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eddiemathews’ 3 Milwaukee Brewers storylines to follow in 2017

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Is the Brewers’ offense improved, and how will Jimmy Nelson and Scooter Gennett fare in 2017?

Cincinnati Reds v Milwaukee Brewers Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

The 2017 edition of the Milwaukee Brewers will again be a very interesting follow. As the team continues to be restructured, there will be many threads to follow as the season progresses that will tell us of the success of moves made by GM David Stearns, or their lack there of.

Will the Brewers offense have a top-3 OPS in the National League?

Last season the Brewers had the 8th best OPS in the national League (out of 15, of course) and that produced the 11th most runs. Two things hurt the team’s ability to score runs: they struck out the most in the league, and still managed to ground into the 4th most double plays - despite leading the NL in stolen bases. That certainly explains the lack of runs!

The 3rd place OPS in the NL last year came in at .768, and I think that’s a reasonable target to finish in the top 3 for the Brewers. (BTW, the top OPS belongs to the Rockies, and at .793, even the Cubs trailed that Coors-aided total by a lot at .772.) At .729, the Brewers need to improve by .039, or a little over 5%. Can the Brewers grow their OBP from .322 to .340 and their Slugging % from .407 to .428?

Maybe. It’s a huge task, but the line-up has been revamped. It will depend on Eric Thames coming back to the US and at least partially duplicating his Korean career, Travis Shaw putting in a full season like his first half for the Red Sox last year, Keon Broxton repeating his second half (and not his first half...shudder), Domingo Santana looking more like late season than early season Sunday, Jonathan Villar and Ryan Braun repeating their whole seasons, Orlando Arcia’s offense developing, and the catching triumvirate at least producing close to last year’s numbers (that might be tough).

It will also require bench player Jesus Aguilar (if he does indeed end up a bench player) produces at an acceptable level. Also, Scooter Gennett, Hernan Perez, and Kirk Nieuwenhuis need to produce at levels at least equal to last year. That’s a lot of ifs. But I’m thinking that it’s a reasonable goal.

New York Mets v Milwaukee Brewers Photo by Mike McGinnis/Getty Images

Can Jimmy Nelson establish himself as a solid major league starting pitcher?

Jimmy Nelson had a good spring last year. He had a good April. And he had an increasingly bad rest of the year. The reasons are unclear, although Jaymes’ piece last November detailed that issues with delivery consistency may have been somewhat of the culprit.

Jimmy has been OK again this spring, but forgive me if I’m a bit skeptical. If Nelson can’t hold his own this year he may not finish the year in the rotation, and his time as a Brewer might draw to an end. He has some of the individual pitches in his arsenal that should lead to success, but has been unable to consistently locate them in order to be effective.

I’m looking for a sub-4.00 ERA and some deep game performances, Jimmy. No matter what the OPS is for Milwaukee, if starting pitching isn’t developed, the ability to contend will be severely compromised.

Milwaukee Brewers v Chicago Cubs Photo by David Banks/Getty Images

How will Scooter Gennett perform as a utility player?

I was an adamant proponent for not keeping Scooter Gennett on the Brewers’ roster after it was announced that Jonathan Villar was going to move to second base permanently. He could only play one position, and wasn’t a good enough hitter to keep as just a pinch hitter.

But I am impressed by how Scoot has embraced his new circumstances. He has performed at least adequately as a corner outfielder, third baseman, and second baseman; he has hit solidly; and has shown a very good attitude towards his position on the team. And he has 7 doubles in 38 at bats this spring! Why, he could have 100 doubles at that rate if he played daily!

He offers security for injuries at second or short (Villar can move to short if Arcia can’t play for any length of time), provides a left-handed bat off the bench that has hit at at least an acceptable level, and gives very good versatility (along with Hernan Perez) for late-inning adjustments. And at $2.5 M, he isn’t breaking the bank. I have every confidence that he will be a distinct asset for the 2017 season.

Statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference