StrategyFebruary 17, 2013

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30 Teams in 30 Days: Milwaukee Brewers

By R.J. White

Coming off a 96-win season in 2011, the Brewers fell back to earth in 2012, winning 83 games despite excellent contributions that included four guys with at least 20 homers (including one with 41 and one with 30), three guys with at least 30 steals, three guys that hit .300 or better and one guy who finished in the top two of the NL MVP voting for the second straight year. Will 2013 be better to this club? It likely depends on how much the pitching comes through and, more importantly, how much trouble Ryan Braun is in with regards to the Biogenesis investigation, if any.

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 2013 fantasy baseball drafts.
Offensive Starters

C Jonathan Lucroy.320.368.5134612584346 
1B Corey Hart.270.334.5079130835622 
2B Rickie Weeks.230.328.40085216316677 
SS Jean Segura.264.321.331190147163 
3B Aramis Ramirez.300.360.54092271059630 
LF Ryan Braun.319.391.5951084111230677 
CF Carlos Gomez.260.305.46372195137452 
RF Norichika Aoki.288.355.43381105030588 

Unsettled: Ryan Braun. You obviously never have to worry about the numbers with Braun, who has consistently been one of the best fantasy producers in the game. However, a report came out in mid-February that suggests Braun’s link with Biogenesis, the clinic under investigation by the MLB, may have been more involved that he let on in the statement he gave after the initial report broke. Fantasy drafters will have to hope the situation resolves itself soon, because until then, Braun’s value is about as “unsettled” as can be. First base is pretty unsettled for the start of the season, with Corey Hart expected to miss 4-8 weeks and Mat Gamel also not a lock to be ready while rehabbing from his May knee surgery. Drafters will likely get plenty of value out of Hart, who sounds like he may be back by the end of April.
Target: Aramis Ramirez. In 2012, the Milwaukee third baseman put up virtually a carbon copy of the statline he dropped on the Cubs in 2011 on his way out the door, hitting at least .300 for the second straight year and smacking at least 25 home runs for the third straight year. He also surprisingly chipped in nine steals, although most owners know it would be wishful thinking to expect a full repeat of that at the age of 34. He remains slotted in the lineup right behind one of the best hitters in the game, and there’s no reason to expect a massive drop-off from Ramirez this season. You’ll likely get him at a discount relative to the other top fantasy third baseman; take that discount and feel comfortable with your starting 3B.
The Rotation
Yovanni Gallardo (R)16-93.661.3020481204.0 
Marco Estrada (R)5-73.641.1414329138.1 
Michael Fiers (R)9-103.741.2613536127.2 
Chris Narveson (L)1-17.001.56549.0 
Wily Peralta (R)7-114.661.5814378146.2in AAA

Unsettled: We know that Yovani Gallardo is going to front this rotation, and we should assume that Marco Estrada and Michael Fiers also have spots locked up after putting together great peripherals in 2012. As the only lefty rotation candidate, Chris Narveson will likely get a spot provided he doesn’t suffer any setbacks recovering from the shoulder surgery needed in the midst of a lost 2012 season. That leaves one spot up for competition between Wily Peralta, Mark Rogers and Tyler Thornburg, who was the most impressive of the trio in the minors last year. Indications are that Peralta’s probably the favorite early in the spring, but monitor the situation closely in NL-only and deeper mixed leagues.
Target: Marco Estrada. The 29-year-old righty was phenomenal as a starter last year, posting a 5.32 K/BB ratio (133 strikeouts, 25 walks) in 129 1/3 innings over 23 starts. Not many starting pitchers can claim a K/BB ratio like that — in fact, last year there were only two others (Cliff Lee, Colby Lewis). His fastball didn’t lose much when he had to pitch out of the rotation full-time, which is a big positive moving forward. It remains to be seen if he can replicate this performance moving forward, but considering the stat-line shows flashes of a right Cliff Lee (even if his stuff doesn’t appear to be nearly that good), I think it’s worth a late-round pick to see if a repeat is in store.
The 8th and 9th Innings
John Axford (R)354.671.44933969.1 
Jim Henderson (R)33.531.27451330.2 

Chasing Saves: John Axford was one of the better closers in baseball in 2011, racking up 46 saves and 86 strikeouts while posting a 1.95 ERA. However, he struggled throughout 2012, likely causing many owners to abandon ship heading into this year. He closed the season out pretty strongly in September, ranking up 13 of his 35 saves while posting a 2.93 ERA, 1.17 WHIP and 22 strikeouts in 15.1 innings. If he can bring his walk rate down to digestible levels from the 5.1 BB/9 he posted in 2012, he could return to the elite level at his position. If he can’t, he’ll be Carlos Marmol 2.0 and Jim Henderson will likely get the first crack at being the next man up.
Final Thoughts
The Brewers have a strong offense led by one of the best hitters in baseball, but they’re likely crossing their fingers that nothing comes of the Biogenesis mess. Remarkably, all three OFs stole 30 bases last year, and Norichika Aoki especially could provide draft-day value. So could Corey Hart if he really is ahead of schedule in his recovery. Aramis Ramirez is as steady as they come, and I also like Jean Segura as a fantasy sleeper at SS that can provide steal upside. In the rotation, Yovanni Gallardo should have two more quality arms helping him lead the rotation in Marco Estrada and Michael Fiers. I wouldn’t mind owning any and all of them in fantasy leagues, and I’m also hoping to get value on John Axford if owners are scared off by last year’s ratios.
Check back tomorrow for our look at the Pittsburgh Pirates.

R.J. White is the head editor at the Cafe and contributes to's MLB Rumors blog. He has previously written for FanHouse, Razzball and FanDuel. Catch up with him in the forums under the name daullaz. Follow him on Twitter; don't follow him in real life.
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