Projected Win Total: 79
In a game where teams are expected to seek improvements over the offseason, the Brewers decided they were already in a good position. They acquired Adam Lind, Luis Sardinas, and Corey Knebel while shipping away Yovani Gallardo and Marco Estrada. Usually, when a club wins 82 games in the previous year, they find a way to add at least one high upside player. The Brewers are seemingly betting on a big season from Lind or a breakout rookie campaign from Jimmy Nelson.
Any injuries in the rotation will quickly test the club's depth, so don't be surprised to see them add castoff hurlers at the end of spring training. The mostly right-handed lineup has devastating firepower, assuming players like Ryan Braun and Aramis Ramirez can bounce back from disappointing, injury-shortened campaigns. Despite a projected win percentage below .500, this looks like a high upside, high floor ball club.
The rotation lacks top tier fantasy names, but it should perform well enough in the real world. They all have a place on fantasy rosters, although they should be used as depth arms rather than front-line starters.
Garza is the most recognizable name and Peralta has been an up-and-comer for years. It might surprise you to learn that Fiers is the most highly regarded by NFBC owners. He's the 49th pitcher off the board, sandwiched between Anibal Sanchez and Collin McHugh.
Fiers is a wily command and control guy with a 90 mph fastball. Despite unimposing velocity, his best pitch is the fastball. He mixes in four other pitches, which might explain the heater's success. He's a fly ball pitcher which isn't a great fit for his home park. While I consider Fiers to be an acceptable fantasy pitcher, Brandon McCarthy is available 50 picks later. Jesse Hahn can be had 100 picks after Fiers. Even before considering opportunity cost, I prefer McCarthy and Hahn.
Peralta offers the highest ceiling on the staff. He uses a 96 mph fastball and sinker combo to keep balls on the ground. Even though he throws much harder than Fiers, his fastball has proven to be more hittable. Peralta does feature a plus slider and a plus changeup. He's still developing feel for the change, and it's primarily used against opposite-handed hitters. He's being selected 282nd overall, but that's a better representation of his floor.
The Brewers dealt Gallardo in part because they believed Nelson was ready for the majors. He mostly uses a sinker-slider duo. The slider is a true weapon, but the sinker could use refinement. I haven't seen him enough to explain why the pitch allowed a .331 average and .448 slug. It could be a simple matter of location or a deeper problem. He might make for a good waiver wire pick up.
Every team needs more than five starting pitchers, but the Brewers don't appear to be prepared for that eventuality. Internal options include Taylor Jungmann, Will Smith, Tyler Thornburg, and Johnny Hellweg. None are fantasy relevant at this time, although Jungmann and Thornburg could eventually work for spot starts.
After sniffing around alternatives, the Brew Crew decided to re-sign K-Rod. The veteran of 13 seasons will turn 33 this year. He has remained effective, despite topping out around 90 mph. He leans heavily on a fantastic changeup. It induces whiffs from nearly half of all swings. He's become home run prone in recent years. The effect is amplified by the hitter friendly confines of Miller Park.
If the long ball or injury pushes Rodriguez out of the ninth inning, Broxton is not a very attractive alternative. In his heyday, he used a 98 mph heater to blow away the competition. Injuries sapped his talent, but he did a great job recovering a 94 mph fastball and major league relevancy. Unfortunately for fantasy owners, a low strikeout rate (7.52 K/9 last season) destroys any fantasy utility.
The Brewers imported one notable left-handed power hitter to break up the monotony of their righty-heavy lineup. If healthy, Lind could be a force in Milwaukee. He's coming from Toronto's Rogers Centre, which boosts left-handed home run power by 12 percent. Miller Park increases lefty home run production by 22 percent. He's also escaped the difficult AL East.
Lind is a pure platoon hitter, which limits his fantasy value. Last year, he hit .354/.409/.533 against righties. Lefties made him disappear in 33 plate appearances - .061/.162/.061. It's unclear how strictly the Brewers will adhere to a platoon. Given his history of back ailments, I would assume he receives frequent off days. He's been a designated hitter for a while, so playing in the field increases his injury risk. Lind is an end-game target. He's selected right around Kennys Vargas and Ryan Howard.
The health of Braun is on everyone's mind. The history of PED use is of some concern, even if it's hard to figure out how that affects an individual player's production. He struggled through nerve damage to his thumb last season. He had an experimental surgery over the offseason that may have corrected the issue. We'll see.
If he's better, expect more power and big RBI production. His days of stealing 30 bases are probably behind him. He's a smart base runner, so he could still swipe around 15 to 20. Fantasy owners are targeting him aggressively, with a 28th overall selection. I can't argue against his rank as the 11th outfielder, but I'm likely to find somebody else to target at that point of the draft.
In one sense, Jean Segura is a bounce-back candidate. He's a year removed from personal tragedy, which should help his focus. His power potential is a mystery, but you should expect fewer than 10 home runs. The stolen bases could rebound above 30 if he improves upon his .246/.289/.326 slash. A low .275 BABIP will probably regress to a much better rate. Projection systems call for something around a .270/.310/.380 line. He's the seventh shortstop off the board, but I'd happily take J.J. Hardy or Chris Owings over 100 picks later.
Rank and Outlook
The Brewers are the 22nd club in our power rankings. Top to bottom, the NL Central is arguably the toughest division this season. Milwaukee will need all of its firepower to reach the postseason. Unfortunately, the pitching staff appears to be mediocre, and most of the hurlers are of the high floor, low ceiling variety. The lineup features plenty of valuable fantasy components, but it's very right-handed. The production can be dynamic when a southpaw takes the hill.
Fangraphs Depth Charts and Projections - http://www.fangraphs.com/depthcharts.aspx?position=ALL&teamid=16
BrooksBaseball - http://www.brooksbaseball.net/
NFBC ranks - http://stats.nesn.com/mlb/adp.asp?pos=SP