The Brewers required 61 players (a franchise-high) to carry them to the postseason, and they’ll get 26 for the NLDS.
Selecting the deepest set of players to get the team through a worst-case scenario is vital, as David Stearns discussed in a recent interview with MLB’s Adam McCalvy. The Brewers’ 61-player regular-season roster suggests they will need every bit of their impressive depth.
This leaves them with a mostly set roster with a few difficult decisions to make. It’s a cliche for a reason - too much depth is a good problem to have.
Here’s a look at a likely NLDS roster, zooming in where the Brewers have more interesting choices to make:
C: Omar Narváez, Manny Piña
1B: Rowdy Tellez, Daniel Vogelbach
2B: Kolten Wong
SS: Willy Adames
3B: Eduardo Escobar, Luis Urías
OF: Christian Yelich, Lorenzo Cain, Avisaíl García, Jackie Bradley Jr., Tyrone Taylor
Utility: Jace Peterson
SP: Corbin Burnes, Brandon Woodruff, Freddy Peralta, Adrian Houser
RP: Eric Lauer, Brent Suter, Hunter Strickland, Brad Boxberger, Jake Cousins, Aaron Ashby, Daniel Norris, Josh Hader
The best way to understand the depth that the Brewers have on their roster to begin the postseason is to imagine their likeliest NLDS bench:
Manny Piña is an unwavering defensive stalwart who owns a .892 OPS after the All-Star Break, even with few at-bats in the backup catcher spot behind All-Star catcher Omar Narváez.
Daniel Vogelbach, like Piña, can come up clutch even with few at-bats. He also comes in handy against right-handed pitching, slashing, .239/.375/.413.
Luis Urías finds himself on the postseason bench somewhat ironically since he’s the regular season leader in game starts. He’s tapped into his power potential with 23 home runs on the season, and he’s slashing .266/.367/.483 since the All-Star Break.
Jackie Bradley, Jr. has been offensively absent all season, but he offers a critical defensive replacement for Avisaíl García during close, late-inning postseason moments.
Tyrone Taylor has earned an outfield spot in the postseason, even though the Brewers will bank on Yelich October magic. Taylor is particularly effective against lefties, slashing .298/.337/.500).
Jace Peterson has scuffled lately but was one of the most consistent contributors for the bulk of the season. He owned a .391 OBP and .821 OPS before September.
Fourth Rotation Spot
The question is Lauer or Houser, and the answer is Lauer or Houser. Both pitchers have had impressive seasons, and either could fill the fourth rotation spot.
Adrian Houser (3.22 ERA/4.74 xERA/4.33 FIP; 35.6% hardhit; 0.76 HR/9; 6.8% K-BB)
Eric Lauer (3.19 ERA/3.89 xERA/4.04 FIP; 37.1% hardhit; 1.21 HR/9; 15.5% K-BB)
If you have to pick one against the Atlanta lineup (and ideally, with Burnes/Woodruff/Peralta in the best of a five-game series, you don’t have to), I give Adrian Houser the edge over Lauer for the series. The Crew is coming up against a righthanded-heavy lineup that leans heavily on the long ball. Lauer has surrendered nearly all of his home runs to right-handed hitters this season. This means that Lauer can tandem or take on a critical role in the bullpen.
The Brewers already have to address bullpen adversity with Devin Williams out of the eighth-inning for what will likely be the entire postseason. They’re far from a worst-case scenario, though. They have plenty of viable options to bridge to Josh Hader, who has signaled the end of the game if the Brewers have the lead.
Hunter Strickland has a 1.73 ERA with the Brewers, and he’s been effective in closing out innings with inherited runners since he came to Milwaukee. A veteran with postseason experience, Strickland is prepared for October pressure. The Brewers have often brought him on to get out of a jam this season, and he could potentially hold down the eighth inning for the Crew.
Brent Suter finished the regular season with a 3.07 ERA. With a 52.6% ground ball rate, he’s still most effective in lower leverage situations, but the Brewers have effectively employed Suter in a variety of situations this season.
Brad Boxberger is another veteran presence with postseason experience. He’s also another Brewer who struggled through September (10.80 ERA during the month, as opposed to his 2.40 ERA through August). Still, Box’s body of work suggests he’s more than ready to play an essential role in the bullpen, including hold down the eighth inning when needed.
Jake Cousins could also field the eighth inning or play another significant role in the bullpen, that is, if he’s fully recovered from what was supposed to be a minor biceps injury. He has a 2.70 ERA, 13.20 strikeouts per nine innings, and a 35.2% K rate. Even though he’s inexperienced in the postseason, he has performed well in high leverage moments during the regular season.
Aaron Ashby has a 1.78 ERA with a 0.79 WHIP outside of his disastrous debut appearance against the Cubs. Like Cousins, he’s a rookie untested in the postseason. Still, his ability to gather himself into such an exciting and dominant pitcher after such a rough start will earn him some postseason innings.
Daniel Norris The Brewers will probably want to carry another lefty with an extra roster spot, and Norris gets the pick over injury-prone Brett Anderson. Norris hasn’t been able to muster up success or live up to his potential with the Brewers, though. With Norris’ 6.64 ERA, this is a pick that prioritizes injury prevention and stuff over experience and recent performance. The Brewers won’t put Norris on the mound outside of a low-leverage or worst-case scenario.
The Brewers have until 10 am on Friday to release their roster ahead of the afternoon game that kicks off the series. In true Craigtember fashion, they’ll probably use it.