John Lepore | March 23rd, 2020
The Milwaukee Brewers finished 89-73 last season. That was good enough for a Wild Card berth. They lost to the eventual World Series champs in the one-game playoff. They will look to get back to the playoffs this season but will have to do it without a few key players. Let’s take a look at what 2020 holds in store for the Brew Crew.
Make sure to check out our other Team Previews here.
The Brewers will be without the services of Yasmani Grandal, Eric Thames, and Mike Moustakas this season as they have all signed elsewhere. That’s 88 HRs walking out the door. How will the Brewers replace them? Let’s dive into it.
C: Omar Narvaez
1B: Justin Smoak
2B: Keston Hiura
3B: Eric Sogard
SS: Orlando Arcia
Narvaez comes over from the Seattle Mariners to replace Yasmani Grandal. While Narvaez isn’t the defensive player Grandal is, he can hit, putting up career highs in HRs (22) and OPS (.813). At only 28, the new Brewers catcher should have another good season at the dish. Smoak also comes over from the American league. He replaces Eric Thames who went to join the defending champs. Smoak has steadily declined after a stellar 2017 (.270/.355/.529, 38 HRs). Maybe a change of scenery will help, but I wouldn’t count on the 33-year-old matching those numbers again. Hiura had a stellar season last year. The 23-year-old slashed .303/.368/.570 with 19 HRs in just 348 PAs. While the plate discipline needs a little work (7.2% BB, 30.7% K), Hiura hits the ball really hard. The sky’s the limit for the former Golden Bear. Sogard is penciled in right now as the starting third baseman. His first go-around with the Brewers didn’t go so well. In 2017-2018 he played in 149 games for the Brew Crew and had a .669 OPS with just 3 HRs. He had a solid season last year between Toronto and Tampa Bay with an .810 OPS and 13 HRs in 110 games. Milwaukee also has Luis Urias and Brock Holt around who can slide in if Sogard falls back off. Arcia’s bat has never come around. After showing some promise in 2017 with 15 HRs, 14 SBs, and a .731 OPS, Arcia has struggled mightily at the plate the past two seasons. Still only 25 years old, the Brewers will give him the chance to show if he still belongs as the starter. His above-average defense at shortstop also keeps him in the lineup.
LF: Christian Yelich
CF: Lorenzo Cain
RF: Avisail Garcia
UT: Ryan Braun
Yelich is an absolute beast. Not much needs to be said at this point. since arriving in Milwaukee he’s had a 1.046 OPS with 80 HRs and 52 SBs in 277 games. There’s no reason to think Yelich will not be a front-runner for the NL MVP award again. Cain is a bounceback candidate this season. Despite having better batted-ball stats in 2019, Cain had a better season in 2018. Last season he was unlucky (xBA .290 – BA .260, xSLG .412 – SLG .372). He also had a .301 BABIP which is considerably lower than his .357 in 2018. New guy Garcia bounced back last year with the Tampa Bay Rays after an abysmal and injury-plagued 2018. He should continue to hit the ball hard (40+% last three seasons) and can provide some pop in the lineup. Braun is the old vet that keeps on going. He will probably play a little in the OF along with some 1B and DH in interleague games. The Brewers will find a way to balance getting him in the lineup and keeping him fresh.
Starting Rotation Projection
Woodruff seems to be figuring it out. He had a solid season last year going 11-3 with a 3.62 ERA (xFIP 3.36, SIERA 3.60) in 22 starts. His 143/30 is great and he allowed less than a HR per nine innings (12 in 121.2). Houser wasn’t great as a starter last year, but he was damn good as a reliever. Still, the Brewers will give him a shot at the rotation. Anderson made 30 starts and threw 175 innings for just the third time in his injury-riddled 11-year career. He’s never had strikeout stuff but if he can stay healthy, the lefty can be a solid innings-eater for Craig Counsell. Lauer was brought over from San Diego and may not fare well in his new ballpark due to his HR-allowing ways (20 HRs in 149.2 innings in 2019). Suter, Burnes, and Peralta will fight it out for the fifth spot. If two emerge then Lauer, Anderson, or Houser could be moved to the bullpen. The only spot that’s guaranteed is Woodruff’s.
Hader is a lock at the closer position as he is dominant no matter when he pitches in the game. Milwaukee is hoping that Knebel bounces back after missing all of last season. If so, he can also be a closer option. The hope is that Claudio and Faria can turn the clock back to 2017 when they were solid options. Black and Wahl round out a questionable bullpen aside from Hader. Whichever two starters don’t make the rotation will be thrown into the bullpen. Honestly, it may be for the best for Anderson and Houser.
Players to Watch For
Drew Rasmussen – A sixth-round pick out of Oregon State, Rasmussen has had two Tommy John surgeries. Fully healthy last year, he threw 61 innings at Double-A Biloxi with a 3.54 ERA and a decent 77/29 K/BB rate. He throws a 94-97 mph fastball with a 90 mph slider. His changeup is a work in progress, but if he can start the season off dominating hitters in the minors, don’t be surprised to see the righty in a Brewers uniform later in the year.
Zack Brown – Brown was drafted in the fifth round in 2016 out of Kentucky. He’s made 44 starts at Double-A and Triple-A over the last two seasons. The 25-year-old has a 92-95 mph fastball and mixes in a plus curveball with a solid changeup. Brown is a bulldog on the mound and is able to maintain velocity deep into games. With the pitching woes and injury history on the major league staff, you will likely see Brown at Miller Park later in the season.
The Brewers replaced some of their power, bringing in Narvaez, Garcia, and Smoak for the departed Grandal, Moustakas, and Thames. The lineup isn’t much of a concern. The pitching on the other hand? Not so good. Woodruff looks to be poised for a good year and Hader is a top reliever. The rest of the pitching being good is based on nothing but hope. They also don’t have a lot of help coming or trade pieces to bring in a stud at the deadline. I think the Brew Crew falls short of the playoffs this season finishing just over .500.
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Main Credit Image: Embed from Getty Images