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2011 Fantasy outlooks: Milwaukee Brewers

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After finishing the 2010 season with the third-worst team ERA in the National League, the Brewers made a pair of bold moves this offseason.

To get Shaun Marcum from the Blue Jays back in early December, they had to part with top second base prospect Brett Lawrie, and general manager Mark Attanasio was just warming up. Two weeks later, they shipped off three more prospects and starting shortstop Alcides Escobar to obtain former Cy Young winner Zack Greinke and shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt from the Royals.

Aside from the additions of Greinke, Betancourt and Marcum, the Brewers' squad that staggered its way to a 77-85 record and a third-place finish in the NL Central in 2010 is largely the same one that will be on the field in 2011. Ryan Braun, Prince Fielder and Corey Hart will continue to anchor the offense, and Yovani Gallardo, Randy Wolf and Chris Narveson will fill out the rotation. After taking over the closer's role from all-time saves leader Trevor Hoffman last year, John Axford will be back as Milwaukee's ninth-inning man.

While the Brewers have significantly upgraded their pitching, can they do enough offensively to challenge for a playoff spot? Braun remains one of the top-hitting outfielders in the majors, but he will need help from Fielder and Hart, both of whom have been prone to inconsistency. Rickie Weeks must also stay healthy for a second straight year, and Casey McGehee needs to keep hitting well with runners in scoring position, as he has a .335 batting average in those situations over his young major league career.

A lot of pieces have to fall into place for the Brewers to become contenders again, but at least the pieces are there. Greinke is only two years removed from his Cy Young season, Fielder has two 45-plus homer seasons to his credit, Marcum showed superb command in his return from Tommy John surgery, and Axford has the stuff to be a top-shelf closer. Not only could these talents carry Milwaukee back to the playoffs for the first time in three years, but each could outperform his Fantasy draft position, providing the foundation for a winning Fantasy season.

Sleeper ... Chris Narveson, SP

With a 4.99 ERA in his first full major league season, Narveson probably didn't impress many Fantasy owners. Those who do trust him in this year's drafts may get a very nice payoff. His strikeout, walk and home run rates from 2010 were similar to those of Phil Hughes and Brian Matusz, yet those pitchers posted ERAs much closer to 4.00. Narveson suffered from a 66 percent left-on-base rate, the second-lowest in the majors. Fluctuation of that rate is frequent, and it can make a huge difference in a pitcher's value; for instance, Ricky Nolasco shaved more than half a run off his ERA last year thanks to a higher strand rate. Narveson doesn't have Hughes' or Matusz's upside and he won't get as many innings, but he is still someone to consider in the late rounds of mixed league drafts.

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Breakout ... Jonathan LuCroy, C

LuCroy had established himself as an on-base threat as a minor leaguer, so the .300 on-base percentage that he compiled in his rookie season last year was a disappointment. Fantasy owners may not see LuCroy improve his .253 batting average much, but there are reasons to expect that he should reach base far more often. Not only did he boast double-digit walk rates in the minors, but he increased his rate in each successive month last season. The 24-year-old also has room to boost his modest power numbers. Last year, LuCroy was strictly an NL-only option, but this year it's safe to use him in mixed leagues that have a No. 2 catcher spot.

Bust ... Yuniesky Betancourt, SS

Betancourt has been the target of criticism for both his offense and defense, but at least at the plate, he came alive in 2010. With a boost from a career-high 16 home runs, Betancourt finished as the 13th-ranked shortstop in Fantasy points. While that ranking gives Betancourt the appearance of being a legitimate option in standard mixed leagues, he's not. Seven of those 16 homers were qualified on the HitTracker website as being short enough on distance and height to fall into the "lucky" or "just enough" categories. With fewer cheap homers likely to come this year and a consistent record of poor on-base skills, Betancourt is sure to disappoint any standard mixed league owner who drafts him.

Milwaukee Brewers Fantasy Outlook
Projected Lineup Pos. Projected Rotation
1 Rickie Weeks 2B 1 Zack Greinke RH
2 Corey Hart RF 2 Yovani Gallardo RH
3 Ryan Braun LF 3 Shaun Marcum RH
4 Prince Fielder 1B 4 Randy Wolf LH
5 Casey McGehee 3B 5 Chris Narveson LH
6 Carlos Gomez CF Alt Manny Parra LH
7 Yuniesky Betancourt SS
Bullpen Breakdown
8 Jonathan Lucroy C CL John Axford RH
Top bench options SU LaTroy Hawkins RH
R Chris Dickerson OF RP Takashi Saito RH
R Craig Counsell SS/3B RP Zach Braddock LH
R Brandon Boggs OF RP Kameron Loe RH
Rookies/Prospects Age Pos. 2010 high Destination
1 Mark Rogers 25 SP Majors Triple-A
Worked his way back from two shoulder surgeries and handled Double-A. Likely to get some big league starts in '11.
2 Cody Scarpetta 22 SP Class A Double-A
Still has some work to do on his control but could be in the Brewers' rotation within a year or two.
3 Wily Peralta 21 SP Double-A Double-A
Has come back from '07 Tommy John surgery and built up stamina over last two years. Could arrive in 2012.
4 Kentrail Davis 22 OF Class A Class A
Patient hitter has speed, but has yet to develop power. Gets another chance to do that in the Florida State League.
5 Eric Farris 25 2B Triple-A Triple-A
Slap hitter could join the Brewers soon in a utility role helping owners with stolen bases, even as a part-timer.
Best of the rest: Scooter Gennett, 2B; Tyler Thornburg, SP; Jimmy Nelson, SP; Kyle Heckathorn, SP; Amaury Rivas, SP; Caleb Gindl, OF; Eric Komatsu, OF; Hunter Morris, 1B; D'Vontrey Richardson, OF; Tyler Roberts, C; Logan Schafer, OF; Khris Davis, OF; Dan Merklinger, SP; and Zelous Wheeler, SS.

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us via Twitter . You can e-mail us your Fantasy Baseball questions to DMFantasyBaseball@cbs.com . Be sure to put Team outlooks in the subject field. Please include your full name, hometown and state.

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Player News
Brewers reliever Jim Henderson throwing again
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(1:13 pm ET) Brewers reliever Jim Henderson, who had shoulder surgery last August, began throwing off a mound last week and will toss bullpen sessions this week, reports MLB.com. Henderson hopes to be 100 percent by Opening Day, the report added.

Henderson was limited to 14 appearances last season. He went 2-1 with a 7.15 ERA.


Ryan Braun says his thumb feels 'significantly better'
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(1:05 pm ET) Brewers right fielder Ryan Braun, who underwent a thumb procedure last October, said his thumb feels "significantly better" than at this time last year, reports the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Braun was plagued throughout last season by a nerve issue at the base of his thumb, the paper noted.

"Knock on wood, I feel great; it feels really good," Braun told reporters.

"Everything is going well. Regular offseason, regular routine. I started hitting a little bit earlier than I typically do, just to see how it felt. So far, so good. It feels really good.

"I do everything I regularly do. I don't hit off live pitching but I take regular batting practice like we would during the season, and it feels good. I don't feel anything at all."

Added Braun: "I know it's significantly better than where it was this time last year, which I'm encouraged by. But as I told you guys the last time I saw everybody (at Thanksgiving) the real test will come in spring training, once we've played games for a couple of weeks and that everyday wear and tear. See how it recovers, see how it responds."


Stiff competition for fifth spot in Mariners' rotation
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(12:16 pm ET) Taijuan Walker, Roenis Elias and Erasmo Ramirez are the leading candidates for the fifth spot in the Mariners' starting rotation, reports the Tacoma News Tribune. "The more competition, the better," Walker told the paper.

"It brings out the best of everyone who is fighting for the spot."

Walker posted a 1.96 ERA in six outings last September after being recalled from Triple-A Tacoma.


Report: Yankees decline reconciliation with Alex Rodriguez
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(11:50 am ET) After meeting with new Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred to clear the air over his year-long suspension in 2014, Alex Rodriguez also reached out to the Yankees to set up a meeting, but was turned down, reports the New York Post.

Rodriguez requested to meet with the Yankees to apologize for his role in the Biogenesis scandal, but was told to wait until spring training. Reports also surfaced that Rodriguez is looking noticeably thinner compared to recent seasons, a source told the New York Post.

Rodriguez is set to report to spring training Feb. 25.


Rockies' Boone Logan appears to be fully healthy
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(11:33 am ET) Rockies general manager Jeff Bridich said pitcher Boone Logan has completely recovered from elbow issues that ended his 2014 season, reports The Denver Post.

Boone struggled in 2014 and was placed on the disabled list with elbow inflammation. He produced a 6.84 ERA over 25 innings.


Report: Yelich, Hechavarria turn down offers from Marlins
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(11:21 am ET) The Marlins are no longer discussing multiyear contracts with outfielder Christian Yelich and shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria, reports the Miami Herald.

A significant gap between Yelich and the Marlins has caused contract talks on a long-term deal to stall. Hechavarria turned down the Marlins' multiyear contract because the offer was not significant enough. He can become a free agent after the 2018 season, while Yelich can become a free agent after 2019.


Rockies' Jhoulys Chacin ready for bounce back 2015 season
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(12:46 am ET) Rockies pitcher Jhoulys Chacin had a tough 2014 season. After injuring his shoulder in spring training, Chacin struggled in 11 starts, posting a 1-7 record with a 5.40 ERA in 63 1/3 innings. He suffered right rotator cuff strain, which forced him to miss nearly half the season.

However, manager Walt Weiss is happy with Chacin's progress this offseason.

"He's doing great. He's been throwing and working out really hard. He's had a really good offseason," Weiss said to The Denver Post.

Teammate and pitcher Jorge De La Rosa thinks 2015 will be much kinder to Chacin.

"He surprised me a lot," De La Rosa said. "He was playing catch with me every day (in Scottsdale, Ariz.), and his arm looks really good. His ball really had some life, and he's lost some weight. I think he's getting stronger. He's going to have a good year."


Report: Braves sign reliever David Carpenter
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(1/24/2015) The Braves signed relief pitcher David Carpenter, reports Baseball America.

Carpenter spent the last three seasons pitching for the Angels. During his career, Carpenter has pitched 43 innings and produced a 5.23 ERA.


Rockies' Troy Tulowitzki wants to move past injury concerns
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(1/24/2015) Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki has heard the rumors about being injury-prone and he said it only motivates him to play better, reports MLB.com.

Tulowitzki only appeared in 91 games during the 2014 season and said his main goal for 2015 is to stay on the field.

"I've heard that I'm injury-prone. I've heard that I'm getting older. I like it," he said. "That stuff fuels me. It makes my workouts better. It makes me want it that much more. I just want to prove that I can do it. For so long, I've worked so hard to try to stay on the field. That's what keeps driving me - to stay on the field, help this team win and try to solidify myself as the best player in the game."

He added that he wants to play between 140 and 160 games, but he knows it will be a challenge as he gets older.

"It's been a battle for me, no doubt," Tulowitzki said. "I do everything I possibly can to prepare for the season and make myself healthy."


Red Sox's Hanley Ramirez confident he can play outfield
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(1/24/2015) When Hanley Ramirez makes his spring training debut, he’ll be trying to learn new teammates and a new position.

The Red Sox signed Ramirez in the offseason with the intent of having him play in left field. Ramirez has never played in the outfield during his career, but has been working on outfield mechanics, including tracking balls and hitting the cutoff man. Ramirez believes the switch from the infield to the outfield will be seamless, once he receives enough experience, reports ESPN.com.

"I think if I put in all the work that I need to put to get better it's not going to be that hard," Ramirez said.


 
 
 
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