With the 2018 MLB season set to kick off in less than three weeks, I could not be more excited for the Milwaukee Brewers to begin play. How could you not be as the team “overachieved” last season, finishing with an 86-76 record? Last season the team clearly found out that their rebuild (that began in the summer of 2015) was over and that this team is ready to compete for the division title. The Brewers missed the Wild-Card game by only one game last season. They have only added this offseason to their already strong offensive core.
The acquisitions of Christian Yelich and Lorenzo Cain are fantastic, and gives Milwaukee one of the best outfields in the major leagues. I have expressed my concerns with the possibility of guys like Domingo Santana and Jesus Aguilar not being in the lineup enough due to these acquisitions. However, here is where I am at in terms of that potential issue. Injuries are an inevitability in sports and someone is more than likely to get bit by the injury bug at some point. If Ryan Brauns’ recent career is any indicator of that, Domingo Santana will see plenty of playing time. Aguilar is still a great option off the bench. I would really like to see him play more, but he was very good in a pinch hitting role last year. I personally think he is just as good, if not better than Eric Thames, who is obviously a fan favorite. Taking Thames out of the lineup is a tough sell to fans even if Aguilar is the better player.
Ultimately, I think the Brewers opening day lineup will look something like this :
1.) Lorenzo Cain (OF)
2.) Christian Yelich (OF)
3.) Ryan Braun (OF)
4.) Eric Thames (1B)
5.) Travis Shaw (3B)
6.) Manny Pina (C)
7.) Orlando Arcia (SS)
8.) Jonathan Villar (2B)
9.) Chase Anderson (P)
That is a 1-8 not to be reckoned with. Last season, I would have told you Colorado had the best 1-8 in the National League. Chicago was a very close second. This new and improved Milwaukee lineup has potential to contend with those top teams in the National League this season. Milwaukee led the National League in homeruns last season, but finished near the bottom in runs scored and batting average. Cain and Yelich are both high average guys who can help the team score more runs. This Milwaukee offense has all of the making to be one of the top offensive teams in the National League.
Today Chase Anderson was named the opening day starter for the Brewers. In the past three seasons, that has been a curse for Brewer pitching. In 2015, Kyle Lohse got destroyed against Colorado in his opening day start and never got back on track. He posted a 5.85 ERA that season and is no longer pitching in the big leagues. Wily Peralta got the nod in 2016, he had a rough outing against the Giants and got off to a brutal start to the season. He was DFA’d, but then came up later in the year and began to find his stuff again. Last season was a disaster for Wily and he is no longer with the club. In 2017, Junior Guerra got injured in his opening day start, and he was not the same Junior Guerra Brewer fans saw in 2016 when he came back from that injury. Moral of the story, hopefully Chase is not phased by the recent struggles of Brewer opening day starters. Anderson more than deserves the opening day nod. He was the Brewers’ best starter in terms of ERA (2.74) and opponent average (.220). He put up ace like numbers last season and earned a nice contract from it.
Many fans are concerned when it comes to the Milwaukee pitching staff. Jimmy Nelson being out until June does not help, especially with the breakout season he had last year. Milwaukee didn’t add any big name free agents when it comes to pitching this offseason and I think that has made some fans upset. Yu Darvish having Brewer rumors around him followed by him going to the Cubs really didn’t help. Depsite the Brewers not landing a big name, free agent, starting pitcher, I think Milwaukee has a strong rotation going into 2018.
Adding Jhoulys Chacin to the staff of Anderson, Nelson, and Zach Davies, makes for a really great top 4 in the starting rotation. The big question mark lies in the fifth starting spot. Milwaukee brought back Yovani Gallardo on a one year deal, but has struggled so far in spring training and it appears he will be coming out of the bullpen for the crew. It seems to me that it is a two horse race for the five spot between Junior Guerra and Wade Miley. With Nelson out until June, it is very likely we could see both of these two starting for the crew come opening week. I had no expectations for Miley coming into camp, as he was brought in on a minor league deal and has struggled over his past few big league seasons. His spring training numbers are very impressive however and he may be pushing for a starting job. Brent Suter is also an interesting name in terms of Brewer pitching. He has a confirmed spot on the team according to Craig Counsell, he is just unsure of where he will be. I loved Suter both out of the bullpen and as a starter last season. I imagine he will be used as a spot starter throughout the year. Milwaukee starting pitchers combined for a 4.00 ERA last season, good for fifth in the National League. I think the staff is capable of bringing that down .05-.10 points this season.
Going into last season the bullpen was a huge question mark. This season I am much more confident in the group they have assembled. Corey Knebel is obviously a stud closer. Hopefully Matt Albers can come in and be what Anthony Swarzak was to the Brewers in the back half of last season as a dominant 8th inning guy. Josh Hader will more than likely be our most heavily relied on guy in terms of innings and he was fantastic in that role last season. Jeremy Jeffress began to find his stuff last season once he came back to Milwaukee. Boone Logan hasn’t been the most consistent of pitchers over his career, but he is a solid depth add. J.J. Hoover had a great year in Arizona last year and will be looking to build on that coming into this season.
Overall, this Milwaukee team is going to be an absolute blast to watch this season. As a fan, I have never been more excited for Brewers baseball (Okay, I guess I was pretty pumped for 2011). Last season, I made the gutsy prediction that Milwaukee would be an above .500 team with an 83-79 record. They made me look fairly smart, finishing their 2017 campaign with an 86-76 record. I’ll get crazier this year and say Milwaukee is an 88-90 win team and will push Chicago until the end of the season for the top division spot. They will definitely earn a wild card spot. This team is young, exciting and most importantly good.