The Milwaukee Brewers made it to the National League Wild Card game in 2019 thanks to a dominant second half of the season. The Brewers went an amazing 42-29 in the second half propelling them into the playoffs and nearly catching the St. Louis Cardinals for the division lead. What made this even more amazing is that they had much of their success without the league’s MVP Christian Yelich.
Position Players: Yasmani Grandal, Mike Moustakas, Travis Shaw, Eric Thames and Trent Grisham
Pitchers: Jordan Lyles, Chase Anderson, Zach Davies, Drew Pomeranz and Junior Guerra
Position Players: Luis Urias, Jedd Gyroko, Omar Narvaez, Avisail Garcia and Ryon Healy
Pitchers: Eric Lauer, Josh Lindblom and Brett Anderson
How do you replace Yasmani Grandal?
Yasmani Grandal signed a bargain deal with Milwaukee in 2019, he paid off his price giving the Brewers a 5.2 WAR, ranked just second behind JT Realmuto. Grandal was a major reason that the Brewers were able to handle the loss of Yelich providing stability in the middle and sometimes top of the order.
With Grandal out the Brewers went out and added Omar Narvaez. LOVE this move. Narvaez is the perfect replacement on the offensive end for Grandal. Quietly one of the best upcoming offensive catchers in all of baseball, Narvaez smashed 22 homers last season in Seattle and was able to produce a comparable slash line with Grandal
Narvaez doesn’t bring the pitch framing that Grandal does but he is serviceable and will be a perfect split with defensive minded Manny Pina in 2020.
Whos on the corners?
Milwaukee will have to replace all of their corner infield players in 2020. Ryan Braun will be moving to first base a position he has little experience playing while third base projects to be a mix of the returning Eric Sogard, Luis Urias and Jedd Gyroko.
Eric Sogard is coming off of a career season splitting time between the Blue Jays and Rays, providing both teams with a consistent bat finishing with a 2.8 WAR. Sogard will likely be primarily a 3B/SS option for Milwaukee as they have established Keston Hiura as the face of the franchise along with Christian Yelich.
The Brewers would love for Luis Urias to take over 3rd base. Urias could see time at shortstop if Orlando Arcia is not able to hit at the major league level. Picking up Urias was a great move by the organization, adding a guy that was recently a top 35 prospect. Arcia has shown the ability to be a defensive force but the offense has not had an impact on the major league level. I could see Urias being the full time shortstop by the end of the 2020 season.
Does the rotation have enough to compete?
Milwaukee has found success without the need of a strong rotation for two years. They have found a way to piece together wins by getting the most out of the starters they have and utilizing a stellar bullpen. 2020 will see a similar approach. The rotation will be headlined by 2019 All Star Brandon Woodruff. Woodruff was establishing himself as the ace of the staff before an oblique injury sidelined him for most of the second half of the season. With Woodruff the Brewers have a starter that they can build their rotation around. The organization moved on from mainstays Zach Davies and Chase Anderson in the offseason to open up spots for a few question marks.
The projected rotation at the moment according to ESPN and Rotochamp would be Brandon Woodruff, Adrian Houser, Josh Lindblom, Brett Anderson, Eric Lauer and Brent Suter. If you were counting that would be six names for five spots. The Brewers will most likely go with a five man rotation but outside of Woodruff the pitchers behind him have not been known for their ability to pitch long into games.
The most intriguing players that will be given a chance would be former Padre Eric Lauer, 25, has the most potential of the projected starters. Lauer is still young and was able to provide a terrible Padres squad with a 2.4 WAR in 2019 but his xFIP was pedestrian at 4.77. If Lauer can handle the smaller confines of Miller Park he should be a valuable piece in the long term for Milwaukee.
Josh Lindblom is an interesting piece to the puzzle. 2019 saw a revitalization of his career while pitching in the KBO, receiving the Most Valuable Player award. Lindblom has spent time in the majors with four different clubs most recently with the Pirates in 2017. Can he have similar success as pitchers like Miles Mikolas have had after seemingly reinventing themselves in other leagues? Only time will tell.
The Brewers rotation will be the biggest question as they head into spring training. Their success beyond just the division will be determined by their health and progression.
The Brewers made a lot of changes in the offseason. Players like Avisail Garcia and Omar Narvaez should thrive in more hitter friendly atmospheres. A full year of Keston Huira and Christian Yelich being healthy for opening day should also be a spark to the offense. Josh Hader and company will be great as they have been for the last few years. It’s about the rotation, if the rotation can take big strides in 2020 Milwaukee will be a force in the central again.
If the Brewers find themselves in need of help going into the trade market they will have some problems as they have depleted what was once a very promising farm system. Currently they rank 29th in baseball according to Bleacher Report. This team is built to compete right now, they are young and have a terrific manager in Craig Counsell. I would project them as a clear contender for a Wild Card spot heading into the season, anything past that would be a surprise.