The Milwaukee Brewers’ season got underway this week, and the team is poised to improve on last season’s 73-89 record. A major jump is not expected of the team, but fans should have plenty to pay attention to over the grueling 162-game season. The roster is full of young talent who will hopefully develop into a lineup that can take the team back to the playoffs in the future. Here are some key players to watch this season:
1. Ryan Braun, LF, Age 33
It seems like Braun has been around forever, and that’s because compared to the rest of the roster… he has. He is the oldest position player on the team (Eric Thames is next oldest at 30) and only relief pitcher Carlos Torres is older than him at age 34. Putting the turmoil surrounding him after a steroids suspension in 2013 behind him, Braun has embodied consistency for Milwaukee. This being his 11th season as a Brewer, Braun has batted over .300 six times, and has a career batting average of .304 and OPS of .911. You can expect him to be a top home run slugger for the team (he was second on the team with 30 last year), and look for him to bring in around 90 runs all while consistently locking down left field with his reliable glove. While the rest of the team might be inconsistent at times, Braun is someone you can bank on having a good year barring any injuries.
2. Jonathan Villar, 2B, Age 25
Coming over from the Astros for his first season as a Brewer last season, Villar showed fans the type of player he can be by batting .285 with 19 HR and 63 RBIs. He also just so happened to lead the league in stolen bases with 62 (next best was 47 by Rajai Davis of the Indians). The speedster will undergo a transition period this year as he moves from shortstop/third to second base, and the learning curve has already shown as he made a handful of rough plays in the opening series versus the Rockies. Nonetheless, Villar has the talent to become a fantastic second basemen, and if he can continue to improve at the plate, he could become a cornerstone for the franchise.
3. Zach Davies, P, Age 24
Last year in his first full season as a starter for the Brewers, Davies showed great control and placement from the mound. He made 28 starts and had an 11-7 record in those games. Of the 2588 pitches he threw, 1655 were strikes and he finished with 135 strikeouts to just 38 walks. His first performance this season was one to forget, throwing just 4.1 innings and allowing nine hits that led to six earned runs along with four walks and only one strikeout, but he’s just 24 years old and has plenty of time to get into his groove again this season.
4. Orlando Arcia, SS, Age 22
Arcia is perhaps the most intriguing player on the current roster because of his sky-high potential. Baseball America ranked Arcia as the #8 prospect entering 2016, while MLB.com’s Jonathan Mayo had the young Venezuelan at #6 entering last season. After performing well in Triple-A, Arcia was called up to the majors last year and played the tail end of the season for Milwaukee, appearing in 55 games. The talent is apparent, and as Arcia settles in to major league play a bit more this season, fans will see that he is the real deal. The numbers might not show it right away, but Arcia is one to watch.
5. Keon Broxton, CF, Age 26
Last season began as a bit of a let down for Broxton, as he struggled at the plate for the bulk of the beginning of the season. However, after changing his batting stance to drop his hands lower, the hits started to come. In the first three months last season, Keon never managed to bat above .200, but after the stance switch, he finished the season by batting .286 in July, .275 in August and .311 in September. This year he’ll look to continue the hot streak on offense, and if he can continue to get on base, he should be able to improve on his 23 stolen bases last season. In the field, fans can hope to see Broxton use his speed to get to balls that many outfielders wouldn’t. Thankfully, Broxton was left just inches away from a major injury on Thursday after being drilled on a HBP, but he was still shaken up – expect him back in a short amount of time.
6. Junior Guerra, P, Age 32
Coming from out of absolutely nowhere last year, Guerra started 20 games for Milwaukee and finished the season 9-3 with a 2.81 ERA. Every Brewers fan in the world will be thrilled if he can produce numbers like those again this season, especially after all the pitching struggles the team has been through over the past few years. Unfortunately, Guerra injured his calf as he started to run towards first base during the opening day loss to the Rockies. He is currently on the 10-day disabled list, but is projected to be out for about six weeks. Hopefully he will be able to sustain his fine form coming back from injury.
7. Lewis Brinson, CF, Age 22 (Minor League)
MLB.com’s 2017 prospect watch lists Brinson 17th on their list, with many of the names above him already on major league rosters. Brinson will look to hone his skills for big league play by spending time in Triple-A for now, but he has the type of talent and potential to be a star. Keon Broxton is young, quick, and talented enough to hold his own at CF for the Brewers right now, but adding Brinson to the active roster could force Broxton to move over to RF. The team acquired Brinson in the Jonathan Lucroy trade last year, and at the time he was struggling in Double-A as he worked to get back to full strength after a shoulder injury. Milwaukee then reassigned him to Triple-A to close the season, and he finished out the season’s remaining 23 games by batting a ridiculous .382. His combination of power and speed are exciting to look forward to, and fans should expect to see him in a Brewers uniform at some point this season.
The current roster is young in its own right, but the most exciting aspect of the Brewers right now is their prospects. Some have already made their way to the starting lineup, others are getting better with each passing day in the minors, but all in all, the future for the team looks bright. Fans will have to practice their patience this season, and if they do, it looks like it could pay off big time over the next few years.