Milwaukee is one of the many teams currently in a rebuilding phase. Similar to other teams, the Brewers’ offense ranked in the bottom third of the league this past season. They ranked 25th in runs scored and 27th in batting average but sat in the middle of the pack in on-base percentage and home runs. While first baseman Chris Carter provided much of the power in the middle of the lineup, the order was really headed by outfielder Ryan Braun and breakout shortstop Johnathan Villar. The two will likely be the best hitters on the squad in 2017, though a few players are primed for a better year.
Brewers Offseason Additions
There were plenty of moves that Milwaukee made in the regular season, but the majority of them focused on gaining prospects that will likely stay in the farm system through 2017. But the biggest addition to the team’s offense was third baseman Travis Shaw, who smacked 16 home runs and attributed 71 RBIs for Boston last year, even while hitting a measly .242. Even if they weren’t able to land a premier power hitter like Jay Bruce, Mark Trumbo or Edwin Encarnacion, the Brewers needed a replacement for Carter. Shaw may not blast more than 40 homers next season, but he is a young solid hitter with plenty of potential.
The team’s second addition to address the power outage in the middle of the order revolves around the return of slugger Eric Thames. The first baseman played just two seasons in the MLB before bolting to South Korea, where he shined at the plate. In his final three seasons in Asia, the left-handed hitter crushed 124 bombs. Granted, he hit just 21 homers in his two MLB seasons but after his experience in Korea, Thames could be primed for a stellar comeback season. Since Milwaukee likely won’t be a contender next year, there isn’t much pressure on Thames. Yet, if he does become a slugging sensation, he could be a guy teams aim for before the trade deadline.
Both Aaron Hill and Johnathan Lucroy ranked in the team’s top five in batting average in 2016 but are no longer on the roster. Villar and Braun were the only players to hit above .280 and a majority of this year’s projected starters hit below .250. Lucroy is one of the few catchers that offers contact and power in the middle of the order. Without him, the Brewers will have to find a substitute among other position players, as Manny Pina will be the team’s starting catcher – he hit .254 with just six extra-base hits in 33 games last season. Along with Pina, a handful of other players will shift around the lineup multiple times. It would be a surprise to see the same order consistently throughout 2017 because many of the hitters are inconsistent.
2016 Milwaukee Brewers Lineup
Johnathan Villar SS
Scooter Gennett 2B
Ryan Braun LF
Johnathan Lucroy C (before he was traded to Texas)
Chris Carter 1B
Kirk Nieuwenhuis CF
Hernan Perez 3B
Martin Maldonado/Ramon Flores C
Milwaukee Brewers 2017 Projected Lineup
Johnathan Villar SS
Domingo Santana RF
Ryan Braun LF
Travis Shaw 3B
Eric Thames 1B
Orlando Arcia SS
Keon Broxton CF
Martin Pina C
Along with Shaw and Thames, Santana, Broxton, and Arcia should be slated to start at the beginning of the season. Santana, who was acquired in a trade with the Houston Astros in 2015, was injured much of 2016 but can return with a vengeance, as he offers power early in the lineup. Broxton has speed on the basepaths, but his poor average in 2016 will likely shift him into the lower third of the order. Arcia had himself a horrid debut at the plate last season, sporting a .219 average, but will likely be given a second chance mostly because of his fielding ability and potential.
Bench Will Play a Role
Even if the lineup doesn’t seem menacing, the team has two reliable bench players in Perez and Gennett. Perez was one of the team’s hottest hitters in the second half of 2016, hitting .281 with nine bombs along with 24 stolen bases. If Shaw cannot contribute to the Brewers’ offense, manager Craig Counsell shouldn’t be afraid to throw Perez into the order here and there. Gennett has always been an underrated power second baseman because of guys like Robinson Cano and Brian Dozier. Sure the Brewer doesn’t swat 30 home runs a season, but he can provide some power in the late innings off the bench. In a season shortened by injuries, he still hit a decent .263 with 45 extra-base hits, including 14 round trips.
Of course, the team’s offense will heavily rely on Braun and Villar for much of 2017. Braun could be dealt at any time, as Milwaukee has attempted to get a package of prospects for the six-time All-Star time and time again. He quietly stroked 30 homers last season with 91 RBIs while hitting above .300. Villar may have had the biggest breakout season of any player last year, notching 19 home runs, mostly from the leadoff spot. He’s also got the most speed on the team, as he swiped 62 bases in 2016. If he can recreate his previous campaign, he could be up for a spot on the All-Star squad next year.
The Brewers probably won’t rank high up in most offensive categories in 2017, but the team could still take steps forward that should be helpful as the team continues down its path to rebuild a contender. There are a cadre of young guys in the lineup that could contribute at the plate and on the bases. Just don’t expect Milwaukee to compete for the league’s best offense, even if Braun proves to be a main contender for the National League’s Most Valuable Player.
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