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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
Albert Pujols pops 20th home run
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(8:13 pm ET) Angels first baseman Albert Pujols hit his 20th home run Wednesday against the Blue Jays. 

Pujols hit a go-ahead shot in the seventh inning. He worked a four-pitch at-bat against Aaron Loup. On the final pitch, he smashed a 94 mph fastball out to center for the two-run shot. Pujols also singled in the game. He finished 2 for 4, with two runs scored and two RBI. 


Donnie Murphy placed on release waivers
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(8:03 pm ET) Rangers infielder Donnie Murphy has been placed on release waivers.

Murphy was designated for assignment recently, but rejected the move. He was hitting .196 over 112 at-bats. 


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by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(8:01 pm ET) Blue Jays infielder Adam Lind is expected to miss six-to-eight weeks with a foot fracture, according to MLB.com.

Lind will get a second opinion on the injury in hopes that he might be able to return to action sooner. He's hitting .320/.389/.489 over 178 at-bats. 


Kris Johnson gets the call Friday
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(7:56 pm ET) Twins pitcher Kris Johnson will get the start Friday, according to the St. Paul Pioneer-Press

Johnson has a 2.75 ERA over 98 1/3 innings in Triple-A. Johnson made one start with the club earlier this season. He tossed 4 1/3 scoreless innings. 


Jason Grilli picks up a win Wednesday
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(7:52 pm ET) Angels reliever Jason Grilli managed to snag a win Wednesday against the Blue Jays. 

Grilli wound up being a victim of circumstance. After tossing a scoreless inning in the seventh, Albert Pujols put the team on top in the bottom of the inning. The Angels were able to hang on, giving Grilli the win. He's now 1-1 on the year. 


Not ready to trust Jacob deGrom yet
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(7:50 pm ET) Jacob deGrom has shown enough flashes of potential over his last few starts that you wouldn't be wrong to take a flier on him in a 12-team mixed league, especially since the waiver wire, at least in competitive leagues, no longer abounds with starting pitcher talent.

But taking a flier on him isn't the same as putting your trust in him, and I'm not quite ready for the latter yet.

For one thing, his high strikeout rate is mostly the result of four starts: an 11-strikeout effort May 31 at the Phillies, a seven-strikeout effort June 21 at the Marlins, an eight-strikeout effort July 2 at the Braves and the latest 11-strikeout effort Tuesday, also against the Braves.

The Marlins have struck out the most of any team in baseball, and the Braves have struck out the fourth-most. The Phillies aren't quite as bad, but they've struck out the ninth-most and have several notable high-strikeout hitters.

deGrom wasn't a strikeout pitcher in the minors, never averaging more than 7.8 strikeouts per nine innings in a full season -- and that was in the lower levels. He wasn't a pitcher of any note in the minors, compiling a 3.62 ERA and 1.28 WHIP in 58 starts, and if you look at his game log, you'll see he's been just as spotty so far in the majors, with his innings and walks varying as much from start to start as his strikeouts.

But watching him pitch, I'll admit he looks better than the numbers would suggest, and I would have said the same for Corey Kluber early last year. For that reason, I'm not overlooking deGrom in Fantasy. I'm just not ready to commit to him yet.


Danny Santana not ready to return just yet
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(7:45 pm ET) Twins infielder Danny Santana won't return this weekend, according to MLB.com.

Santana was aiming for a weekend return, but will need a rehab assignment first. Santana is hitting .328 over 134 at-bats. 


Marco Scutaro scheduled to return Friday
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(7:42 pm ET) Giants second baseman Marco Scutaro is expected to return from the disabled list Friday if he doesn't suffer a setback over the next few days, Comcast SportsNet Bay Area reports.

Scutaro is getting Wednesday off and is scheduled to play nine innings with Triple-A Fresno Thursday before a potential return Friday. He has yet to play this season while recovering from a back injury. Manager Bruce Bochy said Wednesday that Scutaro is scheduled to be activated Friday or Saturday, according to multiple reports.


Wily Peralta not so trustworthy right now
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(7:39 pm ET) I'm inclined to say that at 84 percent, Wily Peralta is overowned right now. His troubles didn't just begin with the nine earned runs he allowed to the Phillies Tuesday night. He now has just three quality starts in his last eight, compiling a 6.38 ERA during that stretch.

But the ERA doesn't trouble me as much as the 1.34 WHIP and especially the 6.8 strikeouts per nine innings. Much of Peralta's success earlier in the year was the result of an improved ability to miss bats. His ground-ball tendencies predispose him to a higher-than-usual hit rate, so when he allows more contact overall, the damage can pile up quickly. And when he goes back to walking batters at the same rate he did last year, as he has in his last 10 starts, he's barely mixed-league viable.

That said, the starting pitcher position has thinned out enough in recent weeks that quality replacements are no longer so available. For all my concerns about Peralta, I still rank him in the top 75 at the position, so the better choice than dropping him in most leagues is to bench and hope he regains the form he showed at the beginning of the year. He has the stuff to get back there.


Joe Smith picks up the save Wednesday
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(7:38 pm ET) Angels reliever Joe Smith picked up a save Wednesday against the Blue Jays.

Smith pitched a perfect inning, striking out two batters. He got Jose Reyes to fly out to left to end the game. Of the 13 pitches he threw, 10 were strikes. Smith notched his 12th save. His ERA sits at 2.50 on the year. 


 
 
 
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