Back in 2008, the Brew Crew won 90 games and made the postseason for the first time since losing the World Series in 1982 to the now division rival St. Louis Cardinals. Things seemed to be looking up for Milwaukee as a young core of talent led by Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder would ensure they’d remain contenders for seasons to come.
Then came 2009 and the beginning of the Ken Macha era, and things sort of stagnated. The Brewers finished 80-82 that year and then 77-85 in 2010. In 2011, Milwaukee is readying themselves for another run for the postseason under new manager Ron Roenicke. Is this the year the Brewers win the NL Central? The division crown has alluded them ever since joining the senior circuit from the AL back in 1998. With some great talent at the plate and some new faces in the rotation, chances are shaping up for Milwaukee to do well in what looks to be a very winnable division this season.
In “30 Teams in 30 Days,” the Fantasy Baseball Cafe will preview each team in Major League Baseball on a daily basis. In addition to projecting starting lineups, rotations and closing situations, the Cafe will identify potential targets for 2011 fantasy baseball drafts.
|C Jonathan Lucroy||.253||.300||.329||24||4||26||4||277|
|1B Prince Fielder||.261||.401||.471||94||32||83||1||578|
|2B Rickie Weeks||.269||.366||.464||112||29||83||11||651|
|SS Yuniesky Betancourt||.259||.288||.405||60||16||78||2||556||w/KC|
|3B Casey McGehee||.285||.337||.464||70||23||104||1||610|
|LF Ryan Braun||.304||.365||.501||101||25||103||14||619|
|CF Carlos Gomez||.247||.298||.357||38||5||24||18||291|
|RF Corey Hart||.283||.340||.525||91||31||102||7||558|
Unsettled: None. This lineup is pretty much set. There shouldn’t be any real positional battles in spring training as most of the Milwaukee starters have been in this lineup for multiple years now. Betancourt is the only new face here, replacing Alcides Escobar who was dealt to Kansas City in the Zack Greinke trade. Longtime vets Craig Counsell and Mark Kotsay should provide some support from the bench but neither are worth a spot on a fantasy roster.
Target: Rickie Weeks and Corey Hart. Weeks blossomed last season, reaching career highs in runs, home runs and RBI. He’s been typically ranked 6th among 2B and may be worth the wait if you can’t grab Cano or Utley right away. Don’t expect too much with AVG but his 100 runs, 25 home run potential is very real. Also with Ken Macha gone, expect Weeks to easily steal more bases than his paltry 11 last season. Hart is another one that seemed to step it up to another level last season, reaching the 30 homer/100 RBI benchmark for the first time in his career. There’s a chance he doesn’t reach that in 2011 but any regression I see will be minimal. Also if he bats second as some project, having Braun and Fielder behind him will be extremely beneficial.
|Zack Greinke (R)||10-14||4.17||1.25||181||55||220.0||w/KC|
|Yovani Gallardo (R)||14-7||3.84||1.37||200||75||185.0|
|Shaun Marcum (R)||13-8||3.64||1.15||165||43||195.1||w/TOR|
|Randy Wolf (L)||13-12||4.17||1.39||142||87||215.2|
|Chris Narveson (L)||12-9||4.99||1.38||137||59||167.2|
Unsettled: The Brewers rotation has been improved immensely with the additions of Greinke and Marcum. Randy Wolf is much less a liability as a #4 starter as opposed to a #2 like he was last year. There’s not much up in the air as this rotation is pretty much set already. Perhaps keep an eye on Mark Rogers later in the season, as he’s the most likely to fill any rotation gaps that may arise. Rogers, the fifth overall pick in the 2004 amateur draft, has worked his way through the farm system and has spent a brief stint with the big club at the end of last season.
Target: Anyone not named Randy. Greinke and Marcum coming over to the National League has me excited about their potential this season (fantasy-wise that is; as a Cubs fan, I’m not nearly as enthused). Having Greinke as the #1 starter should take some pressure off Gallardo as well. You can expect Greinke and Gallardo off the board within the first 100 picks for sure. Marcum could possibly slip past the top 100 and would be well worth the pick if he does.
Then you have Chris Narveson. Yes you read that right. I would only recommend drafting him in extremely deep leagues if at all. 12-teamer? Don’t bother. 20-teamer or large NL-only? Keep him on the radar. His stats aren’t pretty but if you look at his 2010 splits, the Narv-dog seemed to put it together after the All-Star break (5-3, 66 K, 81 IP, 3.89 ERA, 1.17 WHIP in 14 starts). Again I’m not saying draft him in most league formats, but certainly keep an eye on him. He could be an effective lefty on your bench or for streaming purposes down the road.
The 8th and 9th Innings
|John Axford (R)||24||2.48||1.19||76||27||58.0|
|Takashi Saito (R)||1||2.83||1.07||69||17||54.0||w/ATL|
Chasing Saves: All-time saves leader Trevor Hoffman went out with fizzle in his final season last year. Luckily John Axford emerged as the new closer and pitched extremely well in his first season in that role. Axford has a good K-rate and makes a nice pick later in the draft after the big names are off the board. Backing him up is newly acquired setup man Takashi Saito, who will be 41 this year but hasn’t shown any signs of diminishing ability. The former Dodgers closer could be a nice pickup in leagues that count holds, and an even better add if Axford struggles with closing duties this season.
The Brewers have all the pieces to make a very serious run at the NL Central crown and beyond, and fantasy managers can reap the awards of a bountiful roster. Braun, Hart and Fielder all have 100 RBI potential. And I failed to mention Casey McGehee earlier. Despite leading the team with 104 RBI last season, McGehee still appears to be a little bit under the radar at 3B for some people. If he’s still available after eight or nine 3B come off the board, he’s well worth the grab.
There are a lot of high hopes for this rotation and for good reason. The additions of Greinke and Marcum helps the rotation leapfrog St. Louis as the best in the division, especially from a depth standpoint. Whether these new guys lead to a NL Central title we’ll have to wait and see, but banking on the Brewers for your fantasy championship is a smart move.
Check back tomorrow as we kick off the NL West.
Jake Ironside has proudly been a Cafe regular since 2003. He's also the founder and co-creator of Exile On Clark Street and the now defunct Thunder Matt's Saloon, two of the worst Cubs blogs ever created. When he's not busy working on his fantasy rankings he's probably thinking about working on his fantasy rankings.
Want to write for the Cafe? Check out the Cafe's Pencil & Paper section!