Even though the start of the season is just five days away, there’s still a lot of uncertainty around the Milwaukee Brewers. As the last pieces of the puzzle are figured out in spring training, here are some storylines to monitor in 2017.
What will the outfield look like at the end of the season?
At this point this spring, the Brewers starting outfield looks set for Opening Day. Ryan Braun, Keon Broxton, and Domingo Santana will likely be the three players patrolling the outfield in that first game next week. While we know the starting outfielders for day one, will those outfielders hold their positions all season? If some of the prospects have their way, it’s not going to happen.
The starting outfield in Colorado Springs is stacked this year, with Lewis Brinson, Brett Phillips, and Ryan Cordell expected to take the three starting spots. It’s so stacked that Michael Reed, who spent some time with the Brewers in 2016, was sent down two levels to Biloxi to start the 2017 season. While these three prospects may not be MLB ready right now, it won’t be much longer until they are ready to go.
When that day comes that the outfielders are ready to start at the major league level, the Brewers will have some tough decisions to make. Broxton and Santana will be feeling the heat this season if the prospects are performing well, as they could be a call-up away from taking the MLB starter jobs. The decision could be made even tougher if the Brewers starters are performing well. If everyone is putting up high numbers, something will have to give. That could be a job stolen from someone, additional development time for the prospects, or a trade to clear out some of the outfield jam. Having too much talent is a good problem to have, as long as it’s not wasted.
Can the Brewers get some more value out of their bullpen?
In the Brewers rebuilding phase, the team has got some good trade value out of the bullpen. Over the past year, they’ve traded away Jeremy Jeffress, Will Smith, and Tyler Thornburg for prospects. Building relievers has been a place of strength for the Brewers. As they enter the 2017 season, they are hoping to do it again.
With five days to go until Opening Day, the bullpen is still in flux as the team figures out what to do. The starting rotation still needs to be finalized, and based on how that comes together, it could also affect the bullpen. Meanwhile, with many of the strong players gone from last year’s team, opportunity is available for relievers that step up. The question is just who will take that step.
There are a few players that should be in the mix. Jhan Marinez has already been informed he will be on the team. Carlos Torres was a critical part of the bullpen last season and should be there again. Neftali Feliz was one of the Brewers biggest offseason signings, and should be in the bullpen as well. After that, it’s hard to say.
If the Brewers are looking for more prospects for their system, one trade involving a reliever should happen at some point this season. Feliz could fit the mold of a bounce-back reliever that has significant value at the deadline. Of course, it could also be a random prospect that has a great year. We’ll first need to find out who makes it into the bullpen, and they which of those players builds their value in the first few months so they would be worthwhile to trade for.
How will the Class A Carolina situation play out?
This offseason was a minor league PDC renewal year, and the Brewers only ended up changing one affiliate. The Brevard County Manatees (now the Florida Fire Frogs) chose to sign with the Braves, and after the available affiliates dwindled down to two, the Brewers managed to avoid a second hitter-friendly park in California and get a more neutral affiliate in Carolina.
With only a two-year deal, the possibility that the Brewers could be looking for an affiliate again in two years does loom over the deal. However, owner Mark Attanasio is already taking steps to help prevent the Brewers from ending up in a dire situation like that again. During the Brewers On Deck event in January, he mentioned that he is currently in negotiations to buy the Carolina Mudcats. Rumors had popped up during the signing period that the Mudcats owners were looking to sell, and owner Mark Attanasio is willing to make that purchase. If the deal happens, it will be the first full-season affiliate that the Brewers own.
Meanwhile, as the negotiations are ongoing, the Carolina Mudcats will feature some of the organization’s top prospects this season. Here are some of the players expected to be on Carolina’s roster:
- Outfielder Corey Ray
- Infielder Isan Diaz
- Pitcher Phil Bickford
- Pitcher Cody Ponce
- Pitcher Marcos Diplan
- Pitcher Kodi Medeiros
- Pitcher Freddy Peralta
Carolina will be a critical affiliate this year as some of the younger prospects continue their rise through the system. Having security there for the long term future will be important, taking one concern away from the Brewers with their future prospect development.