Brewers Positions Of Need
In a season where nothing went right offensively at nearly every position, the catching group was by far the worst. Narvaez put up a putrid .176/.294/.269 slash line with a 53 OPS+ while Jacob Nottingham didn’t do much better, hitting .188/.278/.458 with a 93 OPS+. Nottingham had four home runs, which improved his slugging and OPS+ numbers, but he also struck out 20 times in 48 at-bats.
Manny Pina is likely to return in 2021, but the futures for Narvaez and Nottingham are unclear. Stearns wouldn’t commit to Narvaez returning next year and indicated that moving on was possible. Nottingham has been a top prospect for years but his offense has soured recently in the minors and that trend continued in 2020.
Justin Smoak wasn’t the answer the Brewers were seeking. Jedd Gyorko seemed to be a solid answer and Daniel Vogelbach also was a welcome addition. But will either hold down the starting first base job in 2021?
Should Gyorko’s contract option get picked up, he could see time at both first base and third base. For Vogelbach, his .328 batting average and .987 OPS was a welcome addition, but it was in just 58 at-bats and that small sample size is unlikely to hold up over a whole season.
In his All-Star year in 2019, Vogelbach hit just .208 but had 30 homers as well. The Brewers like power hitting first basemen but they’ve shown they’re willing to move on from someone if they’re a three true outcome type of hitter. Chris Carter in 2016 led the NL in home runs with 41, but he hit just .222 and struck out 206 times that year and the Brewers non-tendered him.
Can the Brewers depend on Vogelbach to hit like he did toward the end of 2020 through the whole 2021 season? He’s never been a .300-type hitter in the big leagues before, and if the Brewers feel they can’t trust his small sample size from 2020, then they may look elsewhere. However, there isn’t much on the free agent market at the position.
The Brewers went with a cluster of options to handle third base in 2020 and, for the most part, it went poorly. They had a mix of Gyorko, Sogard, Holt, and Urias slated to split time over there. After Holt was DFA’ed and Gyorko was moved to first base, it was down to Sogard, Urias occasionally, and Jace Peterson over there.
Perhaps Gyorko could be a full time solution over there in 2021, but the Brewers are unlikely to go with that option based on their decision making history. They’re going to need to make an addition at this spot and get more than just a warm body.
There’s actually a decent class of free agent third basemen this year and a possibly strong trade market at the position as well.
Stearns is going to have to take advantage of that this offseason and find a way to inject some offense into this lineup and third base is a traditionally powerful offense position, although so is first base for that matter.
Starting Rotation Depth
The Brewers have the top of their rotation settled with Woodruff and Burnes leading the way. They have the hard part done, now the rotation just needs to be filled out.
While the Brewers have internal options and would be able to fill a rotation with the guys they currently have, there are improvements that could be made on this group.
Josh Lindblom is likely to return to his rotation role, but the struggles of Adrian Houser in 2020 raise questions about his future role and whether he’ll be able to earn a rotation job next year. Freddy Peralta is going to need more continued development to lock down a rotation spot and the same goes for Eric Lauer.
Depending on those guys to fill out the rotation lowers the floor for this group while adding someone like a Marcus Stroman or a Corey Kluber would raise the floor for this rotation. It doesn’t have to be those guys specifically, but adding an established veteran will raise the floor for this group and, depending on who it is, raise the ceiling as well.
The rotation isn’t a huge area of need, but it’s also a place to look. The biggest needs for this team heading into this offseason are at third base and catcher.