The Brewers were just hoping to start the 2012 season, after most of the offseason was spent talking about whether or not the face of their franchise used performance enhancers.
Ryan Braun is one of the top three choices in fantasy baseball, but owners have become more skeptical as his name continues to show up on PED lists.
Milwaukee was also attempting to make another run atop the NL Central in 2012.
They added some speed to their offense with outfielders Carlos Gomez and Norichika Aoki, who both had productive seasons.
Injuries and a slow start kept the Brewers from being a dominant force early, but they picked it up towards the second half of the season.
Second baseman Rickie Weeks was coming off one of his best seasons in 2011, only to be one of the most dropped players in the first half of 2012.
Weeks ultimately was a key contributor for many fantasy owners during their playoff run as he hit around .400 to wrap up the season.
You’d never know, looking at his stats, that he had an off-year.
Injuries will factor in once again with the Brewers, as first baseman Corey Hart will be out until early May with a knee injury.
Milwaukee is looking at various solutions to substitute for Hart’s production until he returns.
They’ve look at moving shortstop Alex Gonzalez over to first base and playing rookie Jean Segura in his spot, or calling up rising minor league star Hunter Morris.
Morris has the ability to hit around 30 home runs, while Segura is more of a base stealing threat.
The pitching staff will also be in question going into this season.
Zack Greinke put on a masterful season as always, but he went for the bigger pay day this offseason.
Despite having social anxiety issues, Greinke decided to go to a larger market in LA.
The Brewers now have to find a replacement for Greinke this spring.
They could call upon their top pitching prospect in Wily Peralta, but he’s not ready to take over for Greinke’s production.
Yovani Gallardo will once again be the ace of the staff, showcasing consistency over the years.
The biggest question mark for the Brewers that hurt them early in 2012, was with the closer role.
John Axford came into 2012 as one of the best closers in the game, but was one of the biggest risks to own in fantasy baseball.
Milwaukee has brought him back as their full time closer, in hopes that he can turn it around.
If Axford can return to his 2011 form, the Brewers will be right back up among the best in the NL Central.
They need Axford to find stability, Braun to stay out of the media, and their young pitching staff to step up if they’re going to return to their dominance this season.
Let’s take a look at whether the Brewers have what it takes to dominate the NL Central…
BREWERS PROJECTED LINEUP
1. Norichika Aoki RF You’re not drafting him to lead your team in home runs, but he will steal you 30 bases, score 80 runs, and generate a fare share of rbi’s. If Rickie Weeks plays better this season, Aoki will be the main benefactor. He’s a great late round outfielder option.
2. Rickie Weeks 2B He was one of the best 2B options in the second half of 2012, but his first half was horrible. His .230 AVG was his lowest in 4 years. He was able to hit 20+ home runs for the 3rd straight season, and steal double digit bases. He should be viewed as a top 10 2B on draft day.
3. Ryan Braun LF He just might be the best player in fantasy to own. There are a lot of debates on whether it will be him or Mike Trout, but at least Braun is consistent. He contributes in every category, you just have to hope that he doesn’t get in trouble with another PED issue.
4. Aramis Ramirez 3B He hit 25+ home runs for the 3rd straight season, back-to-back seasons of a .300 AVG, and had highs in runs and rbi’sl, all in his first season with the Brewers. Fantasy owners are waiting for him to decline, but until that happens, he ‘s a great value pick in the middle rounds of drafts.
5. Jonathan Lucroy C Injuries ruined his 2012 season, but what has to impress you is the fact that he was able to compile the same stats in 2012, in 40 less games, as he had in 2011 (46/12/58). He also hit .320 during that span. Lucroy isn’t being drafted until the final rounds, but he’s a solid option that you need to consider if you can’t get an elite catcher.
6. Carlos Gomez CF He absolutely exploded in 2012, but having career highs with 72 runs, 19 home runs, 51 rbi’s, and 37 stolen bases for the first time since 2008. He did have a career high .260 AVG, but that is the only thing that is keep Gomez from being a reliable option to draft. Gomez is ranked way down on draft boards, because he’s not a household name just yet, which is why you should wait until considering him for your no.3 OF spot.
7. Alex Gonzalez 1B Injuries ruined his first season with the Brew crew, but he’s nothing impressive to begin with. By season’s end, Gonzalez could be fizzled out of the lineup once Hart returns and Segura progresses.
8. Jean Segura SS He was the prize of the Greinke trade with the Angels, he doesn’t hit home runs, but he does steal a lot of bases. It’s all speed or nothing with Segura, which is why he shouldn’t be on your fantasy radar.
1. Yovani Gallardo Four straight seasons of 200+ strikeouts and 14+ wins, to go along with an ERA in the 3′s, what more would you want? Whether you think he’s elite or not, you need to get Gallardo at the bargain that he comes at every season in fantasy drafts.
2. Marco Estrada He carries a high ERA and doesn’t have impressive strikeout numbers, look elsewhere.
3. Mike Fiers He’s a pitcher that’s on the rise in fantasy talks. He was one of the most reliable fantasy pitchers once he was called up last season and will look to build upon his success that he had in the second half of the season. He’s going in the final rounds of drafts and should be viewed as a steal in any format.
4. Chris Narveson High ERA + low strikeout ratio=wasted thought on draft day
5. Wily Peralta He’s the Brewers top pitching prospect that bring a high strikeout ratio, a disciplined approach, durability and low ERA. He appeared in six games last season and could make the starting rotation out of spring camp. He will likely go through some growing pains early in the season, but he’ll be the Brewers’ 3rd best starter this season.
RP-John Axford He had a career-high in strikeouts, but he also had a career-high ERA. Axford blew more saves than his owners could handle. He’s coming into this season with a low draft status, which sets him up for a buy-low option with some upside to bounce back.
Mike Fiers was one of the most valuable waiver claims last fantasy season, and is set to be one of the biggest steals in drafts this year. He averaged around 6 strikeouts per outing, he kept a decent ERA, and he proved late in the season to have the durability to pitch deep into games. Fiers will end up being the second best pitcher on the staff. He’s slated to pitch third in the rotation, so owners need to capitalize on his value now before he moves up. Fiers is ranked in the final rounds of this year’s drafts, so make sure that you get him when you’re hunting for late value.
Hunter Morris is one of the Brewers top prospects. He’s the reigning Southern League MVP, primarily because of his bat. He only has a short window to make an impression, with Corey Hart being out until May, but Morris could be one of those second half fantasy studs if he’s sent back to the minors. He’s a .300+ hitter that can get around 25+ home runs. Morris always seems to get off to a slow start, but can’t be stopped once he finds his groove. Milwaukee has to make a decision on what they want to do in Corey Hart’s absence. They’re either going to call up Morris to play for about a month on a trial basis, or they’re going to move Alex Gonzalez to first on a temporary basis. It’s an interesting situation in Brewers camp to keep an eye on. If Morris is given a trial run, he’s nothing more than a utility option with a lot of upside. If Gonzalez does end up playing first base, the Morris could be a July call-up. Remember his name regardless.