9. Milwaukee Brewers (38–33, plus-17, LT: 9)
The Brewers have already been full of surprises on their way to an unlikely romp to the top of the NL Central standings.
Eric Thames has been the biggest surprise of all. After coming over from Korea on a dirt-cheap three-year deal, the man who looks more like a WWE superstar than a baseball player has hit a gigantic .265/.399/.607 while blasting an NL-high 20 home runs. That gaudy homer total included game-winners in back-to-back games, with both of those last-inning shots doinking off the top of the outfield wall, then bouncing over.
Jimmy Nelson’s starting to turn into the pitching version of Thames. Yes, he’s a former second-round pick, a drafted-and-developed Brewer once considered the team’s top pitching prospect, but the early returns on Nelson’s major league career were underwhelming, with a 4.62 ERA and even worse defense-independent numbers last year keeping expectations low for 2017. No longer. Nelson’s blossomed into a legitimate staff ace, punching out a batter an inning and lowering his ERA to a career-best 3.39 (with a 3.13 FIP fully supporting his stellar results). On Sunday, Nelson gave the Brewers’ busy bullpen a breather in dramatic style, twirling a complete game against the Padres, with 10 strikeouts and just one run allowed.
Here’s another reason Milwaukee’s success might actually be sustainable: More young talent keeps arriving, seemingly by the hour. The Crew just called up four top prospects in the span of a week, led by five-tool outfielder and potential future star Lewis Brinson. Even with Brinson off to a slow start, the added depth that he and Milwaukee’s passel of rookie pitchers provide could loom large. If the kids can give an already young and exciting Brewers team a lift, we could see a lot more celebrating this summer in Milwaukee.