Milwaukee Brewers: Starting Rotation Is Deep, But Volatile

CHICAGO, IL - SEPTEMBER 08: Jimmy Nelson
CHICAGO, IL - SEPTEMBER 08: Jimmy Nelson /

The Milwaukee Brewers believe in their group of starting pitchers even though the outside world doesn’t.

There are plenty of reasons for the Milwaukee Brewers to be optimistic about the group of starting pitchers they’ve assembled. There’s also plenty of reasons for the outside world to be pessimistic about this rotation.

National outlets don’t give the Brewers much of a chance to repeat as NL Central champions, let alone be a legitimate World Series threat. The bulk of that reason why is the starting rotation lacks certainty and star power. There’s no doubting this lineup, and the bullpen is legitimate. The only group that doesn’t inspire optimism is the rotation.

A Lot Of Things Need To Go Right

The Brewers need Jhoulys Chacin to repeat his performance from a career year in 2018. They’re depending on the return of Jimmy Nelson to pick up right where he left off. Milwaukee needs bounceback years from Chase Anderson and Zach Davies. They need young pitchers Corbin Burnes, Freddy Peralta, and Brandon Woodruff all to pitch well in their first full season in the big leagues.

While it’s possible that all those things happen, or at least most of them, it’s also entirely possible that a lot of those things don’t happen. There’s a decent chance Chacin regresses in his second year and Nelson struggles to stay healthy or stay productive. Anderson hasn’t inspired much confidence so far in spring and could easily struggle again. Davies is a back-end starter even at his best. Burnes, Peralta, and Woodruff could also easily struggle in their first full seasons.

What the Brewers lack is even one pitcher who is, relatively, a sure thing. Chacin is the only one who is guaranteed a rotation spot at this point and his career track record doesn’t exactly scream “ace” to anyone. The others are either rookies, coming off a major injury, or coming off terrible seasons.

There are high hopes for Burnes, Peralta, and Woodruff and their ceilings are immense. But depending on possibly up to three pitchers in their first full season in a starting rotation is quite the risk for a World Series contending team. They’re playing with fire.

Internal Optimism

Obviously the Milwaukee Brewers are optimistic about their pitchers and believe they can outperform outside expectations. If they didn’t, they would’ve signed a free agent starter or traded for someone like Sonny Gray or Corey Kluber.

The Brewers front office was right about their starting group last year. With another year under their belts and some postseason experience, this group should be better off in 2019 than they were in 2018.

With seven quality options for the rotation, there’s plenty of depth for this group. Even if a couple of pitchers falter, there are quality replacements for them. Chase Anderson can have another poor season in the rotation and it won’t completely hamstring the Brewers since someone like Freddy Peralta or Brandon Woodruff can immediately step in and perform.

If more than a couple pitchers regress or don’t perform up to expectations, then the Brewers might be in trouble, but the odds of everything going wrong are quite slim. This is why depth is key, especially for starting pitchers. David Stearns has opted for depth with some quality pitchers rather than overpaying for a dominant arm that adds name value more than it might add value on the field.

Is that the right approach? Only time will tell, but basically every approach Stearns has taken so far has worked out, so he’s earned the benefit of the doubt at this point.

Next. Is Corey Ray's Hot Start A Trend?. dark

The Milwaukee Brewers have a strong lineup, a dominant bullpen, and a deep rotation with some question marks. Some of those questions will be answered as we go through the season.