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Bold predictions and storylines to watch as 2022 season gets underway

Brew Crew Ball staff previews season with predictions, storylines to watch

Syndication: Journal Sentinel Mike De Sisti / Milwaukee Journal Sentinel / USA TODAY NETWORK

We here at Brew Crew Ball are excited for the 2022 season to get underway after a long, cold winter without baseball. Without further ado, here are our bold predictions and storylines to watch for the Brewers in 2022.

Bold Predictions

Jason Paczkowski: Christian Yelich hits 25 home runs with a .390 OBP

I still believe in Christian Yelich. He’s had two rough years, but a player with his talent is just not going to stay down for so long. He’s had some time to manage the injuries that have kept him down, and the ability to play DH will give the Brewers a chance to get him extra rest this season. These stats wouldn’t be too far beyond what Yelich has done recently. Even in a down season, his OBP was still at .362 in 2021. 25 home runs might be a bigger stretch considering he only hit 9 last season, but he’s shown the power in the past. Now, with a new pair of hitting coaches to help him, he can get out of this slump. While he might not be at an MVP level again, a solid Yelich would be a big upgrade to this Brewers offense.

Jack Stern: Rowdy Tellez leads the team in home runs

Tellez only hit 11 home runs last year, but he hit 21 in 111 games in 2019 and demonstrated his easy power with some towering shots after joining the Brewers midway through last season. Tellez has the ability to hit the ball with authority without sacrificing much contact, punching out just 19% of the time over the past two seasons. With the door wide open for regular playing time at first base, Tellez has a chance to flourish, including in the power department.

Matt Aho: Freddy Peralta wins the Cy Young Award

My bold prediction for this season is Freddy Peralta will win the 2022 NL Cy Young Award. Peralta’s 2021 campaign was phenomenal. It seemed like every game he took the mound we were having a conversation about him potentially throwing a no-hitter. His addition of a legit changeup and slider made him one of the toughest pitchers to hit in the league. Via Statcast, Peralta was in the 95th percentile or better in xBA (97%), xwOBA (95%), xSLG (96%), K% (95%) and xERA (95%).

He was able to achieve those types of numbers in one year with his new slider and changeup. For a team that has three Cy Young candidates, I expect Peralta to not only be in that conversation again, but win the award.

Herschey Winkelman: McCutchen turns back the clock

This offseason the Brewers made only one big free agency move, bringing former MVP Andrew McCutchen to Milwaukee on a one-year deal. This will prove to be a great addition to the lineup and give the Brewers a good bat to place in the middle of the order. The Brewers had a fantastic season last year which consisted mostly of unbelievable pitching performances and many low-scoring games. Milwaukee’s main struggle last season was their hitting, which was spotlighted in the playoffs where they only scored over three runs once in their four-game series with the Braves.

The addition of McCutchen helps improve the team’s hitting, with McCutchen belting 27 home runs and hitting .222 last season. The addition of the universal DH also provides McCutchen with a role that suits his needs. He is poised to slot in at the DH spot in the batting order, doing something he has been great at, hitting. His long and illustrious career as an outfielder also allows McCutchen to provide fielding depth too, should he suit up in one of the outfield positions. With his primary focus being his plate production, McCutchen is poised for a big season with Milwaukee and will help bolster the team’s lackluster hitting from a year ago.

Harrison Freuck: Freddy Peralta is the best pitcher on the staff, finishes top three in Cy Young voting

If you watched how good Freddy Peralta played last season, this may not be so bold. But if you watched how Brandon Woodruff and Corbin Burnes played, you might think I’m crazy. Either way, I think the top three pitchers in this staff are perhaps the best top-three starters in any rotation in baseball. But Peralta’s ability to miss bats might make him the top starter on the team this year.

He finished 2021 with a 2.81 ERA across 144.1 innings. He struck out 195 while walking 56 and his 0.970 WHIP ((walks + hits)/innings pitched), 0.165 batting average against, and 152 ERA+ easily made him a top 10 pitcher in the NL. I expect him to keep it up this season and perhaps even improve, giving him the ability to possibly win the Cy Young Award in his age 25 season.

Storylines to Watch

Jason Paczkowski: The continued development of the Urias/Lauer & Davies/Grisham trade

Following the 2019 season, the Brewers sent Zack Davies and Trent Grisham to the Padres for Luis Urias and Eric Lauer. The plan was to trade Davies (who had 2 years left before free agency) and Grisham (in a position that was very deep) for players that would have longer control and would fill positions of need. Urias was brought in as a potential shortstop fill-in, but he never lived up to that potential at shortstop. The Brewers ended up trading for Willy Adames to cover at shortstop. While Adames has worked out incredibly well so far, the trade also ended up sparking Urias, who has become the starter at third base.

Meanwhile, Lauer developed into a reliable starter in 2021. He may be the fifth starter in the rotation, but when the top of the rotation has three potential Cy Young candidates, being fifth is not bad at all. Though it took a year plus, this trade has paid some extreme dividends for the Brewers. Can these two players continue to develop in 2022? We’ll have to wait for Urias to recover to find out for him, but Lauer is back in the rotation and ready to provide solid innings for the team again.

Jack Stern: Can the Brewers turn some buy-low relievers into weapons out of the bullpen?

The Brewers are returning one of the best relief duos in baseball in Josh Hader and Devin Williams, and Brent Suter and Brad Boxberger are also highly effective arms. In building the latter half of their bullpen, David Stearns and Matt Arnold took the approach of throwing as much spaghetti as possible at the wall and seeing what sticks. Trevor Gott, J.C. Mejia, José Ureña, and Jandel Gustave all have live arms and movement on their fastballs, but their track records are spotty. Hoby Milner, who posted intriguing peripherals beneath an underwhelming ERA as a low-leverage arm last season, is returning for a second year in Milwaukee.

You can make the case that this strategy for rounding out the bullpen makes more sense than spending a greater amount of money on veteran relievers. Not only are bullpen arms the most volatile players in the sport, but Milwaukee has emerged as one of the best organizations in baseball at developing pitchers and helping them maximize their strengths. How many of these lottery ticket arms can the Brewers transform into strong relievers?

Matt Aho: Can the Brewers bats bounce back?

My biggest storyline to follow this season is how can the Brewer bats rebound after a tough 2021. Willy Adames showed the potential of being a strong anchor at the No. 2 spot in the lineup, but they need to see more from the rest of the lineup. Will we finally see Yelich get back to something closer to his MVP form?

I think Rowdy Tellez will shine in an expanded role now that he has a full-time spot at first. New faces in McCutchen and Renfroe have shown they can bring pop to the plate in the past, but can they carry that into Milwaukee? I think the Brewers have enough star power at pitcher to make the playoffs, but will they do enough at the plate to push them closer to winning the pennant?

Herschey Winkelman: Freddy Peralta continues his ascension to superstardom

Last season was a big one for Peralta, who took a massive step forward in 2021. It featured him going 10-5 and posting a 2.81 ERA while notching 28 appearances. Last season saw him become a first-time All Star and solidify himself in the Brewers starting rotation. His ascension was extremely influential in the success the Brewers had last season and will no doubt return for even more success in 2022.

While the Brewers starting rotation already consists of two Cy Young Award caliber pitchers at the top, Peralta was looked at as a third fiddle to Burnes and Woodruff. This is the year for Peralta to cement himself into the Cy Young race and show to the rest of the MLB that he is a true ace. The Brewers had one of the best pitching staffs in baseball last season and there is no reason for them not to improve on their successes, with Peralta being their X-factor. A pitching rotation with Burnes, Woodruff and an ascending Peralta will be another scary sight for opposing hitters come October.

Harrison Freuck: Will the Brewers make a major midseason trade?

In recent years, the Brewers have made trades midseason that shook up the roster. In 2018, the team added Mike Moustakas, who ended up hitting a walk-off single in Game 1 of the NLDS against the Rockies; in 2020, it was the acquisition of Daniel Vogelbach, who slashed .328/.418/.569 for the Brewers in 19 games down the stretch; and in 2021, it was Willy Adames, who came over in a May trade and sparked a Brewers team that struggled early in the season.

With a team expected to perform well in 2022, I’ll be waiting to see who the Brewers add this season. Some big-name trade candidates include the Orioles’ Trey Mancini, the Nationals’ Josh Bell & Nelson Cruz, and multiple former Brewers in the Marlins’ Jesus Aguilar, the Mariners’ Mitch Haniger (who only played in the minors for the Crew) and the Phillies’ Corey Knebel. I expect the Brewers to make a splash, especially if they have early struggles like they did last season.