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2013 Fantasy outlooks: Milwaukee Brewers

Senior Fantasy Writer
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Looking to make back-to-back playoff appearances for only the second time in their history, the 2012 Brewers got another MVP-caliber season from reigning MVP Ryan Braun, a breakout performance from third-year catcher Jonathan Lucroy, surprise contributions from projected reserves Norichika Aoki and Carlos Gomez and about half a season of ace numbers from virtual unknown Mike Fiers.

2013 Fantasy Outlooks
A.L. East N.L. East
Orioles Braves
Red Sox Marlins
Yankees Mets
Rays Phillies
Blue Jays Nationals
A.L. Central N.L. Central
White Sox Cubs
Indians Reds
Tigers Brewers
Royals Pirates
Twins Cardinals
A.L. West N.L. West
Astros Diamondbacks
Angels Rockies
Athletics Dodgers
Mariners Padres
Rangers Giants

And yet they finished only third in the NL Central, behind the playoff-bound Reds and Cardinals.

Believe it or not, losing free agent Prince Fielder wasn't their biggest problem. Led by mainstays Braun, Corey Hart and Rickie Weeks and newcomer Aramis Ramirez, their lineup was the main reason they came as close as they did. And provided Lucroy, Aoki and Gomez don't slip too much and Hart misses only the first two months following offseason knee surgery, it should again be their primary strength in 2013.

So where did they fall short? John Axford is a good place to start. The hard-throwing closer, who emerged as one of the game's best in 2011, still threw plenty hard last year, but his command was never quite right, leading to inflated walk and home run rates, not to mention nine blown saves. The Brewers never did find an adequate replacement for him, and now with Francisco Rodriguez out of the picture, their only choice for the ninth inning in 2013 is to live and die with Axford again.

An opportunity for Fantasy owners? Well, maybe the brave ones.

2013 projected lineup
Player Name Position
1. Norichika Aoki RF
2. Rickie Weeks 2B
3. Ryan Braun LF
4. Aramis Ramirez 3B
5. Jonathan Lucroy C
6. Mat Gamel 1B
7. Carlos Gomez CF
8. Jean Segura SS
Bench Logan Schafer OF
Bench Taylor Green IF
Bench Martin Maldonado C

As for their starting rotation -- which is, to a degree, at the mercy of Axford -- Zack Greinke is gone, but Yovani Gallardo still gives the Brewers a legitimate front-liner, even if he's a little short of being an ace in Fantasy. After him, though, the picture gets fuzzy. Fiers took a dramatic turn for the worse over his final 10 starts last year, which suggests he may have been performing over his head to begin with. Between him, veteran Chris Narveson, who's coming off shoulder surgery, and rookies Mark Rogers, Wily Peralta and Tyler Thornburg, the Brewers have several candidates for their final three rotation spots.

With a strong lineup backing them, all five have genuine sleeper appeal. They'll just be at risk of getting swapped out for each other if they don't capitalize on it right away.

Bounce-back player ... Rickie Weeks, second baseman

The truth is Weeks has already bounced back, but you wouldn't know it by where he's projected to go on Draft Day. Over his final 97 games last year, he hit .269 with 16 homers, 11 steals and an .812 OPS -- which, if projected over a full season, is basically what he did in 2010 and 2011, when he was regarded among the best at his position. It's that .162 batting average over his first 60 games that scares people away. Keep in mind, though, he rushed back from a severely sprained ankle to take part in the playoffs in 2011. Just before spring training last year, he was still saying he hadn't fully recovered. Chances are the injury had some carryover effect in 2012, but once he got past it, he was the same old power-hitting second baseman as always. With a clean bill of health entering 2013, Weeks is once again poised to perform like a top-five second baseman.

2013 rotation/bullpen
Player Name Throws
1. Yovani Gallardo RHP
2. Marco Estrada RHP
3. Mike Fiers RHP
4. Chris Narveson LHP
5. Mark Rogers RHP
ALT Wily Peralta RHP
Bullpen Breakdown
1. John Axford RHP
2. Jim Henderson RHP
3. Mike Gonzalez LHP
4. Tom Gorzelanny LHP
5. Burke Badenhop RHP

Buyer beware ... Carlos Gomez, outfielder

Gomez's long-awaited power finally showed up in his age-26 season last year. Even though he didn't take over as a full-time starter until the second half, he still nearly had a 20-homer, 40-steal campaign. So what could he do with 550-plus at-bats? It's a prognosticator's playground. Of course, therein lies the danger. Though Gomez is surely a better player now than he was at this time a year ago, let's not understate just how bad he was a year ago. Struggling to hit .230 is nobody's idea of a good time. He was still that player in the first half last year, and the swing-at-anything approach that put him in that hole was just as evident in the second half, when he had a 5-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Of course, protecting yourself from a worst-case scenario is different from completely dismissing a player, but if you're expecting more than a .240-ish batting average, 15 homers and 30 steals from Gomez, you're bound to overpay for him.

Sleeper ... Marco Estrada, starting pitcher

For all the uncertainty surrounding the Brewers' starting rotation entering 2013, Estrada is the one pitcher other than Yovani Gallardo whose spot is all but assured. That's because over his 23 starts last year, he did what Mike Fiers couldn't do: He never let up, compiling a 3.76 ERA, 1.15 WHIP and 9.3 strikeouts per nine innings. So why do Fantasy owners tend to see him in the same light as Fiers? Like Fiers, he wasn't supposed to be that good. He had seemingly topped out as a long reliever or swingman-type at age 28, and his modest fastball presumably precluded him from being a strikeout-per-inning pitcher. But with zero earned runs allowed in five of his final eight starts and eight or more strikeouts in four of them, Estrada was exactly who he shouldn't have been right up to the very end. For the price of a middle-to-late-round pick, here's betting he keeps it going.

Prospects Report

Wily Peralta, Tyler Thornburg and Mark Rogers present the Brewers with three capable options for their starting rotation (with Johnny Hellweg and Taylor Jungmann just a little behind). The three will compete for a rotation spot (or perhaps two) this spring, with Rogers' lack of options giving him the advantage. Peralta impressed as much as Rogers late last season, though, and is generally regarded as the one with more upside. Don't overlook him in NL-only leagues ... First baseman Hunter Morris and second baseman Scooter Gennett are second-rate prospects, but both have the potential to contribute at some point this year. Judging by his power numbers in the minors, Morris could be something akin to Tyler Moore of the Nationals if Hart's injury frees up some at-bats for him, but the Brewers seem more inclined to go with perpetual disappointment Mat Gamel as their full-time first baseman. Gennett profiles as a contact hitter with doubles power. He likely won't factor unless Weeks gets hurt.

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 e-mail us at fantasybaseball@cbsinteractive.com .

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Player News
Mets RP Bobby Parnell (elbow) will pitch in game March 11
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(12:58 pm ET) Mets reliever Bobby Parnell (elbow) said he will pitch in a game March 11, per NJ.com. However, Parnell is uncertain if he will make his spring debut against the Marlins or pitch in a minor-league game.

"It's the next step," Parnell said.


Twins' Ryan not worried about Josmil Pinto's hamstring injury
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(12:53 pm ET) Twins catcher Josmil Pinto is sidelined in camp due to a hamstring injury. However, the injury is not considered serious.

General manager Terry Ryan said Pinto tweaked his hamstring during a drill, per the Pioneer Press.

"I'm not too worried about it," Ryan said.


Dodgers' Greinke (elbow) set to make first spring start Wednesday
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(12:47 pm ET) Dodgers starting pitcher Zack Greinke (elbow) threw 36 pitches during his first live batting practice session Wednesday, per The Orange County Register. Greinke is slated to make his first spring start Wednesday against the Cubs.

Yankees' Tanaka, Sabathia getting closer to pitching in spring game
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(12:41 pm ET) Yankees starting pitchers Masahiro Tanaka and CC Sabathia are progressing in their preparation for the start of the season, per MLB.com. 

Sabathia, who is coming off knee surgery, reported no issues after throwing 20 pitches in batting practice Thursday. Tanaka, who missed time in 2014 due to an elbow injury, will face hitters in a simulated game Friday.

Manager Joe Girardi said Sabathia will throw one more sim game before making his spring debut. Tanaka, however, will have to wait a little longer for his first spring action.

"Last year, we were trying to learn [about] him, and he was trying to learn us and learn the league," Girardi said of Tanaka. "I think this year, it's just important that we do what we feel is best for him.

"These guys are going to compete and understand the work they have to get in, whether it's a simulated game or a regular game. You can say all you want it's competition, but the competition you're going to face in April is different than the competition you're going to face now, because guys don't stay in the whole game and you don't get to go through all your pitches. There's a little bit more of an edge come April 1."


A's OF Josh Reddick scratched from lineup with oblique strain
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(12:32 pm ET) Athletics outfielder Josh Reddick was scratched from Friday's spring lineup against the Diamondbacks due to a right oblique strain. Manager Bob Melvin said Reddick injured himself during drills Friday morning, but he's hopeful Reddick will be sidelined for only a few days.

Reddick was limited to 109 games in 2014 due to knee issues. He has played less than 115 games the last two seasons and has played more than 115 games just once in six MLB seasons.

Reddick has a career .245 average, .305 on-base percentage, .431 slugging percentage and .736 OPS. Reddick is penciled in to be the A's starting right fielder.


Yankees' Girardi getting closer to playing A-Rod in the field
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(12:23 pm ET) Alex Rodriguez will make his second spring appearance at DH for the Yankees on Friday against the Pirates. While manager Joe Girardi feels Rodriguez is physically ready to play in the field, he is holding off a little longer before starting Rodriguez at third base.

"Right now, I think at-bats are the most important thing," Girardi said, per MLB.com. "And I think sometimes if you want to leave him in a little longer, it's easier to do it as a DH.

"I talked to him the other day, and he said he's ready to go at third. That's not an issue."


Padres OF Justin Upton scratched Friday due to illness
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(12:15 pm ET) Padres outfielder Justin Upton was scratched from Friday's spring game against the White Sox due to illness, per U-T San Diego. He was replaced in the lineup by Rymer Liriano.

"He's not feeling great," manager Bud Black said. "He should be back in a day or two, once he gets back to close to 100 percent. He's just a little bit under the weather. In this case, how he's feeling, it just doesn't make sense for him to be around the ballpark."

Upton hit a solo home run during his spring debut Wednesday.

"He's been working hard these first 10 days of camp, and leading up to camp, he was working hard," Black said. "This won't hurt him, a few days off the field."


Indians' Gavin Floyd sidelined due to soreness unrelated to elbow
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(12:04 pm ET) Indians starting pitcher Gavin Floyd said Friday his live batting practice session Wednesday was shut down after seven pitches due to "general soreness," per MLB.com. Manager Terry Francona said Floyd's general soreness is unrelated to the fractured elbow he suffered in June.

Floyd said he is not concerned about a setback. Pitching coach Mickey Callaway said the next step in Floyd's progression is still to be determined

Francona said he told Floyd not to focus on deadlines, such as opening day. Francona added it is important to have Floyd at 100 percent -- no matter the date.


Mariners SP James Paxton feels good after 30-pitch bullpen session
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(11:57 am ET) Mariners starting pitcher James Paxton (forearm) threw a 30-pitch bullpen session Friday. He reported no soreness and will throw another bullpen session in a few days, per the Tacoma News Tribune.

Cubs' Olt on first spring HR: One of the best at-bats I've had in a while
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(11:52 am ET) Cubs third baseman Mike Olt clubbed a two-run homer off Athletics starting pitcher Barry Zito during Thursday's spring game. He connected on an 0-2 changeup.

“It’s one of the best at-bats I’ve had in a while,” Olt said, per MLB.com. 

Olt spent some time this offseason working on refining his swing.

“I feel like it’s night and day,” Olt said of his swing now compared to last season. “Last year, I said I felt my swing was there, but secretly I knew in my head I was swinging at pitches I wasn’t supposed to. I’m feeling like I’m tracking the ball a lot better this year and a lot of the changes we’ve made to my swing are the reason why.”


 
 
 
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