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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
Ken Giles picks up first save Saturday
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(7:12 pm ET) Phillies closer Ken Giles picked up his first save Saturday against the Athletics.

Giles entered with a three-run lead, and slammed the door shut. He was perfect during the inning, picking up one strikeout. Giles induced a pop out against Adam Dunn to finish off the Athletics. 


Drew Pomeranz earns the no decision
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(7:11 pm ET) Athletics pitcher Drew Pomeranz turned in a scoreless start Saturday against the Phillies.

Pomeranz allowed one hit over five scoreless innings. He struck out six and walked two during the outing. Pomeranz was masterful, giving up his only hit in the first inning. He actually loaded the bases during the frame after walking and hitting a batter with a pitch, but was able to get out of it. Pomeranz would settle in at that point, tossing three perfect innings. He allowed a walk in the fifth, but got out of it without giving up any runs. Pomeranz was pulled after throwing 86 pitches.

Pomeranz earned the no-decision for his performance. He’ll take on the Rangers if he gets another start.


Jerome Williams tosses scoreless start
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(7:10 pm ET) Phillies pitcher Jerome Williams turned in an excellent start Saturday against the Athletics.

Williams gave up four hits over seven scoreless innings. He struck out three and walked one during the outing. Williams nearly got himself in trouble in the second inning. After loading the bases on three singles, Williams managed to pick up an inning-ending double play. He would give up just one more hit and one more walk over his last five innings.

With the win, Williams improved to 6-7. He’ll take on the Braves in his next start. 


Trevor Cahill knocked around Saturday
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(7:09 pm ET) Diamondbacks pitcher Trevor Cahill turned in a rough performance Saturday against the Rockies. 

Cahill gave up five runs on 10 hits over five innings. He struck out eight and did not issue any walks during the performance. Corey Dickerson proved to be a problem for Cahill. He tripled in a run in the first inning to open the scoring. Dickerson wasn’t involved in the third inning, when the Rockies managed to plate three runs during the inning. He did, however, strike in the fifth. Dickerson clubbed a solo home run off Cahill, plating the fifth run of the game.

With the loss, Cahill dropped to 3-12. He’ll take on the Cardinals in his next start. 


Eddie Butler wins one Saturday
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(7:08 pm ET) Rockies pitcher Eddie Butler turned in a strong start Saturday against the Diamondbacks.

Butler allowed one run on five hits over six innings. He struck out one and walked one during the outing. A home run was the only blemish for Butler. In the fifth inning, Jake Lamb belted a solo shot off Butler. He would put another man on during the frame, but managed to get out of it.  Butler gave up a single to open the sixth inning, but was able to erase any trouble with a double-play. He was pulled after throwing 81 pitches.

With the win, Butler improved to 1-1. He’ll take on the Dodgers in his next start. 


Odrisamer Despaigne dealing with lat soreness
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(6:54 pm ET) Padres pitcher Odrisamer Despaigne is dealing with lat soreness, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune

Despaigne felt some soreness late in his last start. He's scheduled to make his next start Wednesday, but that could be in doubt based on how well he responds over the next few days. 


Brad Boxberger expected back Sunday
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(6:08 pm ET) Rays pitcher Brad Boxberger is expected back Sunday, according to the Tampa Bay Times

Boxberger has missed the past couple games after his wife had a child Thursday. He's expected to be ready to go Sunday.


Mark Teixeira leaves early Saturday
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(6:00 pm ET) Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira left Saturday's game with an injury.

Teixeira struck out in his only two at-bats. He was replaced by Brendan Ryan in the fifth inning. Teixeira left the game due to a wrist injury.


Steve Pearce scratched due to sore wrist
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(5:38 pm ET) Orioles first baseman Steve Pearce has been scratched due to a sore wrist Saturday.

Pearce will likely be replaced by Christian Walker. With the Orioles bound for the playoffs, the team wants to make sure Pearce is healthy down the stretch. Pearce is hitting .297/.376/.557 over 327 at-bats. 


Matt Carpenter, Matt Adams out Saturday with illness
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(5:16 pm ET) Cardinals third baseman Matt Carpenter and first baseman Matt Adams are not in the starting lineup Saturday due to stomach illness, MLB.com reports.

 
 
 
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