Everybody is all-in on the rebuild in Milwaukee, but here’s five reasons why the Brewers could actually shock some people this year.
1. The ‘old-timers’
Ryan Braun and Jonathan Lucroy have, either last year or in prior years, been All-Stars, and there is no reason to think that both will not play to their respective potentials. Braun hit for an average of .285, hitting 25 home runs and drove in 84 RBIs, all while missing the last stretch of the season. There is no reason to think he will not improve on those stats, as he is coming off back surgery that should shore up lingering back pain that would be holding him back.
Lucroy will be looking to make it known he can still play after last year’s wrist injury, and if there’s anyone more motivated to play well this year it is Lucroy. He made it known earlier in the offseason, candidly, that he wouldn’t mind being traded.
2. Strikeout or home run
There are two players on the Brewers roster who could either have monster years in the home run column or have a huge number strikeouts. Chris Carter, a free agent from the Huston Astros, jacked 35 home runs. Playing more games in the home run-friendly Miller Park this coming season could greatly benefit Carter.
Domingo Santana, who will most likely start in left field due to the departure of Khris Davis, could also be a home run hitting machine. In both the minors and the major leagues, Santana hit a combined 26 homeruns. Giving him a full year at the major league level could prove to be a home run.
3. An NL Central regression
Last season, the NL Central proved to be the toughest division in baseball, producing three playoff teams: the St. Louis Cardinals, Chicago Cubs and Pittsburgh Pirates. The Cubs are looking very much like a forgone conclusion to run away with the division. Adding to their already star studded lineup, they signed Jason Heyward away from the Cardinals, infielder Ben Zobrist, and pitcher John Lackey.
But besides the Cubs, the other teams are trending down. St. Louis lost a huge piece of its lineup in Jason Heyward and a solid starter in John Lackey. Yadier Molina is also coming off an injury-riddled season, putting his consistency in doubt, which has made the Cardinals a playoff team year in and year out.
The Pirates failed to add any key pieces via free agency and their roster is only getting older as talks to extend franchise star Andrew McCutchen have gone nowhere. And after making the post season for the past two years, the pressure is on to improve.
The Brewers on the other hand, have no expectations, no pressure and nothing to lose.
The Reds, well, are not going anywhere anytime soon.
4. The young kids can play
This offseason, the Brewers organization has somewhat taken on the Milwaukee Bucks’ mantra of “Own the Future” as they tout the young talent they’ve brought in via trades. Some young talent, like Jacob Nottingham and Brett Phillips, are not supposed to break into the majors until the 2017 season at the earliest. But other young players could break into the Brewers’ major league roster before the season is over.
Orlando Arcia, the Brewers top prospect and one of highest regarded across the league, is projected to enter into the majors this year, filling a huge question mark at the shortstop position. Although Arcia was just sent cut from the major league roster, designated for the minors, he will most likely be called up at some point to provide a spark.
Yadiel Rivera, currently in major league spring camp, is projected to be a utility infielder for the Brewers off the bench. So far during Spring Training, Rivera is batting for a .333 average and is tied for the team lead in RBIs and homeruns. Of course it is only Spring Training, but the possible development of Rivera as another option at second base over Scooter Gennett could prove very valuable.
5. The stars align
Of course for all of this to happen, for the Brewers to have a surprisingly good year, the stars must align. The pitching staff will need a complete turnaround from a putrid 2015 and GM David Stearns may need to hold off on trading veterans Braun and Lucroy. But it’s Spring Training and hey, we can all dream.