The Milwaukee Brewers made some drastic changes to their lineup this winter. They made the trade for Christian Yelich and brought Lorenzo Cain back on a five-year deal. The Cain deal had some people scratching their head due to the Brewers surplus of outfielders. The Brewers now have Braun, Yelich, Cain, Santana, Phillips, and Broxton for three outfield spots. Many thought after Cain was signed, the Brewers would deal the likes of Santana or Broxton or both. Well that hasn’t happened yet, and the Brewers still need another quality starting pitcher or two, especially with Jimmy Nelson out until June. The Brewers figure to be strong offensively lets take a look at what their starting nine may look like March 29th when the Brewers open their season at San Diego.
- Christian Yelich – LF. The Brewers acquired Christian Yelich on January 25th from the Miami Marlins in exchange for top prospect Lewis Brinson and three others. The gold glove, silver slugging outfielder figures to slide nicely into the top of the Brewers order. He is a career .290 hitter with a .370 on base percentage (OBP). He also gives the Brewers some pop from the lead off spot. Last year he hit 18 homeruns playing half of his games at pitcher friendly Marlins Park. That number figures to go over 20 with his new home stadium being Miller Park.
- Lorenzo Cain – CF. The Brewers brought back a familiar face on January 25th when they signed Lorenzo Cain to a 5-year deal. The Brewers traded him in the Zack Greinke deal back in 2011. Last year for the Royals, Cain hit .300 and stole 26 bases while only striking out 100 times. He had an OBP of .363. The Brewers struggled with strikeouts last year, so having a high contact guy at the top of the order will help the run producers a lot.
- Ryan Braun – 1B. The Brewers have a ton of outfielders as we all know, so moving former infielder Ryan Braun to first base made sense. We all know how bad he was at third, but first is not nearly as difficult. The majority of Braun’s errors his rookie season were on the throw. He won’t have to throw nearly as much at first. Hopefully playing first will take a less of a toll on his body. The outfield might be too much wear and tear for him. You can also figure he will get his fair share of days off, in which you will see Eric Thames at first. Last year Braun’s numbers were down in large part due to injury. He was only able to appear in 104 games hitting just .268 with 17 homeruns. Hitting behind Yelich and Cain, you have to figure he will get plenty of chances to drive in runs. If he can stay healthy, you can expect the best hitter in Brewers history will bounce back in 2018.
- Travis Shaw – 3B. The Mayor of Ding Dong City had a great first season in Milwaukee. The team MVP finished in the top ten in the National League in both homeruns (31) and runs batted in (101). He also batted .273 and had an OBP of .349. Like Ryan Braun, Shaw figures to have plenty of chances to knock in runs with the two newest Brewers hitting in front of him.
- Domingo Santana – RF. Santana was a pleasant surprise for the Brewers in 2017. The 25 year old hit 30 homeruns in his first full season as a starter. He had an OPS near .900. Assuming there isn’t a trade, the Brewers best chance to win is start Domingo in RF and Braun at 1B. If Domingo is traded, that may mean Ryan Braun moves back to RF. Time will tell.
- Manny Pina – C. Manny was another nice surprise for the Brewers last year. In his first full season as starting catcher, Pina responded by hitting .279. He also did a really nice job of throwing out runners all year long. Jett Bandy and Stephen Vogt will be battling this spring for the backup catcher role.
- Orlando Arcia – SS. This will be Orlando Arcia’s second full season as the Brewers starting shortstop. In his first full season, he hit an impressive .277 with 15 homeruns. Still just 23, I don’t think it is crazy to think he could be a 20-homer guy. One area that Arcia needs to improve on is drawing walks. He is a relatively free swinger. In just over 500 at bats, he walked only 36 times. His OBP last year was .324, and that needs to improve.
- Jonathan Villar – 2B. The biggest wild card in the Brewers lineup is switch-hitting Jonathan Villar. He broke out on the scene with a very strong 2016 season hitting .285 and getting on base at a .370 clip. He was one homer shy of a 20 homerun, 60 stolen base season. So needless to say, the hopes were sky high for Villar last season. He responded by hitting just .241, an OBP of .293, and 11 homeruns. The Brewers are going to give him a chance to redeem himself in 2018, but if he doesn’t produce, look for Eric Sogard and Hernan Perez to play second.
The Brewers have playoff expectations in 2018. Given the current state of their roster that may be a lofty expectation. Pending something catastrophic happening in Chicago, it’s the Cubs division to lose. The Brewers have a playoff caliber offense, but their starting pitching as it stands now just isn’t good enough, especially with Jimmy Nelson out until June. Unless they can add a quality-starting pitcher, it could be another 85-87-win season and just missing the playoffs yet again.