Thursday, March 10, 2011

MLB 30 in 30: Milwaukee Brewers

This is one of those teams where you can never deem if they are a seller or a buyer. This year, they were clearly buyers. Now with an improved rotation, they may finally be ready to truly compete for their first division title since 1982.

What they Have: They finally have a rotation that can make Brewers fans happy. The major acquisition of course was Zack Greinke. Besides his down 2010 season, he can still be a great number 1 starter for Milwaukee and also potentially get back into the NL Cy Young discussion. Shawn Marcum is the other major newcomer in this revamped rotation, and he's coming off a decent season with Toronto, but is brimming with talent, and has good stuff to boot. The rest of the rotation is a good combination, with Yovani Gallardo, Randy Wolf, and Chris Narveson. The bullpen also got a bit of a boost with the addition of veteran reliever LaTroy Hawkins, who can help the newly appointed closer John Axford. Takashi Saito can also help the younger arms in the pen, Zach Braddock, Kameron Loe, and Manny Parra. Offensively, the Brewers may be as good as any team in baseball. Lead by 1B Prince Fielder, the offense last year was in the top 10 in the majors in every offensive category sans 3. LF Ryan Braun, 3B Casey McGehee, and RF Corey Hart lead along with Fielder the rest of the offensive charge. They do have some sore spots, but offensively they can compete with the likes of the Phillies and Reds for the best offense in the NL.

What they Don't Have: The bullpen is still a sore spot, as behind Axford and Hawkins the Brewers have converted starters with not that much bullpen experience. Their maturation as relievers is key to the Brewers success. Also, the SS and C positions aren't that good. Yuniesky Bentancourt is not a bad SS, but doesn't quite have the offensive pop that the Brewers may like. The catching position is one to watch, with up to 3 guys, Jonathan Lucroy, Wil Nieves, and George Kottaras competing for the every day role. None are fantastic offensively, but none ar terrible at it either. The major problem the Brewers have is defense. They may have offensive powerhouses, but their D could be their undoing. The infield is erratic defensively, and the outfield isn't much better.

Any Help Coming? When you make trades like the Brewers did, the farm system will take a hit. In Milwaukee's case, it's a major hit. The top 3 prospects from last season have moved on, so now the best prospect is a potential set-up man. RHP Mark Rogers is injury prone, which could make him destined for bullpen duty at best, a la Aroldis Chapman last season. RHP Willy Peralta has good stuff, but has been fast tracked by Milwaukee. The best non-pitching prospect is OF Kentrail Davis, and he has raw offensive talent, but needs a good amount of polish before he can play in the majors.

Outlook: Good. They have enough pitching and offense to compete this season. The bullpen is still a sore spot, and will Zack Greinke be able to recover from his spring training injuries? They are not very good defensively and there are other teams in the NL Central that are more well rounded. But this team will compete for a division crown this season.

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