The MLB regular season is about a week young, and those rooting for the Milwaukee Brewers know that their team has a legitimate shot at playoff contention, if not higher aspirations. Once newfangled ace Jimmy Nelson returns from a right rotator cuff strain and a torn labrum. Orlando Arica’s wunderkind abilities at shortstop are exciting enough, if he could just limit his errors. And, perhaps most importantly, this is a team fresh off an 86-win season, with a rebuilt outfield, one assembled based off the sabermetric prowess of general manager David Stearns. While the season is unblemished, it’s only right to prognosticate which stats and awards certain players will obtain by season’s end, the act of which may look inane in months to come. Anyway, here are some predictions regarding 2018’s rendition of the Brewers:

Orlando Arcia Wins A Gold Glove

Anyone who has watched the scrawny 23-year-old Venezuelan knows that, defensively, he can cover ground like very few and possesses a whipping right wrist. Last season, the former Top 100 prospect led National League shortstops in range factor, which divides putouts and assists by games, or innings, played. However, he was also tied for first, with Atlanta’s Dansby Swanson, in errors committed with 20. He may not get top-tier cooperation with Ryan Braun settling in at first, as a newbie, but Arica’s play off contact, and his ability to throw from virtually anywhere in the infield makes it likely that he’ll be a candidate.

 

Manny Piña Takes Over Starting Catcher Role…for Good

At the plate, he has only gone 4-for-17 in his first four games, but Piña still remains a superior defender to any other Brewers’ catcher. Despite playing a little over two-thirds of last season behind the plate, Piña posted the 10th-highest defensive WAR in the Big Leagues. Last year, Pina posted a 36 percent caught-stealing rate, whereas Jett Bandy, who has already seen one start at catcher this season, floated around 17 percent. Elsewhere at the position, there has been no news regarding catcher Stephen Vogt, who has been sidelined for over a month with a shoulder injury. Also, by having consistent bats at the top of the order, the Brewers undoubtedly should demand less from their catchers at the plate.

 

Travis Shaw Sees Regression in Homers, RBI, But Increase in Average

So far in this young season, Shaw seems destined for a season full of swinging at pitches outside the zone, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, given that he’s seeing a slight improvement in making contact in such places. He’s effective at spraying the ball all around the field, and he’s more than capable of knocking runners in, but…so is Christian Yelich, who hasn’t hit second in any order semi-regularly since 2015, though was even then hitting .340 with 19 RBI. And Yelich has gotten much better as a hitter since….There are a lot of mouths to feed in Milwaukee, and with the talents of Cain, Yelich and Braun ahead of Shaw, it seems like the bases may very well be clear by the time the 27-year-old takes stabs at the plate.

 

Craig Counsell Wins NL Manager of the Year

If Arizona Diamondbacks’ skipper Torey Lovullo didn’t advance a 69-win ball club from 2016 into an NLDS squad, Craig Counsell likely would’ve secured this award a season ago. To be fair, he finished fourth, but, now, Counsell isn’t coming off a sub-.500 year. The Brewers are going to have to overcome adversity, likely improve upon their record from an already-impressive 87 wins, and cook up a remarkable cuisine for the national audience. What doesn’t help is that Milwaukee only has one game set to be broadcast on ESPN – next Monday’s affair against the St. Louis Cardinals – and the television schedule usually maintains its uniformity until late in the season, when the network can add games with playoff implications. Luckily, the Crew will be playing 14 other games that will be broadcasted nationally. This is important because national writers will be tuned in, and stellar performances can win over voters for awards such as this. Ultimately, though, cashing in on this attention by winning ball games will put Counsell first in the conversation.

 

The Brewers Have Three All-Stars

I know, I know, Major League Baseball makes concessions for nearly every player to make the Midsummer Classic, to the point of the actual game being usurped by festivities and the Home Run Derby. But, whether it’s a trio consisting of Ryan Braun, Josh Hader and Nelson (if he can come back quick enough), or Arcia, Cain and Shaw, Milwaukee, with its teeming amount of talent, both returning and new, and uber-excited fan base will allow the ball club to have three All-Star representatives suit up for the first time since 2014.

 

Lorenzo Cain Scores the Fifth-Most Runs in MLB

Craig Counsell likes to get experimental with his batting orders on a day-to-day basis. In 2017. Cain, who has been the leadoff batter in four of the five games played so far, and always hit either second or third in the batting order with the Kansas City Royals last year, will likely always have some formula of Christian Yelich, Braun, and Shaw behind him in the order. Because of this, paired with his ability to run the bases – he ranked in the top 20 in UBR, and third in wSB among MLB outfielders last season – Cain should be atop the leaderboard in runs scored, barring injury and spastic changes to the batting order.

 

Josh Hader Finishes Top 5 in SO/9

When working with a full count last year, Hader lost hitters more so than relinquished them, posting a 0.54 strikeout per walk ratio in such scenarios. With that said, Hader didn’t give up many hits last season, posting a WHIP less than 1.00. The second-year man has a heater that settles in the mid-90s, one that yields a high opponent swing-and-miss rate. He dominated in the sixth inning more so than in late-game situations, though he was never called on to close. He struck out approximately 13 batters per nine innings last season, which, had he qualified, been among the best in the league. Expect him to get proper work and deliver.

 

An Arm Comes Over (via Trade) in July

Last season, the Brewers’ pitching rotation, relievers and starters alike, stepped up from the year prior, posting the ninth-best team ERA (4.00), and surrendering the 11th fewest hits, and sixth fewest home runs per 9 innings in the Majors. Perhaps somewhat-abandoned players like Domingo Santana or Eric Thames, if Braun mans a reliable presence at first, packaged with one of the organization’s many young outfielders could warrant an anchor in the rotation. Of course, rookie Brandon Woodruff, the injured veteran Wade Miley haven’t gotten the chance to prove themselves with this team, but if the offense is providing beaucoup run support, yet the team is still failing to win games, look for the Crew to poach an expiring contract.

 

A Playoff Game is Played in Milwaukee

This doesn’t just suggest that the Crew are making the playoffs, it’s that they are going to host a game, whether in the Wild Card round, or in the NLDS. Last season, if the Crew had Jimmy Nelson for the remainder of September, they likely would’ve been playing the Diamondbacks in early October. Now, with improved defenders in the outfield, in Cain and Yelich, both of whom, on average, strikeout less than former starters Keon Broxton and Domingo Santana, the Crew have few pitfalls. The rotation, as just mentioned, will be the biggest question mark, with some hurlers returning from injury, and their ability to go deep into games. The Brewers caught everyone off-guard last season, by popping up in the upper echelon of National League teams, but ’tis the season for justification.

 

**All stats up to date, as of April 3**

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here