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Brew Crew Ball Mailbag #21: Reviewing the offseason and looking ahead

Answering questions as spring training gets underway

Spring Training Cactus League Media Day Photo by Daniel Shirey/MLB Photos via Getty Images

Happy Friday, everyone, and welcome to the first Brew Crew Ball Mailbag of spring training! The Brewers kick off their quest for the 2023 Cactus Cup tomorrow afternoon against the Dodgers. Before that matchup, let’s dive into the pressing questions fans have at the onset of camp.

cmow asks:

How much of a must-win game is this Saturday’s must-win game against the Dodger’s?

I’m glad someone asked a hard-hitting question right out of the gates. Saturday’s game will be franchise-altering. If the Brewers lose, Mark Attanasio should fire Craig Counsell and Matt Arnold and sell the team. If they win, lifetime extensions for everyone.

Duckbroh asks:

For each of these lines, are you taking the over or the under?
Corbin Burnes o/u 199.9 IP
Brandon Woodruff o/u 199.9 K
Rowdy Tellez o/u 36.5 HR
Blake Perkins o/u 149.5 AB
Devin Williams o/u 34.5 saves
Garrett Mitchell o/u 3.0 bWAR

Under for Burnes (added rotation depth may mean he makes fewer than 33 starts this year), over for Woodruff, under for Tellez (he won’t add much power from last year, but his on-base percentage will receive a boost), over for Perkins (injuries and underperformance by prospects will open up some playing time), barely over for Williams (durability is a concern, so Peter Strzelecki and Matt Bush will snag some saves when he needs days off), and smashing the under for Mitchell (I have no confidence in his bat).

uwtrev33 asks:

I think we can all reluctantly agree that Yelich isn’t going to ever be back to his former MVP self. That being said it seems like the only way that our offense will see success this year is from above-expected-production from our support cast players (Tellez, Urias, Anderson, prospects, etc.). Who do you see contributing the most and to what extent from that group of players?

From a strictly offensive standpoint, it’s Tellez. I’m fully invested in his breakout potential this year (you can read more on that here). If we’re thinking in terms of overall value, I believe Urias could easily be a four-to-five-win player if he can post a 115 wRC+ with strong defense at second base.

wiguy94 asks:

Do both Luke Voit and Tyler Naquin, one of, or neither make the opening day roster?

I think Voit will make the cut over someone like Keston Hiura. Naquin seems more like an insurance option should the Brewers lose an outfielder for an extended stretch. If everyone stays relatively healthy, I don’t expect him to make the team.

joeybal56 asks:

Will the Brewers win the NL Central? I say yes.

I agree. I think the Brewers have room for positive regression, whereas the Cardinals probably won’t get simultaneous MVP-caliber seasons from Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado. It will be a tight race, and I think this Brewers team is far from perfect (more on that later), but I like their chances of finishing at the top of the division.

Lerch&Brouhard asks:

How do you determine what questions to answer? Does it have to do with how many rec’s it has or how long the reply train is? (hint hint)

Nice try. I’ll never reveal my secrets.

Okay, fine. I usually consider the quality of the question, my ability to provide a quality answer based on the information I have, and the relevance of the topic. I usually try to answer around 10 questions, but the exact number is subject to how much time I have.

leche010 asks:

Now that the offseason is basically done, what’s the area you think the team did worst/least to address as well as they should have?

I strongly dislike this team’s outfield construction. While the Brewers have outfield talent in the upper minors, they’re placing too much faith in these players to perform well out of the gates. I think Sal Frelick’s skill set will enable him to be a productive hitter as a rookie, but the Brewers seem content with handing Garrett Mitchell the keys to center field. Mitchell is an excellent defender, but he and Joey Wiemer have obvious flaws in their offensive profiles that should give everyone pause.

Furthermore, this outfield group lacks a reliable right-handed bat. Tyrone Taylor’s career 109 wRC+ against left-handed pitching is the best it has to offer. The current version of Christian Yelich is barely average at best against southpaws. Jesse Winker is a platoon bat. Mitchell’s bat is unreliable in general, and both he and Frelick hit left-handed. Brian Anderson could see some time in right field but has reverse splits. Blake Perkins made intriguing adjustments in the minor leagues last year but has never faced big-league pitching.

With names like Wil Myers, AJ Pollock, and Trey Mancini on the free-agent market this past winter for reasonable prices, the Brewers don’t have much of an excuse for failing to address this roster flaw.

Brewin82 asks:

Burnes is obviously out of the question at this point, if he wasn’t already before, but do you think there is any realistic possibility that the Brewers can extend any one of Woodruff or Adames? Or are we destined to trade them all in one fell swoop at the deadline or next offseason?

I think they have a decent chance of extending Woodruff, who may be cheaper than Burnes.

After teams threw big money at free-agent shortstops this past winter, the Brewers will have to pay up to retain Adames, but there’s a case to be made that they should. Premium shortstops don’t grow on trees and will continue growing more expensive.

A franchise-record extension is a risky proposition, and the results of the Christian Yelich deal appear to have made the Brewers a bit gun-shy. However, Adames loves the city and plays a premium position that is difficult to fill. A long-term deal could be a win for all parties on and off the field.

@Rebob72 asks:

There are very few hitters in MLB history who have posted consistent reverse splits throughout their entire careers, so the Brewers likely believe that any apparent reverse splits are fluky. I have no issues with that reasoning, but they seem to take it a step further by assuming that all right-handed hitters are definitively better against southpaws. That’s where I disagree. I think platoon-neutral right-handers exist.

Max Walker asks:

Most of the prospect write ups of Owen Miller talk about him as a light hitting middle infielder. He’s now carrying a 74 WRC+ as a MLB player, why is he expected to get meaningful time at 1B this year?
In a related matter, why don’t I have access to the South Park Chewbacca gif to put at the bottom of this question?

Despite what others may project, I don’t think Miller is the next man up at first base behind Tellez. Mike Brosseau has a career 127 wRC+ against left-handed pitching, and with right-handed bats like Adames, Urias, and Brian Anderson holding down the remaining infield positions, most of his playing time may come at first base. Voit and Hiura are also options if either cracks the roster.

@TrickHenderson asks:

A lack of durability has kept Peralta out of the conversation as one of the National League’s best starting pitchers. He needs to produce a season of closer to 200 innings pitched to gain more national recognition. The Brewers are likely to be cautious with him after a shoulder injury derailed his 2022 season, so I wouldn’t expect Peralta to reach that threshold anytime soon.

Tony Baloney asks:

What is the situation with Brewers telecasts and Diamond Sports / Bally Wisconsin. It’s rumored they will file for bankruptcy in March. They missed a huge interest debt payment this month and don’t have enough cash on hand to pay the MLB teams they televise.

Maury Brown of Forbes Sports recently wrote a detailed run-down on the situation that I highly recommend reading. The synopsis is that in-market broadcasts will be available to fans of all 30 teams, but it’s unclear through what means these games will be accessible.

As you said, it is widely believed that Diamond will file for bankruptcy in the coming weeks. They recently skipped a $140 million debt payment, kicking off a 30-day grace period. Once that period ends, we may have a clearer idea of how fans will be able to view games.

Commissioner Rob Manfred said the expectation is that Diamond will be able to meet its contractual obligations to the 14 MLB teams. If not, teams will have the right to terminate those contracts.

Diamond’s inability to fulfill its contracts would represent a substantial revenue hit for these teams. It also means the league may become more directly involved in broadcasts. The collapse of RSNs could open the door for removing blackout restrictions, making in-market games available to stream on MLB TV.

Thanks for all of your questions this week! We’ll check back in as spring training progresses.