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Milwaukee Brewers 2018: Scouting, Projected Lineup, Expert Insight

Travis Shaw

Travis Shaw

Despite surprising everyone with 86 wins and remaining in playoff contention until the penultimate day of the 2017 season, the Brewers head into Year 3 of their organizational rebuild with patience remaining the buzzword. No one could fault fans for getting excited about the run the Brewers gave the Chicago Cubs — holding a 5.5-game lead in the NL Central in the first half and ultimately winning 13 more games than they did in 2016 — but general manager David Stearns’ long-term vision is to build from within. So rather than trade away prospects from a deep farm system at the deadline or in the offseason in an attempt to hasten the rebuilding process, Stearns stood pat, willing to let the young, controllable talent he spent the previous two years acquiring arrive and grow on the job.

It’s an approach similar to the one that set the stage for his former employer, the Houston Astros, to win the 2017 World Series and one that is a necessity if a small-market team like the Brewers is to compete.

“I’m pleased with the progress we've made as an organization,” Stearns said in wrapping up the 2017 season. “I think both Craig [Counsell] and I sat up here last year and said ‘A successful season is when you make the playoffs.’ We didn't make the playoffs this year, but we took meaningful steps forward.”

Opposing Scouts Size Up the BREWERS

“I love what they’re doing. They make so many moves that seem small but end up getting them a useful major leaguer at a low cost. They’re in a tough division, but I’d expect them to contend for a Wild Card spot again and add some veterans along the way. They’re solid at the infield corners; Eric Thames cooled off after that hot start, but he’s at least a league-average run producer at first base. Travis Shaw was a great find, a future All-Star at third. Domingo Santana improves every year; he’ll strike out a lot, but he drives the ball well and is opportunistic on the bases. I think Orlando Arcia has a chance to be one of the best shortstops in the league. He’s already a great defender, he held his own at the plate, and he’s only 23. I love Brett Phillips’ arm, but he’s blocked on the depth chart by Lewis Brinson, which makes sense. Brinson is the kind of guy they should take a chance on, because unlike some other guys here, he’s got a lot of upside.”

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 Ryan Braun followed up a resurgent 2016 season with an injury-plagued 2017 that saw him play in just 104 games — his lowest total since 2013, when a thumb injury and PED suspension limited him to 61. An injured left calf led to him missing 40 games in two separate stints on the disabled list, and he hit just .268 with 17 homers and 52 RBIs. Now 34, in the midst of a five-year, $105 million contract extension and with full no-trade rights, Braun is essentially untradeable — a quandary for the rebuilding Brewers, who have all kinds of talented outfield prospects waiting in the wings.

Power and Speed

The Brewers led the NL in homers (224) and stolen bases (128) for just the second time in team history. They also had an MLB-record seven players hit at least 10 homers and steal 10 bases (Braun, 17/12; Orlando Arcia, 15/14; Keon Broxton, 20/21; Hernán Pérez, 14/13; Santana, 30/15; Travis Shaw, 31/10; and Jonathan Villar, 11/23).

Swing and a Miss

For the second straight year, the Brewers made ignominious history by setting the MLB strikeout record with 1,571. Santana (178), Broxton (175) and Eric Thames (163) all finished in the top 10 in the NL, and six Brewers in all registered triple-digit whiffs. But Santana, Thames and others also took more than their fair share of walks while also hitting for plenty of power, so the Brewers appear willing to live with the lack of contact.

Three's Company

Shaw (31), Thames (31) and Santana (30) became the second Brewers trio to hit 30 or more homers in a season, joining Gorman Thomas (39), Ben Oglivie (34) and Cecil Cooper (32), who accomplished the feat in 1982. 

No Nelson

Jimmy Nelson was in the midst of a breakout 2017 when, in a freak occurrence, he tore up his pitching shoulder diving back into first base after singling against the Cubs in September. The injury was bad enough to require surgery, and now the righthander is expected to be sidelined at least half of 2018 — a huge blow for the Brewers. Despite missing most of the final month, Nelson finished ninth in the NL with 199 strikeouts and eighth in ERA at 3.49. The team will be holding its breath that the 28-year-old can get back on track.

Projected Lineup

2B    Jonathan Villar (S)
RF    Christian Yelich (L)
LF    Ryan Braun (R)
3B    Travis Shaw (L)
CF    Lorenzo Cain (R)
1B    Eric Thames (L)
C     Manny Piña (R)
SS    Orlando Arcia (R)
OF   Domingo Santana (R)
UT   Hernán Pérez (R)
UT   Eric Sogard (L)
C     Stephen Vogt (L)
OF   Keon Broxton (R)
RHP    Chase Anderson
RHP    Zach Davies
RHP    Jhoulys Chacín

LHP    Brent Suter

RHP    Yovani Gallardo
RHP    Corey Knebel 
LHP    Josh Hader
RHP    Jacob Barnes
RHP    Jeremy Jeffress
LHP    Matt Albers
RHP    Junior Guerra
RHP    Aaron Wilkerson