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MLB Opening Day: Bold Predictions for the 2018 Milwaukee Brewers

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Santana on the bench? Yelich an MVP candidate?

MLB: Spring Training-Milwaukee Brewers at Houston Astros Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Today begins the 2018 Championship Season, and according to most projections your Milwaukee Brewers should be in the thick of playoff contention throughout the regular season. No one knows yet exactly how the season will shake out, but the Brew Crew Ball staff has made the following bold predictions regarding the Cream City Nine for this season:

Jaymes L: None of the Brewers’ outfielders get traded

Ever since the day the Brewers added Yelich and Cain, the assumption has been that a trade involving an outfielder was the next move.

To this point, that hasn’t happened. Now I don’t think it will.

Sure, Domingo Santana may have been dangled in trade talks this winter. Keon Broxton could help a few teams looking for a defensive upgrade with some pop. Brett Phillips might make for a good trade chip if the Brewers want to make a midseason move for controllable pitching.

But the logjam may sort itself out without a trade. If Ryan Braun can handle first base well enough to make significant number of starts there, that will help. There’s also the matter of Braun’s health, as well as Lorenzo Cain’s. Braun hasn’t appeared in 140 games since 2015. Cain played in 155 games last year at 31 years old, but that’s by far the highest total of his career. He played in just 103 games in 2016, 140 in 2015, 133 in 2014, and 115 in 2013. If Cain doesn’t make a trip or two to the disabled list this year, his playing time will be carefully managed to make sure those stints are avoided.

That will leave plenty of time for Domingo Santana to get near-regular at-bats, and while Yelich is capable of playing all three outfield spots, he’ll also need his occasional days off. Broxton and Phillips don’t have anything to prove in the minors, but Broxton is likely the first call-up in the event of a Braun or Cain DL trip and the Brewers aren’t going to give up Phillips’ six years of service time unless it’s for something significant.

-JP-: Christian Yelich finishes the year as a 30/30 player (30 HR, 30 SB)

When Christian Yelich came to the brewers from the Marlins, one of the biggest analytical pieces that came was how a change in venue could benefit Yelich. In fact, Jaymes wrote earlier this year about how even a minor adjustment to his swing could benefit Yelich (though he didn’t plan to change his swing at all). Yelich has only hit 39 home runs in the past two seasons, though he also had to play half of his games at pitcher-friendly Marlins Park. With a more hitter-friendly park at his disposal, as well as a lineup that should yield better protection for him, I’m expecting to see big things from Yelich, and think he’ll get to the 30 HR mark.

Meanwhile, on the stolen base side, Yelich’s high mark for steals in a season is 21. He hasn’t even attempted to steal 30 bases in a year. It doesn’t seem too likely that he’d get to 30 steals, but coming to the Brewers will also give him additional opportunities as well. In Yelich’s FanGraphs profile, Paul Sporer wrote the following:

Even if there isn’t a sharp rise in his homers, Yelich will likely be running more as a Brewer. Craig Counsell’s Brewers have a league-high 406 SB attempts in 2016-17 while the Marlins were 16th with 220.

While that doesn’t mean that Yelich will be putting in double the stolen base attempts he had in Miami, it does mean that he’ll have a green light to steal more often. Craig Counsell has had no issues with letting guys steal, and if Yelich is doing well at stealing bases, he’ll get his chances. The 30 SB level should be well within reach for him.

Ben Reagan: Domingo Santana will play his way into a part-time role

I just can’t avoid trashing Sunday, I guess. His high strikeout rate doesn’t look improved this spring, and his hard-hit rate and high BABIP seem unsustainable. It’s unfortunate that the Brewers weren’t able to trade him this off season, but it stands to reason that other major league teams can be right in analyzing the performance track of major league players on other teams. Add that to his probable future as a good defender as a DH, and you have a slash of .235/.320/.420 season with 14 homers over 320 plate appearances.

Sigh.

Enough cheery stuff. Let’s have fun this year! Rebuilds aren’t always linear...don’t give up on your dreams.

Kyle Lesniewski: Brandon Woodruff takes the next step

I’ve been high on Brandon Woodruff as a prospect for awhile. His MLB debut last season was less than stellar, but he showed flashes of the stuff that can make him successful: a hard, sinking fastball, a swing-and-miss slider, and a hard-nosed mentality on the mound. It’s been awhile since the Brewers had a homegrown starter come up and experience close to immediate success in the big leagues, but the front office is clearly hoping Woodruff can buck that trend. His ERA wasn’t pretty this swing but he was getting plenty of whiffs, with a 15:3 K/BB ratio across 12.2 innings. Woodruff quickly actualizing his projected ceiling of a mid-rotation starter would go a long way towards helping this team find its way into the postseason, so here’s hoping he can produce something along the lines of 150+ innings pitched with an ERA around 3.50 or so.