The Milwaukee Brewers are an intriguing club for fantasy owners. The squad lacks any obvious flops who project to receive significant playing time. At worst, mediocrity should reign supreme—especially in the starting rotation—but one can reasonably expect above-average production at almost every offensive position. That’s what makes the Brewers attractive for owners; however, that’s also the reason why the Brew Crew could compete for an NL postseason berth, despite being forgotten by the masses due to a quiet offseason.
A note for our readers. While informative, since we are still months away from pitchers and catchers reporting to spring training, these previews are far from definitive or complete. Free agent signings, trades, and other offseason news will change the landscape for most if not all teams. For any moves that take place after a team preview is written, please look to our Transaction Analysis coverage for instant reactions, and then check back on the Team Previews for more detailed updates (including lineups, rotations, bullpens, etc.) as we get closer to Opening Day.
Another note for our readers. The characterizations below (for example, “stud”) are designed to be taken in context for each team. Not every team has a Mike Trout or Giancarlo Stanton, so the “stud” category represents the best player or players on each team, not necessarily in comparison to the league.
Carlos Gomez, OF
Gomez can teach us a lot. And I’m not only talking about the fact that kiwi has three times as much potassium as bananas—GoGo learned that since he’s become rich—but the 29-year-old All-Star also illustrates that professional baseball is immensely difficult and that fantasy owners shouldn’t dismiss elite tools just because they don’t manifest themselves immediately. That is to say, Gomez arrived in New York heralded as a future superstar. It didn’t happen. He hit .243/.291/.357 between 2007 and 2011 with three different teams. Fantasy owners lept off the bandwagon and left him for dead. Three years later, though, the Dominican Republic native is an elite option in real-life and fantasy baseball. He was the only player in the majors to hit 20+ homers and steal 30+ bases, and he was the fourth-best outfielder in ESPN leagues. From 2012 to 2014, Gomez has hit .277/.336/.483 with 66 homers and 111 stolen bases. Straight-up stud.
Jonathan Lucroy, C
Perhaps the most under-the-radar superstar in Major League Baseball. Lucroy was the second-best catcher in ESPN leagues and has transformed himself into a pure hitter. His walk rate has increased in each of his five big-league seasons, while his strikeout rate has dropped in the past three. He’s hit north of .300 in two of the past three years and has the second-most stolen bases (17) of any catcher since 2012. The Brewers are also experimenting with Lucroy at first base against tough lefties, which would only increase his number of PAs — and that’s one of the most underappreciated aspects of the catcher position. Lucroy had 49 more plate appearances than any other catcher, unless Carlos Santana will still qualify at catcher in 2015 with his 10 starts.
Jonathan Broxton, RP
Big Brox has the inside track at the closer role in Milwaukee—though there has been some talk of a closer-by-committee approach—but the right-hander projects to be one of my least favorite closers heading into 2015. Not only did his fastball velocity drop from 95.63 mph in 2013 to 94.42 mph in 2014, but the former Dodger and Red benefited from an unsustainable .234 BABIP. While I don’t like to lean on BABIP as a crutch, Broxton’s career BABIP is .301. In all likelihood, that’s skyrocketing this upcoming season, and unless his strikeout rate or ground-ball rate increase to offset the random variance, the results won’t look good in the ninth inning.
Scooter Gennett, 2B
It feels wrong to put Scooter in the “Duds” category because he’s actually a useful player at the league minimum. At second base, though, fantasy owners need more than an empty batting average. He’s good for a near-.300 average against righties; however, he should struggle to reach double-digit homers and doesn’t run often enough to be valuable. I’m worried his high average becomes slightly diluted from increased exposure to lefties, though I don’t foresee it nosediving. He’s a 15-20 second baseman, which is fine. That’s just not really needed outside deeper leagues.
What You See Is What You Get
Khris Davis, OF
Look, Khris Davis isn’t complicated. He offers 20-plus homers with a poor batting average and modest run totals. That does not project to change, as long as the playing time remains constant. After all, we live in an offensive environment that lacks an abundance of power. Davis should remain a top-50 outfielder.
Key Worry: Davis hit .229./294/.429 in the second half and struggles against right-handed pitching. The Brewers also have Gerardo Parra, who handles righties with aplomb. That could be a recipe for decreased playing time, especially considering Davis’ defensive limitations.
Kyle Lohse, SP
We often talk about increased strikeout rates and how we’re living in an era of unprecedented velocity. Such talk causes fantasy owners to overlook steady veterans like Kyle Lohse, who cruise under the radar yet remain supremely effective. Since 2011, Lohse has a 3.28 ERA, and among starters who have thrown at least 500 innings, the right-hander ranks in the top-20 for run prevention. While his stuff may not be awe-inspiring, the 36-year-old veteran commands the strike zone and keeps both righties and lefties off balance. He was yet again a top-40 starter in 2014. Yet somehow only 54.3 percent of leagues had him on a roster, which makes me feel like Eminem when he tries to “watch” a college football game.
Aramis Ramirez, 3B
A-Ram has proven that he can still hit for a high average and launch 15+ homers, even while injured. The question then centers on his health, which has proven frustrating over the past two seasons. He gutted it out in 2014, but even then, he wasn’t playing at full strength. That’s evident in his .110 ISO in the second half. Rammy may be a nice little gamble on draft day. If healthy, he should be a massive value-buy. If his lower-half injuries linger, he showed in 2014 that he can still be a top-15 third baseman. Risk-taking owners may look here for their opening day third baseman.
Yovani Gallardo, SP
Matt Garza, SP
These two used to be solid number-two starters on the brink of acehood. Those days are long gone. Gallardo and Garza have seen their raw stuff decline, and they’ve learned to remain effective without the high strikeout numbers. They were both top-100 starters in 2014—just not by much. As referenced at the top, mediocrity from the rotation in Milwaukee.
Ryan Braun, OF
You feelin’ lucky? Braun represents one of the biggest draft-day gambles in all of fantasy baseball. He won’t come cheap; however, if his experimental thumb surgery doesn’t prove effective throughout the season, Braun will not be a top-50 fantasy outfielder. He only hit .226/.295/.374 in the second half. Stuart Wallace, who now works for the Pittsburgh Pirates, explained how Braun’s thumb injury prohibited him from doing anything productive at the dish.
Early reports suggest Braun is feeling great after an experimental surgery on his thumb, though. If healthy, the 31-year-old former MVP should light up the league once more. Before his nerve injury started to make his entire hand feel numb late in the season, he was hitting .298/.348/.515 at the All-Star break. Fantasy owners will be paying close attention to Braun in spring training.
Mike Fiers, SP
Three seasons ago, Fiers took the league by storm and was a three-win player in just 127 2/3 innings. Fantasy owners hoped for big things, but were disappointed when he laid an egg with a 7.25 ERA in 2013 before dealing with a death in the family and spending three months on the DL after Kevin Kouzmanoff’s comebacker crushed his right forearm. When Fiers commands his fastball and can get to his trio of offspeed pitches, Fiers strikes out more than a batter per inning and is a mid-rotation starter. Barely able to eclipse 90 mph, though, his margin for error is minuscule. Will we get the good Mike Fiers in 2015 or the unrosterable version?
Jean Segura, SS
Segura was bad at the dish in 2014. That ain’t debatable. However, he’s a great source for stolen bases, and he he returns to the form that saw him hit above .300 for his entire minor-league career and throughout most of 2013, he’s easily a top-10 shortstop in 2015. The young man has some swing mechanics to fix, but he did hit .271/.330/.345 in the second half. He’s 24 years old and should be given time to adjust to the majors. I’m not ready to give up here, especially if he implements the swing changes the Brewers suggested, which should help him gain more leverage at the point of contact and drive the ball better.
Wily Peralta, SP
At 25 years old, Peralta settled into a solid mid-rotation arm last season; however, the right-hander could be poised for bigger things in the upcoming season. His strikeout rate increased and his walk rate decreased last year. If those trends continue, his run prevention should follow suit, but I’m most encouraged by his increased changeup usage against lefties. He threw changeups against lefties 15 percent of the time in September, which is well above his season rate of just eight percent. Lefties hit .300/.349/.471 against Peralta in 2014. He needs that changeup if he wants to find consistent success. It could be simply coincidental, but the burly right-hander posted a 2.14 ERA in September—when he began implementing his changeup more often. His strikeout rate jumped to 8.55 K/9, too. Fantasy owners hope that continues.
Adam Lind, 1B
It’s no secret that Adam Lind can mash right-handed pitching. He now moves to a homer-friendly ballpark—especially in right field—and will garner the everyday role at first base. Injury concerns are the only thing that keeps Lind from graduating out of the sleeper category.
Gerardo Parra, OF
Parra doesn’t project to be an everyday outfielder for the Brewers, but given Khris Davis’ limitations in left and Braun’s thumb concerns, he could see significant playing time. Just don’t play him against left-handed pitching and everything should be fine.
Will Smith, RP
Jeremy Jeffress, RP
If you’re speculating for saves, Smith and Jeffress could be the two Brewers relievers to grab on draft day. Brewers manager Ron Roenicke has already hinted that he may adopt a closer-by-committee approach, which speaks volumes about his confidence in Broxton to be the closer throughout the year. Smith strikes out nearly half of the lefties he faces—so he’s the more valuable of the two—but the Brewers were extremely impressed with Jeffress’ performance down the stretch. He started to see high-leverage innings and there’s something to be said for touching triple digits with the fastball.
Jimmy Nelson, SP/RP
I adore Jimmy Nelson. I’m far from alone in believing that he’s a future mid-rotation starter, but the Brewers have six starters for five spots. Nelson currently is bound for the bullpen. If something changes in that plan, whether that’s due to injury or poor performance, Nelson should absolutely be on your radar.
Prospects for 2015
Taylor Jungmann, SP
The former first-rounder out of the University of Texas threw 101.2 innings in Triple-A and could be a fifth starter. With the pitching depth the Brewers have, though, it’s unlikely Jungmann spends much time in the majors—especially if Tyler Thornburg can return healthy. Jungmann would have to jump 2-3 guys before getting a shot at the rotation.
Luis Jimenez, 1B/3B
He’s currently the frontrunner to play first base against tough lefties—because Adam Lind cannot—and has even been talked about as a potential sub at second base. He hit .286/.321/.505 with 21 homers and 12 stolen bases in Triple-A last year. If he can carve out a bench role, Miller Park may be the perfect place for his skillset to shine.
David Goforth, RP
We all like minor-league relievers who can touch 100 mph, right? Of course we do. Here’s another one.
Johnny Hellweg, RP
The Brewers tried Hellweg in the big-league rotation in 2013. It didn’t work. It spectacularly didn’t work. The 6-foot-9 fireballer then underwent Tommy John surgery last year. If he can return, it’s likely in the bullpen. It should limit the stress on his elbow and give him a chance to fulfill the “future closer” projection that he carried in the minors.
Ariel Pena, P
I’m not going to pretend I’m a fan of Ariel Pena. He can touch the mid-90s and has a slider that can flash, but it doesn’t work in the rotation and he’s been homer-prone throughout his career. A scout told me a couple years ago that Pena could perhaps be a seventh-inning reliever—and those don’t carry any value in fantasy baseball.