Important question: When one uses an exclamation point after Yahoo!, does it then become "Yahoo!!"?
Anyway, Yahoo! is sponsoring this, so here's your fantasy preview post for the Milwaukee Brewers
The Best Pitchers
Definitely the most valuable Brewers pitcher, Gallardo still has yet to reach that upper echelon of pitchers. Going into his age 27 season, this could be the year he truly breaks out. I wouldn't count on it in your fantasy draft, though. He's more of a second tier starting pitcher right now. The best thing about Gallardo, fantasy-wise, is that he will get you strikeouts. He has had 200 each of the past four seasons, and there is absolutely no reason to forecast that changing. The problem with Gallardo is that he just can't get over that hump of mid-3.00 ERAs. He has averaged a 3.68 ERA over his past four seasons which, coincidentally, is very close to the 3.66 ERA he posted last year. He has had some home run issues, some control issues, but nothing that ruins him for a season. Just enough to keep him from taking that next step. The good news about Gallardo is that, if you are in a head to head league, he'll give you a ton of great starts, then one terrible, terrible start. So most weeks he'll be a huge boon. Then one week, every now and then, he'll blow up and ruin your week.
Lohse really comes down to whether you believe he can come close to what he did the last two seasons. There's no side benefits to him. He doesn't come with the caveat of "Well, he's giving up a ton of runs, but at least he's getting me strikeouts". Kyle Lohse is not a strikeout pitcher. He relies on control to get batters to take bad swings and hit softly. That's dangerous in fantasy baseball, just as it is in real life. Lohse heavily reduced his hits per nine innings into the low to mid 8.00s the past two years, and he has brought his walk numbers down as well. The aging veteran says that he made some changes that he thought helped him. Can the magic of Dave Duncan continue after he left the Cardinals?
I've gotta be honest, I'm not sure I would take a chance on Axford this year. He had his best strikeout year yet in 2012 with a 12.07 K/9, but that was lost in the shuffle of blown saves and poor outings that saw him lose his closer job briefly. Axford has had control issues his whole career, but a 5.06 BB/9 is taking him closer to a Carlos Marmol level. He also had a tone of trouble with the long ball, allowing a 1.30 HR/9 and a HR/FB rate of 19.2%. The good news in that regard is that he cut his flyball percentage by almost 6%. The bad news is that manifested itself in more line drives, not ground balls. A 4.67 ERA, 9 blown saves, and 1.44 WHIP takes away the value his 35 saves and 93 strikeouts provided. Worse, his Spring Training wasn't good: In 7.2 innings he gave up five runs on on nine hits and two walks while striking out just five. I won't be drafting him this year, but I'll be rooting for him.
The Best Hitters
I mean, of course he's the best Brewers hitter. In plenty of drafts, he's the number one overall draft pick. He does everything on offense well. Everything. He hits for average, he hits homers, he drives in and scores runs. He even steals bases, which pushes him above the Tigers' Miguel Cabrera in my book. He does well in all the advanced stats, too, if your into that kind of stuff for fantasy. Ryan Braun is a former MVP, a bona fide baseball superstar, and he's still in his prime. Last season, he had a .276 ISO, his best power year since his rookie season.The Brewers are finally allowing him to steal bases, and he has over 30 for two years running. He's hit over .300 for four years running. His BABIP has been high, but he has shown that is a trend for him, not a fluke. Ryan Braun is great. I should have just written that.
I think Lucroy might well end up as the second most valuable Brewer in fantasy, considering that he plays catcher. That's not a position that's nearly as easy to find as, say, 1B or OF. That means that Corey Hart drops out of the top 3 Brewers. Doubly so because he's missing the first month or so of the season. Lucroy, on the other hand, could potentially work his way into the top-5 most valuable catchers. Lucroy for all intents and purposes basically skipped Triple-A before being called up to the majors. With guys like that, I think you have to give them a couple years to really get into the swing of things. That happened in 2012 for Jon-Luc. He hit .320 in 96 games and, ell that is a little high, he has hit for high averages in the minors before. He could absolutely hit .300 in 2013. He could also be a 20 HR hitter (he hit 12 last year). His power is clearly developing still, but his ISO soared to .197. In this Brewers lineup, he could also be a run producer as well. Realistic high end for Lucroy is probably .300, 20 HR, 90 RB, 90 R. Realistic moderate guess would be that Lucroy is a .280, 15 HR, 75 RBI, 75 R guy in 2013. From a catcher, the latter is very valuable. The former? The former would be spectacular.
Third base has all of a sudden become a pretty strong position in fantasy baseball. So much so that Ramirez actually is falling to the middle rounds often enough that he becomes a major steal. You'll get about as much production from his as you will Corey Hart in April, but when he starts hitting he doesn't stop. Three out of the last four years he has hit over .300 and he is a lock to hit at least 25 homers. In this Brewers lineup as a cleanup hitter, you can pencil him in for 100+ RBI, as well. Ramirez has had one really bad season in his career, in 2010 with the Cubs when he hit .241/.294/.452. Even then he hit 25 homers with 83 RBI in just 124 games. Ramirez is a known quantity at this point, and one that is being undervalued in some drafts.
Brewers sleeper: Jean Segura
After being acquired from the Angels last season in the Zack Greinke trade, Segura hit .264/.321/.331 in 44 games for the Brewers. That, along with one game while still with Los Angeles, constituted his first taste of major league pitching. I think that kind of line is successful in that scenario. Shortstop is weak. If you're in a league with a MI position as well, it gets even weaker. Segura has been a top prospect, but not one that has been in the public eye as much as, say, Manny Machado or Jurickson Profar. Segura might get overlooked and that might be a mistake. Make no doubt about it, barring immense struggles he will be the starter all year. He won't provide much power, but he could hit somewhere between .270-290 easily. In addition, he is a speedster and the Brewers love to run, leading the majors in stolen bases last year. Segura is another guy who could provide 30+ stolen bases. In the late mid rounds of a draft, that could be a steal.
Brewers bust: Martin Maldonado
People might see his playing time and hitting line and think he'll replicate that in 2013. That becomes especially true if you are in a league that uses two catchers. Martin Maldonado won't hit enough to be worth your time. He hit well in Triple-A in 2011, then had a nice .266/.321/.408 line with eight homers over 78 major league games in 2012. Prior to that though? He was a terrible hitter with no power and no contact. I don't anticipate him hitting better than .230 with five homers in 2013. Maybe I'm just really down on him, but I have no faith in his continued hitting whatsoever.
Just gut feelings from me:
- Carlos Gomez hits 25 homers and steals 40 bases
- Norichika Aoki slips back to a .260 hitter with a .320 OBP. He'll still get steals, but he'll suffer some in his second year in the MLB.
- Rickie Weeks will be a top-5 second baseman. Second base is the weakest position this year, and Weeks should hit around .270 with 25 HR. I also think he'll crack 20 SB for the first time since 2007.
- Wily Peralta is owned in 80% of leagues by June. I think he'll be a valuable starter for the Brewers this year. He won't light the world on fire, but his strikeouts and high 3.00s ERA will entice many fantasy owners.
- Burke Badenhop saves at least 10 games. Please prove me wrong, Ax.
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