The 2022 season just ended. Free agency hasn’t even begun. Trades have yet to flow. The Brewers haven’t made a single move as of this writing. It is way too early to make an accurate prediction as to what the 2023 Opening Day roster will look like. But we’re going to try anyway.
Obviously, this way-too-early roster prediction will have to include free agent signings or trades that may or may not happen. Those signings and trades will impact the current depth chart and whether or not some prospects are able to come up and fill these roles. After all, Mark Attanasio said the Brewers “might be active” this winter.
* denotes projected free agent addition
What could this Brewers 26 man roster look like when Opening Day 2023 rolls around? Here’s a way-too-early prediction.
Catchers (2) – Christian Vazquez*, Mario Feliciano
We start off hot with this 26 man roster, going with a complete change in the backstop duo. Omar Narvaez is a free agent and just had a down season. Victor Caratini scuffled down the stretch and ended up hitting just .199 on the year. Both brought solid defense but they were lacking on offense.
The Brewers need more offensive production from the catching position. They’ll let Narvaez walk and it’s a very real possibility the Brewers could non-tender Narvaez and seek a new option on the open market that does have a couple of possibilities this year. The best of which, outside of Willson Contreras, is Christian Vazquez.
Vazquez can be the veteran starter behind the plate that brings both offense and defense to the table while the prospect Mario Feliciano can be the backup and get some playing time as well as he adjusts to the big leagues. Feliciano is most likely to be on this roster anyway with Narvaez’s departure and his readiness. Who the other catcher is is up in the air, but it may not be Caratini.
Infielders (6) – Rowdy Tellez, Brice Turang, Willy Adames, Luis Urias, Mike Brosseau, Jace Peterson*
There’s two notable names absent from this roster prediction: Kolten Wong and Keston Hiura. Wong has a contract option that’s likely to be declined, making him a free agent and clearing a path to playing time for 2018 first round pick Brice Turang.
Keston Hiura’s name is absent because of the possibility of the Brewers moving on from him this offseason, either in a trade or a non-tender, with the most likely course of action being a trade. The Brewers clearly weren’t putting Hiura in positions to succeed in 2022 and it appears they might be ready to move on and let someone else try to figure out his swing and miss issues. I don’t have anyone specific coming back for Hiura on this roster prediction, but I could see the team moving on from him.
Jace Peterson is a free agent this winter, but I could see them bringing him back for another year. He’s been a serviceable super-utility option for them and is beloved in the clubhouse. There isn’t an upgrade at third base presented here, but the hope will be that Urias can bounce back in 2023.
Outfielders (5) – Christian Yelich, Hunter Renfroe, Garrett Mitchell, Sal Frelick, Esteury Ruiz
The one name noticeably absent from here is Tyrone Taylor, who I could see being a trade candidate this winter. He got his chance to prove he was an everyday player in 2022 and he wasn’t able to take advantage. With the plethora of outfielders ready for the big leagues and Garrett Mitchell already arriving, the writing is on the wall for Taylor. Even if he stays, he’s going to be a backup. It’s not unreasonable to think the Brewers could trade Taylor this winter similar to the Keon Broxton and Domingo Santana trades a few years ago.
A trade of Taylor would help clear the deck for the young outfielders. Like Hiura, I don’t have anyone specific coming back for Taylor in this roster prediction, but it is a possibility Taylor gets moved.
With Hiura and McCutchen out of the picture as well, Christian Yelich could see a lot more time at DH in 2023, giving more playing time to the young kids. That would leave left field and centerfield to see rotations of playing time between Mitchell, Frelick, and Ruiz. All three have the speed and defensive ability to play a great centerfield and could easily handle left field if needed as well. Rotating those three guys between two spots should give them all the at-bats they need and deserve.
Starting Pitchers (5) – Corbin Burnes, Brandon Woodruff, Freddy Peralta, Eric Lauer, Aaron Ashby
No real surprises or changes here. The top three of Burnes, Woodruff, and Peralta are locked in as co-aces. Eric Lauer had a solid 2022 season and has solidified himself in the rotation. Aaron Ashby has moved himself into being a regular in the rotation, surpassing Adrian Houser on the depth chart.
Ashby is already signed to a contract extension and they didn’t do that to envision him being a reliever or spot starter. He’s going to go every fifth day going forward.
Adrian Houser is the notable exclusion from this list, I have him falling out of the rotation and into the bullpen as the long reliever and rotation depth.
Bullpen (8) – Devin Williams, Matt Bush, Brent Suter, Adrian Houser, Hoby Milner, Matt Strahm*, Cam Robinson, Trevor Gott
There is going to be some change in the bullpen heading into next year, we already know that. Taylor Rogers is hitting free agency, Brad Boxberger has a contract option, and the Brewers need to improve this group.
However, there are a lot of returning players in this group. Devin Williams will be the closer, Matt Bush will likely be the setup guy, and Houser will be the long reliever. Brent Suter and Hoby Milner will return as trusted left-handed options. Trevor Gott also will be back and had a solid year in 2022.
Matt Strahm is the new name in this group. He’s a free agent this winter from Boston and is among several possible free agent options the Brewers could target. Milwaukee is likely to get at least one free agent reliever this winter to bolster the position group that needs some help. Strahm can fill a high leverage role if needed and earned four saves for Boston this year.
The final name in this group is Cam Robinson, currently in the Brewers farm system. He jumped from High-A to Double-A all the way to Triple-A this season as a closer and was lights out in the 9th inning. He’s Rule 5 Draft eligible this winter and is a good bet to be protected. With his ability now on the 40 man roster, I could see him earning a 26 man roster spot with a good spring training.
One absent name is Brad Boxberger, who has a $3MM club option for 2023. Even though he had a solid 2022 season, there’s a good chance his option gets declined and that’s what this roster projects will happen.
For this way-too-early Opening Day roster prediction, we have three free agent signings, including bringing back one of the Crew’s own, two players traded away, two club options declined, at least one projected non-tender, and six rookies making the squad. Too many? Not enough? We’ll see as the offseason gets going