Despite a quiet offseason, the Milwaukee Brewers look to build off of last year’s hot start and avoid another late season slide. Rumors flew around all offseason involving the Brewers and continue to do so as we lead up to pitchers and catchers reporting later this month. From James Shields to Jonathan Papelbon, the Brewers have been linked to numerous major free-agents without any coming to fruition. Fortunately, the Brewers believe keeping the core of last year’s early-season success and adding a few tweaks before last season’s trade deadline could help push this small-market team over the hill and avoid a late-season crash.
The team is anchored by 2014 NL MVP Candidate Jonathan Lucroy, 2011 NL MVP Ryan Braun and All-Star outfielder Carlos Gomez. Lucroy led the MLB in doubles last year and is expected to continue his MVP quality performance during the 2015 season. The catcher has been seeing more and more time at first base partly because of lack of production at that position for Milwaukee last season; the Brewers ranked dead last in first base offensive production in 2014. The move is also in part to keep the 28 year old healthy as he ages into his prime.
Braun spent a majority of last season limited due to a thumb injury that required surgery in the offseason but is expected to be 100% for spring training. If Braun can get back to his 2011 form and anchor this team as a perennial All-Star, the Brewers will have a much greater chance of avoiding the mid-season slip.
Carlos Gomez is expected to continue to contribute his gold-glove quality outfielding as well as his monstrous power at the plate. Despite struggles with striking out at times, Gomez more than makes up for it with his unbelievable power.
The Brewers were able to add three potentially key pieces before the trade deadline last year that could payoff this season. Gerardo Parra was acquired from Arizona last year to add a left-handed bat to the line-up and depth and quality defense to the outfield. Although not expected to start, Parra plans to see significant playing time as a valuable left-handed hitter and outfielder. Along with Parra, the Brewers traded for utility man Adam Lind from Toronto. Lind will help with the lack of production at first base and will be the main option at first base when Lucroy is behind the plate.
The Brewers’ pitching staff will be led by the veterans RHP Matt Garza and RHP Kyle Lohse after the departure of front-end starter Yovani Gallardo in a trade to the Rangers last season. The two veterans are expected to deliver consistent quality performances while paired alongside two up-and-coming potential stars, RHP Mike Fiers and RHP Jimmy Nelson. After being called up from AAA, Fiers was Milwaukee’s most consistent pitcher while Nelson, the 2014 Pacific Coast League pitcher of the year, struggled in his first 12 starts. The Brewers are hoping the combination of consistent veterans and young studs can stabilize their rotation.
The bullpen is anchored by newly-promoted closer Jonathan Broxton following the departure of Francisco Rodriguez in free agency. Broxton was acquired last season before the trade deadline as well and will look to heavily contribute this season for Milwaukee.
Despite Milwaukee’s early season success last year, bookmakers on Gambling.com agree that the Brewers are long shots to win the NL with 20/1 odds, tied with the Cincinnati Reds and San Diego Padres. Perhaps the Brewers will be able to fly under the radar and surprise some people in 2015.