Milwaukee Brewers: 2011 MLB Season Preview

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Milwaukee Brewers: 2011 MLB Season Preview
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

MILWAUKEE BREWERS 

 

Last Year: 77-85, 3rd in NL Central 

Manager: Ron Roenicke

 

PROJECTED LINEUP

 

C - Jonathan Lucroy (R) (Will start season on the DL)

1B - Prince Fielder (L)

2B - Rickie Weeks (R) 

3B - Casey McGehee (R)

SS - Yuniesky Betancourt (R)

LF - Ryan Braun (R)

CF - Carlos Gomez (R)

RF - Corey Hart (R) (Will start season on the DL)

The Brewers have one of the NL's best offenses, but their bottom of the lineup could pose some problems. The top five hitters in the lineup provide a great combination of OBP, power, and a decent average.  

Fielder is the only left-handed hitter in the lineup and the lineup's best power hitter. Fielder had one of his least productive seasons in 2010, but he should produce big-time numbers during his contract year with 40-plus home runs while posting a .285/.410/.550 line.

Weeks won't match the 29 home runs he put up last season, but he should net 15 stolen bases and hit 20 home runs out of the leadoff spot with a solid .260/.360/.450 line.

Betancourt can provide some 10-plus home runs but he is infamously known as a player who has a hard time reaching base.

McGehee is an above-average option at 3B in the number-five hole where he should provide 20 home runs while batting .280. 

Ryan Braun will bat third in the lineup in front of Fielder. Braun is the perfect right-handed compliment to Fielder because he hits for a higher average and has a knack for getting on base. Braun will provide 15-20 stolen bases and 30 home runs with a .310/.380/.560 line.

Hart shouldn't be counted on to provide 32 home runs, but he is a 20-plus HR hitter who should put up similar numbers to McGehee with some more stolen bases.

Along with Betancourt, Gomez and Lucroy will round out the bottom of the order. This part of the lineup lacks a lot of punch, and Doug Melvin should be checking the market for to replace one of the three.

Gomez should provide 30 stolen bases in a full season, but he proved that he can't hit higher than a .260 in a season. I don't know what to make of Lucroy, but I would say he is a capable of hitting 10 home runs and hitting close to .260. 

The Brewers defense ranked 15th in UZR (ultimate zone ratings) last season, but the overall defense will struggle with the loss of Alcides Escobar.

The infield defense has very little range. Fielder and McGehee are at the bottom of their positions in terms of UZR, and Betancourt is considered one of the worst shortstops in baseball. Weeks does have good range at 2B. Lucroy had trouble with passed balls and blocking the plate, but he does have one of the better arms at catcher. 

Gomez is the the Brewers best defender in center field, but Hart and Braun are below-average in the corners. 

 

BENCH

 

IF - Craig Counsell (L)

IF - Erick Almonte (R)

OF/1B - Mark Kotsay (L) 

C - Wil Nieves  (R)

C- George Kottaras (L) 

OF- Nyjer Morgan (L)

OF- Jeremy Reed (L) 

STARTING ROTATION 

RHP - Zack Greinke (Will miss first three starts with broken rib)

RHP - Yovani Gallardo 

LHP - Randy Wolf 

RHP - Shaun Marcum 

LHP - Chris Naverson 

5th starter- TBD

The Brewers rotation struggled in 2010, but the acquisitions of Greinke and Marcum make this a formidable rotation.

Greinke will start the year on the DL with a broken rib, but he should only miss his first three starts of the season. He didn't repeat his 2009 Cy Young numbers in 2010, but he is still one of baseball's batter starters with a 92-95 mph moving fastball, a hard breaking slider, slow curve and decent changeup. He has excellent command of all his pitches, and he should strike out close to a hitter an inning in the National League.

The acquisition of Greinke takes some pressure off of Gallardo, the Brewers' ace the last two seasons. Gallardo will strike out a hitter an inning with a low 90s fastball, great slider, curve and "show me" change. I project him posting a 3.20-3.40 ERA. Gallardo may not be talked about as some of the other young pitchers in the league, but he has the potential to be a perennial Cy Young winner. 

The Brewers signed Wolf last offseason to pitch behind Gallardo, but he is much better suited to do that in the middle of the rotation. Wolf doesn't have the best stuff, but he will throw 200 innings with an ERA around 4.10 using a lot of slow curves, changeups and sliders to compliment his below-average 88 mph fastball. He should have a strikeout rate of 6.5 per 9 innings, and record walks about three per nine because of his tendency to nibble at the corners. 

Marcum, who will slot behind Wolf, will give the Brewers much needed depth in the rotation.

He doesn' have explosive stuff, but his changeup is one of the best in baseball. Despite the negligible discrepancy between his change and fastball, 81 mph to 87 mph, its downward movement makes it a tough pitch to handle.

Marcum should excel in the shift from the AL East to the NL Central, and post a 3.30 ERA with a 7.5 K/9 and 2.20 BB/9 rates.

Naverson will be the Brewers' fifth starter when the rotation is at full strength. He is a lot like Wolf in that he uses an array of off-speed pitches to work off his 88-mph fastball. He has recorded strong strikeout rates for a soft-tossing lefty, 7.35 K/9 in 2010, and his 4.20 xFIP indicates he was the victim of some tough luck last season.  Peralta will start in Greinke's place for the first few weeks of the season. 

 

BULLPEN

 

RHP - John Axford (Closer)

RHP - LaTroy Hawkins (start season on DL) 

RHP - Takashi Saito 

LHP - Zach Braddock  

RHP - Kameron Loe 

LHP - Manny Parra (start season on DL)

RHP - Sean Green

RHP- Sergio Mitre

LHP- Mitch Stetter  

RHP- Brandon Kintzler 

The bullpen struggled at times for the Brewers in 2010, but has the potential to be a considerable strength this season.

Axford took over the ninth-inning duties after Trevor Hoffman's early-season implosion. He throws a 95 mph fastball, with an outstanding slider and impressive curveball that allows him to record more than a strikeout per inning. He has had serious command problems in the minors, but his 2010 BB total was the best of his career.

The 41-year-old Saito will be the primary setup man for Axford, throwing a 91-mph fastball with a tight slider and decent curveball. He will put up great strikeout numbers (more than a K per inning) with a decent walk rate, but it remains to be seen if he can hold up for the entire season.  

The veteran Hawkins missed most of the 2010 season with a right shoulder injury. Hawkins can be a valuable weapon from the right side because of his ability to get groundballs. 

Braddock will be the primary left-handed specialist after pitching well last year during his rookie campaign. Braddock features a 93-mph fastball and a sharp slider. His ability to strike out left-handed hitters will be a valuable weapon in the later innings.

Loe is a right-handed groundball specialist who will pitch the middle innings for the Brewers. While he has struggled as a starter in the bigs, he has had success as a reliever in three different seasons.

Green will fill the same role as Loe, but the sidearmer should used primarily against right-handed hitters. Sergio Mitre will be a swingman for the club after coming over in a trade from the Yankees, and he could start while Greinke recovers from his injury. 

Kintzler throws in the low 90's with a good slider, and he is assured to make the team with all of the injuries of late. 

Mitch Stetter will be the second lefty specialist. He can be tough with his slider that he throws 60 percent of the time, but he should not be used against right-handed hitters in high leverage situations. 

 

NOTABLE NON-ROSTER INVITEES 

 

RHP - Mark DiFelice 

OF - Jeremy Reed (L)

 

KEY PLAYER - Shaun Marcum 

 

Marcum's shoulder tightness has been a concern this spring training. A lot of scouts have been concerned about his velocity—86 mph in spring training—but that number isn't far from his average velocity in 2010. If Marcum goes down for an extended period of time, the Brewers don't have the pitching depth to stay afloat in the division race. 

 

PROSPECT TO WATCH - RHP Wily Peralta 

 

Peralta should start the season in AAA after being considered for a spot in the rotation this spring. He features a mid 90s fastball with a sharp slider and decent changeup. Peralta dominated rookie and Single-A ball, but his strikeout numbers dropped all the way to 6.43 K/10 in Double-A.

 

PROJECTED FINISH - 2nd in NL Central

 

General Manager Doug Melvin decided to go for the pennant this offseason with Fielder entering his final year before free agency. The Brewers will make a run at this division because of the lineup's power and strong starting rotation. If I were Doug Melvin, I would seriously consider making a run at a veteran SS or C by the deadline.

Right now I see the Brewers falling short of the division, but making a strong run at the Wild Card.

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