Milwaukee Brewers 2019 Season Preview

With the 2019 season beginning, it’s time once again for my annual, yearly preview.

To totally toot my own horn, I have been dang near spot in with my predictions in the past two seasons.

https://srpblog.com/2017/03/16/why-milwaukee-could-start-winning-in-2017/

https://srpblog.com/2018/03/13/milwaukee-brewers-season-preview/

Despite my positive outlook on this team in the past two seasons, they have still managed to exceed my expectations.

After an incredible 2018 season, the Brewers have virtually the same squad coming back in 2019 (A squad that was the best team in the National League by the way).

One of Milwaukee’s big moves this offseason was signing free agent catcher, Yasmani Grandal from the Los Angeles Dodgers to a one year deal. Grandal has been one of the best catchers in baseball since 2015. Despite his horrible play in last years NLCS against the Brewers, Grandal is a great pitch framer and switch hitter. An OPS north of .800 is very hard to find at the catching position, which Grandal provides.

Milwaukee also brought back Mike Moustakas on a one year deal with a 2020 option. Moustakas will be playing 2B this season rather than 3B as he did last season, and his entire career prior. Moustakas adds even more power to an already powerful lineup. 30 homers from the second base position is hard to come by!

Lastly, Milwaukee parted ways with Outfielders Domingo Santana and Keon Broxton. Broxton was dealt to the Mets for RHP Bobby Wahl (out for the season with Tommy John), and a prospect. While Santana was dealt to Seattle for OF Ben Gamel and a pitching prospect. I thought the Broxton trade was solid, but it’s very unfortunate Wahl went down right away. The Santana trade I am not as big of a fan of. Santana would’ve been the 4th outfielder on the team, but would be an everyday player on just about any other team. However, trading a guy one season removed from a 30 HR season in exchange for peanuts has “Khris Davis Trade 2.0” written all over it. I loved Domingo Santana in Milwaukee and hope he has success in Seattle. Hopefully it doesn’t turn out to be another lopsided trade against Milwaukee. Ben Gamel seems to be a good fit for the fourth outfielder role.

Overall, I think Milwaukee had a great offseason. However, there are some major questions going into 2019.

The Rotation

The rotation to kick of the 2019 season will consist of Jhoulys Chacin, Zach Davies, Brandon Woodruff, Corbin Burnes, and Freddy Peralta. The future is now for the Brewers starting rotation.

No surprise to see Chacin get the opening day nod. Chacin had a fantastic 2018 campaign and was Milwaukee’s most consistent starter.

Zach Davies had a tough year with injuries last season. Hopefully he can have a healthy 2019 and pitch like he did when he won 17 games in 2017.

I’m very excited to see the three young guys (Burnes, Woodruff, Peralta) get a shot in the rotation. These guys have been highly touted prospects for what has seemed like ages. Burnes was spectacular out of the bullpen last season along with Brandon Woodruff. We saw spurts of success from Freddy Peralta throughout last season in the rotation. If he finds consistency, he will be one of the best arms in the rotation.

Of these 3 guys, I’d put my money on Brandon Woodruff having the best season. He was absolutely lights out for the Brewers from September through the playoffs. He has carried that over into spring and is looking to have a stellar 2019.

A big name left out is Chase Anderson. Anderson was incredible in 2017 and got a nice contract extension from the Brewers. Anderson struggled to find consistency last year and had a very tough finish to his season. After getting roughed up in spring training (ERA north of 6 in 16 innings) Counsell has decided to move him to the bullpen. I’d imagine if one of the starters goes down, Anderson will make a spot start for them. I’m hoping Anderson can find some success in the bullpen and get back to pitching how he did in 2017.

Jimmy Nelson

Nelson missed all of last season after getting reconstructive shoulder surgery. A huge blow after emerging as the ace of the staff Milwaukee thought he could be.

Nelson is beginning the season in AAA as he has still been experiencing some discomfort. In spring training, Nelson threw 4 innings and for the most part, looked like himself. However, I’m afraid there is still a ways for Nelson to go before he is back in the Brewers starting rotation full time.

When he does come back, who knows what he will be? It’s hard to expect a guy to come back after more than a year and be as good as Nelson was in 2017.

The Bullpen

The Brewers live and die by their bullpen. With nuclear weapons in Josh Hader, Corey Knebel, and Jeremy Jeffress, Milwaukee has one of the best bullpens in baseball.

However, bad news has struck as Jeremy Jeffress is having shoulder problems and Corey Knebel could be out for the season with UCL issues (could lead to Tommy John). Those are two major pieces that could miss significant time to start the season. Hopefully the lesser arms in the bullpen are able to step up and fill the void that is left in their absences.

Milwaukee was in talks with Craig Kimbrel, which would be a great replacement for Knebel if need be.

The Bats

If there’s anything we know about the Brewers, it’s that they can hit the ball.

  1. Cain (CF)
  2. Yelich (RF)
  3. Braun (LF)
  4. Aguilar/Thames (1B)
  5. Shaw (3B)
  6. Moose (2B)
  7. Grandal (C)
  8. Arica (SS)

Outside of Cain and Arcia, all of these guys you can pencil in for at least 20 homers.

I wouldn’t be surprised to see Ryan Braun have a bounce back season. Not to say he was bad last year. However, Braun changed his swing this offseason, looking to turn many of his “loud outs” into homeruns.

After an awful start to 2018, Orlando Arcia came up big for the Brewers at the end of 2018 and throughout the playoffs. If Arcia can put all of his tools together for the entire season, that’s huge for Milwaukee.

The Brewers are going to score lots of runs and there is no doubt in my mind about that.

Overall Prediction

It’s going to be very tough for the Brewers to repeat as NL Central champs. I don’t think this is because the team got worse, but other teams in the division got better.

Cincinnati is going to be a tougher matchup this year. I don’t think they will be pushing for a top division spot, but they will be a tougher opponent compared to the past few seasons.

Oh how the tables have turned. After a decade of beating the pulp out of the Pirates, Pittsburgh has had the Brewers number for the past two seasons.

St. Louis got significantly better over the offseason with the acquisitions of Paul Goldschmidt and Andrew Miller. St. Louis was in the playoff picture up until the last few games of the season. A bad start to their season really hindered their post season chances. Adding an elite bullpen arm and one of the best bats in baseball strikes fear into me as a fan of a rival club.

Chicago has seemingly been written off this year and I find that crazy. They are still a great team (they won 95 games last year!). They are getting Yu Darvish back and you’d have to assume he has a bounce back season. The Cubs are still very much a contender in the NL Central.

The NL Central is going to be one of the toughest divisions in baseball this season and here’s how I think it is going to play out.

  1. St Louis (95-67)
  2. Milwaukee (92-70)
  3. Chicago (88-74)
  4. Cincinatti (81-81)
  5. Pittsburgh (75-87)

I have to give the edge to St. Louis. The Cardinals never stay down for too long. Matt Carpenter and Paul Goldschmidt at the corners of the infield is a force to be reckoned with. St. Louis also upgraded their bullpen which was a big problem for them last year. The Cardinals have some very good arms in their starting rotation as well. Miles Mikolas and Jack Flaherty are two guys who have “ace” caliber stuff. Marcell Ozuna is bound to have a better season this year as well. His OPS dropped nearly .150 points after moving to a hitters park. I’d bank on him getting back into at least the .850 OPS range and smack 30 homers. Alright, enough about the smelly Cardinals.

I don’t think it’s impossible for the Brewers to defend their NL Central crown, but there is no doubt it will be tough. If the Brewers have been able to do anything in the past two years, it’s exceed everyone’s expectations. Once again, it should be a fantastic season to watch Brewers baseball!

 


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