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Thursday, March 12, 2009

Season Preview: Milwaukee Brewers

2008 Record: 90-72  .556

Run differential: +61 (4th)

2008 payroll: $80,937,499

Last season the Brewers made the playoffs for the first time since they went to the World Series in 1982.  The lineup was a testament to what a good minor league system can do.  Rickie Weeks, Prince Fielder, Ryan Braun, Corey Hart, JJ Hardy, and Bill Hall were offensive centerpieces that were all drafted and developed through their minor leagues.  Even CC Sabathia, who picked up the Brewers and carried them all the way to the finish, was acquired by trading one of their top minor league talents.  Sabathia’s performance is one that will be remembered for the ages as he went 9-0 in his first 11 starts and made his last three starts on three days rest.  Ben Sheets finally was healthy enough to pitch in as he had his best season since 2004.  Despite the manager merry-go-round in the final month, the Brew Crew took the Wild Card.  Meeting the Phillies in the first round spelled doom though but the team’s overall performance brought optimism that Sabathia could be resigned and the team could try again.

Needless to say the offseason did not go well.  Sabathia left for the Bronx and Ben Sheets’ arm injury was more severe than originally thought so he is still unsigned.  This prevented Milwaukee from getting any first round compensation (Mark Teixeira was declared a higher ranking free agent by the Elias compensation system).  Furthermore, closer Salomon Torres retired.  Now Milwaukee will have to rebuild the rotation and bullpen in order to get back to the playoffs.  They should be able to count on big seasons from Braun and Fielder and this could finally be the year Weeks breaks out.  No more horrible bullpen moves will plague this team (although a horrible bullpen may) with Ken Macha, whose teams have never won fewer than 88 games, now at the helm.  Even so the Cubs appear to be just too good.

Likely opening day roster:

Pos. Name Salary How Acquired
C Jason Kendall $4.25 M Signed as FA 11/07
C Mike Rivera $.395M Contract purchased from Ind Lg 5/05
1b Prince Fielder $6.5 M Drafted #7 overall 2002
2b Rickie Weeks $2.45 M Drafted #2 overall 2003
3b Bill Hall $6.8 M Drafted 6th rd 1998
SS JJ Hardy $4.65 M Drafted 2nd rd 2001
LF Ryan Braun $.745M Drafted #5 overall 2005
CF Mike Cameron $10 M Signed as FA 1/11/08
RF Corey Hart $3.25 M Drafted 11th rd 2000
Inf Mike Lamb $.4 M Signed as FA 9/08. Resigned 12/9/08
Inf Craig Counsell $3.4 M Signed as FA 11/06. Resigned 1/09
Of Brad Nelson $.39M Drafted 4th rd 2001
Of Tony Gwynn, Jr $.4 M Drafted 2nd rd 2003
SP Yovani Gallardo $.404M Drafted 2nd rd 2004
SP Jeff Suppan $12.5 M Signed as FA 12/06
SP Manny Parra $.39M Drafted 26th rd 2001
SP Braden Looper $4.75 M Signed as FA 2/13/09
SP David Bush $4 M Acquired in trade w/ Tor 12/7/05
Cl Trevor Hoffman $6 M Signed as FA 1/8/09
SU Mitch Stetter $.39M Drafted 16th rd 2003
RP David Riske $4.25 M Signed as FA 12/5/07
RP Jorge Julio $.95 M Signed as FA 12/4/08
RP Seth McClung $1.67M Acquired in trade w/ TB 7/28/07
RP Todd Coffey $.8 M Claimed off waivers 9/08. Resigned 12/9/08
RP Carlos Villanueva $.413M Signed as FA from D.R. 2002

Payroll obligations to former players: none

Say hello to: Jorge Julio, RJ Swindle, Braden Looper, Chase Wright, Trevor Hoffman

Wave goodbye: Russell Branyan, CC Sabathia, Joe Dillon, Salomon Torres, Eric Gagne, Brian Shouse, Ben Sheets, Ray Durham, Guillermo Mota

Rookies: Alcides Escobar, Matt Gamel

Non-Roster Invitees to Watch: Trot Nixon, Chris Capuano, Chris Duffy

Potential breakout: Rickie Weeks

Welcome to Earth: Jason Kendall, Jeff Suppan

Likely to rebound: Corey Hart

Strengths: Power.  Braun and Fielder could each hit 40 homers and Weeks, Hart, Hardy, Hall, and Cameron could all hit 20.

Weaknesses: Rickie Weeks and Prince Fielder might be the worst defensive players at their respective positions.  Trevor Hoffman should not be closing games.

Optimal batting lineup (position, name, bats, Avg/OBP/Slg, HR, SB, EqA):

RF Hart R  .268/.300/.459  20, 23  .264

SS Hardy R  .284/.345/.491  24, 2  .283

1B Fielder L  .276/.372/.507  34, 3  .300

LF Braun R  .285/.335/.553  37, 14  .298

CF Cameron R  .243/.331/.477  25, 17  .282

2B Weeks R  .234/.342/.398  14, 19  .268

3B Hall R/Lamb L  .239/.214

C Kendall R  .246/.327/.324  2, 8  .237

Prediction: 2nd place NL Central


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