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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
Giants will not start Madison Bumgarner on short rest
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(12:05 am ET) The Giants will not start Madison Bumgarner on short rest for Game 4.

Manager Bruce Bochy admitted he was considering giving Bumgarner the start prior to Game 3, but changed his mind following the game. Bumgarner has thrown a combined 256 innings between the regular season and the postseason, and there's a chance the team didn't want to push him any further, especially on short rest. San Francisco will throw Ryan Vogelsong, as originally planned.


Royals RP Greg Holland shuts it down Friday
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(10/24/2014) Royals closer Greg Holland did his job Friday against the Giants.

With his team up by one run, Holland was called upon to pick up the save. He had little trouble against San Francisco. Facing the heart of the team's order, Holland induced a flyout and two groundouts against Buster Posey, Pablo Sandoval and Hunter Pence. He threw just eight pitches, five of which were strikes. 


Giants' Michael Morse comes up big as pinch hitter
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(10/24/2014) Giants outfielder Michael Morse came up big as a pinch hitter Friday against the Royals.

Morse got his opportunity in the sixth inning and didn't disappoint. With a man on first, Morse worked an eight-pitch at-bat against Jeremy Guthrie. After starting out 0-2, Morse was able to work the count full. On the eighth pitch, Morse managed to double down the left field line, plating the team's first run of the contest. Morse was replaced by a pitcher in the top of the seventh.


Royals' Alcides Escobar reaches twice in Game 3
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(10/24/2014) Royals infielder Alcides Escobar reached base twice Game 3 against the Giants. 

Escobar wound up playing a big role immediately, doubling in his first at-bat. He would come around to score later in the inning, giving the Royals a 1-0 lead. Escobar would strike again in the sixth inning. After a single, Escobar would score from first on an Alex Gordon double. Escobar went on to finish 2 for 4, with two runs scored.


Giants SP Tim Hudson saddled with the loss Game 3
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(10/24/2014) Giants pitcher Tim Hudson was saddled with the loss Game 3 against the Royals.

Hudson allowed three runs on four hits over 5 2/3 innings. He struck out two and walked one during the outing. Hudson found himself in trouble immediately. After giving up a leadoff double to start the game, Hudson allowed a run on an RBI-single just a few hitters later. He would settle in at that point, tossing four scoreless frames. 

Hudson ran out of gas in the sixth. Alcides Escobar was able to reach on a single, and was driven home on an Alex Gordon double. After picking up a groundout, Hudson left the game. Javier Lopez came on in relief and allowed an RBI-single against Eric Hosmer. The run would be charged to Hudson. 


Giants to go with Ryan Vogelsong in Game 4
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(10/24/2014) The Giants will start pitcher Ryan Vogelsong Game 4 against the Royals.

Manager Bruce Bochy was considering starting ace Madison Bumgarner on short rest, but opted against the decision. Vogelsong struggled in his last start, allowing four earned runs over three innings against St. Louis. He'll oppose Jason Vargas. 


Royals' Jeremy Guthrie pulls out a win in Game 3
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(10/24/2014) Royals pitcher Jeremy Guthrie pulled out a win Friday night against the Giants.

Guthrie allowed two runs on four hits over five innings of work. He did not record any strikeouts or walks during the contest. Guthrie gave up plenty of contact during the start, but was helped out by Kansas City's strong defense. He was excellent over the first five frames, not giving up a run. 

Things began to unravel in the sixth inning. After a leadoff single, Guthrie allowed a run-scoring double against Michael Morse. Guthrie was pulled from the game at that point, but was charged with a second run after Morse would come around to score later in the frame. 

The Royals would hold on to the one-run lead over the last couple of innings, giving Guthrie the win. 


Twins prospect Miguel Sano won't play winter ball
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(10/24/2014) Twins infielder Miguel Sano won't play winter ball, according to the St. Paul Pioneer-Press

Sano missed most of the season after undergoing Tommy John surgery. He has not experienced a setback, but "doctors do not want him to play," according to the report. Sano was considered one of the top prospects in the game prior to the 2014 season. 


White Sox OF Michael Taylor decides to become free agent
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(10/24/2014) The White Sox have outrighted outfielder Michael Taylor to Triple-A Friday.

Taylor declined the assignment, and will become a free-agent. He hit .250 over 28 at-bats with the major-league club last season. The team now has 37 players on the 40-man roster. 


Giants will consider Madison Bumgarner for Game 4
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(10/24/2014) The Giants will consider Madison Bumgarner on short rest for Game 4, according to CSN.

As of right now, the team is planning to start Ryan Vogelsong. But if the Giants lose Game 3, there's a chance Bumgarner would get the nod on short rest. Bumgarner allowed one run in the team's Game 1 victory. 


 
 
 
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