Now that football season has finally come to an end, roll in the baseball season and a year of potentially great moments. With the Milwaukee Brewers’ Opening Day being 51 days away, what could the Opening Day roster against the Chicago Cubs look like?
In comparison to our 2019 Opening Day roster, this year’s lineup is going to be very different. Losing Yasmani Grandal, Mike Moustakas, Eric Thames, Travis Shaw, Hernan Perez, Junior Guerra, Jhoulys Chacin, and Chase Anderson, every position on the Brewers lineup has taken a hit. But, with the gains that the Brewers have acquired in the offseason, could some of the ‘newbies’ be on the opening day lineup?
Catcher: Omar Narvaez
Acquiring Omar Narvaez via free agency, he finished 2019 with the Seattle Mariners a strong offensive catcher posting .278 BA/ .353 OBP/ .460 SLG and 22 home-runs. Settling with a $2.7M contract for the 2020 season with the Brewers, Narvaez is under the team control for three seasons. Although generally slightly below Grandal stats-wise, Narvaez hits for a higher batting average than Grandal does.
First Base: Justin Smoak
After his club option was declined, Eric Thames was in the free agent market, leaving the Brewers first base position empty. In December, the Brewers signed free-agent Justin Smoak to a one year, $5M contract with a club option of $5.5M in 2021. Although he had a decline in his last season with the Toronto Blue Jays, missing 12 games in June due to a quad strain, he is solid defensively and could very well be the first baseman the Brewers need to replace Thames.
Ryan Braun is due to get some time here as well during the season, but Smoak gets the Opening Day nod in my opinion.
Second Base: Keston Hiura
Keston Hiura crushed it in 2019 after being pulled up from Triple-A, posting a .303/.368/.570/.938 slash line with 19 home runs. After moving Moustakas back to third base amidst Travis Shaw‘s struggles, Hiura was called up from Triple-A in May of ’19, and took over at second base, where he struggled a little bit defensively, but it was evident that he was improving as the season progressed. Hopefully his defense will be better than last season. but he’ll be the starting second baseman.
Shortstop: Orlando Arcia
It’s a given that Orlando Arcia will be the Opening Day starter at shortstop, given his veteran status with the Brewers. In 2019, Arcia wasn’t the strongest offensively, posting .223/.283/.350/.633 slash line and an abysmal 64 OPS+. Fans were rightfully concerned about Arcia’s fate with the Brewers, given his offensive record, but he’s back for another year and it’s safe to say that the Brewers need his defense if they are going to make a third consecutive postseason appearance.
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There was competition brought in for Arcia this offseason in the form of Luis Urias. It was expected to be a battle for the starting job in spring training but Urias needed recent surgery on a broken hamate bone in his left hand, which means he will miss pretty much all of spring training and there’s a good chance he misses Opening Day.
Third Base: Eric Sogard
After possibly his best offensive season, Nerd Power has returned to Milwaukee on a one-year contract. In nine games with the Blue Jays Triple-A affiliate in 2019, he posted an .828 OPS, then continued to only grow stronger once Toronto bought his contract. In 363 plate appearances last season combined with both Toronto and Tampa Bay, Sogard posted a .300/.363/.477 with 10 home runs.
Sogard had experience playing all over the infield and even some outfield corners, but he’s the guy that is likely to play third base on Opening Day after losing Mike Moustakas in free agency.
Outfield: Ryan Braun, Lorenzo Cain, Christian Yelich
It’s no doubt that Lorenzo Cain will remain in center field and Christian Yelich in right, and as far as opening day, it’s likely that Brewers fans will see Ryan Braun taking his spot in left field. Cain is looking to obtain another Gold Glove for his amazing defensive efforts, Yelich looking to regain the MVP status back and bounce back from his unfortunate season-ending knee injury in 2019, and Braun is looking to have an amazing offensive season in the final year of his contract.
The dynamic three will more than likely be the faces we see in our outfield when the Brewers are on defense on Opening Day.
Avisail Garcia will see plenty of time as well during the season, most likely in a timeshare with Braun. But for Opening Day, the veteran Braun will get the nod in what could be his swan song.
Starting Pitcher: Brandon Woodruff
With the latest acquisitions of some strong arms in the bullpen, anyone could be seen starting on the mound against the Cubs on March 26th. The best and most likely option is going to be Brandon Woodruff.
After Zach Davies and Chase Anderson were traded away this offseason, it left ‘Woody’ as the Brewers longest-tenured starting pitcher, and he set himself apart from the rest of the starting rotation in 2019. Although he only made 22 starts last season, he posted a 3.62 ERA with a 1.14 WHIP, throwing a powerful fastball that can reach triple digits. The Brewers need Woodruff to continue to develop into an ace on the mound and to start the season against their rivals from Wrigley.
Worry about the Brewers Opening Day starter curse if you want to, but Woodruff is more talented than his predecessors over the past five seasons and should be less prone to regression.
Hoping for a third consecutive postseason appearance, I have good faith in the Brewers this year. Athletes are bouncing back, ready to conquer, and potentially bring home a World Series title in 2020. Guess we’ll have to wait and see how Opening Weekend against the Chicago Cubs plays out.