Milwaukee Brewers (2012 Finish: 83-79, .512, 3rd place)
Even without Prince Fielder hitting in the cleanup spot, the Milwaukee Brewers were led by Ryan Braun and Aramis Ramirezat the plate, with the team continuing to slug with the best of the business. Their 202 team home runs ranked fourth in baseball, and their collective slugging percentage of .437 was third-best.
Despite spending last winter defending his reputation instead of enjoying his 2011 NL MVP award, Ryan Braun came out of the gates on a mission, putting together another All-Star season (.319/.391/.595, 41 HR, 112 RBI), and the now newly-extended Carlos Gomez silently put together the best year of his young career, hitting 19 homers, stealing 37 bases, and compiling an on-base% of .305.
As they underperformed in the first half of 2012, the Brewers decided to trade away Zack Greinke to the Angels, but their season wasn’t over just yet. Milwaukee went on a tear in the second half, and had an outside chance of swiping one of the two NL Wild Card spots available. They inevitably fell short without much beyond Yovani Gallardo at the top of the rotation, ending the season in third place.
Rookie to watch: SP Wily Peralta
The Brewers’ rotation is unproven, but it has the potential to be great, as Wily Peralta is currently slated as third on the team’s depth chart for the Big League rotation. He gained some valuable experience last September in Milwaukee, and was able to end the season on a high note (2-1 record, 2.48 ERA, 1.21 WHIP in 29 IP) after having a tough season in Triple-A (7-11 record, 4.66 ERA, 1.58 WHIP in 146.2 IP). Mayo has ranked him as the organization’s top prospect, and feels he could establish himself as a solid number-three in Milwaukee’s rotation. His sinking fastball and downhill delivery creates a lot of ground balls, which should translate well in the hitter friendly confines of Miller Park.
I’m not expecting much from the Brewers, and actually expect them to regress from last year’s results. In all reality, they were a below .500 team that got hot at the right time of the year to end up looking like a winning team. Their offense looks a little thin outside of Braun and Ramirez, but I’m more concerned about their starting pitching. After Gallardo, the next four starters on Milwaukee’s depth chart (Marco Estrada, Wily Peralta, Michael Fiers, and Mark Rogers) have a combined 17 starts between them. That type of uncertainty, combined with strong hitting teams in the Reds and Cardinals and the hitter-friendly Miller Park, will not yield good results.
I anticipate the Brewers finishing with 75-80 wins and slipping a spot to fourth place in the division. Their offense will make them competitive at times, but there’s a good chance their pitching won’t be consistent.