The last week of Spring Training is a time to dream big. Everyone thinks they have a shot this time of year (except for maybe the Cincinnati Reds), and everyone is looking at things a little more optimistically than they might in a month or so. With that in mind, here are three bold predictions for the Milwaukee Brewers during the 2017 season:
Wily Peralta will be the Brewers' third-best starter
Big Willie Style might be drawing some trade interest after a solid spring (including a big performance in the World Baseball Classic), but at this point it's hard to think the Brewers would be able to get as much as they'd like for a young starter that still has a couple years of team control left.
Peralta's been a bit of an enigma during his Brewers career, having all the tools to succeed but never quite being able to put everything together at the same time. This time last year, he was the team's Opening Day starter, only to be one of the worst-performing pitchers in the league. Opposing batters did have a .385 BABIP against him during his first 13 starts, but judging by the .999 (!!) OPS he was allowing, the high BABIP was more of the "hitting the spit out of the ball" variety than the flukey type.
We know the second half of the story well by now, though -- Peralta was sent down to the minors, came back and was actually one of the team's best starters in the second half, cutting his ERA from 6.68 to 4.86 over the course of 10 starts.
Peralta will probably never strike out 200 guys in a season -- he doesn't really have the third pitch to constantly keep guys guessing -- but if he can consistently locate the power sinker, he can put up plenty of 0s this year. In a season where the Brewers' rotation feels like "Guerra and Davies and ???," the Peralta we saw in the second half last year could end up being one of the more valuable pitchers on this year's team.
As for the trade possibilities, a solid full season like his 2014 campaign could go a long way in re-establishing some of that value and could make him a better trade chip in the offseason.
Keon Broxton will go 20-20
Speaking of second half wonders, Broxton has been getting a lot of attention this offseason from analytics sites, dreaming big on what he could accomplish in a full season.
The idea of Broxton stealing 20 bases isn't that bold at all -- he could have that by the All-Star break -- but if the adjustments he made to his swing continue to produce power and there are no ill effects of last year's broken wrist, Broxton could top 20 home runs by season's end.
Broxton hit 9 out in 75 games last year, and a full season of being the clear #1 guy in center at that rate would put him close to the mark. I think he gets there, but we'll see how many of those end up being solo shots if Jonathan Villar gets thrown out trying to steal ahead of him.
Ryan Braun will end the season as a Brewer
At this point in the rebuild, GM David Stearns has traded just about everyone but Braun. He came really close to pulling the trigger last August, before the reported deal with Braun's hometown Dodgers fell through. While a trade remains a possibility, it gets more complicated in a little more than a month, when Braun gets his 10-and-5 trade rights in May, effectively turning his limited no-trade clause into a full one.
That doesn't necessarily mean any opportunity to trade Braun goes out the window, but it certainly makes things difficult. Braun has already said he likes it in Milwaukee, and if he isn't getting traded to the Dodgers, he'd prefer to stay here.
As one of the most image-conscious Brewers in recent memory, Braun isn't dumb -- he knows he can stay in relative anonymity in Milwaukee, and any other city might still have some lingering hostility over his PED past. He's started a family in Milwaukee, and getting traded to a random city and starting over at this point in his career doesn't sound appealing.
From the Brewers' perspective, there's no reason to trade him for less than he's worth. The team will already carry one of the lowest payrolls in baseball this season, so there's little incentive to send him away just to dump the rest of his salary. He's still playing at an All-Star level, and the Brewers should be compensated as such in any trade.
It's hard to see that happening in the middle of the season, barring a catastrophic injury in LA. The problem with that, though, is that the Dodgers don't even really need Braun, and could probably patch any outfield injury without having to make a deal. If it's Dodgers-or-bust for Braun, I'm willing to bet he doesn't get moved until the offseason -- if at all.
Statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference