My biggest problem with the Milwaukee Brewers’ offseason has nothing to do with what the front office or team has done to improve the ball club. In fact, in this article, you’ll find that I think that Doug Melvin and company did a great job of improving what was already a great team with some big holes. The Brewers filled those holes with dependable talent. None of the moves were front-page, but they were all excellent.
My biggest problem is the cynicism in fans and pundits that don’t think it’s going to be enough.
Sure, there’s been some more controversy within the Brewers camp this offseason, most recently involving a certain superstar player and a certain PED clinic.
I am, of course, talking about Ryan Braun’s name being included in a report concerning Biogenesis and their administration of performance enhancing drugs (PEDs) to certain MLB players.
It should be noted, before delving into why the Brewers will, in fact, win the NL Central, that Braun has come forward and admitted his involvement with Biogenesis. In a recent report, Braun stated that Biogenesis was a company of interest in a research endeavor in his successful PED appeal last offseason.
It is also worth noting that Braun’s name has not been connected at all to any PEDs administered by Biogenesis, and that the MLB, though wanting to take a strict hand to Braun, is going to need more than a name drop for what seems to be a legitimate explanation for an unfortunate snafu.
But let’s talk about what’s really important… the Brewers and their chances of winning the NL Central crown for the second time in three years.
Norichika Aoki is a major wild card for this Brewers team.
If you’re reading this, there’s a good chance I don’t really have to explain the efficiency of this offense. It was one of the best in baseball last year, and driven by big bats like Ryan Braun, Aramis Ramirez, Corey Hart, Rickie Weeks, and even wild cards like Carlos Gomez, Norichika Aoki, Jonathan Lucroy, and Jean Segura, this is an offense to be feared.
Speed? They have it. Braun has back-to-back seasons in which he has stolen 30 or more bases. Gomez nearly reached 40 last season (37), Norichika Aoki tallied another 30, and Jean Segura, though only stealing 7 bases with Milwaukee last season, is one of the fastest players on this team. Segura swiped 50 bases in 2010 in the Los Angeles Angels’ farm system.
How about Power? Well, you have that too. Without going into great detail, all positions on the field have pop. Braun, Ramirez, Hart, and hopefully a fully recovered Weeks are the obvious sluggers. Add into that Carlos Gomez, who slugged a career high 19 homers last season, Lucroy, who has serious pop at catcher, Aoki, who hit a surprising 10 homers last season, and the only position really lacking in that department is Segura at shortstop, but even back-up Alex Gonzalez is capable of slugging a few deep ones.
The starting rotation is high-risk, high-reward. The only truly known starters are Yovani Gallardo, who is on the verge of becoming a true ace, and Marco Estrada, who is, quite surprisingly, right there with him. Behind those two, you have Mike Fiers, who was the best pitcher in the majors for a couple of months last season, Wily Peralta, who proved he can succeed in the majors during his productive call-up, Chris Narveson, who will be hoping to prove himself after essentially missing the entire 2012 campaign with a torn rotator cuff, and Mark Rogers, the formerly hyped major league prospect, turned bust, turned… well… we’re not really sure yet. But he did a great job in his call-up as well, and without any minor league options left, Rogers will at least be in the bullpen.
The revamped bullpen, featuring Tom Gorzelanny (also a capable starter), lefty specialist Michael Gonzalez, sinkerballer Burke Badenhop, a former major league standout in Kelvim Escobar, and Michael Olmstead, a steal from the Boston Red Sox organization will all be vying for spots on a bullpen that has plenty of open spots and immeasurable room for improvement over last season.
You’re likely looking at Tom Gorzelanny and Mark Rogers as spot starters and long relievers, Burke Badenhop and Michael Gonzalez being middle relievers, with Gonzalez especially being utilized against lefties. The three returnees from last year’s bullpen will likely maintain their roles—Brandon Kintzler will be a middle reliever, Jim Henderson the set-up man, and John Axford the closer. Escobar and Olmstead will almost definitely be beginning the season in the minors, but could quite possibly working their way up to the majors before long.
You add in all of those low-value, high-production players with Alex Gonzalez, who the Brewers signed for infield depth at a massive bargain, and I don’t see the reason to fret.
When you look at this team, there is a lot to be afraid of if you’re not a Brewers fan. It’s an offense that could potentially be the best in the majors. The bullpen is vastly improved. The above additions to go along with returning pen members Jim Henderson, Brandon Kintzler, and John Axford, all capable of throwing into the high-90’s, and all capable of great things.
The only real question mark is starting pitching… beyond Gallardo and Estrada, it’s all question marks and inexperience. But the talent is there in abundance, and essentially every facet of this team is underrated.
They didn’t make any big signings this offseason. They could have gone big for Josh Hamilton or Zack Greinke, but they did the smart thing and made bang-for-your-buck moves to improve the areas that needed drastic improvement.
The Brewers didn’t make the playoffs for one reason last year—their bullpen. And that bullpen has been essentially completely revamped. Not much else has changed for the Brewers, and if they can avoid injuries in abundance (unlike last season), and if the young talent can prove to be major league ready, this is a dangerous team.
One that can earn a wild card berth… or even win the NL Central.