Continuing the NL Central Preview series, I am taking a look at each of the NL Central clubs and looking at their additions and figuring out what I project they could do in 2014.
2013 Results: 74-88, 23 games back
Key Arrivals: SP Matt Garza, RP Will Smith, 2B Elian Herrera, 1B Mark Reynolds
Key Departures: RF Norichika Aoki, Mat Gamel
The Milwaukee Brewers are an interesting look for 2014. The 2013 Brewers weren’t really good at anything. They stacked up 19th in hitting and 16th in pitching. None of that really explains why I think the 2014 Brewers are going to be as good as I do.
For starters, let’s begin with the return of Ryan Braun. Hopefully all the steroid controversy is behind him and the team this season and he can stay clean the rest of his career. The upside for Milwaukee was the emergence of Khris Davis who took Braun’s spot in the lineup. Davis hit .279/.353/.596 with 11 HR and 27 RBI over the 56 games. The emergence of Davis also freed up the Brewers to deal Norichika Aoki to the Royals for some pitching help. The Brewers should have both Braun and Davis in the lineup this season and that should be a big addition to a lineup that has lacked punch alongside Ramirez.
The Brewers also had probably the deepest lineup in the NL Central next to the Cardinals. Five of their primary eight position players posted an above average OPS+. Ahead of Cincinnati’s three, Chicago’s four, but trailing Pittsburgh’s six and St. Louis’ seven. However, they didn’t have the black holes the other teams did. The lowest starting Brewers’ OPS+ was Rickie Weeks at 80 (compared to Pete Kozma’s 54 or Clint Barmes’ 56). When looking at the lineup, you can easily see where they’d be able to match St. Louis’ seven in 2014.
The pitching staff ended up in shambles as eleven different pitchers made five starts or more. Only Kyle Lohse, Wily Peralta, and Yovani Gallardo made more than 30 starts. No starting pitcher crossed the 200 inning threshold. To help that, the Brewers added Matt Garza. Garza may be an injury concern himself only making 18 starts in 2012 and then just 24 in 2013. He was experiencing his best season on the mound in Chicago before being dealt to the Rangers, going 6-1 with a 3.17 ERA.
In the bullpen the team has brought back Francisco Rodriguez to add to Jim Henderson and Brandon Kintzler. They also brought in Will Smith from Kansas City in the Aoki trade.
I don’t see a lot of depth for the Brewers, but if they can stay relatively healthy, they have the talent to make noise in the Central. It’s very easy for me see how the Brewers could put their pieces together in 2014. That’s why I’ve selected them to finish second in the NL Central in 2014 and be the closest competition to the Cardinals (Guess I just spilled the beans on my division champ).
2014 Verdict: I project them to be between 85-90 wins and contending for a Wild Card spot.