The calendar has officially flipped to 2021 and believe it or not Brewers pitchers and catchers will be reporting soon and ready to begin their preparations for the upcoming baseball season.
While there is still much to be determined and free agent signings to be made, here I will give three bold predictions for the upcoming Milwaukee Brewers 2021 season.
Brandon Woodruff finally reaches Ace status & receives Cy Young votes
There is no doubt that Brandon Woodruff is the ace of the Milwaukee Brewers pitching staff. He is the likely frontrunner to be the Opening Day starter for a second consecutive season and has been a great pitcher over the course of the last three seasons.
However, as an MLB starter, Woodruff is lacking a sustained, or prolonged, track record of success, and he still does not get the recognition that he rightfully deserves. This isn’t too surprising seeing how Woodruff officially joined the Brewers starting rotation permanently at the start of the 2019 season.
In 2019, he made 22 starts and posted a 3.62 ERA over 121 innings pitched. He missed substantial time with an oblique injury that sidelined him much of the second half of the season, which unfortunately came at a time when he was pitching at his best.
In the shortened 2020 season, Woodruff made 13 starts and recorded a 3.05 ERA. His kryptonite in 2020 was the middle innings of games, often surrendering runs and elevating his pitch count the second time through opposing teams batting orders. This bump in the road often times prevented him from pitching as deep into games as fans were wanting.
In 2020 Woodruff’s most used secondary pitch was his changeup, which was different from 2019 when he relied more so on his slider. With the improvements Woodruff has shown from year to year and the ability to adapt and gain confidence in his off-speed pitches, I believe by the end of the 2021 season Brandon Woodruff will be considered an ace league-wide, and might even earn a few Cy Young Votes!
Christian Yelich wins his third batting title
The 2020 baseball season was full of many surprises, both good and bad. Unfortunately a slumping Christian Yelich was one of the bads and is certainly something everyone would like to forget.
With the exception of 2020, Yelich has been a phenomenal hitter in terms of batting average throughout his MLB career. In eight seasons he has a career .296 average and he won back to back batting titles in 2018 and 2019 with averages of .326 and .329. These are the only two batting titles in the Brewers franchise’s history.
I don’t think Yelich’s .205 batting average and through the roof strikeout percentage from 2020 is something to dwell over. Good hitters are going to continue to hit, and I expect that to resume for Yelich in 2021.
That being said, my next bold prediction is that Christian Yelich wins his third batting title in 2021. Since coming to Milwaukee all Yelich has done is get on base and slug the ball at an MVP level. Look for Yelich to return to form in 2021!
The Milwaukee Brewers win the NL Central in 2021
As the rosters stand today, the Milwaukee Brewers are not the clear favorites to win the National League Central. However, one could argue that there currently is no clear favorite to win the division.
The Chicago Cubs appear to be shedding payroll and recently traded Yu Darvish and Victor Caratani. They also lost players like: Jon Lester, Jose Quintana, Kyle Schwarber, and Jeremy Jeffress. Similarly, the Cincinnati Reds lost Cy Young winner Trevor Bauer in free agency and are exploring trade options for Sonny Gray in an attempt to decrease payroll.
In St Louis, the Cardinals are potentially losing offensive pieces Yadier Molina and Kolten Wong. Pitching-wise Adam Wainwright‘s future is uncertain and Dakota Hudson will be lost for all of 2021 due to undergoing TJS. Like the Brewers, the Cardinals have a tighter budget this year and likely won’t make any splash free agent signings.
Lastly, the Pittsburgh Pirates continue their rebuild as they recently traded their All-Star first baseman Josh Bell to the Nationals for two pitching prospects. The Pirates are not expected to contend whatsoever.
All of this does open the door for the Brewers! With a solid core of players and emerging youngsters in Keston Hiura, Devin Williams, and others, the Brewers will again look to contend for the division and clinch their four consecutive playoff berth. My bold prediction is that they end the 2021 season as NL Division Champions!
We’re just about six weeks or less away from the beginning of spring training, and there’s a lot left for the Brewers to do.