“That’s Amore!” National League Central: Milwaukee Brewers 2015
It’s that time of the year again. The grass is freshly cut and the palm trees are looking wonderful. Last season, there were some magnificent moments. Big name players switched teams, and the Kansas City Royals represented the American League in the World Series. This offseason, many teams bolstered their teams, and a rookie GM completely rebuilt the San Diego Padres outfield. I give offseason wins to the Chicago White Sox, Miami Marlins, San Diego Padres, and the huge Lester signing of the Chicago Cubs. I can’t wait to see how these teams perform. Now, let’s look ahead at the Milwaukee Brewers of the National League Central.
Last season, the Brewers finished 82-80. They finished third in the Central, and were six games out of the final Wild Card spot. Carlos Gomez and Jonathan Lucroy lead the way, and Ryan Braun had a down year only playing in 135 games, posting a .266 average with 19 homers and 81 RBI. Their pitching wasn’t as good as it’s been in the past, but they had a bright spot in Wily Peralta. He was able to notch 17 wins with a moderate 3.53 ERA. His 154 strikeouts tied him for 49th in the MLB. Trading Yovani Gallardo to Texas takes away a guy that anchored the top spot in their rotation for nearly a decade. His last two seasons were forgettable for a guy that averaged 15 wins and 200 strikeouts from 2009-2012. Milwaukee was able to get right-handed pitchers Corey Knebel and Marcos Diplan in the deal as well as shortstop Luis Sardinas. The move was purely a contract decision. Gallardo enters 2015 with one season left and, more than likely, would have left via free agency.
Taking a look at Milwaukee’s potential lineup, they have many bright spots. Carlos Gomez is an absolute stud and is easily a top-ten outfielder. He has 30/30 potential, and I wouldn’t be surprised if this is the year Milwaukee lets him go out and swing for the fences. Ryan Braun is Ryan Braun. If he stays healthy, there’s no reason why he doesn’t get back to a .300 average with 30+ homers while driving in over 100 runs. He’ll be slotted at three or four and I look for him to lead the way. Aramis Ramirez has been producing for many years, but stated this will be his last season. He’s been able to hold down third base, but is nowhere near the productive player he was while destroying the ball with the Chicago Cubs. He’ll be a mid-range fantasy third baseman that’ll give you anywhere from 10-15 homers, 50-70 RBI and a .280 average.
Khris Davis could be a sleeper pick that has the potential to break the 30 home run mark, although that will come with a low average and the possibility of high strikeouts. Jonathan Lucroy has solidified their catching role, but will his hamstring injury nag him all season? Scooter Gennett was a nice story. He’s a solid number two hitter that can get on base and allow Gomez and Braun to drive in runs. I’m most interested to see what kind of season Jean Segura has. Segura had a phenomenal 2013 season. He managed a .294 average while scoring 74 runs. My favorite stat was his 44 stolen bases in 57 chances. He was that guy you’d love to get off the waiver wire if you were struggling to get production out of the shortstop position. 2014 was another story. I can only imagine the mental struggle he faced with the loss of a child. He never bounced back and finished with a .244 average while only scoring 61 runs and swiping 20 bases. Assuming he enters this spring with a clear mind, I see him getting back to a .260-.270 average while scoring 70+ runs and getting back to 30+ stolen bases. He’ll be a guy I look to get in the middle to late rounds of fantasy drafts. He’ll be a steal there.
Pitching will be the name of the game for Milwaukee. They’re going to score runs, but who is going to step up in their rotation? They seem to have Matt Garza and Kyle Lohse penciled in at one and two. Garza struggled in his first season, but I’ll say it’s fair to suggest the run support wasn’t there. His strikeouts have been down the past few seasons as has his velocity. These are bad signs for a guy that made a living dropping breaking balls to get the strikeout. Kyle Lohse is entering his 15th season and is 36 years old. He’s a guy that figured it out when he got to St. Louis. I owe this to Dave Duncan and the work he put in with Cardinals pitchers. I really do question his age. I don’t know what you can expect from a guy at this age. I love Peralta at number three. He’s a good young pitched that nearly hit the 200-inning mark last season. I love the fact he’s a hard thrower and his strikeout total has been increasing. The main issue was the 23 home runs he gave up last season. Those were six behind the league leader at 29. I question Milwaukee’s fourth and fifth starters. Mike Fiers was 26 when he made his debut in 2011. That being said, the experience isn’t there, and he’s nothing to write home about. I see him getting nearly 30 starts, but he’s not going to overpower anyone. He’ll nibble the corners of the plate, but he’s not a guy I’d be uncomfortable facing when I dig in at the plate. Jimmy Nelson is an intriguing guy. No longer needing to prove anything at the minor league level, moving Gallardo opens the door for Nelson to pitch. Nelson has a big arm and struck out his fair share of batters in the minors. The bumps and bruises will happen, but the Brewers will let him figure them out rather than send him back down to AAA-Nashville. I see Nelson getting close to 10 wins, with a sub-4.00 era, and striking out 150 batters. The Brewers did themselves a favor by signing K-Rod last week. Only 33, Rodriguez has averaged nearly 30 saves a season. His career 2.73 ERA is pretty remarkable. I give credit to the Brewers organization for securing the ninth inning.
Milwaukee has no chance of winning this division. There are too many questions surrounding their pitching staff and the health of Jonathan Lucroy. That fact that he suffered a hamstring injury, which tend to linger, doesn’t leave me optimistic. It’ll be important for Ryan Braun to rebound from last season. If his thumb hasn’t completely healed from the nerve injury it’ll be a long season in Milwaukee. Fans may look forward to football season long before the season ends. At least they have the sausage race, right?
Fantasy Targets: Keep An Eye On:
Carlos Gomez Aramis Ramirez
Ryan Braun Khris Davis
Jean Segura Scooter Gennett
Jonathan Lucroy Matt Garza
Francisco Rodriguez Jonathan Broxton
Wily Peralta Jimmy Nelson
Season Projection: 78-84 (5th in NL Central)
(Click the Blue link below to listen live)
Major League Fantasy Sports: Join Ej Garr and Corey D. Roberts on Sunday March 8th from 7pm-8:30pm EST for this week’s episode of Major League Fantasy Sports Radio sponsored by the Sports Palooza Radio Network. We will be taking live callers during the show at 646.915.8596. This week’s show we will be discussing the 3rd base and catcher positions for the fantasy baseball 2015 season.