There’s no denying that this year’s Milwaukee Brewers team has potential. Many players are positioned for breakout years, and the opportunity to go from prospect to star has never been higher for this team. In particular, here are some players who are ready to take that step.
Zach Davies will be the best starting pitcher by WAR.
If you’ve been around the site for longer than a day, you know that Kyle is all-in on Brewers starter Junior Guerra, and for good reason. I also have a pitcher that I feel as strongly about as Kyle feels about Guerra. That pitcher is Zach Davies, and I’m calling for him to be the best starting pitcher on the Brewers this season.
It might not be that bold of a prediction in the end. Davies did lead the pitching staff in WAR last season (2.8 fWAR), though Guerra (2.5 fWAR) likely would have led the team with a full season in the majors. Some of this prediction is also about Guerra taking a step back, as I think he will regress a little this season. Meanwhile, Zach Davies has a good chance for stability and more. Last season, his numbers were all in line together (3.97 ERA, 3.89 FIP, 3.94 xFIP). His .302 BABIP shows that he wasn’t lucky or unlucky. In fact, between 2015 and 2016, while his ERA and FIP increased a little, his K/9 and BB/9 rates also improved, showing some growth in those areas.
For 2017, I’m calling for him to take another step forward. He’s going to record a 3.5 fWAR, which will be the highest fWAR for a Brewers pitcher since Zack Greinke. He’ll earn himself an All-Star bid as well, and will set himself up as one of the best young pitchers in baseball.
As a team, the Brewers will steal 200 bases
This one may not be so bold considering the Brewers stole 181 bases last season, but the 200 SB mark is a hard one to hit. The last team to accomplish 200 stolen bases in a season was the 2007 New York Mets. Before that, it was the 1996 Colorado Rockies. In recent years, there have been seasons where MLB would be lucky to see a team with 150 stolen bases. This season, the Brewers have a good chance to pull it off.
Their top base-stealers are all returning: Jonathan Villar (62), Hernan Perez (34), Keon Broxton (23), and Ryan Braun (16). Plus, they should hopefully get a full season from Keon Broxton, plus there’s some new speed coming up in Orlando Arcia (8 steals in limited time last season). While Braun’s number may drop a little more, all of the other players are still young and have plenty of potential to build on last year’s numbers.
It’s not going to be pretty at times. The Brewers will also likely lead the league in times caught stealing as well, and Jonathan Villar is going to drive us crazy in some games. However, as the team becomes more refined, their numbers are just going to continue to climb.
Andrew Susac will finish the season as the primary catcher.
Andrew Susac has had a rough time in spring training this year. Injuries have kept him on the sideline for a significant portion of camp, and they will result in him either being placed on the DL to start the season, or sent down to Colorado Springs to start. Either way, he’s likely not making the team out of spring training this year. However, he’s going to go from Triple-A catcher to starting MLB catcher over the course of the season.
There’s nothing left for Susac to prove in the minors. He’s posted a .261/.349/.433 batting line in parts of three seasons at Triple-A. He’s throwing out runners at a 33% rate in the minors, which is slightly above average (MLB average is 27%). He had to wait patiently behind Buster Posey while in San Francisco, and now he’ll have to wait for his chance behind Manny Pina and Jett Bandy in Milwaukee. However, Pina and Bandy are not the future for the Brewers. Susac may not be rated much higher, but he does have the skills to be a starter while the Brewers are looking for their next catcher, and does have the potential to man the position for at least few years.
At the end of the season, Pina or Bandy may finish with more starts at catcher than Susac. They’ll be the first ones to get their chance, and they could keep Susac down for a while. However, Susac will be biding his time at Triple-A, and his day will come. When it does, he’s going to take that starting job and continue to hold onto it for a few seasons.
Statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference and FanGraphs.