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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
Phillies RHP Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez targets rotation spot
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(11:21 am ET) Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro has declared that Cuban import Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez will compete for a rotation spot in spring training.

Gonzalez was winless in four decisions at three different levels in the minors but performed well enough to record a 3.11 ERA. He struggled with his control with 26 walks in 46 1/3 innings.

"We're going to give him every opportunity to be in our rotation," Amaro said via MLB.com. "We have to try to create as many opportunities for starting pitching as we possibly can. We're not going to be able to go through a season with five or six pitchers. It's probably going to take seven to 10 pitchers.

"He personally feels more comfortable being in the rotation. Whether or not he can provide that remains to be seen. But after speaking with him it was very important to him to be prepared mentally and physically for this offseason to get stretched out."

Gonzalez was promoted to the Phillies in September and yielded four runs on nine hits in 5 1/3 innings.


Epstein laments Jackson deal, but still looking to improve Cubs
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(11:03 am ET) Cubs President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein has stated that he won't be satisfied adding one starting pitcher to the rotation in the offseason.

"We need impact starting pitching," he told CSNChicago.com. "If you can add a top-of-the-rotation starter to what we have with (Jake) Arrieta, et al, it becomes really, really interesting in a hurry. We also could use just another quality, stable arm to go with it. So in an ideal world, we'll add two starting pitchers."

Epstein admitted he made a mistake in his disastrous signing of Edwin Jackson to a four-year, $52 million deal, which will pale in comparison to the money destined for potential free agents Jon Lester and Max Scherzer this winter. Jackson is 14-33 with a 5.58 ERA in two years with the Cubs, who are on the hook for two more seasons. But Epstein realizes that he must return to the free agent market to sufficiently improve his staff.

"I'm very confident that we'll add impact pitching from outside the organization," he said. "It has a chance to happen this winter. But we're not going to make any guarantees."


Yankees veteran Mark Teixeira seeking strength in offseason
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(10:48 am ET) Yankees aging first baseman Mark Teixeira has lamented what he called a "bad season" and plans on improving his upper-body strength before next year.

Teixeira batted a career-low .216 (aside from 2013, when he had just 53 at-bats), though he did rack up 23 home runs and 62 RBI in 440 at-bats. He told ESPN that he was negatively affected coming off a right wrist injury. But he added that he needs to get stronger if he wants to rebound.

"I didn't realize how weak I was upper-body," he said. "I'm trying to be working a lot harder. That will be my adjustment this year."

Teixeira will turn 35 years old on April 15.


Report: Inquiries pouring in for Blue Jays 1B/DH Adam Lind
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(10:22 am ET) Fresh off a season in which he batted .321, Blue Jays first baseman Adam Lind is receiving plenty of attention in the trade market, according to the Toronto Sun.

Lind totaled six home runs and 40 RBI in 2014. "I hear the Blue Jays are getting a lot of interest on Lind and not just from American League teams," an executive told the Sun.

He started 47 games at first base and 36 at designated hitter this season. His limited skills as a position player makes interest from NL teams a bit of a surprise. What is not a surprise is that teams are intrigued by his contract situation. The Jays will likely pick up his 7.5 million option for 2015 and, if he performs well, his $8 million option for the following year.

The Jays also have an option on Lind for 2016 at $8 million.


Royals C Salvador Perez homers in Game 1 World Series loss
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(10/21/2014) Royals catcher Salvador Perez went 1 for 3 with a solo home run in his team's 7-1 loss to the Giants in Game 1 of the World Series Tuesday.

Perez struck the only blow the Royals could manage on offense, finally getting a run off Giants starter Madison Bumgarner after he allowed only two hits through six scoreless innings. By the time of Perez's bomb, the Royals were dug in a hole from which they couldn't escape. It's a rare sign of life from the catcher's bat, as he's hit just .135/.158/.216 in 37 postseason at-bats despite the Royals racking up win after win in the first three rounds.


Giants' Pablo Sandoval drives in two in Game 1 World Series win
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(10/21/2014) Giants third baseman Pablo Sandoval went 2 for 5 with a double and two RBI in his team's 7-1 win over the Royals in Game 1 of the World Series Tuesday.

Sandoval opened and closed the scoring for the Giants in the win, delivering an RBI double in the top of the first inning (and later scoring on a Hunter Pence home run) then adding an RBI single in the seventh to push the lead to 7-0. While he has yet to deliver a home run this October, Sandoval has been hard to conquer at the plate, hitting .333/.396/.438 in 48 postseason at-bats.


Giants OF Hunter Pence homers in Game 1 World Series win
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(10/21/2014) Giants outfielder Hunter Pence went 2 for 3 with two walks and a two-run home run in his team's 7-1 win over the Royals in Game 1 of the World Series Tuesday.

Pence delivered a monster blast to center field in the first inning to put his team up 3-0, and the Royals would have little answer for another excellent performance by Giants pitcher Madison Bumgarner. It was the first home run of October for Pence, who has hit .286/.388/.452 in 42 postseason at-bats.


Madison Bumgarner allows one run in Giants' Game 1 World Series win
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(10/21/2014) Giants pitcher Madison Bumgarner earned a win in Game 1 of the World Series Tuesday, allowing just one earned run on three hits and one walk in seven innings while striking out five in his team's 7-1 victory over the Royals.

Bumgarner (3-1) continued to look excellent fresh off winning the NLCS MVP award. He fired six scoreless innings and was up 7-0 before surrendering a solo home run in the bottom of the seventh. Bumgarner has delivered a 1.40 ERA, 0.72 WHIP and 33:6 K:BB ratio in 38 2/3 postseason innings spanning five starts. He'll get the ball in Game 5 Sunday if the Royals can avoid a sweep. Game 2 is set for Wednesday in Kansas City.


James Shields comes up short in Royals' Game 1 World Series loss
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(10/21/2014) Royals pitcher James Shields was roughed up in Game 1 of the World Series Tuesday, taking a loss after surrendering five earned runs on seven hits and one walk in three-plus innings while striking out one in his team's 7-1 defeat against the Giants.

Shields (1-1) hadn't been having a great postseason despite the Royals' impressive run of wins, giving up 10 earned runs in 16 innings heading into his Game 1 start. His night turned south immediately Tuesday, as the Giants followed up a one-out, RBI double with a two-run home run to take a 3-0 lead in the first inning. Shields retired seven straight heading into the fourth, where he opened the inning with a double, walk and RBI single to get the hook. The loss, which was the first of the postseason for the Royals, puts the AL pennant winner in a 1-0 hole going into Game 2 Wednesday in Kansas City.


Yankees SP CC Sabathia nearly '100 percent'
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(10/21/2014) Yankees starting pitcher CC Sabathia said Tuesday that he feels "pretty much back to 100 percent" and expects a full 200-inning workload in 2015, MLB.com reports.

"It's definitely a huge relief," Sabathia said. "I feel good enough to do all my workouts, to play catch and kind of have a normal offseason."

Sabathia, who underwent season-ending knee surgery in July, starting throwing off flat ground in late September and plans to report to spring training early.


 
 
 
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