Coming off their first playoff appearance in 26 years, the Brewers hoped to keep the momentum going with a run at the division title last year. But the loss of CC Sabathia proved too much to overcome, and although the Brewers didn't embarrass themselves by finishing 11 games out of first place, they did have a sub-.500 record.
So begins the second youth movement in Milwaukee -- one that shouldn't be nearly as painful as the first. In fact, the Brewers have a shot at contending with established superstars Prince Fielder and Ryan J. Braun anchoring the middle of the lineup. Still, with veterans J.J. Hardy, Bill Hall and Mike Cameron gone, replaced by lower-cost, higher-upside players like Alcides Escobar, Mat Gamel and Carlos Gomez, the Brewers will endure some growing pains. And they'll get even younger when prospect Jonathan LuCroy ousts placeholder Gregg Zaun from behind the plate this summer.
With their starting lineup on the brink of realizing its long-awaited potential, the Brewers invested in veteran hurlers Randy Wolf and Doug Davis this offseason, hoping the two lefties can keep the team competitive until its pitching prospects catch up with its hitting prospects. The Brewers already have a long-term solution at the top of the rotation in Yovani Gallardo, a strikeout artist who's just a tweak or two away from becoming an ace. Manny Parra, another strikeout guy, hasn't progressed as hoped and will have to compete with Dave Bush for a rotation spot.
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Of course, the biggest concern for the Brewers' immediate future is how well Rickie Weeks and Corey C. Hart bounce back from injury. Throw in Casey McGehee, whose surprise breakthrough leaves Gamel without a clear role, and the Brewers have plenty of boom-or-bust types to make life interesting on Draft Day.
Breakout: Yovani Gallardo, SP
Gallardo made a name for himself last year when he started 30 games and struck out 204 batters. But he didn't break out as that ace everyone expected him to become, primarily because he struggled with walks for the first time in his career. It got so bad that by the second half, he was walking more than one batter every two innings, which goes a long way toward explaining his 4.56 ERA during that stretch. Still, few pitchers have the talent to strike out 10 batters per nine innings, and considering Gallardo threw a career high 185 2/3 innings one year after barely throwing at all because of a knee injury, his command issues make sense. Now stretched out and rested up, he's one of those top-25 options who has the capacity to reach the top 10.
Bust: Alcides Escobar, SS
A fine line separates busts from sleepers, and Escobar straddles it as much as any player can. In some leagues, he might actually be a sleeper, but as a high-profile rookie at one of the weakest positions in Fantasy, he'll get more attention than he deserves on Draft Day. The fact is he has yet to develop any power at age 23 and doesn't walk enough to make full use of his speed. He might steal 30 bases, but those on their own don't measure up to the well-rounded numbers an Asdrubal Cabrera or Erick Aybar can give you, at least not in Head-to-Head leagues. Of course, prospects of Escobar's pedigree sometimes take big leaps forward, which makes him worth a late-round gamble. But with so many owners desperate to find that next great shortstop, someone will reach for him in the middle rounds.
Sleeper: Casey McGehee, 3B
Again, it's a fine line, but already McGehee looks like one of those players who has so few people believing in him that he actually becomes a sleeper. He can't be a bust if nobody wants him, and nobody seems to want him even though he hit 16 homers in 355 at-bats, qualifies at second base and continues to hold off top prospect Mat Gamel for at-bats. Sure, he came out of nowhere, but his breakthrough began in spring training and continued throughout the season. If he was masquerading as someone else, he kept it going for a full seven months. Granted, he might hit .200 in April, lose his job to Gamel and never again matter in mixed leagues, but surely the chance of him hitting 25 homers makes him a better late-round pick than vanilla options like Placido Polanco and Alberto Callaspo.
| ||Pos.|| |
|1||Rickie Weeks||2B||1||Yovani Gallardo||RH|
|2||Alcides Escobar||SS||2||Randy Wolf||LH|
|3||Ryan J. Braun||LF||3||Doug Davis||LH|
|4||Prince Fielder||1B||4||Jeff Suppan||RH|
|5||Casey McGehee||3B||5||Manny Parra||LH|
|6||Corey C. Hart||RF||Alt||Dave Bush||RH|
|7||Carlos Gomez||CF||Top bullpen arms|
|8||Gregg Zaun||C||CL||Trevor Hoffman||RH|
|Top bench options||SU||LaTroy Hawkins||RH|
|R||Mat Gamel||3B||RP||Todd Coffey||RH|
|R||Jody Gerut||OF||RP||Claudio Vargas||RH|
|R||Craig Counsell||INF||RP||Mitch Stetter||LH|
|Speedster ready to play every day. More Elvis Andrus than Jose B. Reyes right now, but could emerge quickly.|
|Power hitter was clear 3B of future. Now will have to change positions or wait for McGehee to fail.|
|Patient hitter has passed Angel Salome as organization's top catching prospect. Up by midseason?|
|4||Brett Lawrie||20||2B||Double-A||Class A|
|Power-hitting 2B should progress quickly. Brewers can take their time with him because of Weeks.|
|5||Mark Rogers||24||SP||Class A||Double-A|
|Former first-rounder finally emerging after several shoulder surgeries. Age should help him advance.|
|Best of the rest: Jeremy Jeffress, SP; Amaury Rivas, SP; Caleb Gindl, OF; Angel Salome, C; Trent Oeltjen, OF; Charles Lofgren, SP; Cutter Dykstra, OF; Taylor Green, 3B; Tim Dillard, SP; Josh J. Butler, SP; Cody Scarpetta, SP; Jake Odorizzi, SP; Eric Arnett, SP; Zach Braddock, RP; Lorenzo Cain, OF; Kentrail Davis, OF; Kyle Heckathorn, SP; Alex Periard, SP; Lee Haydel, OF; Nick A. Green, SP; Brent Brewer, SS; R.J. Seidel, RP; Setch Lintz, SP; Omar Aguilar, SP; Brooks Hall, SP; Logan Schafer, OF; Joe Koshansky, OF; and Evan Anundsen, RP.|
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