Ryan Braun battled injuries once again (insert steroid/herpes cream joke). But, the Hebrew Hammer had the 14th best hard hit rate last season. His stats don’t reflect this hard hit rate so we have to assume Brauny hit into some bad luck. He reportedly changed some things in his swing this offseason for the first time in his career. The goal of this is to elevate more balls to avoid that bad luck. Braun could be a sneaky fantasy asset this year if you’re willing to roll with him missing plenty of games. He’s currently coming off the board in the 16th-17th round which could prove to be a major steal…
2018 Recap: 96-67, beat Cubs in game 163 at Miller Park South, 1 game away from World Series
Projected Batting Order
Jesus Aguilar: Some may say regression is due, I mean just look at his second half. But, 2018 was the Jesus’s first year with full time at-bats. He may have been fatigued down the stretch and opposing teams figured out his weaknesses. Jesus has shown the ability to adjust thus far and with an off season to improve on his approach he should be due for a similar year as last.
MISC: Mike Moustakas will likely end up with 2B eligibility as he has been spending a lot of time there in spring training. Ben Gamel could be a fantasy contributor when Braun inevitably misses time. Watch out for prospect Mauricio Dubon to get a shot at SS if Arcia struggles like last year. Dubon was hitting .343 with 4 home runs in AAA before tearing his ACL in May. Keston Hiura is the Brewers number one prospect, but I wouldn’t expect him up until June/July at the earliest. He has proven to hit at every level thus far, but likely won’t get much playing time unless an injury occurs. His future is bright though.
Jhoulys Chacin looks to be criminally undervalued by Steamer. The projections for all Brewers starters don’t look promising, which is understandable. But, Chacin showed no signs that last season was a fluke. Statistically, it was even his best season. He finished as the 30th ranked starter and 156th overall in Yahoo leagues last season. He didn’t miss a single start yet is still being taken around the 20th round in 12-team leagues. I wouldn’t hesitate to snag him around the 15th round. He could prove to be a huge value on a team that should win plenty of games.
Jimmy Nelson has yet to pitch in a spring training game, but has recently pitched in a simulated game for the first time in forever. He may not be in the rotation the first go around, but expect him to be a fixture in the rotation by May. Jimmy’s fastball has been around 90-92 MPH which is down from when he touched 95-98 consistently just two years ago. He also said he has something left in the tank which can be interpreted as he’s not throwing his hardest to make sure his shoulder is okay. Nelson enjoyed a breakout season in 2017 before injuring his shoulder diving back to first base (NL DH?). In 175 1/3 innings, Nelson struck out 199 and had a 3.49 ERA. He started 29 games and 17 of those were quality starts. This was the Brewers ace and the team still excelled without him in 2018. If he returns near to his previous form he could push this team over the edge and be another great fantasy value late in drafts.
MISC: Manager Craig Counsell recently said that the only rotation spot locked down is Chacin. That makes sense considering the situation with all other pitchers and Chacin’s performance last year. Chase Anderson has struggled with home runs again this Spring Training and is by no means a member of the rotation. Zach Davies struggled last year with injuries and didn’t show much when he did pitch. You could easily swap in Freddy Peralta and/or Brandon Woodruff in for these two. I feel Burnes will make the rotation as General Manager David Stearns has stated the plan is to have Burnes in the rotation this year. He’s worked on a sinker and changeup to solidify his rotation spot. Peralta had fantasy value last season with his high strikeout numbers. He will surely make some starts this year. Woodruff is the most interesting to me after he dominated the post season last year. If he makes the rotation he will be big time sleeper. Burnes, Peralta, and Woodruff are all guys I would consider taking in the late rounds.
An underestimated aspect of the rotation and bullpen of this team is the loss of pitching coach Derek Johnson. Johnson left to the Reds in the same role. There’s no doubt the players loved him as he worked wonders with Jimmy Nelson, Chase Anderson and the rest of the staff. Nelson blossomed under Johnson. Damn, that sounds kinky. Anderson turned around his career as well. Losing Johnson could have unexpected negative consequences on the entire pitching staff as he is undoubtedly a pitching wizard that connected with and got the absolute most out of his guys. New pitching coach Chris Hook was minor league pitching coordinator before coaching A and AA for 10 years. He has coached many current Brewers while they were in the minors which could prove beneficial.
Jacob Barnes, Adrian Houser, and Jake Petricka could sneak into the bullpen. This was a hard list to make along with the rotation while factoring in bench spots and the Brewers decision makers certainly have some tough choices to make. This is a good problem to have.
Like I said, Woodruff and Peralta can easily be switched into the rotation, but can definitely provide relief depth.
Jeremy Jeffress would originally been who I’d have listed as closer, but he has been dealing with shoulder soreness this spring. That could open up a bullpen spot for Barnes, Houser, or Petricka. I expect the Brew Crew to approach the end of games like they did towards the end of last season: they will use Hader for multiple innings when they have the lead. This could lead to saves depending on if he can make it to the ninth. Hader can be a fantasy commodity regardless of a closer label because of his high strikeout numbers and the chance at saves. If your league has holds- even better.
Corey Knebel was the opening day closer last year and that originally was a traditional closers role. He went down with a hamstring injury and upon return wasn’t the same guy. He lost the closing job and Jeffress ran with it. However, Knebel turned into the arguably the Brewers most dominant pitcher in September and October and could’ve made a case for postseason MVP. Knebel will return to the closer label this season and irritate anyone who drafted him early last year with around 30 saves and high strikeout numbers. Knebel and Hader will be fantasy worthy and perhaps Jeffress as well.