After missing the playoffs by one game last season, the Milwaukee Brewers are hungrier than ever to make a run in the playoffs. The club hasn’t made the playoffs since winning the NL Central in 2011 and with the Chicago Cubs looking to win the division for the third straight season, Milwaukee is hoping the busy offseason pays off.
This offseason was a successful for the Brewers on paper, but that doesn’t always translate onto the field. Some people might argue there’s too much depth in the team’s roster because of their offseason moves. Others might say the Brewers gambled too much to win now when, in reality, they have a big window of opportunity to win. Are the Brewers good enough to compete with the Cubs or will they embarrass themselves and fall out of the postseason picture early?
1 Greatest Addition(s): Lorenzo Cain & Christian Yelich
Part of the Brewers busy offseason included upgrading what already was a scary lineup. Though the team could have used an upgrade in the rotation, the club made it clear to the rest of baseball that they are in it to win it in 2018.
Former Kansas City Royals outfielder Lorenzo Cain, who started his career with the Brewers before being sent to KC in a trade for Zack Greinke, signed a five-year, $80m contract in January and will play centerfield daily. A few days later, the club traded four prospects, one of them being Lewis Brinson, to the Miami Marlins for Christian Yelich. Yelich and Cain are huge upgrades in the lineup but having them leaves notable players from last season with less or no playing time.
The good news is Ryan Braun is trying out first base this year, which gives Domingo Santana a spot in the lineup every day. The bad news is Braun and Eric Thames will split the first base duties, leaving Jesus Aguilar out of the picture to play consistently. Another thing to consider is outfielders like Brett Phillips and Keon Broxton might spend the year in the minors unless they’re traded or someone gets injured.
2 Greatest Loss: Neil Walker
The Brewers acquired Neil Walker shortly after the trade deadline last year and provided a major upgrade at second base over the struggling Jonathan Villar. Walker only hit .267 in 38 games, but his veteran presence was a nice addition to a young clubhouse.
Now that Walker’s gone, it’s up to Villar to step up in 2018. Hernan Perez is another option to play second base if Villar’s struggles continue, so here's hoping Villar rebounds and doesn't leave Milwaukee with a void on the field.
3 Greatest Asset: The offense
The Brewers might be the only team in baseball that could survive a mass injury bug outbreak going into the season if they make no more moves before the season starts. The club led the National League in home runs with 224 last season and they could easily pass that total this season with the depth in the offense.
2017 Home Runs
2017 Batting Avg.
The Brewers have one of the deeper rosters in the majors right now and the options that will be available in the farm system is something the fans and front office should be excited about, even without Brinson in the picture.
4 Greatest Liability: Ryan Braun
Braun is aging and at some point, the Brewers will have to accept the fact he isn’t the player he once was. Braun had an injury-plagued 2017 and his presence is hurting the future of the club from getting playing time.
Eric Thames put up a respectful return season in 2017 and it’ll be interesting to see how he and Braun handle platooning every day. As much as the Brewers want Braun in the lineup, they need to keep him either at first base or the outfield and not platoon him between positions, or else young players like Santana, Broxton, and Phillips won’t play as much as they should.
5 X-Factor: Jhoulys Chacin
The Brewers were quiet in adding upgrades to the starting rotation but Jhoulys Chacin is expected to be the veteran of a young rotation and perform to the best of his abilities. Chacin posted a 3.89 ERA with the San Diego Padres last season, the best on the team.
When Jimmy Nelson returns from shoulder surgery, Chacin could either be a sixth man in the rotation or a key piece to the bullpen. How Chacin performs could set the tone for the rest of the pitching staff, which will be pivotal to the team’s success.
6 Final thoughts
Don’t be completely sold on the Brewers in 2018. It’s easy to like what they have on paper, but that talent doesn’t always translate to the field. The Tampa Bay Rays were a prime example of this from 2015 to 2017 and they didn’t post a winning season in that span.
The Brewers are close to being competitors in the long run but don’t be surprised if they take a step back this season. Still, fans shouldn’t worry because one bad year won’t cause the team to rebuild and start from scratch. Craig Counsell will still be the manager and Lorenzo Cain and Christian Yelich won’t go anywhere as the team looks to win a World Series for the first time in franchise history.
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