It has been 134 long days since the Milwaukee Brewers were eliminated in the National League Wild Card game, but the offseason is finally over as pitchers and catchers report to American Family Fields of Phoenix to begin training for the 2020 baseball season. It was a busy winter for Slingin’ David Stearns and company, as the club cut ties with nearly half the players from that Wild Card roster. The result is many new faces all over the diamond, and now all those players will get to know each other and start being integrated into the organization. Milwaukee is fresh off making back-to-back postseason appearances for the first time since 1981-82, and now the challenge will be not only to secure a third straight playoff berth for the first time in franchise history, but also to get over the proverbial hump and make it to the World Series.
It all starts in Spring Training, and here are a few of the storylines that the Brew Crew Ball staff will be watching intently for the next six weeks:
Jaymes L: Can Orlando Arcia stake a claim to keep the shortstop job?
Luis Urias’ broken hamate is giving Orlando Arcia (yet) another chance to prove he’s the man who should stay at shortstop. Considering he’s only 25, there’s still hope that he’ll be able to figure things out and become a solid big leaguer. But that hope has waned the past couple years, as he’s failed to take advantage of similar opportunities as they’ve presented themselves. The difference: this time may be he last shot. After being a very serious non-tender candidate and seeing both the organization’s decision-makers and new defensive metrics drag his previously solid defensive reputation, Arcia now has a lot to prove with his bat AND his glove. Even with Urias out for much of, if not all of, the spring, the presence of Eric Sogard on the roster means Arcia may need to fight for his right to play. The Brewers aren’t the type of organization to make playing time decisions based on Spring Training results, but Arcia will still need to at least show improvements in his processes if he’s going to maintain a significant role in 2020.
Brad Ford: Is the depth actually good?
I’m deathly worried about the Crew’s depth, specifically behind the starting rotation. Can Corbin Burnes, Freddy Peralta and Aaron Wilkerson be solid back ups? It’s not like Gio Gonzalez is falling into Milwaukee’s lap this season, so who can they rely on if something goes wrong? Hopefully, a pitcher proves to be reliable this spring.
-JP-: What does this year hold for Ryan Braun?
As Ryan Braun enters the 2020 season and the last year of his guaranteed contract, his position on the team is a bit fluid. He doesn’t have a defined spot right now, yet manager Craig Counsell is confident that he will get his at-bats in 2020. Our first indications of the plan for Braun will come in Spring Training. How many games does he play in the outfield? How much time does he get at first base? When he’s playing at first base, how well does he handle the position? We’ll also get an initial look at how at-bats are spread throughout first base and the outfield. While Braun isn’t the star player he was in his MVP years, he still can bring value to the Brewers. There will be time management and injury management to do through spring and into the season. If Braun can provide above average value as the first player off the bench, that will be a boost to this team.
David Gibson: Where does Fastball Freddy fit in?
Coming out of the Winter League, Freddy Peralta was impressive to say the least. With other pitchers theoretically slated ahead of him in the starting rotation, might a continuation of his Winter League success in Spring Training catapult him into the starting rotation to begin the season? And if not, does he begin the season in the bullpen as a late inning, high leverage reliever?
Kyle Lesniewski: How will the bullpen shake out?
Milwaukee possesses arguably the top reliever in the game in Josh Hader. But beyond the hard-throwing lefty, just exactly who will fit into the high-leverage relief mix is an open question. Brent Suter was nails down the stretch after coming back from Tommy John, but he can’t be expected to repeat a 0.49 ERA. David Phelps posted a solid ERA last season in his own return from elbow surgery, but the estimators were down on his work. Alex Claudio is durable and can pitch a lot of game, but likely with just average results, especially considering the new three-batter minimum. Freddy Peralta looked outstanding at times in relief last season, but he struggled mightily at times, too. Inconsistency has plagued him throughout his young career. Can Corbin Burnes bounce back to being something useful? Can one or more pitchers in the group including Ray Black, JP Feyereisen, Devin Williams, Taylor Williams, Bobby Wahl, and Eric Yardley step up? Will there be someone unheralded from off the 40-man roster that comes in and makes a big impression? Or, like in year’s past, will there be a late spring signing of someone who gets cut from a different team? And just how soon will Corey Knebel be ready to return? I think the bullpen might possess the most questions of any spot around the roster.