Expectations are high for the Milwaukee Brewers entering the 2011 MLB Season. In fact, baseball pundits, analysts and bloggers across the Internet are picking the team as the preseason favorites to win the National League Central.
That may come as a surprise to some, considering the team's 77-85 record and 3rd place finish in the division in 2010, but a new manager, Ron Roenicke, and an aggressive offseason by Doug Melvin have the Milwaukee Brewers primed for a playoff run.
By acquiring Shaun Marcum and Zack Greinke via trade, Melvin and the Brewers addressed the pitching woes that had plagued the team in both the 2009 and 2010 seasons.
The problem? Team ERA. The staff finished with a 4.58 ERA in 2010, good for 14th in NL and a consecutive sub .500 season.
Offense, on the other hand, wasn't a problem for the Milwaukee Brewers last season. The team ranked 4th overall in the NL in R (750), 2nd in HR (182) and 3rd in AVG (.262). With Ryan Braun, Prince Fielder, Corey Hart and Rickie Weeks all returning to Miller Park in 2011, hitting should once again be a strength for the squad.
Five players finished with 20 or more HR in 2010. All of those players are returning for the 2011 MLB Season. Combine that with the aggressive approach to base running Roenicke will bring from Anaheim and the Brewers should feature a rare mix of power and speed few teams currently possess.
When the Milwaukee Brewers take the field Opening Day on March 31st against the Cincinnati Reds, their lineup should be able put up a lot of runs.
Rickie Weeks has been the primary leadoff hitter for the Milwaukee Brewers since the 2007 MLB Season. In that time, Weeks has hit 68 HR and more than any other leadoff hitter in baseball.
Weeks enjoyed his best season in the big leagues in 2010 when he was able to play in more than 129 games for the first time in his career. In fact, there was only one game last season in which Rickie Weeks did not make an appearance for the Brewers.
If Weeks is able to remain healthy—a big "if" for Brewers fans—he should be able to repeat his 2010 performance and score 100 or more runs for a consecutive season.
Rickie Weeks 2011 Stat Projections
GP: 158 AVG: .273 R: 118 HR: 26 RBI: 78 SB: 14
Corey Hart had the best season of his career in 2010 and earned his second selection to the All-Star Game, and his first appearance as a starter for the National League.
Hart set career highs in HR (31), RBI (102) and R (91) despite starting the season in a platoon role with Jim Edmonds and missing close to 20 games due to injury.
His season was rewarded with a three-year contract extension from the Milwaukee Brewers, making Corey Hart a fixture in the lineup for the foreseeable future.
Corey Hart 2011 Stat Projections
GP: 158 AVG: .279 R: 95 HR: 26 RBI: 90 SB: 17
Ryan Braun had a forgettable 2010 season by his standards. His 25 HR were a career low and his 103 RBI were the fewest he had hit in a full season. Despite his drop off in power and run production, Braun started his third consecutive All-Star Game for the National League.
Braun will be 27 years old entering the 2011 MLB Season and should be primed for a bounce-back year. With Weeks and Hart hitting in front of him, there will be plenty of RBI opportunities and scoring won't be a problem with Prince Fielder and Casey McGehee following Braun in the lineup.
If the Milwaukee Brewers perform as expected and Ryan Braun can reach 35 HR or more, expect him to be in the running for the 2011 NL MVP.
Ryan Braun 2011 Stat Projections
GP: 160 AVG: .324 R: 111 HR: 36 RBI: 124 SB: 26
Prince Fielder did not have a good season in 2010. His 32 HR and 83 RBI were the lowest since 2006 while his .261 AVG was the worst of his career.
2010 was not the first time Prince Fielder followed an excellent season with a poor one. After becoming the youngest player in MLB history to hit 50 HR in 2007, Fielder followed up with 34 in 2008.
The Milwaukee Brewers are hoping history repeats itself and that Fielder has one of, if not his best seasons in 2011 even if it guarantees losing him in free agency when he hits the open market after the season.
With an excellent lineup surrounding him and a monster contract looming, there are a lot reasons to expect big things from Prince Fielder this season.
Prince Fielder 2011 Stat Projections
GP: 162 AVG: .286 R: 96 HR: 40 RBI: 132 SB: 2
Casey McGehee broke into the lineup and onto the scene with the Milwaukee Brewers in 2009. He followed up his impressive debut with an equally consistent season in 2010 and has supplanted himself as the team's third basemen of the future.
McGehee was one of three players for the Brewers to hit at least 100 RBI in 2010 and his .285 AVG was good for third best on the team amongst regular starters. While he doesn't steal many bases, he is a good source of power and should contribute anywhere from 20 to 25 HR in 2011.
Assuming Braun and Fielder both improve from their 2010 season, Casey McGehee could be primed for a ton of RBI opportunities in the 2011 MLB Season.
Casey McGehee 2011 Stat Projections
GP: 158 AVG: .288 R: 73 HR: 24 RBI: 97 SB: 1
Yuniesky Betancourt will be the only new addition to the starting lineup for the Milwaukee Brewers. Betancourt replaces Alcides Escobar at shortstop who was sent off to the Kansas City Royals as part of the Greinke trade.
Betancourt surprised Royals fans and the baseball world when he hit 16 HR in 2010—nine more than his previous career high and his first season in double digits. He should be able to maintain or increase his power numbers in 2011 by playing half his games at hitter-friendly Miller Park as opposed to Kauffman Stadium.
The Milwaukee Brewers' lineup has more talent than the lineups Yuniesky Betancourt hit in in both Kansas City and Seattle. Therefore, the 2011 MLB Season might be a career year for Betancourt who could enter free agency after the season.
Yuniesky Betancourt 2011 Stat Projections
GP: 148 AVG: .256 R: 64 HR: 18 RBI: 81 SB: 4
Carlos Gomez suffered a fourth consecutive season with a OBP below .300 in 2010, and displayed why the New York Mets and Minnesota Twins were willing to part with his services—despite his impressive defense and blazing speed.
For Gomez to be of any value to the Milwaukee Brewers in the 2011 MLB Season he will need to show more plate discipline and find a way to reach base much more often.
If Ron Roenicke can work with the speedster and communicate his role on the team, there is the potential for Gomez to steal 30 to 40 bases and become a real presence in the lineup.
2011 will be a make or break season for Carlos Gomez with the Brewers. He is still only 25 years old and will have a long leash to start the season with no obvious replacement in sight. If he figures it out, the World Series is not out of the question for the Milwaukee Brewers.
Carlos Gomez 2011 Stat Projections
GP: 140 AVG: .252 R: 66 HR: 7 RBI: 43 SB: 38
Jonathan Lucroy made his major league debut in 2010 when Gregg Zaun suffered a season-ending injury. He went on to start 75 games for the Milwaukee Brewers and should be the team's primary catcher entering the 2011 MLB Season.
Lucroy didn't show any strength in one specific category with a .253 AVG, 4 HR and 4 SB in his 277 ABs and will want to improve his .300 OBP in order to remain a fixture in the lineup throughout the season.
Rarely is the catcher expect to contribute much in terms of offense and it shouldn't be necessary for Jonathan Lucroy to do so considering the talent surrounding him in the lineup.
Jonathan Lucroy 2011 Stat Projections
GP: 110 AVG: .262 R: 36 HR: 7 RBI: 34 SB: 6