Brew Crew time! Let's check out everyone's favorite "sleeper" pick for this year. I should give a shoutout to the two best Brewers blogs, Brew Crew Ball and Al's Ramblings. Both were instrumental in this estimate of the 25-man roster.
Doug Melvin's contract obligations:
C - Johnny Estrada - $3.4MM + incentives
C - Damian Miller - $2.75MM
1B - Prince Fielder - $0.415MM
2B - Rickie Weeks - $1.22MM (estimated)
SS - J.J. Hardy - $0.38MM
3B - Tony Graffanino - $3.25MM/Craig Counsell - $2.8MM
LF - Geoff Jenkins - $7MM
CF - Bill Hall - $3MM
RF - Corey Hart - $0.38MM
OF - Brady Clark - $3.8MM
OF - Kevin Mench - $3.4MM
OF - Gabe Gross - $0.38MM
SP - Ben Sheets - $10MM
SP - Jeff Suppan - $6MM + $0.25MM signing bonus = $6.25MM
SP - Chris Capuano - $3.25MM
SP - Claudio Vargas - $2.5MM
SP - Dave Bush - $0.38MM
RP - Francisco Cordero - $5MM
RP - Derrick Turnbow - $2.3MM + incentives
RP - Brian Shouse - $0.975MM
RP - Matt Wise - $1MM
RP - Jose Capellan - $0.38MM
RP - Greg Aquino - $0.38MM
RP - Carlos Villanueva - $0.38MM
3B - Corey Koskie - $2MM (post-concussion syndrome)
3B - Ryan Braun - $0.38MM
3B - Vinnie Rottino - $0.38MM
RP - Grant Balfour - $0.415MM
SP - Yovani Gallardo - $0.38MM
It's about $62MM worth of players, up about $5 mil from Opening Day last year. The payroll has been managed well, and I think management would be willing to make a midseason trade to put the team over the hump.
The middle infield combo just needs to stay healthy for a full season; no one doubts their ability to hit. Because of the injury possibility, the Crew went out and got Counsell this winter. They might not have wanted Graffanino to accept arbitration, but he gives them depth to cover third base until Ryan Braun is ready. Braun has a robust PECOTA forecast of .283/.341/.504. He should be up by May if he sore elbow is OK. Koskie, meanwhile, is nowhere near game ready and may never be. It's not a particularly impressive defensive infield, but the bats should compensate.
The outfield will have Hall and Hart as full-timers. I've currently got six outfielders listed for the Brewers, but a trade of Mench seems in the cards. That'd clear left field for Jenkins, leave Clark as the CF backup, and open a spot for Gross to make the team. The division has all sorts of virgin CFs in Hall, Alfonso Soriano, and Chris Burke. Griffey might move to right, also.
The Brewers had a poor offense last year. They'll get more out of the catcher spot with Estrada, a step forward from Fielder, and a slight downgrade in left compared to Carlos Lee. A big year from Hart plus a healthy middle infield would move the offense toward the middle of the pack.
The rotation is set, and a major strength. Sheets will be one of baseball's best if he's healthy, and he's looked good so far. The team isn't completely screwed if he goes down - Carlos Villanueva and Yovani Gallardo can step in admirably. Gallardo doesn't get a ton of hype, but his PECOTA calls for a 3.92 ERA and 1.35 WHIP in 141 innings as a rookie. That's ROY material.
The bullpen was lousy last year. It can't help but improve with the subtractions of Dan Kolb, Geremi Gonzalez, Zach Jackson, Jorge de la Rosa, and Dana Eveland. A full season of Cordero and a shorter leash for Turnbow should also help.
The Brewers have a good chance of winning the NL Central on the strength of their starting rotation. If the offense comes together, a core of Fielder/Weeks/Hardy/Braun/Hall/Hart could be above average. If anything is missing by July, a major trade and the promotion of Gallardo could push them into the playoffs.
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