It's Opening Day 2019, and it's been a long few years for our beloved Milwaukee Brewers. After three straight seasons of losing 90+ games from 2015-2017, the club finally showed some signs of life in 2018 and with a strong second half got themselves back to a .500 record. Heading into 2019, the young Brewers are on the fringes on contention and are a popular dark horse pick by pundits to reach the playoffs.
C Austin Hedges - Acquired from San Diego in the deal that sent out Jean Segura, Hedges doesn't provide a ton of offense and has settled in at around an 85-90 wRC+ over the last couple seasons. He does boast excellent defensive chops behind the plate however and does a terrific job guiding the young pitching staff.
1B Ryan Braun - The Brewers kept their franchise player in the outfield until 2018 (even as his defense continued to decline) while hoping to find a trade partner for him, but to no avail. No one would offer a fair package, even with the Brewers willing to eat a considerable amount of his contract. Still, he's provided 110-125 wRC+ and 20+ home runs in each of the last three seasons, and the club's outfield defense is greatly improved now that Braun is at first.
2B Jonathan Villar - Acquired from Houston way back in the end of 2015, Villar played all around the infield until eventually earning the starting second baseman job. He's not a star but is a serviceable regular capable of providing about 2-3 WAR per season.
3B Richie Schaffer - The Brewers picked up their slugging third baseman as a part of the deal that sent Jonathan Lucroy to Tampa Bay in 2016. The former first round pick has some contact issues, but makes up for it with his plus raw power and is a legitimate 25+ home run threat. He draws plenty of walks to help get around his strikeout issues and plays about average defense at the hot corner.
SS Orlando Arcia - Milwaukee's top prospect from 2015-16, Arcia has become entrenched as a starter at short and is a perennial All-Star candidate. He doesn't wow with the bat but he's been right around league average, which is much better than the average shortstop. It's hard to miss him on the highlight reels, however, as he makes another crazy play at shortstop almost every night and won the Gold Glove award in 2018.
LF Michael Reed - He doesn't have the normal pop for a corner outfielder, but it's a tall order to keep the Brewers' lead-off hitter and his .370+ OBP off of the base paths. Once he's out there, Reed uses his speed to wreak havoc on opposing pitchers and catchers and ranked in the top 10 in stolen bases in 2018.
CF Brett Phillips - The centerpiece of the long-ago Gomez/Fiers deal, Phillips has done well to deliver on his considerable promise. Batting near the top of the order he's settled in as a 15+ home run, 15+ stolen base power-speed threat who is a strong defender in center field.
RF Clint Coulter - After being moved out from behind the plate, Coulter fine-tuned his craft in right field and has developed into a serviceable outfielder with a strong arm. His bat is what keeps him in the lineup, however, and though he has his share of whiffs, he's also become a 20+ home run threat who draws a good amount of walks.
C Adam Weisenburger, IF Blake Allemand, IF Colin Walsh, OF Victor Roache, OF Tyrone Taylor
RHP Cody Ponce - The 2015 draftee shot up prospect lists and through the minor leagues during his breakout 2016 campaign. He debuted later in 2017 and by 2018 had become a front-line member of the starting rotation. Some talking heads think Ponce might be a candidate for the Cy Young award in 2019, and at long last the Brewers look to have the "ace" that fans have been waiting for.
RHP Jimmy Nelson - Jimmy anchored the Brewers pitching staff through the rebuilding years and was even an All-Star in 2017. He may be the number two behind Ponce, but he's the unequivocal veteran leader of the pitching staff and can generally be counted on for 3-4 WAR each season.
LHP Blake Snell - The other major piece of the aforementioned Lucroy trade, Snell sits in the middle of the rotation and breaks up all the right handed arms. His command can waiver at times, but he certainly misses plenty of bats and doesn't give up very many long balls.
RHP Zach Davies - Like Nelson, Davies was one of the anchors of the rotation as the Brewers endured the rebuild process. He offers a much different look than the rest of the rotation, relying on his excellent command and keeping hitters off-balance with his 90 MPH sinker and devastating changeup that is by now regarded as one of the best in the game. Davies has carved out his niche as a durable and dependable starter.
RHP Jorge Lopez - Since his breakout season in the minors in 2015, Lopez was in and out of the rotation for the next couple of seasons. His command too can get a little iffy, but after getting sent back to AAA to hone his craft for a few months in 2017, Lopez returned and has gotten the most reps as the fifth starter, though he has (and likely will continue) shared the role with some pitchers who are now members of the bullpen.
LHP Josh Hader, RHP Tyler Wagner, RHP Adrian Houser, RHP Yhonathan Barrios, LHP Wei-Chung Wang, RHP Jacob Barnes, RHP Corey Knebel (Closer)
In the Minors
The 2019 Brewers are supported by some excellent minor league depth, as well. Offensively, Trent Clark, Tyrone Perry, Franley Mallen, Demi Orimoloye, Gilbert Lara, Monte Harrison, Malik Collymore, and Jake Gatewood are all knocking on the door in the upper minors and waiting for their opportunity. On the pitching side, Devin Williams, Gentry Fortuno, Marcos Diplan, Miguel Diaz, David Burkhalter, Jake Drossner, Carlos Luna, and Kodi Medeiros are fighting for the chance to make an impact at the big league level.
The window of contention seems to just now be opening for the Milwaukee Brewers here in 2019, and with the talented prospects they have waiting in the minor leagues it certainly appears as though the window should be open for awhile. While this young Brew Crew hasn't accomplished anything yet, they are a team on the rise and fans seem to have already forgotten about the losing they endured during the early years of the Stearns-Counsell era in Milwaukee.
Thanks to BCB commenter SANDYTOLAN for recently proposing this article concept.