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Touch 'Em All: Travis' Four Big Storylines for the 2016 Brewers

Here's what to watch for over the next six month of Brewers baseball

Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports

Many people think that the Brewers will be pretty bad in 2016. However, people have been wrong before. For instance, for a long time mostly everyone thought the world was flat, and that the sun actually revolved around the earth. In fact, some very stupid people actually still believe both of these things. I am not worried about anyone getting mad because I called them very stupid on here, because anyone who believes in those very wrong theories is probably a huge nerd that I could totally own. My point is that maybe all the people who think the Brewers will be bad are like the flat earth theorists: extremely wrong and silly.

Wow, well there you have it. Hard to argue with impressive logic like that. Not sure who this fella is but he seems to have a good head on his shoulders, better take his word for it. Just how the heck will the Brewers be good this year? Let's go around the horn and find out.

First Base: Domingo Santana

The rebuilding Brewers have restocked their farm system with a boatload of talent. In Orlando Arcia, Jorge Lopez, Brett Phillips and others, the Brewers haven't had a group of prospects with this much promise since the early part of the century gave us the arrivals of Ryan Braun, Prince Fielder, Rickie Weeks, et al. Santana is the first of the new wave to arrive, getting the call less than a month after he was acquired from Houston and seeing the bulk of the playing time in center field during the season's final month. Santana will slide back over to right field now that Khris Davis has been dealt away, and we'll see what the 23-year-old can do with a full season of regular playing time. He has the potential to be a perennial All Star, but he'll absolutely need to cut down on the strike outs in order to realize it -- his career strikeout rate of 37.6% simply won't cut it at the major league level. With an extremely talented group of outfielders waiting in the minor leagues, Santana as a long-term solution in right field is anything but guaranteed. The .394/.500/.606 batting line from Spring Training looks nice, but he's still striking out 30% of the time.

Second Base: Development of Jimmy Nelson and Wily Peralta

The entire rotation is going to be interesting to watch in 2016, and should be vastly improved from a 2015 squad that ranked among the leagues worst in ERA, WHIP and opponent batting average. Matt Garza had his worst season as a pro last year, and should experience some positive regression back toward his career norms. Kyle Lohse, who had the league's worst ERA a season ago (minimum 150 IP), is gone and in his place is Chase Anderson, who is nothing more than a solid back of the rotation arm but certainly projects to be an improvement over the as-yet-unsigned Lohse. Jungmann, who pitched well in his rookie season, will be back with another year of experience under his belt.

The real story of the rotation in 2016, however, will be the progress made by Nelson and Peralta, both of whom are former Top 100 prospects. After a stellar sophomore season in 2014 Peralta took a major step in the wrong direction last year, seeing ERA rise by well over a run while his strikeout rate dipped considerably as did his velocity -- his fastball slowed by a point and a half. Nelson's numbers improved somewhat last year from his debut in 2014, but he was still on the wrong side of four with his ERA and he had his walk rate climb markedly. Both pitchers are young enough to be a part of the next contending Brewers team, but neither would be more than a fourth or fifth starter on a championship rotation given their performance last season. This is a crossroads season for both of them.

Third Base: What can Yadiel Rivera be?

Rivera has worked his way up through the Brewers system as a glove-first middle infielder whose bat is probably not good enough for him to hold down a starting role on a good team. Make no mistake, Rivera is very much still that. However, he has shown some marked improvement over the last six months, and has certainly earned his spot on the Brewers Opening Day roster. The level of pitching competition in the Arizona Fall League and in Spring Training is roughly analogous to what one would see at the Triple-A level, and Rivera's performance last fall (.315/.405/.425 in 84 PA) and this spring (.311/.340/.644 in 47 PA) is a huge jump from his poor showing with Triple-A Colorado Springs last summer, where he hit .238/.266/.303 in 306 appearances. While he's no threat to block Orlando Arcia whenever the Brewers decide their top prospect is ready for the big leagues, Rivera could be a very useful bench player since he has the ability to provide plus defense at three positions if he can keep his OBP above .300.

Home Plate: DINGERS

Oh yes, there will be dingers. Milwaukee brought in former Astros first baseman Chris Carter, who has averaged 30 home runs per year through his first three full seasons in the league. He joins Santana, whose prodigious power we have discussed today, and Braun to present a serious power threat to opposing pitchers in the heart of the Brewers lineup. After years of finishing among the league leaders in home runs, the Brewers finished in the bottom third of the league last season during a disappointing year for almost everyone on the squad. Expect them to return to the top half of home run leaderboard this season -- but be prepared to pay the strike out price along the way.