After already losing one of their two elite sluggers to free agency, the Brewers were hit hard by the news of Ryan Braun testing positive for steroids. The possibility of Braun missing 50 games is a tough one to swallow for the Brewers and his fantasy owners, but there’s still a chance that the suspension is overturned. Even without Braun for 50 games, the Brewers offense should be able to score enough runs for a very good pitching staff to keep them in contention until his return. The NL Central is pretty wide open, and 100 games of Braun could be all they need to make the playoffs for a second consecutive year.
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 2012 fantasy baseball drafts.
|C Jonathan Lucroy||.265||.313||.391||45||12||59||2||430|
|1B Mat Gamel||.310||.372||.540||90||28||96||2||493||in AAA|
|2B Rickie Weeks||.269||.350||.468||77||20||49||9||453|
|SS Alex Gonzalez||.241||.270||.372||59||15||56||2||564||w/ATL|
|3B Aramis Ramirez||.306||.361||.510||80||26||93||1||565||w/CHC|
|LF Ryan Braun||.332||.397||.597||109||33||111||33||563|
|CF Nyjer Morgan||.304||.357||.421||61||4||37||13||378|
|RF Corey Hart||.285||.356||.510||80||26||63||7||492|
Unsettled: Left field. As mentioned earlier, it’s still undetermined whether or not Braun will be forced to sit out the first 50 games of the season. Even if Braun misses that time he should still be a very valuable fantasy commodity. As long as your league has bench spots, you can substitute in a replacement outfielder for the 50 games you know Braun is missing and the outcome could still easily be a .300-30-100-100-25 season. He currently has an MDP of 27 which he could outproduce if combined with a replacement outfielder. If his suspension is somehow reversed, then you could be getting a top five pick in the middle of the third round, definitely a chance I’m willing to take. If Braun does serve his suspension, the Brewers could use Norichika Aoki in left field or Nyjer Morgan could slide over from center with Carlos Gomez getting time in center.
Target: Corey Hart. Currently an MDP of 84 and a Yahoo ranking of 107, Hart should be a guy on everybody’s mind come draft time. After missing some time at beginning of the season with an oblique strain, Hart seemed to be feeling lingering effects of the injury posting a first half line of 26-8-22-2-.266 in 188 at bats. He recovered in a big way in the second half posting a line of 54-18-41-5-.296 to help push the Brewers into the play-offs. He’ll be hitting in the middle of the order and looks to be in for a big season if he stays healthy. A line of .285-90-30-90-10 is definitely within reach and would be pretty nice value any later than 70th overall (late 6th round in a 12 team league).
|Zack Greinke (R)||16-6||3.83||1.20||201||45||171.2|
|Yovani Gallardo (R)||17-10||3.52||1.22||207||59||207.1|
|Randy Wolf (L)||13-10||3.69||1.32||134||66||212.1|
|Shaun Marcum (R)||13-7||3.54||1.16||158||57||200.2|
|Chris Narveson (L)||11-8||4.45||1.39||126||65||161.2|
Unsettled: None. The Brewers have a very strong and underrated top four and the rotation as a whole is pretty much set in stone. It’s possible that Marco Estrada gets some starts if there are injuries or if Narveson is ineffective, but even Narveson is pretty decent for a fifth starter. Either way, they should keep the Brewers contending even with the loss of Fielder and possible missed time from Braun.
Target: Zack Greinke. Greinke combined the highest K/9 of any qualified starter (10.54) with a very good 2.36 BB/9 to post the sixth best K/BB among those same starters. Despite a mediocre 3.83 ERA, Greinke showed the skills of a much better pitcher posting the ninth best FIP and best xFIP. The discrepancies between his ERA and FIPs can be explained by a high BABIP, low LOB% and high HR/FB. His second half 2.80 ERA shows the kind of pitcher he can be and with an MDP of 49 as the 11th pitcher off the board, he has huge value. I have him ranked only behind the consensus top four and would be very happy with him almost anywhere in the third round. Getting him in the fourth or even early fifth would be a huge steal.
The 8th and 9th Innings
|John Axford (R)||46||1.95||1.14||86||25||73.2|
|Francisco Rodriguez (R)||23||2.64||1.30||79||26||71.2||w/2T|
Chasing Saves: Axford is pretty much everything you look for in a closer. Lots of strikeouts, good ratios, and a lot of job security. You’ll have to pay for that kind of security and production, however, as Axford has been the fourth closer off the board in drafts so far. Even the most stable closers can lose their jobs due to injury or small sample ineffectiveness, and the Brewers have an experienced closer in Francisco Rodriguez to fall back on if necessary. Still, it’s very likely that Axford will hold the job all year and pile up quite a few saves in the process.
Despite losing Fielder and the possibility of losing Braun for a third of the season, the Brewers should be able to lean on their pitching staff to get them in position to make another playoff run. A very good top four leads the way with two guys at the back end of the bullpen who shouldn’t have a problem shutting the door. The lineup should be able to score enough runs without Braun to keep the Brewers close, and once Braun is added back into the equation they’ll give the Cardinals and Reds a run for their money in a week NL Central.
Michael Marinakis is a 26-year-old Giants fan who took 2011 off from fantasy baseball to bask in the glory of the World Series victory. He's now back in the game and looking forward to another year of baseball obsession. You can find him on the forums where he posts as GiantsFan14 or on Twitter @FBC_GiantsFan14.
Want to write for the Cafe? Check out the Cafe's Pencil & Paper section!