After a torrid September, the Brewers culminated their regular season with a division-clinching win over the Chicago Cubs, bringing Milwaukee its first division title since 2011. Part of the Brewers tremendous success down the stretch was due to the versatility of their roster, which was expanded to 36 players for most of the final month. Craig Counsell and the front office will need to trim that down to 25 players for their divisional series against the winner of the Cubs and Rockies, giving this team a much different feel than fans have become accustomed to over the past month. What will that roster look like? Here are my predictions:
Catchers (2): Erik Kratz, Manny Piña
No surprises here. Piña and Kratz will fill the two roster spots the Brewers will assign to the catcher position, with Jacob Nottingham missing the cut. Piña and Kratz have both been integral to the success of the Brewers pitching staff.
Infielders (6): Jesus Aguilar, Orlando Arcia, Mike Moustakas, Hernan Perez, Jonathan Schoop, Travis Shaw
Despite the charisma and moxie Eric Thames brings to the clubhouse, it looks like he is a longshot to make the postseason roster, at least for the divisional series. He has struggled greatly recently, and has no defined role on the team anymore as it currently stands. His positional versatility pales in comparison to Hernan Perez and even Jonathan Schoop, and the acquisition of Curtis Granderson makes Thames second fiddle as a left-handed bat off the bench. Tyler Saladino will also not appear on the first edition of the playoff roster, which is no surprise.
Outfielders (5): Ryan Braun, Keon Broxton, Lorenzo Cain, Curtis Granderson, Christian Yelich
Keon Broxton has proven his worth to the Brewers over the final month of the season, and provides the Crew with an elite-level defensive replacement and pinch running option. Players like him can be extremely valuable come playoff time, when one run can make the difference between a World Series berth and packing your bags (see Exhibit A, Dave Roberts/Boston Red Sox 2004). Granderson provides a solid left-handed bat off the bench as well, as was mentioned previously. His acquisition at the waiver trade deadline has paid dividends for the Brewers. Domingo Santana was one of my hardest cuts, as he provides a great bat off the bench, but in choosing between the impact Broxton can make in the field and Domingo’s impact with the bat, I think Keon adds more value.
Starting Pitchers (3): Jhoulys Chacin, Gio Gonzalez, Wade Miley
This is where things get really tricky. The Brewers’ approach to their starting pitching has been very unpredictable in September, so it is tough to judge what they will do. My guess is that they will rely on three starters rather than four, as Chase Anderson and Zach Davies have been unreliable as of late and Freddy Peralta has been seldom used. A three-starter rotation is manageable in the playoffs, and while Miley and Gonzalez may only be good for five innings on occasion, the Brewers can then turn to their stacked bullpen for the final four. Chacin has been a rock, and you can assume that the Brewers will want him to start their most important games if possible.
Bullpen (9): Corbin Burnes, Xavier Cedeño, Junior Guerra, Josh Hader, Jeremy Jeffress, Dan Jennings, Corey Knebel, Joakim Soria, Brandon Woodruff
Cutting the bullpen down was very challenging, given the important role that every single member of the Brewers current 14-man outfit has played down the stretch. Ultimately for me it came down to choosing between Jacob Barnes, Junior Guerra, Dan Jennings, Freddy Peralta, and Taylor Williams for the final two spots in the bullpen. I ended up siding with Guerra and Jennings. Guerra provides a second long relief option in addition to Brandon Woodruff, and Jennings gives the Brewers a second lefty-on-lefty option in addition to Cedeño. Counsell loves playing match-up games, so having this versatility in the bullpen is very important. Neither Peralta, Barnes, or Williams contributes to a versatile bullpen in a significant way, so ultimately, I had to cut them off.
So, there are my predictions. While there are sure to be a few misses on my part, let’s hope the Crew that ultimately comprises the final-25 can bring a title back to the Cream City!