Baseball is back in Milwaukee! The Brewers are playing in Miller Park tonight! Who cares if the high temp for the WHOLE DAY is 42 Degrees, the fans here have suffered through a winter so depressing that Ruben Quevedo didn't seem like that bad of a pitcher after all!
Right now, the so called "Winter that Will Never End" seems far out of mind for loyal fans. In fact, with a baseball game being played in the Brew City tonight, the thought of winter seems about as far away as Pluto.
However, after having a couple Klement's Hot Dogs and washing down a couple Millers, and getting back home after the game is over, fans MIGHT actually face reality and realize:
It may still be a LONG time before people in these parts sniff 70 degrees, AND the Milwaukee Brewers need a lot of things to go right in order to contend.
Here is a position by position breakdown:
The crew is going with "Khris with a K' Davis in left field. He sure does have potential. This is the same guy who hit 6 homers in 2013 spring training, fighting his way onto the Opening Day roster. Unfortunately for him, he didn't have a long stay in the big leagues, as he played in 56 games for Milwaukee and 69 for AAA Nashville.
This year though, he has been handed the "keys to the car" and pretty much knew all along he would have the job in left field. With only 136 major league at bats under his belt, he will have to prove he can be productive as an everyday starter. Not only that, but he must be an everyday starter WORTHY of moving 2011 LF MVP winner Ryan Braun to right.
In 2013, all Brewers Left Fielders hit .261 with 81 RBI, 9 stolen bases, 23 homers and a .331 on base. Khris has the potential to put up similar or better numbers based on some of his minors trends, but when you factor in a guy who is having his first full year in the big leagues, you know he will be "taking his lumps" and he will definitely have to make some adjustments. If he struggles, Logan Schafer and Caleb Gindl look to eat into his playing time. My prediction: At some point he gets into about a month long slump and also at some point he begins to see less starts in LF.
In center, Carlos Gomez is fresh off an All Star and Gold Glove Season. This is a guy who means so much to the Brewers attack. His play in the field has only become more and more astounding. Web Gems? 5 out of the 10 best highlights of the year could be Gomez's.
On the offensive side, he certainly put up some decent numbers last season. When your center fielder has over 20 dingers, over 70 RBI and swipes 40 bags, all is right with the world. In all reality, many are wondering whether Carlos can keep it up. His batting average last season was .284, which seems to be about his peak at this point, based on what he has done in the past. It really doesn't seem feasible that he will be able to repeat ALL of those previous numbers this season. Many fans have noted that it sure has taken Gomez a long time to "put it all together." Giving this guy the leadoff spot in the batting order seems a lot more iffy as well. My prediction: Gomez may hit about .270, has less homers, and spends about 20 days on the DL with some ailment. He will also annoy fans with his constant "swinging for the fences."
And now starting in Right Field "Lyin' Braun!" Yes, the tarnished and suspended former MVP is back, and he is of course out there to silence the critics. Say what you will about Braun and the PED scandal and his overall character, but most will agree he is a determined and confident human being. When the guy says he will be "better than I've ever been" you almost have to believe him. Nobody has ever disputed that the fact that the guy can put up numbers.
The most informed baseball fan will tell you that no matter what anyone says, when a player makes a defensive position shift it will in fact affect that player's offense. Truth is, it does not seem like there will be any decline or major change in Ryan's numbers at all, whether he is still juicing it or not. Given a full healthy season, there really seems to be no question that he will come up with big homers and continue to put up numbers and make plays.
One BIG IF though: His thumb. Reports are out there that it is still bothering him, even after all this time off. A full season healthy Ryan Braun puts up scary numbers. A guy who has a nagging and painful injury has the life sucked out of him. My prediction: Braun puts up pretty respectable offensive numbers and is not really a defensive liability at all in his new position, getting charged with 4 errors on the season. His thumb will inevitably bother him, and he will probably be on the dl for a total of 35 days on the season.
Jonathan Lucroy will again be Milwaukee's starting backstop, with Martin Maldonado scheduled to get a start about every 5th day. 'Luc' has proven to be a good find for the crew, considering the team has suffered through anemic offensive performers like Mike Matheny, Keith Osik, Paul Bako, Gary Bennett, Jesse Levis and others at catcher. Jonathan's Major League stats average out to be 16 homers, 80 RBI and a .279 average per season. This season, a reasonable expectation for the main guy behind the dish would be about 14 homers and maybe 68 RBI with a .269 average. While this projection for his offensive numbers in 2014 may be just a bit below what he has averaged for his career, it is important to note one stat that you just can't seem to grade: Clutch hits. It sure seems Lucroy is great at coming up with them!
In the past, Martin Maldonado was pretty much the personal catcher for Wily Peralta, who he had worked with in the minors. The most famous part of that pairing was the fact that Maldonado would FIRE a throw back to Wily whenever it seemed as if Wily needed to sharpen his focus or get a kick in the pants. As of now, it seems manager Ron Roenicke has grown comfortable with the way Lucroy has caught Peralta in spring, meaning Maldonado will have new duties for 2014. The best guess is 'Maldy' will catch Garza maybe a couple times this season, POSSIBLY a Lohse start and more than likely several Estrada starts. Ultimately, you know the crew will NOT go through just five starters the whole year so Maldonado will probably get some action with the replacements as well. Prediction: Maldonado hits about .245 and starts 35 games at catcher while continuing to play EXCELLENT defense.
Coming Up in Part Two: A Breakdown of the Pitchers and Infield as Well as How the Crew Stacks up in the Central...