Author: Matthew Budkofsky
After an arduous rebuilding process, the Milwaukee Brewers flashed some potential last season by winning 86 games and missing out on a postseason birth by just one game. Last year’s success was enough to convince the front office that the time was now for the Brew Crew, and boy have those moves paid off early.
On January 25th the Brewers made a blockbuster deal with the Marlins. The Brewers dealt four prospects, including the franchise’s #1 prospect Lewis Brinston, to Miami in exchange for stud outfielder Christian Yelich. Just a few hours later, the Brewers signed Lorenzo Cain to the largest free agent deal in franchise history to the tune of 5 years, $80 million. The two star outfielders were expected to anchor the Brewer lineup and so far, this season they have done just that. Cain and Yelich have gotten off to a combined 15/28 (.536) start and have added 6 RBI. The hot start has helped alleviate pressure off of players like Ryan Braun, Eric Thames, and Travis Shaw. These players are certainly expected to have impact roles throughout the regular season for Milwaukee.
With free agents like Jake Arrieta, Yu Darvish and Lance Lynn all available for much of this offseason, it came as a surprise to many to see the Brewers stand pat with their rotation. The Brewers current rotation appears to lack a true ace, however in 2017 the Brewers starters were 5th in the MLB in ERA. On Opening Day, Chase Anderson threw 6 shut-out innings and after the game manager Craig Counsell said, “We’ve been pitching really well for a while now and going back to last year as well I don’t think we’ve gotten a ton of credit for it.” In addition to Anderson, Zach Davies and Jhoulys Chacin have proven to be durable, reliable starters that can eat innings. As of yesterday, Jimmy Nelson was transferred to the 60-day DL, so other Brewers pitchers will have to continue to step up in order to have success.
The Brewers bullpen projects to be much deeper this year than last, but a number of questions still need to be answered. Losing Anthony Swarzak means the Brewers lack an elite set-up guy. On the other hand, the additions of Boone Logan and Matt Albers gives the Brewers some much needed depth. For now, Josh Hader has been working as the set-up man and has done an excellent job so far, pitching 3 innings with 7 strikeouts without letting up a run. If Hader is able to further develop his changeup and continue to have success, it would be hard for Milwaukee to not consider moving him back into the rotation. Corey Knebel proved last season that he could get the job done as a closer, however he has looked shaky to start this season. With an injury depleted starting rotation, the Brewers will certainly rely upon its bullpen on a daily basis.
The Brewers are a team that is certainly heading in the right direction. This is the highest ceiling a Brewer team has had in years, however the stars will need to align in order for the Brewers to make a return to the post season. Jimmy Nelson is already injured, and Ryan Braun and Lorenzo Cain have shown to be injury prone in the past. There are also still a lot of things that needed to be sorted out in the bullpen, however if Milwaukee is able to address these issues they could be a poised for a deep playoff run.