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Monday, March 15, 2010

Season Preview: Milwaukee Brewers

2009 Record: 80-82   .494

Run Differential: -33

When 2008 ended the Brewers had made the playoffs for the first time in over a decade.  Sure they lost in the first round but it wasn't the loss to the Phillies that hurt so bad.  It was the loss to the Yankees.  Team owner Mark Attanasio offered CC Sabathia a team record contract of over $100 million but he turned it down, instead choosing to play in New York.  What could have been a great offseason immediately caused the team to turn into turmoil.  The rotation which would have had a stout 1-2 punch became Yovanni Gallardo and four punchless guys with Brewer caps.  Rumors swirled about the club offering a contract to Henry Rowengartner but he evidently is going to stay retired as a Cub.  A revival by the ageless Trevor Hoffman was not enough to save a mediocre bullpen either.  The team had hoped to bully opponents with what appeared to be one of the league's best offenses but that too went awry.  JJ Hardy never got on track though he continued to play excellent defense.  Corey Hart continued his slide causing many to wonder if he will ever be able to revert to 2007 form.  Possibly the most crippling blow was the injury to second baseman Rickie Weeks who appeared to finally be figuring it out.  Add all this up and you get a team that finished just under .500 and well out of the playoff race.

Optimism  is not a word I've heard when discussing the Brewers in 2010, but that doesn't mean this team should be counted out.
Ryan Braun is signed to a long-term deal but not Prince.
Will he stay or will he price himself out of Beertown?

The middle of the lineup is still anchored by Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder, both of whom are MVP candidates.  Rickie Weeks is healthy after wrist surgery and top prospect Alcides Escobar is penciled in as the starting shortstop giving the team a dynamic keystone combo.  Yovanni Gallardo could take another step forward this season which would put him towards the top of the list for best NL pitcher.  The real concern here is the rest of the rotation.  Free agents Doug Davis and Randy Wolf were signed to stabilize the rotation.  In all likelihood, the team will need one of them to have an all-star caliber season in order for the Brewers to compete. An offseason trade of JJ Hardy to Minnesota for CF Carlos Gomez was made in an attempt to maintain excellent outfield defense while cutting salary.  But therein lies the rub.  Why would this team want to shed salary?  The reason is Prince Fielder.  His pending free agency in 2011 has the team panicking already.  At this point no one knows what will happen but it doesn't seem as if the team has much confidence in prospect Mat Gamel.  The Brewers built their minor league system through the draft with the intent of contending in 2007-2008. That window is now closing fast.  Trading Fielder would restart the building process while hanging onto him might take away what little financial flexibility the team has.  Which is the correct decision? Sadly, there may not be one.

Likely Opening Day Roster:
My Two Cents
Greg Zaun
Opposite of Jason Kendall except he's really not that good
Matt Treanor
Two sports hernia surgeries in the last two years.   Talk about bad luck.
Prince Fielder
Holds the record for most feet run on an inside-the-park HR (it took him another 90 ft to stop)
Rickie Weeks
Team needs him to be healthy to compete. Slugged .517 in 162 PA's last season
Casey McGehee
Needs to hit to prove he's worth starting. Natural position is 2b
Alcides Escobar
Excellent defender an good base stealer. OBP totally reliant upon batting average
Ryan Braun
If it weren't for that Pujols guy, Braun might be the NL MVP this season
Carlos Gomez
Hopefully he doesn't bat leadoff. Will give Milwaukee excellent outfield defense.
Corey Hart
Starting to think '07 was a fluke
Joe Inglett
First in line to lose job when team decides to call up Mat Gamel
Craig Counsell
When you can play three infield positions and post an OBP of .350 you'll play a log time
Jody Gerut
Smartest player in baseball?  Stanford grad offers good D and decent batting eye
Jim Edmonds
If he can still hit could form platoon in right with Hart.
Yovanni  Gallardo
Walk rate the only thing preventing him from being Cy Young contender
Randy Wolf
No longer considered fragile but expect huge regression; BABIP mark not sustainable.
Doug Davis
Expect league average numbers but 200 IP
Jeff Suppan
If he's healthy expect him to get the same results as Davis but with fewer BB but more hits
Dave Bush
Probably Peterson's biggest project since all know Parra's going to end up on the DL
Trevor Hoffman
All time saves leader just keeps on ticking
LaTroy Hawkins
Do you remember when he was Minnesota's top pitching prospect?
Todd Coffey
More success against lefties would allow him to get more publicity. 2.90 ERA last season.
Claudio Vargas
Move to the pen may have saved his career
Carlos Villanueva
Nice multi-inning reliever who can start in a pinch
Mitch Stetter
LOOGY threw more sliders than anyone else last year
Manny Parra
Incredible talent but is incapable of staying healthy

Say Hello To: Randy Wolf, Doug Davis, Alex Gomez, LaTroy Hawkins, Greg Zaun, Matt Treanor, Joe Inglett

Wave Goodbye: Jason Kendall, Mike Cameron, JJ Hardy, Frank Catalanotto, Felipe Lopez

Rookies: Alcides Escobar

Potential Breakout: Rickie Weeks - The stretch run in '08 and the beginning of '09 are hopefully what Weeks has become.  Unfortunately he remains a huge injury risk.

Welcome to Earth: Randy Wolf - From Dodger Stadium to Miller Park.  Expect many more hits allowed due to the move and the fact that a .254 opponent's batting average is ridiculously low and impossible to sustain.

Likely to Rebound: Manny Parra - Not a lot of choices for this one.  Perhaps a move to the bullpen will allow Parra to become more consistent. 

Top 3 players: Ryan Braun, Prince Fielder, Yovanni Gallardo

Top Prospect: Alcides Escobar - He'll probably steal 30 bases but put up an on-base percentage of .320.  Expected to be the Brewers leadoff hitter. Yuck.`

Prediction: 76-86  4th place N.L. Central
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