2019 Fantasy Baseball: Milwaukee Brewers Team Outlook
Milwaukee rode the rise of Josh Hader’s left arm to the NL Central title in 2018. The strength of the bullpen a was component of their success. The Brewers have improved in the wins column three years straight. They’ve made the playoffs only five times in the team’s 50-year history.
Last year the Brewers moved to 5th in the NL in ERA (3.73) with 49 saves and 14 shutouts. Their offense improved in each of the last five seasons. Milwaukee finished 12th in runs (754), 4th in HRs (218), and 12th in batting average (.252 BAA).
In the offseason, the Brewers signed C Yasmani Grandal and IF Cory Spangenberg to their offense. They lost 2B Jonathan Schoop, 3B Mike Moustakas, and OF Curtis Granderson to free agency. The only other player was OF Ben Gamel who came in a deal from Seattle for OF Domingo Santana.
Milwaukee will enter 2019 with the same pitching staff as last year with only RP Alex Claudio added to the roster. Their starting rotation is loaded with question marks while owning two elite arms in the 8th and 9th innings.
Last year Christian Yelich turned in a special season. The Brewers have talent behind him in the starting lineup with enough power to be a top offensive team this year. Milwaukee may still resign 3B Mike Moustakas who doesn’t have a job as we enter the middle of February.
I don’t see enough in the starting rotation to win another division title in 2019.
Cain played well last year, but he did have regression in his swing path. His HR/FB rate (9.7) has been in a tight range over the last three seasons, but he had a career-high ground ball rate (54.6) and a career-low fly ball rate (23.0). Lorenzo had a career-high walk rate (11.5) with a low K rate (15.2), but he didn’t have a plus run rate (38) with fade in his average hit rate (1.355). Over the last five seasons, Cain has a tight range in his CTBA (.373) giving him a high floor in batting average. Lorenzo hit .325 over his last 274 at-bats, but he only two HRs with 12 RBI and 14 SBs. His best value came against lefties (.373 with four HRs and ten RBI over 142 at-bats). Getting older while missing time in late June groin injury plus a battle with a rib issue in September. A possible slight bump in power with value in batting average, runs, and steals. Cain is only a steady piece to the puzzle.
Yelich drew interested from Fantasy owners in 2018 after escaping Miami. His bat always had upside in batting average with underlying speed, but his ground ball swing limited his upside in home runs. In 2016, Christian flashed a high HR/FB rate (23.6), but he hit 56.5 percent ground balls with a low fly ball rate (20). Last year his swing path improved slightly (GB rate – 51.8 and FB rate – 23.3). His rise in power came for an insane HR/FB rate (35). Yelich finished with an elite CTBA (.426) plus a huge step forward in his average hit rate (1.834) and RBI rate (20). He set career highs in runs (118), hits (187), HRs (36), RBI (110), and SBs (2). His K rate (20.7) is league average with strength in his walk rate (10.5). His bat had great success vs. RH (.321 with 26 HRs and 77 RBI over 402 at-bats) and LH (.337 with ten HRs and 33 RBI over 172 at-bats) pitching. Other than runs (52), Christian wasn’t a different maker over the first three months of the season (.289 with 11 HRs, 34 RBI, and ten SBs). His swing started to come around in July (.400 over four HRs and 23 RBI over 84 at-bats) before taking off over the last two months of the year (.335 with 46 runs, 21 HRs, 53 RBI, and nine SBs over 206 at-bats). This season he’ll be drafted as top ten selection in most Fantasy drafts. I expect a pullback in power while adding an edge in batting average and runs. Draft him with the idea of a .300+ BA with 100+ runs, 20+ HRs, 85+ RBI, and 20+ SBs.
Before 2017, Aguilar struggled to make an impact in the Indians’ system leading three stalled years at AAA. His quest to the majors led to him trading batting average (.304) in 2014 at AAA for home runs in 2016 (30). Overall, Jesus hit .271 over 1,452 at-bats at AAA with 68 HRs and 262 RBI. The Brewers used him off the bench in 2017, which led to a nice season (16 HRs and 52 RBI) for his short at-bats. Last year an early-season injury to Marcus Thames led to a starting opportunity with the Brewers. Aquilar repeated his high average hit rate (1.963) with strength in his CTBA (.387). Jesus did have a high K rate (25.3) while doing a nice job taking walks (10.3 percent). His bat played well against both righties (.271 with 26 HRs and 87 RBI over 361 at-bats) and lefties (.282 with nine HRs and 21 RBI over 131 at-bats). Jesus was an impact player in May and June (.291 with 33 runs, 18 HRs, and 46 RBI over 175 at-bats) before fading after the All-Star break (.246 with 11 HRs and 38 RBI over 220 at-bats). His HR/FB rate (23.8) has been in a 30+ HR producing area in back-to-back seasons. Improving player who is expected to bat in a favorable part of the batting with depth in from of him and behind him in the starting lineup. Aguilar is .270 hitter with an 80/30/90 skill set with 500+ at-bats.
Probably the best part of Shaw’s game in 2019 is that he’ll start the year with a second base qualification. Last season he failed up to match his success in 2017 (.273 with 84 runs, 31 HRs, 108 RBI, and ten SBs over 538 at-bats), but he continues to have growth in his average hit rate (1.992 – career high) while having the best approach of his career (K rate – 18.4 and walk rate – 13.3). His fade in batting average (.241) came from a sharp decline in his CTBA (.308). Travis failed vs. lefties (.209 with two HRs and 12 RBI over 115 at-bats) while only being slightly better in 2017 (.235 with four HRs and 17 RBI over 132 at-bats). His season started with 33 runs, 13 HRs, and 36 RBI over 199 at-bats, but Shaw did fade in batting average (.234) over the last four months of the season. He regained some of his lost loft (44.5 percent fly ball rate) with regression in his HR/FB rate (18.3). Some signs of a platoon role, but his game does project a neutral batting average with 30+ HRs and value in runs and RBI with 500+ at-bats. Possible top five 2B option if he adds in a few steals while maintaining a full-time job.
Braun landed on the DL last year twice with backs issues. He also missed time in June with a right thumb injury. Ryan continues to have a high average hit rate (1.845) while regaining some value in his RBI rate (16). Braun had over 80 at-bats in only one month (April – .258 with five HRs and 15 RBI over 93 at-bats). In May, June, and July, he hit only .224 with five HRs and 23 RBI over 192 at-bats. His K rate (19.0) and walk rate (7.6) were both below his career averages (18.4 and 8.2). Ryan had his best success in power against LH pitching (.246 with nine HRs and 24 RBI over 130 at-bats). His HR/FB rate (22.0) remains strong, but Braun still hits too many ground balls (48.4 percent). Veteran bat coming off two injury seasons while owing a sliding CTBA (.322). Enough game to be an 80/25/80 player with a rebound in batting average while chipping in some steals. Ryan has a much lower ADP (215) in 2019 making him more attractive.
Grandal should get his best opportunity in at-bats in 2019 while getting a nice upgrade in ballpark. His average hit rate (1.934) points to 30+ HRs if given a bump in playing time. Yasmani posted a K rate (23.9) almost matched his career average (23.8) while owning a huge walk rate (13.9). He struggled against LH pitching (.206 with four HRs and17 RBI over 107 at-bats. Grandal did most his damage over the first four months of the season (.258 with 45 runs, 17 HRs, and 53 RBI over 295 at-bats). He struggled over his last 50 games (.207 with seven HRs and 15 RBI over 145 at-bats). Yasmani has a balanced swing path with strength in his HR/FB rate (18.0). His ability to take walks does restrict some of his upside in at-bats even with bump in games played. Even with batting average risk in his career, Grandal has a chance to set a career high in this area in 2019 with an uptick in runs, HRs, and RBI.
After playing well in 2017 (.277 with 15 HRs, 53 RBI, and 14 SBs over 506 at-bats), Arcia quickly hit his way out of the starting lineup in April (.190 with six runs, two HRs and eight RBI over 84 at-bats). Over the next three months, Orlando only hit .199 with no HRs and nine RBI over 141 at-bats. He did hit .309 over his last 123 at-bats, but Arcia only had one HR with 13 RBI. His approach regressed (K rate – 23.8 and walk rate – 4.1). Orlando has a sliding average hit rate (1.305), and his CTBA (.314) failed to match 2017 (.345). Over six seasons in the minors, he hit .284 with 32 HRs, 255 RBI, and 106 SBs over 2,159 at-bats. Arcia had a much better approach in the minors (K rate – 12.1 and walk rate – 7.4). There’s more to this bat, but Arcia has a lot to prove in 2019. His resume shows more speed with a chance at mid-teen power if he can reclaim a full time starting job. Right kind of bet with a favorable price point (ADP – 390).
Over the last two seasons, Moustakas started to blossom as a power hitter. His average hit rate (1.826) now sits in an area where Fantasy owners should expect 30+ HRs annually. Mike continues to have a low CTBA (.306) with a favorable approach (K rate – 16.2 and walk rate – 7.7). His best play came in April (.302 with eight HRs and 19 RBI over 116 at-bats). After the All-Star break, he lost his power strokes (.256 with nine HRs and 37 RBI over 219 at-bats). Moustakas had a decline in his K rate (12.8) after showing growth in 2017 (17.8). His swing path does deliver plenty of fly balls (46.3 percent), which may be the reason for his less than attractive CTBA (too easy outs landing in outfielder’s gloves). As of early February, Mike is unsigned, but he does make a good fit for the Brewers if they are willing to slide Travis Shaw to second base. Where Moustakas hits in the batting order is key to his value in runs. He has enough talent to be a neutral hitter with 30+ HRs and 90+ RBI.
Spangenberg continues to lose too many battles in strikeouts (K rate – 32.8), which makes him a role player until he corrects his swing and miss flaw at the plate. Over the last two seasons with the Padres, Cory hit .252 with 20 HRs, 71 RBI, and 17 SBs over 742 at-bats. His CTBA (.368) gives him a chance to rebound in batting average if he makes better contact. Spangenberg doesn’t have a strong enough average hit rate (1.543) to produce impact power. He struggled against lefties (.167 with one HR and four RBI over 64 at-bats). Over seven seasons in the minors, Cory hit .299 with 18 HRs, 188 RBI, and 114 SBs over 1,676 at-bats. Only a short-term option if he’s playing well.
As a fill-in player for the Brewers over the last three seasons, Perez hit .262 with 36 HRs, 136 RBI, and 58 SBs over 1,152 at-bats. His stats broken down to 550 at-bats would come to about 70 runs, 18 HRs, 70 RBI, and 29 SBs. Hernan has a weak walk rate (5.1) with a league average K rate (21.3). His CTBA (.327) tends to be short with only mid-level value in his average hit rate (1.525). Milwaukee has more overall talent on the roster in 2019 giving Perez a smaller opportunity for playing time without an injury. If they don’t end up adding Mike Moustakas, Hernan may get better than expected at-bats at second base. Interesting options if he lands a starting job at some point in the year.
Over the first 24 games in 2018, Thames hit .250 with seven HRs, 13 RBI, and two SBs over 64 at-bats. A torn ligament in his left thumb led to seven weeks on the DL. When he returned to the Brewers, Jesus Aguilar had inserted himself as the top option at 1B. Over the last three and half months of the season, Eric hit .208 with nine HRs, 24 RBI, and five SBs over 183 at-bats. He continued to take walks (10.4 percent), but his K rate (34.9) fell into a job loss area. Thames had a tough time vs. LH pitching (.185 with one HR and three RBI over 27 at-bats). He has a high HR/FB rate (22.9) with a fly ball swing path (46.7 percent). Only a platoon option with the ability to run hot for a couple of months. His 2018 stats projected over 500 at-bats would deliver 80+ runs, 30+ HRs, 75+ RBI, and 15+ SBs. A nice bench player in deep leagues.
Despite hitting .307 in 1,126 at-bats at AAA with 18 HRs, 139 RBI, and 37 SBs, Gamel never had a real shot at the majors until 2017. His lack of a power/steal combo (28/100 over 2,777 at-bats in the minors) suggested that Ben was only a fourth outfielder in the majors. After hitting .300 over his first 60 at-bats at AAA in 2017 with one HR, eight RBI, and one SB, Gamel was called up to the majors. His bat played well with Seattle over his first 57 games (.348 with 41 runs, four HRs, 27 RBI, and two SBs). His swing was much weaker over the second half of the year (.219 with 27 runs, seven HRs, 32 RBI, and two SBs in 288 at-bats). Last season Ben struggled to find his power stroke with the Mariners (.272 with one HR, 19 RBI, and seven SBs over 257 at-bats). Gamel has a nice walk rate (10.6) with an improving K rate (20.8). Decent player off the bench for the Brewers, but he has a minimal opportunity without an injury.
Manny Pina (C) – Pina will be downgraded to back up catcher for the Brewers in 2019. Over the last two seasons in a split role for Milwaukee, Manny hit .266 with 18 HRs and 71 RBI over 636 at-bats. His K rate (20.3) looks to be about league average with a short walk rate (5.9). He didn’t play well enough against lefties (.217 with one HR and five RBI over 69 at-bats).
Nelson missed all of last season with a slow recovery from his right shoulder injury. Here’s a look at his 2018 profile:
Nelson is a perfect example of what can happen if a pitcher with poor command starts to make a step forward in his walk rate. In 2016, Jimmy led the NL in walks (86) and hit too many batters (17) leading to a career-high walk rate (4.3) and a fading K rate (7.0). In 2017, he pitched ahead in the count creating a sharp improvement in his walk rate (2.5). The bonus to this growth was the best K rate (10.2) of his career at any season in the pros. Surprisingly, Nelson didn't make a huge step forward in his batting average against (.257 - .246 in 2015). His year started with two strong outings (two runs over 13 innings with 13 Ks). Three bad starts later (8.62 ERA and .373 BAA), Fantasy owners began launching him back into the free agent pool. Over his last 24 starts of the season, Jimmy only allowed over four runs in one game (August 11th - nine runs and 14 baserunners over 3.2 innings). He went 11-4 over this span with 176 Ks over 146.2 innings, which included 12 shutout innings with 18 Ks to close out the year. Unfortunately, Nelson saw his season end in mid-September with a right shoulder strain that required surgery. His AFB (94.6) was a career high by a minimal margin (94.5 in 2014). His best success came from his plus curveball (.190 BAA) and show-me changeup (.188 BAA). Nelson had more value with his four-seam fastball (.247 BAA) than his sinker (.290 BAA). In 2016, he threw his slider (.137 BAA) as his best pitch.
In 2019, Jimmy will have a full 18 months to regain his health. His career ERA (4.12) in the majors suggest risk, but Nelson flashed more upside in the minors (3.12 ERA). Player to watch this spring with a reasonable ADP (258) if his arm shows the same velocity in March. Possible 15+ wins with a sub 3.50 ERA and 200+ Ks if he repeats his 2017 command.
Chacin doesn’t have an ace look even after having his best season in the majors. He set career highs in wins (15) and Ks (156) while posting the lowest WHIP (1.163) in ten years in the majors. Jhoulys was tough to hit (.220 BAA). He dominated RH batters (.178 BAA) while showing risk vs. lefties (.261 with 11 HRs over 349 at-bats). His walk rate (3.3) is way too high for his soft-tossing K rate (7.3). In his 15 wins, Chacin has a 2.08 ERA and 82 Ks over 90.8 innings. He struggled in April (4.54 ERA) due to poor command (17 walks over 33.2 innings). Over his next 28 starts, Jhoulys allowed three runs or fewer in 23 games. His AFB (90.1) is below par while featuring a plus slider (.148 BAA). He doesn’t have a third pitch of value while adding in multiple low-volume pitches (split-finger, changeup, and curveball). Tough to trust with regression expected. Only a 3.75 ERA with a chance at 150 Ks. I don’t expect wins to come as easy in 2019.
Over his first three seasons in the majors, Anderson had a 24-24 career record with a 4.26 ERA, 1.345 WHIP, and 336 Ks over 418.2 innings. His arm made a step forward in 2017 (2.74 ERA) thanks to a step up in his command (K rate – 8.5 and walk rate – 2.6). Chase pitched well in April (2.86 ERA and 23 Ks over 34.2 innings), but he struggled over his next eight starts (5.91 ERA, eight HRs, and 31 Ks over 42.2 innings) after a trip on the DL in May with a stomach issue. Over his last 16 starts, Anderson had a 3.35 ERA with 74 Ks over 80.2 innings, but he did allow 15 home runs. Both his K rate (7.3) and walk rate (3.2) regressed while allowing a league-high 30 HRs (1.7 per nine). Chase lost some velocity on his fastball (92.4) while offering a changeup (.201 BAA) and curveball (.184 BAA) of value. Batters also struggled to hit his four-seamer (.207 BAA). To rebound in 2019, Anderson needs to throw more strikes while avoiding the downside of his sinker (.343 BAA) and cutter (.298 BAA). Coin flip of his direction while playing for a team that will score runs. His ADP (395) is favorable if he regains his command and cleans up his struggles with home runs.
Davies did a nice job in 2016 and 2017 for the Brewers leading to a 28-16 record over 61 starts with a 3.93 ERA and 259 Ks over 354.2 innings. He showcased a low walk rate (2.4) with a lady-like K rate (6.6). Last year he struggled in two of his first three starts (6.75 ERA, .306 BAA, and four HRs over 16 innings). After a rebound in his next three games (2.00 ERA and seven Ks over 18. Innings), Zach missed most of the next four months with a right shoulder injury. When Davies returned in September, he had a 3.91 ERA and 18 Ks over 23 innings. His AFB (89.9) ranks poorly while doing a great job minimizing fly balls (30.2 percent in 2018 and 29.1 in his career). Zach only had one pitch of value last year (curveball – .220 BAA). Decent backend arm with minimal upside in Ks. I view him more as an inning eater than a trusted asset.
Over six seasons in the minors, Peralta went 19-26 with a 3.26 ERA and 516 Ks over 428.1 innings. His arm started to make a step forward in 2017 at AA (2.26 ERA over 63.2 innings with 91 Ks). After 13 nice starts at AAA (6-2 with a 3.14 ERA and 92 Ks over 63 innings), Freddy earned his first chance in the majors in 2018. With Milwaukee, he pitched well except three games (19 runs and 27 baserunners over 13.1 innings). Peralta allowed two runs or less in six of his 14 starts while delivering three electric starts (no runs over 19.2 innings with 30 Ks). His downside is tied to a high walk rate (4.6) in the majors and the minors (3.6 – 4.1 at AAA). He dominated righties (.111 BAA) with questions with his command and value against LH batters (.252 BAA and six HRs over 131 at-bats). With the Brewers, Peralta has a huge fly ball rate (52.0) while offering only a short fastball (90.8) that batters struggled to hit (four-seamer – .186 BAA). He has a plus curveball (.121 BAA) and a changeup (.250 BAA) that has underlying upside. Once he adds more bulk and strength, his fastball should become more dynamic. Upside flier with a favorable ADP (335). Wins may be an issue early in his career until he improves his command, which restricts his ability to pitch deep in games.
After a great season in 2016 (14-9 with 2.68 ERA and 173Ks over 158 innings) between High A and AA, Woodruff struggled over two seasons at AAA (9-7 with a 4.17 ERA and 138 Ks over 146.2 innings) due regression in his walk rate (3.5). Brandon offered no value in the majors in 2017 (4.81 ERA). He pitched much better with the Brewers last year (3.61 ERA and 47 Ks over 42.1 innings) while splitting time as a starter and reliever. He had growth in his walk rate (3.0) and K rate (10.0). His stuff played much better in relief (2.03 ERA and 34 Ks over 26.2 innings) than in the starting rotation (6.32 ERA). Woodruff pitched well against both righties (.232 BAA) and lefties (.221 BAA). His AFB (95.3) is an edge (.205 BAA) with a serviceable slider (.245 BAA). Possible option to start, but he looks to be a better option in relief until he improves his command.
Burnes pitched great well in 2017 (8-3 with a 1.67 ERA and 140 Ks over 145.2 innings), but he failed in 2018 at AAA (5.15 ERA and 81 Ks over 78.2 innings) due to regression in his command (3.5). The Brewers needed an arm in the bullpen last year, and Corbin was up to the task. Over 30 relief appearances with Milwaukee, Burnes won seven games with a 2.61 ERA and 35 Ks over 38 innings. His stuff played well against RH (.213 BAA) and LH (.170 BA) batters. Even with his success, Corbin did struggle in 40 percent of his appearances in August (4.70 ERA, seven walks, and 11 Ks over 15.1 innings). He has a plus fastball (95.3 – .176 BAA) and elite slider (.184 BAA). His next step is adding a third pitch of value to help a push to the starting rotation. Live arm with the command to make a push to the starting rotation if given an opportunity. Viable bench option who will be found well after the 20th round in the 15-team high stakes market.
After three appearances in 2018 (three runs and three baserunners over 2.1 innings with five Ks), Knebel landed on the DL for a month with a hamstring injury. Over his next 23 games, Corey posted a 2.53 ERA, 31 Ks, and ten saves over 21.1 innings. Knebel pitched his way out of the 9th inning over his next five weeks (7.80 ERA and .295 BAA), which led to a trip back to AAA to regain his confidence. Knebel didn’t allow a run over 16.1 innings in September with an impeccable ratio of walks (3) and Ks (33). His AFB (96.9) was a step down from 2017 (97.4) while offering a plus curveball (.108 BAA). Even with regression in his ERA (3.58) last year, Corey didn’t improve his command (3.6 walks per nine). Elite arm with electric upside in Ks. Value closing arm (ADP of 150), but Knebel won’t have the full closing role with Josh Hader stealing some of his saves. Sub 2.00 ERA and 100+ Ks with 30+ saves.
Hader proved to be an impact arm in 2018 even with minimal saves (12). He figures how to throw more strikes (3.3 walks per nine) while adding more upside to his K rate (15.8). Batters only hit .132 against him with LH batters (.090 BAA) having no chance on most days. Righties did take him deep eight times over 183 at-bats while recording a low batting average (.153 BAA). Josh did struggle over the last two months (4.55 ERA and 44 Ks over 27.2 innings) when he allowed five HRs. Hader has a plus fastball (94.5) with a high level of success (four-seam – .133 BAA). His slider (.141 BAA) is elite. Since arriving in the majors, Josh has a high fly ball rate (49.5). Tough to believe he’ll spend the most important part of his career in the bullpen. Possible switch to the starting rotation once he adds a third pitch of value. In 2017, Hader did use a changeup (.214 BAA) in relief with success. Must own if possible due to his impact value in ERA, WHIP, and Ks for a reliever.
Jeffress has been a much better pitcher for the Brewers (21-4 with a 2.17 and 246 Ks over 252.2 innings) than any other team in his career. Last year he had his best success (8-1 with a 1.29 ERA, 89 Ks, and 15 saves over 76.2 innings) in his nine years in the majors. His walk rate (3.2) still has risk while finding a higher level in his K rate (10.4). Jeremy held an edge over both RH (.182 BAA) and LH (.183 BAA) batters. His AFB (95.3) fell in line with his career average. Jeffress offers a plus curveball (.183 BAA) while developing a nice split-finger fastball (.209 BAA) over the last two seasons. He induces a high number of ground balls (56.4 percent – 58.1 in his career). Getting better with closing experience. His only black mark is his weak first-pitch strike rate (50). Possible in-season option for saves if the Brewers have an injury to Corey Knebel.
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