The Brewers are coming off of a first place finish where they won 96 total games. They had one of the best offenses in baseball, but the loss of Prince Fielder to the Detroit Tigers really hurt. They also had one of the better pitching staffs in the league, but Zack Greinke is a free agent at the end of the season so the Brewers will have to sign him to a big deal.
After winning his case, and not being suspended for the first fifty games Ryan Braun will lead the offense. Offensively he’s about as good as it gets. He has an excellent eye at the plate, striking out less than 15% of the time, and walking almost 10% of the time. He has plus power as well, but his most glaring weakness is in the outfield. If he can stay healthy there’s no question that he can be a 6 WAR player. Nyjer “Tony Plush” Morgan should get the majority of the time in center field, and after his performance in center field last season he deserves it. He doesn’t offer much offensively, but he has a ton of speed. In the outfield he should be able to produce a 5 UZR, and be a 3 WAR player. Corey Hart has put some solid seasons together in right, but he can be inconsistent. He has plus power, and has a good eye at the plate. His walk rate is nearly 10%, and his strikeout rate is slightly above 20%. He isn’t a great defender, but he’s a 3-4 WAR talent.
Mat Gamel will begin the season at first, but my May he may be replaced. He hasn’t shown the power that he showed in the majors, and has had terrible plate discipline. The last two seasons he’s had a GB% over 40%, but a good LD% over 27%. He hasn’t had a ton of time in the majors though. If he puts it together he could be an average to above average player. Aramis Ramirez signed as a free agent, and should be a solid third basemen for the Brewers during his contract. He has above average power, and excellent plate discipline. His one downfall is that his defense is terrible.
Rickie Weeks is coming off of another injury shortened season, where he had 3.7 WAR. When healthy he’s one of the better second basemen in the game right now. In 2010 he had his first healthy season, and had 6.5 WAR. If he can stay healthy he’s probably a 5 WAR healthy, if he continues to get hurt he’s closer to a 3.5 player, which is still very good. Alex Gonzalez will take over short, and had a set back defensively last season. He’s below average offensively, and most of his value comes from his defense.
Jonathan Lucroy will be the catcher, and has some decent potential. He doesn’t have a ton of pop, but has good strikeout and walk rates. His arm strength rates at below average, so if he wants to stay in the majors it looks like he’ll have to live off his bat.
Zack Greinke leads a pitching staff that should be one of the best in baseball. Last season Greinke had a career best 28.1 K%, and an excellent BB%. His ERA was a little high, but his 256 xFIP, and 2.66 SIERA say he could be in for a Cy Young type season. Pitching in the second spot is Yovani Gallardo, he would be considered an ace on many teams. He saw a dip in his K%, but saw a decrease in his BB%. He could see a roughly a .3 decrease in his ERA this season, if he can keep the home runs down. Shaun Marcum wasn’t quite as good in 2011 as we as in 2010, but he still was above average. He should be able to maintain in ERA in the mid to upper 3s. Since signing as a free agent in 2010 Randy Wolf hasn’t quite lived up to expectations. He’s a command pitcher, who should have an ERA in the lower to mid 4s. The final spot in the rotation is filled by Chris Narveson. Narveson isn’t a great pitcher, and can struggle with his control at times. Expect an ERA in the 4.50 range.
The bullpen is headlined by closer John Axford. Axford has been one of the better relievers the last couple of seasons. He has excellent strikeout rates, but his walks are a little high. An ERA of around 2.40 is certainly plausible. Francisco Rodriguez re-signed with the Brewers, and should have another good season. Kameron Loe is another arm to look out for during the season.
Losing Prince Fielder will certainly hurt, but the Brewers aren’t hurting for offense. Ryan Braun will lead the offense, and could make a run for the MVP again. The pitching staff will also have another good season, and if everyone stays healthy they should be fine. It will be tough to make a run with the St. Louis Cardinals, and Cincinnati Reds in the division, but the Brewers certainly have the chance.