Gamel, but after Gamel's season-ending ACL injury, it was Corey Hart who moved in from the outfield to play first.

    Boy, has that decision paid off.

    Not only is Hart swinging the bat well (.272 AVG, 24 HR, 69 RBI), but he has been spectacular with the glove. It has also allowed Norichika Aoki to play every day in right field.

    Ramirez and Hart have done their part to replace Prince Fielder.

Bye-Bye Bullpen

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    The bullpen is the culprit for the demise of the Milwaukee Brewers.

    A unit that has blown an alarming 23 games this season, the Brewers will look to completely revamp their bullpen from here on out, and that process is already beginning to take place.

    Jim Henderson was called upon from AAA-Nashville to bring some stability to the 'pen, and although he has blown a save himself, he has put up a 3.55 ERA in 12.2 innings of work. Only Kameron Loe has a lower ERA.

    However, Loe has blown five saves while only holding six leads and saving two games. He is a free agent-to-be after the 2012 season along with Francisco Rodriguez, Jose Veras and Livan Hernandez.

    That's four relief pitchers off the books. John Axford and Manny Parra, who are up for arbitration, aren't exactly doing themselves any favors either.

    The Brewers have announced they aren't ready to give up on Axford, but Parra, despite being a lefty, may be outlasting his welcome.

    As noted earlier, Milwaukee has plenty of young pitchers chomping at the bit, waiting for their opportunity in the Majors. Expect the Brewers to give some of their pitching prospects—including Sanchez and Thornburg—long looks at bullpen roles next spring, or even this September.

Offensive Stability

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    We haven't even finished the 2012 season and we know exactly how the Brewers lineup will look at the start of the 2013 season.

    Norichika Aoki is the bona fide leadoff man heading into next season. What a pleasant surprise Aoki has been, earning his role as an every day right fielder with his stellar glove and consistent approach at the plate.

    Also emerging is center fielder Carlos Gomez, who has managed to stay relatively healthy and as a result, overtook Nyjer Morgan as the main guy in center field.

    Continuing on, there aren't really any question marks for the Brewers at any position. 

    Segura has been anointed as the future at short, while Ramirez, Hart and Rickie Weeks will join him in the infield.

    With Weeks signed through 2015, we can only hope this season was only a minor blip in what Brewer fans hope to be a long and prosperous career in Milwaukee.

    Behind the plate will be Jonathan Lucroy, who has worked his way back into playing shape after missing two months with a broken hand. He is signed through 2016 with a team option for 2017. If he can continue his strong play, he'll be a huge part of the Brewers offense for years to come.

    And of course, Ryan Braun. Enough said.

    The Brewers should look into signing Gomez and Hart to extensions, but other than that, positions appear to be locked down for 2013 and beyond.

Help from Above

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    The reason the Brewers aren't in "rebuilding mode" now is because they have an owner willing to dish out the Benjamins—Mark Attanasio.

    Other small market teams would have to start all over, but because the Brewers already have their foundation locked up, they can manage to build around those pieces and remain hopeful year after year.

    This offseason, pitching will be the team's main priority, but don't expect the Brewers to be quite as active as in year's past.

    A couple of bullpen arms will likely be brought in—maybe even a left-handed starter via trade or free agency—but Milwaukee feels they have just about all the talent they need in house.

    Not only is Attanasio one of the best owners in the MLB, but Doug Melvin has proved himself to be one of the top General Managers as well. He and assistant GM Gord Ash can be trusted to make the right personnel decisions moving forward into 2013.

    When the Brewers are in contention nearing the trade deadline next season, Melvin won't be afraid to pull the trigger if he feels his club needs a boost.

    Yes, it's the players that have to get the job done on the field, but those players are there thanks to Mark Attanasio and Doug Melvin. 

    They are the biggest reason why the Brewers will be World Series contenders in 2013.