Today begins the 2021 Championship Season, and according to most projections the Milwaukee Brewers should be in the thick of playoff contention once again throughout the regular season as they look to make a fourth consecutive postseason berth. No one knows yet exactly how the season will shake out, but the Brew Crew Ball staff have picked out the following storylines that we’ll be following this year regarding the Menomonee Valley Nine:
Lindsey_Loberg: Kolten Wong’s offensive potential
There’s no doubt that Kolten Wong dramatically improved the Brewers’ defensive outlook for the 2021 season. Wong is fun to watch at second, ranging and diving for plays inspired as his fielding stats are sound. It’ll also be fun to watch what Wong brings to the plate at American Family Field. He has a career .855 OPS at Miller Park and has shown a lot of pop potential in spring training, producing three leadoff homers and slashing .333/.412/.733. Wong moves from a pitcher’s park to a park that favors left-handed hitters and might also move into his second season in the leadoff spot. In a recent interview, Craig Counsell reflected on Wong’s potential batting first, speculating that Wong could score 100 runs leading off. It isn’t hard to imagine if Christian Yelich even remotely resembles Christian Yelich in the #2 spot. Wong is a get-on-base-first hitter and chooses his moments to swing for the fences, but if he keeps it up like he has in spring training, Brewers fans might even see him score 100 runs and make a run for the major league record for leadoff home runs in a season (13).
-JP-: Can Corbin Burnes build on his 2020 season?
In the shortened season of 2020, Corbin Burnes worked his way to becoming one of the top starters in the Brewers rotation. With a 2.11 ERA, 2.03 FIP, and 88:24 K/BB ratio, he was dominant for the Brewers. He even earned himself a few votes in the Cy Young voting. With 2021 about to start, he’s kept up that strong pitching. In Spring Training, he posted a 1.65 ERA and 26:6 K/BB ratio over 5 starts. Burnes looks ready to dominate again in 2021, but he hasn’t established himself completely yet. His 2019 season with an 8.82 ERA still lingers. He needs to keep this performance going over a full season in the majors. If he can do that, the Brewers could have a 1-2 punch at the top of the rotation that can lead them to a playoff run.
David Gibson: “Fastball” Freddy Peralta is no longer just a one trick pony
Building a stronger repertoire of pitches puts Freddy Peralta solidly in the discussion for a starting rotation spot every fifth day. Inconsistency has plagued Peralta since he came up, and his past track record suggests he is best suited for the bullpen. Nonetheless he gets the early opportunity to take a strangle hold on one of the rotation spots. If he can bring greater consistency over 5-6 innings of work, the still young right hander could be the next young Brewers’ pitcher to take a step forward as the Brewers’ continue to build a quality pitching staff via player development.
Jaymes L: Will Craig Counsell’s bullpen management give the Brewers an edge in the division race?
Over the years, Counsell has shown to be an above-average manager when it comes to managing his pitching staff, getting the most out of average or below-average starters, putting relievers in positions to succeed, and knowing when to punt games that are out of reach. In a year where every manager is going to be tasked with “new” ways of thinking when it comes to pitcher management to get through a full 162-game season after last year’s partial schedule, the Brewers may be better set up in this area than teams that are more “traditionally” managed. There’s going to be a lot to balance early in the year when it comes to managing rest and innings to make sure everyone still has something left in the tank in September — and possibly even October.
Kyle Lesniewski: How many starting pitchers are used?
As a pitching staff, the Milwaukee Brewers will have to consume almost 1,000 more innings in 2021 than they did last year during the shortened 60-game season. David Stearns has already acknowledged that it would probably take extraordinary circumstances for any one pitcher to make 30+ starts this year, and that the team’s plan is to spread the load more evenly among a greater volume of starting pitchers. So, just how many will that be? 15? 20?? Who is going to be that surprising minor league overperformer that gets called up to make his debut in The Show? Will we see 6-man rotations, pitching tandems? We’re about to find out just how creative this organization can be.