Milwaukee Brewers 2019: Scouting, Projected Lineup, Season Prediction

How will things shape up in the NL Central?

What was expected to be a long organizational rebuild by the Milwaukee Brewers quickly shifted into overdrive late last January when, in a 24-hour span, they traded for Christian Yelich and signed Lorenzo Cain to the largest free agent contract in team history. The moves couldn’t have worked out better. Both were named to the All-Star Team, and behind a huge second half that had him flirting with a triple crown up to the season’s final day, Yelich was named the National League’s Most Valuable Player.


Their performances, coupled with breakout seasons from first baseman Jesus Aguilar, righthander Jhoulys Chacin and relievers Josh Hader and Jeremy Jeffress helped set the stage for Milwaukee’s unexpected late-season successes. The Brewers beat the Cubs at Wrigley Field in Game 163 to win their first Central Division title since 2011 and then fell just a game shy of advancing to the World Series for the first time since 1982.


All of that has set the bar even higher for 2019. Can Yelich somehow improve upon one of the best individual performances in recent memory? Can Aguilar and Hader continue to ascend? Will the team once again utilize the bullpen-centric approach to pitching that worked so well down the stretch?


Salary-cap considerations led the Brewers to play the offseason conservatively. They made minor trades for reliever Alex Claudio and outfielder Ben Gamel and signed second baseman Cory Spangenberg — not exactly matching the major moves made by division foes St. Louis (Paul Goldschmidt and Andrew Miller) and Cincinnati (Yasiel Puig, Matt Kemp and Alex Wood).

 

Opposing Scouts Size Up the Brewers

Baltimore Orioles logo“There’s so much to like here, and it starts with Craig Counsell — he’s a silent motivator, a really bright guy who connects with his players and is never afraid to go against the norm. He’s got three closers in Josh Hader, Jeremy Jeffress and Corey Knebel, and he gets them to buy into the team concept: Saves don’t matter, team wins do. The rotation is anybody’s guess beyond Jhoulys Chacin, but they’ve got young guys with upside like Brandon Woodruff and Freddy Peralta, and a bunch of league-average guys they refuse to overexpose. The position players are exceptional. There was simply no way to pitch Christian Yelich in the second half. Lorenzo Cain brought leadership, bat, glove and wheels, everything the Brewers could have hoped for. Ryan Braun was hitting the ball with more authority than he had in years, and Travis Shaw is a team-first guy with thump. Credit GM David Stearns for finding low-cost, high-reward gems in Shaw, Jesus Aguilar, Manny Pina and Erik Kratz — just what this team needs to sustain success.”


Beyond the Box Score

Coaching Carousel The Brewers have remade their coaching staff. Gone are pitching coach Derek Johnson, hitting coach Darnell Coles and bullpen coach Lee Tunnell, with Johnson and Coles leaving of their own volition and making lateral moves to Cincinnati and Arizona, respectively. Replacing Johnson will be Chris Hook, who’s entering his 12th season in the organization. Andy Haines, assistant hitting coach for the Cubs last year, takes over for Coles. He managed Christian Yelich at one point when both were in the Marlins organization. Steve Karsay, a longtime reliever in the majors, takes over for Tunnell. Bench coach Pat Murphy, third base coach Ed Sedar and first base coach Carlos Subero return for 2019.


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Failed Gamble The Brewers thought they had their 2019 second baseman when they traded veteran Jonathan Villar and two prospects to Baltimore for Jonathan Schoop at the deadline last season. But Schoop was such a flop that the team non-tendered him in the offseason despite having no clear-cut option waiting in the wings. GM David Stearns took fault for the failed move, saying, “Look, it was a bad deal, and that’s on me. We made a trade for a player we thought was going to be here for basically a year-and-a-half, and I was wrong.”


What About Nelson? It didn’t really come as a surprise that starter Jimmy Nelson failed to pitch in 2018 after suffering a devastating right shoulder injury on a slide back to first base and subsequently undergoing complete reconstruction of the joint in September 2017. Nelson, who looked like a rotation horse after a breakout 2017, did see his rehab ramp up to aggressive bullpen sessions by the end of 2018. But Stearns says there are no steadfast expectations regarding his availability heading into spring training. The good news for the Brewers is that they have a nice mix of veterans and young arms in the rotation, with the “bullpenning” approach they used so successfully down the stretch in 2018 also affording them more flexibility with their staff.


Bi-Cycling Outfielder Christian Yelich had a season for the ages in 2018, battling for the triple crown up to the final day of the season. One unique achievement he accomplished was hitting for the cycle not once but twice, becoming just the fifth player in the major leagues to accomplish the feat. He was also the first player to ever hit for the cycle twice in a season against the same team, doing it against the Cincinnati Reds at Great American Ball Park on Aug. 29 and at Miller Park on Sept. 17.

 


Projected Lineup

 

LINEUP

CF  Lorenzo Cain (R)
RF  Christian Yelich (L)
1B  Jesus Aguilar (R)
3B  Travis Shaw (L)
LF   Ryan Braun (R)

C    Yasmani Grandal (S)

2B  Mike Moustakas (L)
SS  Orlando Arcia (R)

 

BENCH

UT  Hernan Perez (R)

2B  Cory Spangenberg (L)

OF  Ben Gamel (L)

C    Erik Kratz (R)
1B/OF Eric Thames (L)

 

ROTATION

RHP  Jhoulys Chacin
RHP  Chase Anderson
RHP  Zach Davies
RHP  Freddy Peralta
RHP  Corbin Burnes

 

BULLPEN

RHP  Corey Knebel (C)
LHP  Josh Hader
RHP  Jeremy Jeffress
RHP  Brandon Woodruff
LHP  Alex Claudio
RHP  Junior Guerra
RHP  Taylor Williams

 

2019 PREDICTION

3rd NL Central 

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