The Milwaukee Brewers are coming off a serious down season in which they went 74-88. After winning on opening day last season the 2013 Brewers went directly down hill with a 5-game losing streak and stayed at the bottom of the standings for the majority of the season. Their season certainly wasn’t helped by the drama surrounding star outfielder Ryan Braun who was suspended for the final 65 games of the season for his involvement in the Biogenesis scandal.
Injuries, suspensions and overall poor play plagued the Brewers last year. The normally elite Yovani Gallardo had an off-season and the rest of the bullpen’s struggles didn’t help the brew crew. John Axford got off to a horrible start and ended the season in St.Louis, and star third baseman Aramis Ramirez missed the majority of the season with a left knee injury.
As far as new talent goes, the offseason was interesting in Milwaukee. The organization made a run at former rookie of the year first baseman Ike Davis after Corey Hart moved on to Seattle but ended up settling on aging veterans Mark Reynolds and Lyle Overbay. However, the Brewers were able to supplement their rotation with the huge signing of Matt Garza to a 4-year, $50 million contract. Milwaukee also has a few minor league players that could make the jump this year including pitcher Jimmy Nelson and first baseman Hunter Morris.
Heading into 2014 Brewers fans can be excited about the continual growth of 2013 all-star Jean Segura and the return of Braun. Outside of those, watch out for probable opening day starter Khris Davis at left field and Scooter Gennett at second. It’s difficult to see this team making any significant moves this season, but if they stay healthy they may end up surprising the league.
Best Case Scenario
I’ll get laughed at for saying this, but a reasonable amount of games over .500 and securing the last wild card spot isn’t completely out of the question for this Brewers team. Often times we get caught up in farm systems and assume that the talent of a farm system equals current talent on the field. The Brewers farm system is terrible, but their current team isn’t. If Ryan Braun, Carlos Gomez, Segura, Garza, and Ramirez can play to their potential and the rest of the team is average the Brewers won’t be as bad as many people think. However, being realistic, this team will probably end up battling the Cubs for last in the Central… AGAIN.
Most Important Brewers
Ryan Braun was having a great season last year before the Biogenesis deal finally caught up with him. If he can keep on the pace he was at (and stay on the field) the Brewers can definitely outperform expectations. Defense may prove a problem for Braun, he is moving from left to right field, but other than that he is in line to have another monster season.
On that note, the next important player after Braun is Matt Garza. Garza’s play is important for a few reasons: One, the Brewers spent a large amount for Garza in lieu of making a play for Ike Davis and two, the Brewers desperately need their starters to play well to make up for a lacking bullpen. Pitching, especially relief, has been a huge problem for the Brewers since the NLCS run back in 2011, and the bullpen hasn’t shown any signs of getting better since then. The Brewers need their starters to go deeper into games in order to avoid the bullpen for as long as possible, and the addition of Matt Garza can help them do that.
Potential Breakout Players
We’ll start with Khris Davis, a personal favorite. Ever since his huge spring last season Davis has been a hot name in Milwaukee. Although he only played in 56 games last season, he figures to be a main component in the outfield this year with the departure of Norichika Aoki to the Royals. Davis is equal parts “superstar” and “mediocre” though, so it will be interesting to see his career arc. That said, Davis produced in his time in the bigs last season and could have a huge season in 2014.
Worst Case Scenario
Matt Garza flames out, Khris Davis struggles in his new role as the everyday starter and the rest of the team goes down with them and the Brewers end up last in the NL Central. Again, this is the WORST CASE scenario, I don’t necessarily see this happening but it is very possible, especially if the top end of the roster fails. There’s really nothing going on in the Brewers farm system, so if the guys that should produce (Garza, Gallardo, Lohse, Braun, Ramirez) don’t, there’s really nothing to go to.
Areas of Concern
Where to start? First base comes to mind. The Brewers lost a quality first baseman in Corey Hart to Seattle in the offseason. The Brewers failed to pick up a big name in the offseason instead settling for Mark Reynolds and Lyle Overbay. It will be interesting to see if Sean Halton, a utility player from last season, can challenge Reynolds and Overbay for time at first. He batted .238 in 42 games last season (26 played at first) and if the two free agents struggle there’s a legitimate chance that Halton could man first for the majority of the season. Even if all the potential first baseman play their hearts out this season it will still be a struggle at first for the Brewers in 2014.
Another potential area of concern is left field. Normally this wouldn’t be a concern with Ryan Braun playing out there, but due to the Brewers trade of Nori Aoki for Kansas City pitcher (and Bel Air resident) Will Smith, Braun will be forced to move over to right this season. That means that relative newcomer Khris Davis will be forced to play left, at least at the beginning of the season. Davis, as I stated earlier, has huge potential but is mostly unproven.
Finally, the back end of the rotation is a concern. Wily Peralta was wildly inconsistent last season and whoever ends up taking the fifth spot (Marco Estrada or Tyler Thornburg) won’t wind up in any All-Star games.
Who Needs to Bounce Back from a Down 2013
Yovani Gallardo. The 28-year old had his worst season last year going 12-10 with a 4.18 ERA. He also was plagued by a drunk driving arrest at the beginning of the season that may have distracted him on the field. Gallardo may be aging, but he needs to lower his ERA and deflect some pressure off of the bullpen. If Gallardo can hold things together then the Brewers’ first three pitchers may actually become one of the best in baseball.
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