Milwaukee Brewers 2023 Opening Day 26 Man Roster Predictions 3.0
By David Gasper
Starting Rotation (5) - Corbin Burnes, Brandon Woodruff, Freddy Peralta, Eric Lauer, Wade Miley
The Brewers have said that Adrian Houser is going to be starting the year in the bullpen, which brings to an end whatever battle there was for the fifth and final spot in the rotation. The top four are returning members and they were essentially set in stone from the beginning.
Wade Miley was brought in as a free agent and it was expected that he'd be the 5th starter. After the injury to Aaron Ashby, Miley had the inside track. There are no surprises here.
Bullpen (8) - Devin Williams, Matt Bush, Peter Strzelecki, Hoby Milner, Adrian Houser, Gus Varland, Bryse Wilson, Javy Guerra
There are three spots up for grabs in the bullpen and five legitimate candidates still in camp vying for them.
Locked in to the bullpen are Williams, Bush, Strzelecki, Milner, and Houser. Milner is the only lefty in the group, Houser will be the long reliever, and the combination of Strzelecki-Bush-Williams will be in high leverage situations.
The middle relief roles are yet to be determined, but there are pitchers that have minor league options remaining and some that don't have options left. That is likely to play a big factor in who makes the Opening Day roster.
Jake Cousins and Elvis Peguero already were optioned to the minors despite the Brewers knowing they'll be calling on them plenty during the season. Tyson Miller is another such player with an option remaining that is perhaps deserving of a spot, but may be sent to Triple-A because of his roster flexibility.
The five pitchers vying for three spots are Miller, Varland, Payamps, Wilson, and Javy Guerra. Miller is the only one that can be optioned to the minors, which means he probably will be. Of the four remaining, I have Joel Payamps currently on the wrong side of the cut line.
Gus Varland has been impressive in camp and it's easy to see why the Brewers like him and took a chance on him in the Rule 5. He's tied for the Brewers camp lead with 12 strikeouts and he's done it in just 6.1 IP. The pitcher he's tied with, Freddy Peralta, has 12 Ks in 9.1 IP. Of all the pitchers in camp with double digit strikeouts, Varland has done it in the fewest innings. He's intriguing and Craig Counsell has sung his praises. I have Varland sticking around for Opening Day.
Now the final two spots, Bryse Wilson is a former Top 100 prospect that the Brewers are looking to get back on track. He's pitched well in camp and I think the Brewers are going to give him a shot to pitch in the regular season and see if he can hold a spot going forward.
With one spot left, I have it going to Javy Guerra. It was a tough call between Guerra and Payamps, both of whom were acquired in trades this past offseason. Both have struggled overall in camp, Guerra with a 9.00 ERA and Payamps with a 10.38 ERA and yes I am fully aware these are very small sample sizes.
Guerra simply has the nastier stuff. His fastball velocity is elite and while there may still be some command issues, the ceiling with Guerra is much higher than it is with Payamps, although Payamps likely has a higher floor. Velocity wins in baseball. As pitch velocity goes up, opponent OPS goes down. It's a simple fact. Guerra can sit upper 90s on his fastball and has a solid slider and with the Brewers being willing to send a solid prospect to Tampa Bay to get him, I think Guerra gets the job.
Guerra, who pitched for Team Panama in the WBC, had a pristine 0.00 ERA in 1.2 IP for his home country, including a save. His ugly Cactus League ERA is mostly due to a blow up outing against the White Sox a few days ago, allowing three runs in 0.2 IP. Prior to that outing, Guerra had a 2.70 ERA in the Cactus League.
Also, Payamps is probably the most likely pitcher in this group that could pass through waivers and return to Milwaukee on an outright assignment. Guerra and Wilson would likely be claimed quickly and Varland would have to be returned to the Dodgers if he doesn't make the club.