Our contributors at Brew Crew Ball are excited to get the 2023 season underway after an offseason that saw quite a bit of turnover across the league. Here are our team award predictions for the Brewers in 2023.
Matt Aho: Willy Adames
The sparkplug of the Brewers and the energy and bat that has kept an otherwise average to below-average offense good enough to be in playoff contention, Willy Adames is my pick for team MVP. The Brewers’ best offensive option is coming off a 31-home run, 98 RBI season. This pick is one I both believe in and feel is a necessity if the Brewers want a chance to return to the postseason. He’s become one of the most productive players at his position, and I don’t see a reason he won’t continue his upward trajectory.
Harrison Freuck: Brandon Woodruff
I would argue that Woodruff was the Brewers’ top pitcher down the stretch in 2022. While his season ERA of 3.05 was worse than Corbin Burnes’ mark of 2.94, Woodruff was simply dominant after the All-Star break. In 14 starts, he went 6-1 with a 2.38 ERA while striking out 106 batters across 87 innings. If he can carry that momentum over into 2023, I think he makes a strong case for team MVP and maybe even some NL Cy Young votes.
Jason Paczkowski: Willy Adames
Adames took back-to-back team MVP awards over the last two seasons, and he’s in position to do it again in 2023. Though the batting line took a hit in 2022, he still led the Brewers with 31 home runs and 31 doubles and was second in hits with 134. The one concern for him was the increase in strikeouts, as he led the team with 166. His defense at shortstop is still just as strong as before, with a 5.4 UZR/150 last season. Adames is the anchor that the Brewers offense needs.
Jack Stern: Willy Adames
Adames is fresh off a 4.7-WAR season in 2022, and there’s a case to be made that he has more room for improvement than regression. Adames has never been one to reach base at a high rate, but his .298 OBP last year was the worst of his career. If he nudges his walk rate closer to his 10.3% clip from 2021 and sees his .278 BABIP trend toward his career norms, Adames could be in for a big year.
Herschey Winkelman: Corbin Burnes
It has to be Corbin, right? The Brewers’ ace is coming off three straight seasons in the running for NL Cy Young, including a win in 2021. Burnes has become a superstar starter and someone that can single handedly shut down opposing hitters. His cutter is elite and with four other pitches in his arsenal, Burnes is one of the scariest on the mound. He will have another elite season, and most likely be in the Cy Young race again. Let’s hope this year the Brewers offense can provide Burnes with some support.
Most Improved Player
Matt Aho: Luis Urias
An early season injury didn’t help out his cause, but 2022 was still a step back for Urias. Coming into 2023, I believe his experience in the World Baseball Classic, where he helped guide Mexico to a semifinal appearance, will be the momentum he needs to bounce back. We saw what he can do in 2021 when he batted .249 with 23 home runs. I believe that level of production is still in him, and his drastically better build-up to the regular season this year will help him get back to that form.
Harrison Freuck: Freddy Peralta
I was really tempted to say Keston Hiura here, but I think that ship may have sailed at this point. Instead, I’ll go with Peralta, who had an incredible 2021 season followed by an injury-riddled 2022. After posting a 2.81 ERA across 28 appearances (27 starts) in 2021, he started just 17 games in 2022, finishing with a 3.58 ERA. While he still had an above-average 110 ERA+, I expect Peralta to return to his 2021 form and give the Brewers three top-line starters in the rotation.
Jason Paczkowski: Adrian Houser
Houser enters the 2023 season needing to prove himself. He’s out of options, has two years until free agency, and will likely begin the season in the bullpen. A move to the bullpen could be very good for him, though. In 56 1⁄3 innings out of the bullpen, he’s recorded a 1.76 ERA and a .210 BAA. This spring, he’s allowed just one run in five innings with seven strikeouts compared to two walks. The bullpen needs dependable arms behind Devin Williams, and Houser can easily fit into that role.
Jack Stern: Luis Urias
Urias has quietly been a solid everyday player for Milwaukee while bouncing around the infield. Over the past two seasons, he has averaged 3.1 bWAR and 2.2 fWAR with a 111 wRC+. Urias continued to be productive last season despite playing through hand injuries for most of the year. A full season of good health and better defense at his true position of second base could help Urias establish himself as a top-10 player at the keystone.
Herschey Winkelman: Christian Yelich
After back-to-back MVP-like seasons in 2018 and 2019, Yelich has had three straight seasons of decline. The 31-year-old is now finally fully healthy and has something to prove. It seems like the majority of MLB media and fans across the country have written him off, saying that he’s washed or overrated. This is the year that he needs to produce at the plate. A bounce-back year for him would be huge for the Brewers, who desperately need offensive output.
Newcomer of the Year
Matt Aho: Brice Turang
Brice Turang will have ample opportunities to show why he has consistently been one of the Brewers’ highest-rated prospects. The departure of Kolten Wong gives Turang an avenue to be a consistent starter in the first month of the season. While growing pains are to be expected, I think the potential early start along with his high skill level will make him a force in the Brewers lineup. Having batted .286 with 13 home runs in Triple-A last season, I think there is a real possibility we could see Brice Turang become a consistent impact player in the Brewers lineup.
Harrison Freuck: Sal Frelick
I think the players chosen by my colleagues for Newcomer of the Year are all very possible, but I’m most excited about Frelick. With a chance to break spring training with the big-league squad, Frelick can show off his speed and ability to make contact at the next level in 2023. In 2022, he seemed to just get better at every level, slashing .365/.435/.508 with four homers, 25 RBIs, and nine stolen bases in 46 games at AAA Nashville. Turning 23 in April, Frelick will be an exciting piece to watch with Milwaukee this season, especially with the outfield being such a big question mark for the team.
Jason Paczkowski: Brian Anderson
Anderson joins the team after spending his first six seasons with the Marlins. He had two strong seasons in 2019 and 2020, but injuries over the last two seasons have impeded him. The move to a more hitter-friendly park should help him bounce back. He’s been strong this spring with a .379/.514/.621 batting line in 37 PA. There’s plenty of opportunity for him to start the season between third base and the outfield, and a strong start will help him lock down a position for the year.
Jack Stern: Jesse Winker
From 2017 through 2022, Winker was among the very best hitters in the sport against right-handed pitching. His 149 wRC+ against righties during that span was right behind names like Freddie Freeman, Bryce Harper, and Aaron Judge. Neck and knee injuries robbed Winker of his power in 2022, as his hard-hit rate fell over 12 percentage points from 2021. However, his plate discipline remained strong as ever. A return to health should restore Winker’s power and make him a force against righties in the middle of the Milwaukee order.
Herschey Winkelman: William Contreras
Contreras was the Brewers most important acquisition of the entire offseason, as he is only 25 and showed last year that he has the tools to compete at a high level. He also plays a position of need, as the Brewers haven’t had a solid, young catcher since Jonathan Lucroy. Last season with Atlanta, he hit .278 with 20 home runs and 45 RBIs in 97 games played. If Contreras can improve off his rookie season, he could be one of the best catchers in the MLB within a couple of seasons.