January 29, 2014
Fantasy Team Preview
There is a lot of fantasy talent on the 2014 Milwaukee Brewers roster. Their tumultuous 2013 season and consensus ranking of “fringe contender” for next season have made the Brewers somewhat anonymous nationally, but that shouldn’t be the case. They have batters who can hit for power and run. They have pitchers who are better than you think. And even their bullpen has a few high-strikeout options of note. It’s a flawed team, to be sure, but one that could produce some fantasy steals this year.
Projected Starting Lineup
This is pretty much a fantasy goldmine. Braun is still one of the best 10-15 fantasy players in the game and could be a relative bargain on draft day due to his suspension. Segura and Gomez enjoyed breakout campaigns in 2013, and while neither is a great bet to be quite as good as they were last year, each is still a significant five-category contributor. Segura should challenge for a top-five shortstop finish, while Gomez should be considered a top-20 outfielder. Ramirez is old but still quite good when healthy, and Lucroy is a no-brainer top-10 catcher.
The remaining players lack crazy upside but are interesting for their own reasons. Gennett’s only tool is his bat, but he can hit for respectable averages and could see more playing time than you think in 2014. Reynolds’ only tool is his power, but he could challenge for 30 bombs with 400 PA at Miller Park. Davis is a solid sleeper pick in NL-only leagues, as he could hit 15-20 bombs with a decent average. His defensive deficiencies could limit his playing time, though.
There’s not a ton here from a fantasy point of view, although it’s possible (albeit unlikely) that Weeks could have some value, which I’ll address below. Francisco has power but it comes with an unusable average, and he shouldn’t be let within 500 feet of lefty pitchers. Bianchi and Maldonado are total non-factors, while Schafer has some speed but had yet to prove he can hit MLB pitching.
“Lyle Overbay could make this team,” is a sentence I can somehow type in 2014, as could Caleb Gindl, but neither is particularly interesting. Hunter Morris’ shot at fantasy relevance ended with the Reynolds/Overbay signings.
Projected Starting Rotation
This rotation has a chance to be better than most people think. The addition of Garza was a major boon for a team that badly needs impact pitching, and he gets a slight uptick in fantasy value thanks to the move back to the NL. Sure, Miller Park isn’t Petco Park, but it’s better than the Ballpark in Arlington, and it plays only a little worse for pitchers than does Wrigley Field, where Garza was productive for many seasons. He’s a top-40 fantasy starter once more.
Beyond Garza, you have two high-risk, moderate-reward arms in the maddeningly inconsistent Gallardo, who has regressed for three straight seasons but who shouldn’t be washed up at age 28 despite his declining velocity, and the inexperienced Peralta, who could be a high-strikeout starter but who could also kill your WHIP. Lohse is a better MLB pitcher than a fantasy one, though certainly relevant in deep mixed and NL-only leagues, and Estrada isn’t special but has shown the ability to post strong numbers in spurts. He carries more risk and more upside than Lohse.
Projected Closer Candidates
Yuck. Henderson just had a nice season and the job is his to lose in Milwaukee. Some might be wary of him as a “late bloomer,” but his stuff is legit and the high strikeout rates should remain. If others undervalue him due to age or lack of name recognition, feel free to pounce.
The rest of the bullpen is pretty uninspiring, though Smith has legitimate talent and could grow to be Milwaukee’s primary setup man. Kintzler doesn’t have the strikeout rate to be of interest for fantasy purposes, but might be the Brewers’ second-best right-handed reliever. Once again, I’ll cover Thornburg’s prospective roles below.
Positional Battle to Watch: Second Base: Scooter Gennett vs. Rickie Weeks
Gennett, meanwhile, is a much more boring fantasy player, but has proven his ability to hit for average at every stop in the minors. While his .380 BABIP is obviously unsustainable, his hit tool is real. Unfortunately, that’s basically all that Gennett brings to the table, as he’s unlikely to reach double-digit steals or homers and is a poor defensive second baseman, too. Given Milwaukee’s right-handed-heavy lineup I think Gennett will at least begin the year as the starter against RHP, with Weeks starting against lefties and threatening Gennett’s playing time should he return to form. Either way, this isn’t a very appealing situation for fantasy owners.
Player to Target: Ryan Braun
Player to Avoid: Yovani Gallardo
Deep Sleeper: Tyler Thornburg
Regardless of how you feel about Thornburg, the signing of Garza complicates his role in 2014 and moving forward. He could be sent to the minors to serve as Milwaukee’s “sixth starter,” ready should injury strike one of the five primary guys or should Peralta get rocked early on. He could serve as the long man in the bullpen. Or he could prove to be quite a late-innings weapon in a thin bullpen. He’ll have value in deep or NL-only leagues in the first or final roles outlined above, so monitor his status this season closely.