Milwaukee Brewers Season Preview: Too Much Turnover to Reach October

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Editor's note: Welcome to SI's MLB preview. Click here to view every team's outlook in 2020, including predictions, projections and, yes, a preview of the 2030 preview. Click here to read the Brewers fantasy preview.

The Brewers have been one of the game’s feel-good stories over the past two seasons, a small-market team whose owner, Mark Attanasio, bucked the tanking trend and invested to win now. In doing so he added an MVP in rightfielder Christian Yelich, a defensive anchor in centerfielder Lorenzo Cain and two playoff trips, coming within one win of advancing to the 2018 World Series.

General manager David Stearns is dancing fast to extend that streak. Since Milwaukee’s season ended with a wild-card loss last October, he has turned over nearly half the roster without making any large expenditures or major trades. The key additions are outfielder Avisaíl García, catcher Omar Narváez and former Dodgers righthander Josh Lindblom, 32, signed after two strong years in the Korean Baseball Organization (2.85 ERA).

Stearns is trusting that the core of Yelich, Cain, sophomore second baseman Keston Hiura and strikeout machine Josh Hader has another run in it. He’s also hoping that three of his young arms will be much more reliable than they were a year ago—which is a pretty good bet. Righthander Brandon Woodruff had a 3.62 ERA in 22 starts wrapped around an oblique injury. Reliever Corbin Burnes suffered a bizarre year on contact in which batters hit .414 off him on balls in play, including a massive jump from 0.9 HR/9 to 3.1. Freddy Peralta, another righthander out of the pen, had similar bad luck on contact, even as he improved his walk rate and upped his average fastball from 91.4 to 94.1 mph.

There’s no clear favorite in the NL Central among the Cubs, Cardinals, Brewers and even the Reds. With a strong nucleus and an excellent manager in Craig Counsell, Milwaukee definitely has a chance to get back to October for the third year in a row. — Joe Sheehan

Projected Record: 83-79, 4th in NL Central

With no dominant team in the NL Central and Christian Yelich returning, the Brewers should have a winning season, although another high-80s win total may be a stretch.

Key Question: Will Lorenzo Cain Bounce Back?

Last year was the first season since 2012 that Cain had less than 3.0 WAR. He was hurt on and off throughout the season and never found an offensive rhythm. Now, after losing Yasmani Grandal and Mike Moustakas, the Brewers are going to need a strong season from Cain if they are going to make the playoffs for the third consecutive year. — Matt Martell

Player Spotlight

Moving Up: Luis Urías, SS/2B

The former star Padres prospect will have a chance to establish himself in the Brewers’ infield after recovering from left hand surgery.

Moving Down: Lorenzo Cain, OF

Nearing 34 and coming off his worst full offensive season, Cain no longer has the pop or the speed to be an offensive catalyst.

Watchability Ranking: A Better Game Is on–Probably

There’s plenty that’s fun here (Christian Yelich, Keston Hiura, Lorenzo Cain). There’s also the rotation. These are two very distinct categories with no overlap. — Emma Baccellieri 

Preview of the 2030 Preview

Keston Hiura, 2B: The Brewers’ early-decade run of success was a remarkable achievement for such a small market, but it came at the expense of their farm. After producing Hiura in 2019, the Milwaukee system entered a fallow period that hampered the major league team in the second half of the ’20s. At 33, Hiura has led the NL in on-base percentage six times, and he’s now set to pass the torch to the high-end prospects who have come up through the organization in recent seasons. — Craig Goldstein