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2012 Fantasy outlooks: Milwaukee Brewers

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Talk about a buzz kill.

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After winning their division for the first time in 29 years and making the playoffs for only the second time during that stretch, the Brewers had to wave goodbye to longtime cleanup hitter Prince Fielder this offseason. And though they at least attempted to fill the void by signing Aramis Ramirez, they can't expect the same MVP-caliber production from the aging third baseman. The bottom line is, without Fielder, they're not as good as they were last year.

It could have been worse, though. They could have also lost Ryan Braun, the reigning NL MVP, for 50 games because of a failed drug test. But Braun won his appeal and, in doing so, gave the Brewers hope of a repeat title.

True, he may be the team's only true elite hitter now, but it's not like he's surrounded by scrubs. Ramirez has been a legitimate middle-of-the-order hitter for more than a decade. Rickie Weeks is one of the few pure power hitters at second base. Corey Hart is always good for 20-plus homers. Even Fielder's replacement, Mat Gamel, packs enough punch that he may someday be worthy of an All-Star nod.

Besides, the real strength of this team is its pitching staff. In Yovani Gallardo and Zack Greinke, the Brewers have dual aces at the top of their rotation. Both are on the right side of 30 and only got better over the course of last season, so Fantasy owners have no reason to worry about them. Third wheel Shaun Marcum did have some issues last September and fell apart in the playoffs but chances are he simply needed an offseason of rest. And if not, whatever shortcomings develop in the rotation the Brewers can counter with top prospect Wily Peralta, not to mention a lights-out late-inning duo of Francisco Rodriguez and John Axford.

So clearly this team's success last year wasn't all Fielder. Without him, the Brewers may not be the run-scoring machine they were a year ago but they'll compete all the same.

Breakout ... Yovani Gallardo, SP

Gallardo may not be the textbook definition of a "breakout player." In fact, he'll probably get drafted as a top-20 starting pitcher. But of those 20, he's one of the most likely to creep into the top 10. See, the current rendition of Gallardo isn't as flawed as his numbers would have you believe. During his five years in the majors his shaky control has condemned him to an ERA over 3.50 and a WHIP over 1.20, and that was the case again last year. But he seemed to overcome the problem in the second half. Over his final 15 starts, he issued 16 walks, posting a 3.06 ERA and a 1.00 WHIP. And it's not like he sacrificed deception for control. His strikeout rate actually rose during that stretch. In those 15 starts Gallardo turned a corner, which isn't so difficult to believe considering he's only 26. If he can pick up where he left off he'll be as much of a bargain as a top-20 pitcher can be.

Bust ... Aramis Ramirez, 3B

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Ramirez did last year more or less what he has done over the last 11 years, so Fantasy owners have little reason to doubt him in his move from Chicago to Milwaukee, right? Well, not exactly. Ramirez's 2011 season may not stand out as anything exceptional over the entirety of his career but compared the previous two years it was a full-fledged outlier. It was the first time during that stretch he played as many as 125 games, finishing with nearly 150. That alone gave him a boost in the rankings that Fantasy owners seem to think he's going to sustain. But let's be reasonable: He turns 34 this year. A player that age with that injury history will get hurt at some point and if his numbers begin to decline along with it he could easily drop out of the top 12 at the position. It's coming sooner than later. Why take the risk when you can land a Pablo Sandoval at about the same point in the draft?

Sleeper ... Mat Gamel, 3B

After biding his time at Triple-A for most of the last three seasons, Gamel is poised to replace Prince Fielder at first base this year. It won't be the first time the career .304 minor-league hitter had a shot at regular at-bats -- that came in 2009, when relative unknown Casey McGehee seized the third base job from him -- but it is the first time he's been the overwhelming favorite. So why isn't there more hype in Fantasy? For one thing, Gamel is already 26, so he doesn't exactly qualify as a prospect anymore. For another, he hasn't impressed in his brief major-league opportunities so far. To be fair, though, the Brewers haven't cared to give him the benefit of the doubt, unwilling to live through his defensive lapses at third base for no more than prospective production. With him at first that's not an issue anymore. He'll have all the time he needs to get comfortable and if his minor-league numbers are any indication he'll be an impact player as a result.

2012 Milwaukee Brewers Fantasy Outlook
Projected Lineup Pos. Projected Rotation
1 Corey Hart RF 1 Yovani Gallardo RH
2 Nyjer Morgan CF 2 Zack Greinke RH
3 Ryan Braun LF 3 Randy Wolf LH
4 Aramis Ramirez 3B 4 Shaun Marcum RH
5 Rickie Weeks 2B 5 Chris Narveson LH
6 Mat Gamel 1B Alt Marco Estrada RH
7 Jonathan Lucroy C
Bullpen Breakdown
8 Alex Gonzalez SS CL John Axford RH
Top bench options SU Francisco Rodriguez RH
R Norichika Aoki OF RP Jose Veras RH
R Taylor Green UTL RP Kameron Loe RH
R Carlos Gomez OF RP Manny Parra LH
Rookies/Prospects Age Pos. 2011 high Destination
1 Wily Peralta 22 SP Triple-A Triple-A
The hard-thrower profiles as a workhorse and is poised to step into Milwaukee's rotation in 2013 at the latest. If Narveson folds or anyone else gets injured he'll arrive even sooner.
2 Taylor Green 25 2B Majors Majors
After a slow recovery from wrist surgery Green put up a silly .997 OPS at Triple-A in 2011. He's a good enough hitter and a versatile enough defender to be the next Ben Zobrist.
3 Taylor Jungmann 22 SP DNP -- signed late Class A
The 2011 first-rounder should be a staple of the Brewers rotation before too long, but he's more like a No. 2 option than a true ace. Still, he's a solid long-term keeper.
4 Jed Bradley 21 SP DNP -- signed late Class A
Bradley is kind of the left-handed equivalent of Jungmann and was taken only three picks later. If you're looking for a quick payoff, he should only need a couple years.
5 Tyler Thornburg 23 SP Class A Double-A
Tornburg has piled up strikeouts in the minors, but his funky delivery compromises his command and could ultimately force him into relief. Double-A will be a good test for him.
Best of the rest: Norichika Aoki, OF; Logan Schafer, OF; Ryan Gennett, 2B; Cody Scarpetta, SP; Brandon Kintzler, RP; Michael Fiers, RP; Santo Manzanillo, RP; Caleb Gindl, OF; Kentrail Davis, OF; Hunter Morris, 3B; D' Richardson, OF; Eric Arnett, SP; Eric Farris, 2B; Kyle Heckathorn, SP; Lucas Luetge, RP; Martin Maldonado, C; Dan Merklinger, SP; Mike McClendon, RP; Yadiel Rivera, SS; Mark Rogers, SP; and Zelous Wheeler, 3B.

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us on Twitter @CBSFantasyBB or Scott White at @CBSScottWhite . You can also send our staff an e-mail at fantasybaseball@cbsinteractive.com .

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Player News
Athletics' Marcus Semien slugs second home run Monday
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(11:31 am ET) Athletics shortstop Marcus Semien went 1 for 4 with a solo home run in his team's 6-3 win over the Angels Monday.

Semien has been better against lefties than righties but was able to take righty starter Matt Shoemaker over the fence in the fourth inning Monday. He's hit .250/.304/.423 with two home runs, nine RBI and one stolen base in 52 at-bats.

Semien will get to face three lefty starters in a four-game span starting Tuesday against Angels pitcher Hector Santiago.


Torrid Padres 1B Alonso knocks in three in Monday win
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(11:29 am ET) Padres first baseman Yonder Alonso was mashing everything in sight heading into the game Monday night in Colorado. He just wasn't driving in a lot of runs.

That changed against the Rockies. Alonso nearly doubled his RBI output on the year with three, courtesy of a two-run single in the first and sacrifice fly in the second. He added another single to sweeten his slash line to .364/.453/.477.

Alonso has reached in 13 of 14 games this season and his on-base percentage ranks 11th in the major leagues.


White Sox's Melky Cabrera delivers walkoff single in win Monday
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(11:27 am ET) White Sox left fielder Melky Cabrera went 1 for 4 with a walk and a walkoff RBI single in his team's 4-3 win over the Indians Monday.

The White Sox found themselves behind 3-0 with one out in the ninth inning, but two doubles sandwiched around one walk brought the first two runs of the inning home, and four straight singles followed to give the White Sox the dramatic win.

Cabrera entered play Saturday with just six singles in 37 at-bats, but he's 7 for 13 with a double and three RBI in his last three games. He has hit .260//275/.280 in 50 at-bats to start the season.


White Sox's Alexei Ramirez drives in two runs in comeback win
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(11:23 am ET) White Sox shortstop Alexei Ramirez went 1 for 4 with two RBI in his team's 4-3 win over the Indians Monday.

The White Sox entered the bottom of the ninth inning stuck in a 3-0 deficit, but the offense was able to engineer a win by racking up six hits and a walk with one out in the inning. Ramirez drove in the first two runs of the inning with his double with men on second and third base.

The double was the third of the year for Ramirez, who has hit .184/.250/.263 with no home runs and eight RBI in 38 at-bats.


Cubs OF Jorge Soler remains on roll with four-hit game
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(11:22 am ET) Cubs outfielder Jorge Soler didn't just extend his hitting streak to seven games Monday night against Pittsburgh. He did it in style.

Soler slammed four hits, including a seventh-inning double that contributed to a three-run inning that gave his team the lead for good. He is 12-for-32 during his tear and now boasts a slash line of .320/.364/.520 with two home runs and nine RBI in just 12 games.


Indians' Ryan Raburn slugs first home run Monday
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(11:20 am ET) Indians designated hitter Ryan Raburn went 2 for 3 with a walk and a solo home run in his team's 4-3 loss to the White Sox Monday.

Raburn was slotted into the fifth spot of the lineup for the first time this season and rewarded manager Terry Francona for the move. The designated hitter entered the game with plenty of success against starter John Danks, hitting .341 with three home runs in 44 career at-bats, and he followed the trend with a second-inning home run, his first of the season.

Raburn has hit .316/.333/.684 with four doubles and five RBI in 19 at-bats. He could have trouble cracking the starting lineup in the coming week with the team set to face a string of right-handed pitchers.


Mets 1B Lucas Duda proving to be late bloomer
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(11:16 am ET) Greatness is generally achieved at a younger age than 29 by players that have it within them. But Mets emerging standout Lucas Duda isn't about to complain that he's just now reaching a very high peak.

Duda is off to a blistering start with a .347/.396/.551 slash line and eight RBI in 13 games. He is making more consistent contact for a team that has been the surprise of baseball in 2015.

"He is on the verge of absolute stardom, right on the cusp," Mets hitting coach Kevin Long told the New York Post. "He has strength and size and ability and aptitude and work ethic. He is hitting lefties and he is going to keep hitting lefties. I think he is close to having no deficiencies."

Duda is 5 for 9 against left-handers this season.


Athletics' Dan Otero earns win Monday with four scoreless innings
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(10:48 am ET) Athletics relief pitcher Dan Otero came up big for his team Monday, giving up just one hit in four scoreless innings of relief while striking out four and walking none to earn the win in his team's 6-3 victory over the Angels.

Otero (1-1) combined with Evan Scribner and Tyler Clippard to throw six scoreless innings of one-hit ball after starter Kendall Graveman lasted just three innings.

"That's big," Melvin said after the game, per MLB.com. "Confidence for a lot of guys, too. You're talking about Otero getting a little confidence back, Scribner used in a little different role and getting three key outs and finally getting to Clippard in a save situation. We hadn't been able to do that this year."

Otero came into Monday's game with a 6.75 ERA in four innings over five appearances. He said catcher Stephen Vogt spotted something with his left shoulder in his delivery last week, and he's been working to adjust.

"I was just kind of turning my left shoulder in a little bit," he said. "Getting a little too rotational. That's something I've been cognizant of throwing in the outfield, warming up every day. Noticed it tonight it was good, and it helps all my other pitches when I can stay in line, can stay through the catcher instead of spinning off to the first baseman."

Otero has now posted a 3.38 ERA and 6:0 K:BB ratio in eight innings.


Tigers' Greene on trade from Yankees: 'I felt like I got dumped'
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(10:41 am ET) Tigers pitcher Shane Greene has given up just one earned run in 23 innings in his first three starts and has played with a chip on his shoulder after being traded by the Yankees this offseason, the Wall Street Journal reports.

"I felt like I got dumped," Greene said of being traded.

Greene went 5-4 with a 3.78 ERA and 81:29 K:BB ratio in 78 2/3 innings with the Yankees last year during his rookie season.

"I proved to myself that I was good enough," Greene said. "I guess I didn’t prove it to everybody else."

Greene is the only starting pitcher not scheduled to face the Yankees during the team's current four-game series. He expected to pitch during the series in spring training after being penciled in as the No. 5 starter, but the injury to Justin Verlander altered the team's rotation plans.

"I knew," Greene said. "April 22 would have been the day if I was No. 5."

Greene's next chance to face the team that traded him will come when the Tigers travel to the Bronx in June.

"I’ll get that chance," he said. "That time will come."


Brewers' Braun has favorable history against Reds' Marquis
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(10:36 am ET) Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun finally connected for his first home run of the season Monday against the Reds. Still, despite the home run, Braun has gotten off to a slow start in 2015.

Although, he might be able to keep the momentum of Monday's performance going Tuesday.

On the hill for Cincinnati will be veteran right-hander Jason Marquis. Braun has fared pretty well against Marquis in his career. He is batting .520 (13 for 25) with one home run, five doubles, six RBI, three walks and three strikeouts against Marquis.


 
 
 
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