The Brewers had a bit of a Grand Central Station quality to them this offseason, with a multitude of players coming and going from last year’s wild card club. The season will ultimately tell the tale of whether Milwaukee is subject to a net gain or loss with the flurry of transactions, but on paper, the team seems to have done its best to offset some notable departures with cost-effective replacements that could pay off nicely.
The three biggest losses from a power perspective were certainly those of Yasmani Grandal, Eric Thames and Mike Moustakas, who took a combined 172 extra-base hits, including 115 home runs, with them to the White Sox, Nationals and Reds, respectively. However, newcomers Omar Narvaez, who’ll help step in for Grandal, and the veteran duo of Justin Smoak and Avisail Garcia all carry plenty of pop in their bats. Additionally, fellow offseason arrivals Jedd Gyorko and Ryon Healy both have multiple 20-plus-homer seasons on their resumes and are motivated to bounce back from career-worst campaigns in 2019 elsewhere.
Naturally, any discussion of Milwaukee’s offensive firepower has to center around Christian Yelich, whose kneecap fracture last September arguably prevented him from a second consecutive NL MVP. Yelich still slugged a whopping 44 homers across just 130 games, and he’s reportedly back to full health ahead of the 2020 campaign. Fellow incumbent Lorenzo Cain is also a key component with both his bat and glove, and he’ll be looking to boost his numbers back up to usual standards after slashing .260/.325/.372 in 2019, numbers that each qualified as his lowest since 2013.
The Brew Crew’s starting rotation will be an interesting one to watch during the shortened season, as it seemingly boasts the talent to surprise, even as it features a couple of new additions. Presumptive ace and holdover Brandon Woodruff broke out last season with an 11-3 record and 143 strikeouts across 121.2 innings. Projected No. 2 Adrian Houser also missed plenty of bats and ran into tough luck at times, as the solid 3.72 ERA that accompanied his pedestrian 6-7 record implies.
Newcomers Brett Anderson and Eric Lauer, the latter who was dealing with a positive COVID-19 diagnosis as of mid-July but expects to be ready for the start of the season, help round out the latter portion of the starting five. Anderson could particularly be a darkhorse candidate for a strong campaign, given he’s coming off having garnered a career-best 13 wins in Oakland last season. Then, the bullpen could be in fine shape if Brett Suter proves his stellar 2019 (4-0, 0.49 ERA, 0.60 WHIP) was no fluke, veteran David Phelps brings his usual heat and fireballing Josh Hader follows up his breakout campaign last season (138 strikeouts, 37 saves across 75.2 innings) with a similar effort.
Despite their solid 2019, the Brewers are widely viewed as looking up at the Cardinals, Cubs and Reds in 2020. Milwaukee is admittedly counting on some reclamation projects to regain past glory, but there’s also a chance Craig Counsell’s crew is being somewhat underestimated. The aforementioned array of new bats all carry plenty of potential, while the ongoing presence of Yelich, Cain, Ryan Braun and the emerging Keston Hiura gives the Brew Crew a formidable core of hitters. As such, flyers on everything from the over on the 30.5 wins to division or pennant winner futures are certainly worthy of consideration at current prices.
An example of how a wager on the Brewers winning the NL Central would pay out at the current odds listed above is as follows:
Wager amount: $10.00
Division winner odds: (DraftKings sportsbook): +300
Payout: $40.00: ($30.00 + original $10.00 bet amount)
Brewers odds: Futures
Milwaukee Brewers betting breakdown
2019 Record: 89-73 (NL wild card)
Key losses: LHP Gio Gonzalez, RHP Zach Davies, C Yasmani Grandal, RHP Trent Grisham, RHP Junior Guerra, RHP Jeremy Jeffress, RHP Jordan Lyles, 2B Mike Moustakas, RHP Jimmy Nelson, RHP David Phelps, LHP Drew Pomeranz, IF Travis Shaw, 1B Eric Thames
Key additions: LHP Brett Anderson, RF Avisail Garcia, IF Jedd Gyorko, 3B Ryon Healy, IF Brock Holt, LHP Eric Lauer, 1B Logan Morrison, C Omar Narvaez, 1B Justin Smoak, IF Eric Sogard, 2B Luis Urias
- CF Lorenzo Cain (R)
- LF Christian Yelich (L)
- 2B Keston Hiura (R)
- DH Ryan Braun (R)
- 1B Justin Smoak (S)
- RF Avisail Garcia (R
- C Omar Narvaez (L)
- 3B Eric Sogard (L)/Jedd Gyorko (R)
- SS Orlando Arcia (R)/Luis Urias (R)
Projected rotation: RHP Brandon Woodruff, RHP Adrian Houser, LHP Brett Anderson, RHP Josh Lindblom, LHP Eric Lauer
Projected closer: LHP Josh Hader
Bullpen strengths: Closer Josh Hader is coming off another All-Star campaign with a 2.62 ERA with 37 saves and 138 SO in 75.2 innings. Brent Suter went 8-7 with a 4.44 ERA in 18 starts in 2018. Suter impressed in limited use due to injury in 2019 with a 0.49 ERA in nine games, recording 15 strikeouts over 18.1 innings. Suter will likely be a main part of relief staff if not used in the starting rotation. Ray Black impressed down the stretch in limited use with 13 SO in 14.0 innings.
Bullpen weaknesses: There are still a lot of open questions in the Brewers pen. Freddy Peralta is likely a lock for the relief corps if not utilized as a starter. Peralta took a bit of a step back in 2019, going 7-3 with a 5.29 ERA, although he recorded 115 SO in 85.0 innings. Corey Knebel is a bit of a question mark coming off Tommy John surgery as well, and he posted a 3.58 ERA and 88 SO over 57 appearances in 2019. Bobby Wahl is also still on the IL after an ACL tear in March 2019.
Key stats from 2019
- Brewers will have to replace C Yasmani Grandal who had a .380 OBP, set a Brewers’ record for homers as a catcher with 28 in 2019, and also ranked second in HR among catchers in the Majors.
- Kestpm Hiura’s 19 homers were the third most homers by a rookie in franchise history behind Ryan Braun’s 34 in 2007 and Prince Fielder’s 28 in 2006.
- Josh Lindblom won the Korean league MVP and Best Pitcher Award in 2019.
- 13 Players on the 40-man roster were not on the team in 2019..
- Lorenzo Cain played in 148 games and won a Gold Glove despite thumb, knee and ankle injuries in 2019.