Milwaukee Brewers preview: Count on good family entertainment
After a barrel full of injuries had the Milwaukee Brewers reeling out of the gate in 2012, the team went 41-33 after the All-Star break to climb into contention in the National League Central. Hence, there were rumors that the “Brew Crew” might try to retool this winter by going after Josh Hamilton, or more realistically, Ryan Dempster. Lately, talks with Kyle Lohse have even surfaced. Truth be told, it’s all just wishful thinking.
The Milwaukee Brewers, it seems, will always retain the sentiments of their former owner, Bud Selig, and be stuck in a small-market rut. That said, nobody likes to lose money. The current chairman in Milwaukee, Mark Attanasio, says he dropped millions of dollars last season due to an inflated payroll, declining attendance, and one of baseball’s smallest television markets.
Under these circumstances, the Milwaukee Brewers were relatively quiet this offseason, although they did seem to bolster their disappointing bullpen. General manager Bob Melvin inked two veteran southpaws, Tom Gorzelanny and Mike Gonzalez, to generous contracts, and also rewarded center fielder Carlos Gomez, to a three-year, $24 million extension.
The bottom line is these Brewers, the youngsters and old pros alike, love playing for Melvin and manager Ron Roenicke. The skipper encourages a loose clubhouse and preaches leadership and team unity. And a happy group of guys can prove to be very productive, even overachieve.
Milwaukee Brewers position players
The club is very strong up the middle, with Jonathan Lucroy behind the dish, the Jean Segura–Rickie Weeks double play combo, and Gomez policing the outfield. Aramis Ramirez is recovering nicely from a strained right knee, and the 34-year-old third baseman should have another stellar year. But across the diamond at first base, injuries to Corey Hart and Mat Gamel have the team in crisis mode. Blake Lalli has had a hot spring at the plate, and could help out at first base, although he is primarily a catcher. A more probable scenario would be to have veteran Alex Gonzalez hold down the fort, while GM Melvin keeps a close eye on the waiver wire. Hart won’t be back for a couple of months, and Gamel is out for the season.
Milwaukee Brewers pitching
The team isn’t very deep in this category either. After the Mexican duo of Yovani Gallardo and Marco Estrada, who has had an impressive camp, the Brewers are an enigma. Roenicke is hoping that Dominican youngster Wily Peralta, the organization’s top prospect, is ready for the starting rotation. The team is also counting on lefty Chris Narveson bouncing back to 2011 form after undergoing rotator cuff surgery last season. Right hander Mike Fiers made 23 starts for the Brewers in 2012, and compiled a respectable 3.74 ERA , although he appeared to run out of gas near season’s end.
The aforementioned Gorzelanny and Gonzalez will help stabilize the bridge of relievers leading to closer John Axford. Also expect Canadian Jimmy Henderson to be in the mix. Mark Rogers, who has had a terrible spring, looks like he will be the long guy in the pen because he’s out of minor league options.
Milwaukee Brewers projected lineup
- Norichika Aoki RF
- Rickie Weeks 2B
- Ryan Braun LF
- Aramis Ramirez 3B
- Jonathan Lucroy C
- Carlos Gomez CF
- Alex Gonzalez 1B
- Jean Segura SS
Milwaukee Brewers prospect watch
If pitching problems occur, and they will, the Brewers will look to 25-year-old right-hander Hiram Burgos as their ace in the hole. Burgos was lights out for Team Puerto Rico in the World Baseball Classic. What’s even more impressive, the guy pitched through three levels of the minor leagues last year and had superior numbers at each stop.
Tyler Thornburg heads the balance of the pitcher-laden farm system and will likely get an early call to help out in the pen. Hunter Morris was thought to be a candidate to fill the first-base hole, but has really struggled offensively and needs more seasoning.
And you can’t talk about Brewers prospects without mentioning Scooter Gennett, a pepper-pot middle infielder who plays a lot like another “Scooter” did – a guy named Rizzuto. The 5′-10″, 160-pound menace, who primarily plays second base, signed out of high school and has battled his way up the ladder. Now, at age 22, Gennett is on the Brewers 40-man roster and technically a big leaguer. The kid won’t break camp with the varsity, but he’s a good insurance policy if Melvin decides to move Weeks and his expensive contract down the road.
The Milwaukee Brewers will definitely be a fun team to watch. The club has some pop, a bit of speed and they will flash some leather. What’s more, the sausage races are wholesome family entertainment.
So, here’s the deal. The Milwaukee Brewers will be near the top of the heap in late September, (1) if Corey Hart comes back in May like a bat out of hell, and (2) if Ryan Braun and Aramis Ramirez combine to hit 70 bombs, and (3) if Yovani Galladro and Marco Estrada combine to rack up 35 wins, and (4) if Carlos Gomez has a 30-30 season. Folks, that’s a lot of “ifs.”
A more candid projection would be that the Brewers play .500 baseball in 2013, with better times ahead, even in small-market Milwaukee.