Mark Rogers, Cody Scarpetta Lead the Way for Milwaukee’s Top Prospects; What Other Prospects Should We Take Note of?
By now, it should be no surprise to know that the Milwaukee Brewers have accumulated some of the most promising young stars via the draft over the past few seasons.
Ryan Braun, Prince Fielder, Yovani Gallardo and Rickie Weeks are just a few examples of Milwaukee’s uncanny ability to recognize future difference makers within the organization.
So with a new season nearing, here are the top 10 prospects headlining the Brewers’ farm-system.
Mark Rogers, RHP
Standing in at 6’3”, 220 pounds, Rogers is undoubtedly the Brewers’ top prospect who could potentially become an essential part of Milwaukee’s starting rotation in the near future.
Despite a few minor injuries, the former fifth overall pick in the 2005 MLB Amature Draft maintains an arsenal of capabilities that could be of use in 2011.
A low to mid 90 MPH fastball complemented by an impressive breaking ball topping out around 79-83 MPH are the primary assets Rogers carries with him, however he does have other convenient swing-and-miss pitches that will be of great importance in the major leagues.
The only thing keeping him from a position in Milwaukee’s starting rotation are lingering shoulder issues that sidelined him for two full seasons.
Should Rogers pitch up to his capabilities in Milwaukee’s minor league affiliates, he could soon find himself in a starting position in the Brewers’ five-man rotation as early as next season.
Cody Scarpetta, RHP
A near carbon-copy of Mark Rogers, Cody Scarpetta is as fundamentally sound a pitcher as you will ever seen in on a minor league diamond.
A slow start to his 2010 campaign in the Florida State league, Scarpetta rebounded in excellent fashion to vault himself atop the league leaders in strikeouts, and could certainly see playing time in the near future for the Brewers.
Milwaukee selected Scarpetta in the seventh round of the 2007 draft hoping for him to become a solid third starter in their rotation of the future, and so far it’s looking bright for the bulky right-hander.
For the time being, expect Scarpetta to continue his progressions in the minor leagues as he attempts to make his way up into the major league in the near future.
Wily Peralta, RHP
Drafted as Milwaukee’s first-round selection back in 2005, Peralta has quickly become one of the hottest commodities in the Brewers’ farm system along with other notable draft picks Eric Arnett and Mark Rogers. Unfortunately for Peralta, he could conceivably stay in Hunstville (Milwaukee’s AA affiliate) for another full season as he continues to improve on his stuff.
Since being drafted by the Brewers some five years ago, Peralta has spent many of his years in different locations (i.e. Helena, West Virginia, playing for the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers, Brevard County and AA Hunstville.
Should he continue to work on his stuff, it’s not out of the question for this 6’2”, 225-pounder to secure a legitimate role in Milwaukee’s bullpen to work his way up to the starting rotation.
Kyle Heckathorn, RHP
The fourth member of Milwaukee’s plethora of young arms on the farm, Kyle Heckathorn could be considered the prospect with the most major-league potential mostly due to his 6’6”, 235-pound stature.
Drafted by the Brewers in the first-round of the 2009 MLB Draft out of Kennesaw State, Heckathorn will become a major piece of Milwaukee’s starting rotation in the seasons to come.
With the impressive ability to hit his spots with his mid to high 90 MPH fastball, Heckathorn makes for a dominating talent for the Brewers in the next few years. However; due to an inconsistent slider that will need some maintenance, Heckathorn will most likely be stuck in Milwaukee’s minor league affiliates for another full season or two.
When Zack Greinke and Shaun Marcum officially depart from Milwaukee after the next few season, expect Heckathorn to be called up to assume a major role in the Brewers’ rotation.
Amaury Rivas, RHP
In the midst of Milwaukee’s plethora of up-and-coming young prospects, one such talent has yet to be fully recognized by even most Brewers fans.
Amaury Rivas, who made his pitching debut back in 2005 as a member of the Brewers’ minor league affiliate in Arizona, is clearly one such pitcher who will contribute a surplus of positivity to Milwaukee’s pitching staff in the coming future.
The 25 year old Dominican-born stands in at 6’2”, 210 pounds, and attributes many positive features to his game including a knack for hitting his spots with consistency. Combine that with a fastball topping out in the mid 90s and you’ve got yourself one impressive prospect.
With a solid amount of experience already under his belt, and impressive 2009 & 2010 seasons pitching for both A+ Brevard Country and AA Hunstville, we’re almost certain to get a great look at Rivas over the course of Milwaukee’s 2011 regular season.
Scooter Gennett, 2B
The 20-year old all-purpose phenom Scooter Gennettmay have only one season’s worth of minor league experience under his belt, but that won’t stop him from becoming Milwaukee’s top in-fielding prospect for the next few seasons.
Yes, Gennett is without question one of the biggest assets the Brewers maintain in the minor leagues, and his potential as a major league infielder has no known limits whatsoever.
Contributing to the Brewers’ minor league affiliate Wisconsin Timber Rattlers last season has increased his exposure to a bulk of Brewer fans; however his name still remains a mystery for the most part in Wisconsin.
A .309 batting average, 55 RBI, nine home runs, 14 stolen bases and .817 OPS in his inaugural season in the Brewers’ farm system now has scouts raving over his potential within the ballclub. In fact, rumor has is that Gennett will most likely replace Rickie Weeks at second base when he is called up in the next few seasons.
The former 16th-round selection from the 2009 MLB Amateur Draft will have a lasting impact on the future success of Milwaukee baseball.
Kentrail Davis, OF
Without question one of Milwaukee’s most aspiring young talents down on the farm, Kentrail Davis is certainly a prospect to watch closely each of the next few seasons.
The Brewers took a chance on the speedy 5’9”, 195-pound Davis in the first round of the 2009 MLB Amateur Draft to find out he could be roaming the outfield of Miller Park as soon as next season.
Last season, Davis maintained a successful season with the Wisconsin Timber-Rattlers and the Brevard County Brewers — two of the Milwaukee’s premier minor-league affiliates — by accounting for 63 RBI, 28 doubles, 10 home runs, and 10 triples while posting a OPS of .866.
As impressive as his batting has become, it is his fielding that will eventually take him to the next level with the Brewers; preserving a .974 fielding percentage playing predominantly center and right field.
Look for the 22-year old Davis to become a staple in Ron Roenicke’s aggressive-style offense just a few seasons down the road.
Eric Farris, 2B
Another up-and-coming speedster from Milwaukee’s farm system, Eric Farris is by far and away the most dangerous base-runner the Brewers have maintained in a long time.
Drafted by Milwaukee in the fourth round of the 2007 MLB Amateur Draft, Farris has spent his days with many of the Brewers’ minor league ballclubs. However due to his youth, the Brewers have opted to develop Farris’ talents for an extensive amount of seasons.
Nevertheless, you can’t ignore his speed, tenacity and overwhelming offensive and defensive skill-set that carried him to three profoundly effective seasons in the minor leagues. From his rookie season in the minors, 2007, to his latest campaign in 2010, Farris has furnished 161 RBI, scored 208 runs, batted at least .271, and accumulated an awe-inspiring 138 stolen bases including a total of 70 stolen bases in 2009 alone.
Farris has a bright future ahead of him, and we should get a great look at what he has to offer this season for the Brewers.
Hunter Morris, 1B/3B
When the Milwaukee Brewers took to the 2010 MLB Draft, they already had maintained one of the best farm-systems in all of the major leagues. But after taking Auburn’s versatile infielder Eric Morris with their fourth-round selection, they managed to add yet another powerful bat to their system.
Standing at an athletic 6’4”, 215 pounds, Morris is a prospect that looks to make a difference for the Brewers in the years to come — possibly sooner depending on whether or not Milwaukee decides to trade away Prince Fielder for more pitching before the end of the 2011 season.
Morris’ statistics during his rookie minor league season with the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers in 2010 aren’t what you’d expect given the hype: 44 RBI, .251 batting average and nine home runs. However; don’t expect those numbers to duplicate in 2011.
To listen to a free audio webcast of the Brewers’ spring training match-up against the Colorado Rockies, feel free to follow the link below:
For 2009 American League Cy Young-award winner, Zack Greinke, trading spaces may just prove to be the best possible career decision he could’ve made.
Others, however, could be granted a hall pass for the time being.
I’m talking, of course, about Milwaukee’s most potent offseason acquisition in the past 20 seasons—Zack Grienke, the former AL Cy Young award winner of 2009.
In just his sixth season as a Major League tosser, Greinke was able to accomplish what most find it hard to dream. An unquestioned 16-8, 2.16 ERA and 242 strikeout 2009 season had Greinke atop the league’s most dominating and imposing pitchers list.
But could 2009 be a fluke? Most experts stray away from the notion that Milwaukee’s unequivocal superstar may in fact be a one-year-wonder.
In the five seasons leading up to his undisputed 2009 season (not including his 2006 season shortened by injury), Greinke averaged a 4.23 ERA and just 125 strikeouts per season—obviously not the most impressive statistics, to say the least. However there is something to be said about the lack of offensive production put on by the Royals over that five-year span.
Yet 2009 showed us all that an unexpected, seasoned veteran pitcher can turn the tables on even the most critical of doubters. Although reverting back to his previously forgotten demons last season couldn’t diminish our expectations of Greinke heading into this season, we certainly should take note of how ineffective he was in 2010.
Kansas City’s star pupil doubled his ERA (4.17) and saw his strikeouts (181) regress in stunning fashion from the year before.
So with all that being said, can the Brewers expect Greinke to become what he was in 2009? It’s a tough question to break down, but then again that’s the reason why we’re all so very intrigued heading into this season.
Now, with all do respect to the Royals, a crippled offense can’t possibly support a pitcher of Greinke’s caliber—but Milwaukee’s can. Whether it be Prince Fielder, Ryan Braun, Rickie Weeks, Corey Hart, Casey McGehee or Mat Gamel, the Brewers maintain one of the most powerful offensive lineups baseball has to offer.
And the old cliche that pitching wins championships? It’s true.
Until the Brewers were able to acquire CC Sabathia from the Indians toward the end of the 2008 season, Milwaukee’s pitching staff was as lacking as it has ever been.
Yes, I realize Ben Sheets and Yovani Gallardo were tossing out of their minds that season. However, until Sabathia arrived, the Brewers weren’t able to reach the next level beyond the regular season.
It’s a franchise-shifting opportunity when a team is able to lock up a talent of Greinke’s essence, and we should take note to the fact that Milwaukee could very well find themselves in the exact same position as they did in 2009 at the end of this season: in great position to make a postseason run toward the World Series.
But the difference-maker for the Brewers will be whether or not Milwaukee’s bullpen can secure tight games given up by Greinke. We’ve all seen just how abysmal Kansas City’s offensive production has been over the course of the last decade, but in Milwaukee things will be much different.
Expectations will be at an all-time high for Greinke this season—something that not even he himself can deny.
With great hitting comes great responsibility, and Greinke must be able to perform in the clutch.
As for fellow starting pitcher Shaun Marcum (who the Brewers also landed this offseason via trade), “I think it motivated everybody that much more to get to spring training and just let that fire out to get ready for when the season starts; and once we do that, I think things will take care of themselves.”
Positive feedback from newly acquired players is everything the Brewers could have hoped for heading into their 2011 season; a season in which unfamiliar names will be filling the most important shoes while maintaining some of the most reputable names in the business.
For Greinke, 2011 will become a statement year for not only himself, but for the Milwaukee Brewers.
Maybe we should put the NL Cy Young award debate to rest—for now. But make no mistake: Greinke will be in the discussion throughout the entirety of the season.
Let’s see if he can take the Brewers to the promised land.
Arnett, who had a horrendous start to his 2010 campaign in the Arizona League, looks to become one of Milwaukee‘s premier starting pitchers in the near future.
But the question is, will it happen?
While the Milwaukee Brewers are gearing up for what hopefully becomes a successful regular-season run, Arnett finds himself on Milwaukee’s spring training roster for the time being.
Standing at a Randy Johnson-like 6’5″, 230 pounds, Arnett is certainly a physical specimen worthy of a call-up for the Brewers in the near future. If things go as planned, Arnett could potentially be apart of a revamped Milwaukee rotation starting as early as next season.
At Indiana—where he absolutely dominated in college ball—Arnett was a co-Pitcher of the Year and a First Team All-Big Ten selection in just his junior year for the Hoosiers while accumulating 109 strikeouts, a 12-2 record and a 2.50 ERA.
But that’s not where his résumé ends, as Arnett boasts a 91-96 MPH fastball with notable breaking pitches and an above-average slider.
How can Arnett’s talents help a Brewers ball club looking to break through to a World Series this season? The question may actually be how he can’t help this Milwaukee squad.
Although the Brewers went out this offseason and added former AL Cy Young winner Zack Greinke, along with Shaun Marcum and reliever Takashi Saito, it would be to Arnett’s benefit to learn under Greinke and other starters.
You can’t put a price on experience, and though the Brewers would probably like Arnett to continue his progression in the minor leagues, there truly is nothing compared to the major-league experience
Should newly named manager Ron Roenicke become impressed with what Arnett has to offer, expect him to be called up somewhere in the middle to late part of the regular season as the Brewers attempt to make their World Series run.
An important role in the starting rotation this season may not be imminent, but a position in Milwaukee’s bullpen will more than likely happen this season.
Ron Roenicke’s crew managed to put away the Kansas City Royals yesterday in a 7-5 victory that included a Carlos Gonzales two-run homerun in a four-run second inning for Milwaukee, all while improving the Brewers’ spring training record to 10-6 overall.
Another headline acquisition to Milwaukee’s offseason, Takashi Saito allowed two runs in just one inning of work.
With so much ahead of this young ballclub, will a successful spring training translate into success in the regular season?
The latter portion of the Brewers’ 2010 season brought with it more than enough reasons to be concerned about baseball in Milwaukee.
A disappointing season from their two most essential assets, both Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder certainly aren’t pleased with their production just a season ago.
Pitching? Let’s just say things didn’t quite go as planned.
Nevertheless, with as much setback as the 2010 season generated, there is a proverbial light at the end of the tunnel for Milwaukee. And with notable offseason acquisitions in Zack Grieke, Shaun Marcum and newly named manager Ron Roenicke have bestowed a much more positive feel on baseball in Milwaukee.
Next up? Hopefully a trip to the World Series.
Here are 10 questions that must be answered before the end of the regular season.
How will Zack Greinke’s injury affect Milwaukee’s production on the mound?
According to credible sources across the nation, the Brewers’ most notable offseason acquisition Zack Grienke reportedly fractured his rib this offseason while playing a pick-up basketball game. Word around the league suggests that Grienke should be out for at least the first week of the regular season, meaning he would miss his highly-anticipated opening-day debut for the Brewers against the Cincinnati Reds.
Though this probably won’t affect Milwaukee’s chance of reaching the postseason, the stress level in Milwaukee is currently at an all-time high.
Losing a talent like Grienke for any duration of time could prove detrimental to Milwaukee’s playoff hopes; but manager Ron Roenicke is confident in Grienke’s abilities over a six-month regular-season.
Brewer fans will be disappointed to know they will be forced to wait a few more days until their famed offseason addition can effectively take the mound at Miller Park; however the feeling is that the Brewers will be poised for a playoff run come September.
Is Casey McGehee truly the future for the Brewers at second base?
Last season, the Brewers’ breakout third baseman recorded a team-high 104 RBI, along with 23 home runs and a .285 batting average to boot.
Obviously the talent is there for McGehee, and it would certainly be in Milwaukee’s best interest to continue showing McGehee a significant amount of playing time this season. But the question remains: is he truly the future for the Brewers at third base?
For the time being, the answer is a resounding “yes”. And with newly named managed Ron Roenicke already impressed with what McGehee has to offer, there is certainly more than enough reason to believe Casey has third base bottled up for year to come based on both offensive and defensive production.
Nevertheless, there is always pressure on players to perform, and it’s not out of the question to believe that someone like Mat Gamel could replace McGehee at third base if his offensive execution turns for the worse.
By the end of this season, we should have a clear prospectus on what is to come for the Brewers at third base.
Will an assortment of new coaching make difference on the field?
After just two seasons of pure disappointment and underachieving, Brewers general manager Doug Melvin took the initiative to relieve former manager Ken Macha of his coaching duties, setting up a major hiring in the offseason that eventually led to Ron Roenicke.
Roenicke, who was an assistant bench coach with the Angels for a number of seasons, has vowed to instill a more aggressive, yet simple game plan to a Milwaukee ballclub looking to make a deep postseason run the seasons to come.
With the plethora of young talent that Milwaukee currently attains, Roenicke’s experience and knowledge of the game should take the Brewers to the next level; however there will be much angst for Brewers fans across the nation as to how his presence will affect their production.
Along with Roenicke, the Brewers stepped up and signed a plethora of new coaches such as Jerry Kranitz (pitching coach), Jerry Narron (bench coach) and Garth Iorg (infield coach).
How will these new additions key in Milwaukee’s journey to the World Series? We’ll just have to wait and find out.
Just how reliable is John Axford?
When Trevor Hoffman successfully recorded his 600th career save last season, the mutual feeling in Milwaukee was that Hoffman was not likely to return this season — and that surmise was correct.
Hoffman provided the entire Milwakee bullpen with invaluable experience and opportunities to learn from example, and will prove helpful in the Brewers’ postseason run in 2011. However for Hoffman’s replacement, John Axford, now is the time to show what he can really do when given an opportunity to succeed in a full-time closing role.
Last season, Axford recorded 24 saves and posted an impressive 2.48 ERA, along with 76 strikeouts in just 58.0 innings of work.
In 2011, we’ll find out if Axford truly is the answer for Ron Roenicke’s crew late in must-win ballgames.
Will Mat Gamel finally receive his 15 minutes of fame?
Just one example of Milwaukee’s array of young talent over the past few years, Mat Gamel looks to finally secure a starting position on Ron Roenicke’s roster in 2011.
But the question is, where will he play?
Gamel has been naturally bred to play at third base his entire life, but with Casey McGehee already filling the day-to-day lineup spot, it will be extremely hard for Gamel to get his chances this season.
The only way Gamel can show Roenicke he is worth putting on the field consistently will be to perform at optimum level, and unfortunately for Gamel, that isn’t likely to happen.
In Milwaukee’s late-season run back in 2009, Gamel contributed to many of the Brewers’ wins, officially putting him on the map of many fans across the country as a potential breakout star in the years to come. However; last season wasn’t what Gamel had hoped for — furnishing just 15 total at-bats for Milwaukee.
If a starting job is in store for Gamel in the near future, he’ll have to impress Milwaukee’s surplus of new coaching.
Can Prince Fielder recover from a disappointing 2010 campaign?
The icon of Milwaukee baseball over the past few seasons, Prince Fielder holds true to his powerful reputation as one of the National League’s most dominating forces in the batter’s box. But a 2010 season in which he recorded just 86 RBI has significantly lowered his notoriety around the major leagues.
Just three years removed from what can only be described as the most awe-inspiring seasons in Milwaukee’s baseball history (50 HR, 119 RBI, .288 BA), Fielder obviously maintains all the talent the Brewers could possibly want in a first-baseman.
If history holds true, Fielder should be in for a monster 2011 season of epic proportions, hopefully in time for a Brewers’ World Series run for the ages.
But what could determine it all will be how much production the Brewers receive out of whoever is to hit behind Fielder in the batting lineup. If Casey McGehee can also maintain his numbers from a season ago, Fielder will be able to produce to what he is capable of.
Will Chris Narveson effectively roundout the starting rotation?
The acquisition of Zack Grienke and Shaun Marcum to a depleated Brewers starting rotation will work wonders for Milwakee’s playoff chances, and many of Milwaukee’s tossers will benefit from their presence, as well.
Insert Chris Narveson.
Narveson, who filled the void of a weak Brewers staff towards the late stages of the 2010 season, has had noticeable troubles in the first innings of games in which he starts. However; after that, the possibilities are endless for Milwaukee’s up-and-coming southpaw.
Even at 20 years of ago, Narveson has accumulated numbers that are fairly unimpressive to say the least.
A 2010 season in which he posted a 4.99 ERA with just 137 strikeouts in 167.2 innings of work is enough to place him at the bottom of Milwaukee’s starting rotation heading into 2011.
With a seasoned starting rotation in front of him, can Narveson successfully complete a Brewers rotation on the rise in 2011?
Does Rickie Weeks have another magical season up his sleeve?
We always knew the talent was there; it was just a question of whether or not he could sustain himself for a complete 162-game season.
I am of course talking about Milwaukee’s new elite second baseman Rickie Weeks, who managed one of the most impressive 2010 seasons of any second baseman in the National League last season. And just 83 RBI, 29 HR and 11 stolen bases later, he has vaulted himself into national prominence in just a season’s worth of work.
Should Weeks duplicate his top-notch numbers from a season ago, the Brewers will have all but a complete lineup heading into the postseason.
What is Ryan Braun’s status compared to his fellow MVP competitors?
Ryan Braun is without question one of the most complete outfielders in the major leagues. Power hitting complemented by growing defensive abilities make for a perennial All-Star the National League, and Braun is no stranger to that fact.
But a lowly 2010 season (to his standards, at least) in which he registered just 103 RBI and 25 home runs makes for a highly-anticipated commencement of the 2011 season.
If Braun can duplicate a season like that of his 2009 season, he’ll be in the running for the NL MVP with the likes of Joey Votto, Albert Pujols, Carlos Gonzales and teammate Prince Fielder.
Nevertheless, success doesn’t come easy, and Braun’s hard work in the offseason will pay off over the course of the regular season.
Are the Brewers serious World Series contenders?
Just two seasons ago, Milwaukee received it’s first taste of postseason baseball since 1982, and let’s just say Brewers fans aren’t quite yet satisfied.
Yes, succeeding to accomplish their first postseason victory in over two decades was as satisfying as could be, but with key offseason acquisitions in Zack Grienke and Shaun Marcum have the Brewers projected to win the NL Central, and much more.
So, naturally, the anxiety in Milwaukee is more than likely at an all-time high heading into the season.
Should the Brewers perform up to their capabilities, there is no doubt that a World Series appearance is in store. If they continue to underachieve, things could get ugly real fast.
Either way, the overwhelming consensus around the league is that the Brewers are indeed a force to be reckoned with in the National League.
Let’s see if they’ll do it.
Now, I’ve never considered myself a pessimist by any means. However, the Milwaukee Brewers put forth a dismal effort last season.
The 2010 season, let it be known, yielded as many question marks about the future of the franchise as positive associations. Yes, it was that kind of a year for the Brewers.
Embarrassing pitching, disappointing offensive production and questionable coaching gave way to repetitive criticism on a day-to-day basis throughout the early stages of Milwaukee’s offseason.
However, things have taken a turn for the better, as I’m sure you’re aware of.
One of the most notable offseason transactions involved former AL Cy Young award winner Zack Greinke, and it has put the Brew Crew atop a majority of preseason rankings—and deservedly so.
So as spring training draws nearer by the hour, let’s take a look at 10 reasons why the Brewers could be looking down at the rest of the National League come November.
Pitching Is Now Complete
It’s clear that Milwaukee’s combined 4.58 team ERA last season has made Brewers fans rather apprehensive about their chances to contend in 2011, and rightfully so.
However, Doug Melvin and Milwaukee’s front office took charge this offseason in trading for two of the league’s most well-known pitchers in Zack Greinke and Shaun Marcum.
With two reliable starters already at work in Yovani Gallardo and Randy Wolf, Milwaukee’s starting rotation has received comparisons to some of the league’s most dominant pitching staffs.
Granted, the Brewers’ young up-and-coming talent was the main reason why Milwaukee was able to seal up the two. But Milwaukee’s vigorous offseason moves will pay off in what hopefully becomes a postseason run towards a World Series berth.
Milwaukee slugged its way to 182 home runs last season, good enough to be second-best in the National League in that department.
While Prince Fielder endured what essentially amounted to his worst season as a major league player, he still managed 32 blasts.
As for the rest of Milwaukee’s lineup?
Ryan Braun, Corey Hart, Casey McGehee and Rickie Weeks all yielded at least 23 home runs between them, officially making the Brew Crew the most diverse power-hitting lineup in the National League.
We’ve seen this lineup tear apart opposing pitching in the past, and we’re likely to see it again this season.
However, the key will be whether or not they can rake upthose numbers on a consistent basis.
The managerial style and approach former Brewers manager Ken Macha put forth was none too attractive in the eyes of Milwaukee’s faithful—especially with the Brewers’ struggles on the mound.
In response, Macha was let go only to bring in a much more confident and straightforward manager in Ron Roenicke and a slew of new positional coaches such as Jerry Narron (bench coach) and Rick Kranitz (pitching coach).
The coaching additions will bring a much more stable, unambiguous approach to a young ball club desperately in need of it.
After Trevor Hoffman finally secured his 600th career save to the enjoyment of Brewers fans, Milwaukee subsequently named its closer of the future.
His name? John Axford.
Last season alone, Axford led the Brewers with 24 saves and a 2.48 ERA as part of an inferior Milwaukee bullpen. This season, Axford hopes to do the same, except this time with a legitimate setup man in Takashi Saito.
Just how good is Axford? In 2010, his impressive 2.48 ERA ranked eighth-best amongst designated closers with 24 saves or more. If Saito and fellow reliever LaTroy Hawkins can give Axford a majority of capable closing situations, he could be another golden nugget for the Brewers on the mound.
Since their 2006 World Series championship, Albert Pujols and the St. Louis Cardinals have failed to live up to their potential (with the exception of their 2009 season). Although the same could be said for the Brewers, expectations are much more elevated for the Cardinals.
As for the rest of the division?
Pittsburgh remains in rebuild mode, still struggling to find its identity. Houston lacks the talent and aggressiveness to make serious personnel moves, and Chicago is just plain Chicago.
With all due respect towards the Cardinals, the premier NL Central powerhouses now lie in two of the most unexpected cities in the division: Milwaukee and Cincinnati.
A changing of the guard seems imminent, and we should all be in for a real treat when the Brewers and Reds duke it out for the right to play in the postseason.
Prince Fielder-Ryan Braun combo
Undoubtedly one of the league’s most powerful one-two punches, both Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder look to recover from what was a disappointing 2010 season just a year ago.
Since Braun entered the league in May of 2007, the two have combined for 320 HR, 885 RBI, 1366 H and have a total OPS of .919—dominating enough to be at or near the top of all one-two combinations in the entire major leagues.
But with Fielder’s current contract due to expire at the end of this season, questions pertaining to his loyalty to the Brewers have since spurred dramatically.
Nevertheless, at the rate the two are performing on a year-to-year basis, comparisons will only begin to arise about the two’s place amongst the greatest offensive duos in baseball history.
This season, the two look to propel Milwaukee back to the playoffs. I’d say their chances are pretty good.
Role players galore
If Corey Hart’s role within Milwaukee’s offense wasn’t evident before last season, it certainly is now.
The Brewers outfielder started for the National League in right field in the All-Star Game last season amid a personal-best season in which he batted .283 and managed 31 HR and 102 HR.
If not for nagging injuries, Hart’s 2010 season could have potentially become one we’ve not seen from a Brewers outfielder in quite some time.
Nevertheless, with talented, consistent contributions from a plethora of role players both offensively and defensively (i.e. Craig Counsell, Carlos Gomez, Casey McGehee, Rickie Weeks, Mat Gamel), the Brewers have one of the most well-rounded ball clubs in the majors.
With their current superstar additions, running the table into the playoffs suddenly becomes a realistic notion.
As the winner of the 2009 AL Cy Young Award, Zack Greinke is entitled to a certain amount of prestige—especially coming into a brand-new city and atmospheresuch as that of Milwaukee.
Let it be known that in his historic ’09 season, Greinke posted a 2.16 ERA with 242 strikeouts and a 16-8 record on one of the most abysmal franchises known to mankind. In fact, the Royals scored just 686 runs—disastrous enough to be 23rd-worst in the entire league.
On the other side of things, the Brewers scored 785 runs with over 2,340 total bases in 2010 (both of which are top 10 material in the majors).
With run support comes victories—and the Brewers have just that.
So when Greinke takes the mound Opening Day against the Cincinnati Reds, expect him to put Milwaukee in fantastic position to start the season off right.
After Milwaukee’s 2008 magical regular season in which 90 victories was made possible, the Brewers faithful showed their colors on a consistent basis.
With colossal offseason additions to a lacking starting rotation, the Brew Crew will have a fanbase behind them all season long.
The Brewers failed to fill seats in the late stages of their abysmal 2010 season. However, come playoff time, that won’t be the case.
It’s all coming together…
If there’s ever been a more perfect time for the Brewers to make a World Series appearance than this season, I’d love to hear about it.
Doug Melvin and Milwaukee’s front office have put forth a concerted effort towards making that ever elusive postseason run, and this year could (and will) be the most sensible time to accomplish that.
Now, we’ve seen this before. In fact, we saw this just two seasons ago, when Milwaukee made the impossible possible by acquiring CC Sabathia as a rental player towards the end of the 2008 regular season.
Though the acquisition did in fact play a major role in Milwaukee’s postseason resurgence, Brewers fans saw an unfortunate following season under the direction of Ken Macha.
Still, securing a former Cy Young Award winner never hurt anybody.
A season full of redemption, the Brewers will be putting the pedal to the metal in 2011—hopefully for a chance to prove to the league why they are a legitimate force to be reckoned with in seasons to come.
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