- FanGraphs+ | FanGraphs Baseball - http://www.fangraphs.com/plus -

2010 Milwaukee Brewers Preview

Yovani Gallardo, RHP
Randy Wolf, LHP
Doug Davis, LHP
Jeff Suppan, RHP
Manny Parra, LHP

Closers and Setup
Trevor Hoffman, RHP
Todd Coffey, RHP

Starting Lineup
Rickie Weeks, 2B
Corey Hart, RF
Ryan Braun, LF
Prince Fielder, 1B
Casey McGehee, 3B
Gregg Zaun, C
Alcides Escobar, SS
Carlos Gomez, CF

Player in Decline

Despite a whole box of tools, Corey Hart has never approached the levels expected of him — largely due to a lack of plate discipline. Now 28, the right fielder most likely is what he is. “What he is” is basically an average hitter playing a position that ideally provides a little more than that.

Player on the Rise

Yovani Gallardo could have a season like last year’s and be a perfectly serviceable fantasy player. That said, he’s young enough that we can reasonably expect an improvement in control (4.56 BB/K last year). If the Brewers give him some run support, he could approach 15 wins with relative ease.

Top 5 Fantasy Players
Ryan Braun – Elite
Prince Fielder – Elite
Yovani Gallardo – Average
Randy Wolf – Average
Trevor Hoffman – Average

Top 10 Prospects
1. Alcides Escobar, SS
2. Brett Lawrie, 2B
3. Mat Gamel, 3B
4. Zach Braddock, LHP
5. Jonathan Lucroy, C
6. Jake Odorizzi, RHP
7. Eric Arnett, RHP
8. Cody Scarpetta, RHP
9. Wily Peralta, RHP
10. Kyle Heckathorn, RHP

Overall team outlook: A couple years ago, Milwaukee was situated as one of baseball’s more exciting teams, with a crop full of young, cost-controlled players. Now, with some departed (J.J. Hardy), some about to become expensive (Prince Fielder), and some plagued by injury (Rickie Weeks), the future is maybe a little less bright in Beer City.

The Starting Rotation: Yovani Gallardo’s 185.2 innings in 2009 outpaced his previous high (from 2007) by 75 innings. A similar workload, combined with a drop in walks (he averaged 4.56 per nine last season), could place him among the Majors’ elite starters. Randy Wolf’s production hasn’t really ever been the problem; it’s been his health. Last year marked the first time he’s hit 200 innings since 2003. Note that Miller Park shouldn’t be as friendly to his ERA as Dodger Stadium. Doug Davis is a bit of a poor man’s Randy Wolf – just with one more walk and one fewer strikeout per nine. Jeff Suppan was, at one point, the definition of league-average. Last year, he had a 1.08 K/BB ratio. Ick. The last spot in the rotation is mostly up for grabs. Manny Parra is a lefty with velocity and sink (48.7% career ground-ball rate) but serious control issues. David Bush’s 4.79 xFIP from 2009 is a lot better than 6.38 ERA he posted.

The Bullpen: The only real way to know Trevor Hoffman’s true age is to cut him in half and count the rings inside. Until he stops striking out eight per nine and saving 40 or so games per season, it’s unlikely that he or the Milwaukee Brewers will let anyone do that. When Hoffman’s not feeling up to it, Todd Coffey is a good candidate to pick up a save or two. The reliever finally lived up to his peripherals in 2009, posting a 2.90 ERA. Unfortunately for everyone, Mark DiFelice had surgery in early December to repair a torn labrum and rotator cuff in his right shoulder. Hopefully, he and his cut fastball return in 2011.

The Starting Lineup: If you’re a Brewer fan, you’ll hope Manager Ken Macha is able to resist the temptation of batting either of his speediest speed merchants, Alcides Escobar or Carlos Gomez, at the top of the order, as neither is likely to get on base enough to warrant the extra plate appearances. Both will likely provide 20+ stolen bases in something like a full-time role. In lieu of either, Rickie Weeks – returning from another serious-ish injury – will most likely assume the leadoff role for 2010. Corey Hart batted second more often than anywhere else in the lineup last year – a bit of an oddity considering his questionable plate discipline (although his walk rate is considerably higher in the two-hole than anywhere else in the lineup). Ryan Braun frightens opposing pitchers and is possibly still getting better. Prince Fielder frightens pitchers, too, and is possibly still getting bigger*. Expect Casey McGehee’s BABIP to regress from the .335 he posted last year, perhaps making his hold on the fifth spot somewhat tenuous. Gregg Zaun is a useful option at catcher while prospects Jonathan Lucroy and Angel Salome develop in the high minors.

*Obligatory weight comment

The Bench: Like Kanye West, Jody Gerut is curious as to why you won’t let him be great. In the meantime, he’ll play a back-up role in the outfield along with grizzled vet Jim Edmonds. If the Carlos Gomez Experiment fails, either guy could be in line for more plate appearances. Craig Counsell ditched his funny batting stance in 2009 but also posted a 2.8 WAR as the Brewer infield slowly fell apart. He might very well be the Practically Perfect Utility Player.