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Running down the rosters: Milwaukee Brewers

Feb 12, 2012, 7:00 PM EDT

rickie weeks ap AP

With Prince Fielder‘s departure assured, the last thing the 2011 NL Central champion Brewers needed was to lose Ryan Braun for a third of the season. It’s likely to happen, though, even if his appeal is still pending. The rotation should be strong enough to keep the Brewers in the race while Braun is out, but the offense seems certain to struggle in his absence.

Rotation
Yovani Gallardo – R
Zack Greinke – R
Shaun Marcum – R
Randy Wolf – L
Chris Narveson – L

Bullpen
John Axford – R
Francisco Rodriguez – R
Jose Veras – R
Kameron Loe – R
Manny Parra – L
Marco Estrada – R
Brandon Kintzler – R

SP next in line: Estrada, Wily Peralta (R), Amaury Rivas (R)
RP next in line: Mike McLendon (R), Frankie De La Cruz (R), Zach Braddock (L), Tim Dillard (R)

The Brewers’ got 155 starts from their top five last year, and they’ll probably need something similar to happen if they’re going to win 90 games again. The seven starts that didn’t go to those guys went to Estrada, who figures to reprise his swing role after a very surprising showing last season (88 strikeouts in 92 2/3 IP). The Brewers have little in the way of depth behind them, but Peralta might prove ready after going 11-7 with a 3.17 ERA in a 2011 season spend mostly in Double-A.

The bullpen wasn’t expected to include K-Rod again, but he accepted arbitration as a free agent, leaving the Brewers with an $8 million setup man. He and Axford should give the team an excellent one-two punch at the end of the games. The rest of the pen is pretty iffy, though I do like Kintzler. If the Brewers had their way, they would have spread K-Rod’s cash around to two or three veteran relievers.

Lineup A
2B Rickie Weeks -R
CF Nyjer Morgan – L
LF Ryan Braun – R
3B Aramis Ramirez – R
RF Corey Hart – R
1B Mat Gamel – L
C Jonathan Lucroy – R
SS Alex Gonzalez – R

Lineup B
RF Corey Hart – R
LF Nyjer Morgan – L
2B Rickie Weeks – R
3B Aramis Ramirez – R
1B Mat Gamel – L
C Jonathan LuCroy – R
CF Logan Schafer – L
SS Alex Gonzalez – R

Bench
C George Kottaras – L
INF Taylor Green – L
INF Cesar Izturis – S
OF Carlos Gomez – R
OF Norichika Aoki – L

Next in line: C Martin Maldonado (R), 1B Travis Ishikawa (L), INF Brooks Conrad (R), INF Eric Farris (R), INF Zelous Wheeler (R), OF Corey Patterson (L), OF Caleb Gindl (L), OF Brock Kjeldgaard (R)

So, there’s the Braun lineup and a Braun-free lineup. I’m basing the bench on the Braun-free lineup. If Braun is able to avoid his suspension, then Schafer figures to start off in Triple-A. Green would also be more likely to return to the minors if Braun can play. Otherwise, I think the Brewers will need his bat.

Schafer’s inclusion is a pure guess on my part. If Aoki impresses in spring training, then the Brewers figure to try him as a starter in Braun’s place. If not, then they’ll have to decide whether to think defense first with Gomez or try the rookie. Regardless, Gomez seems certain to play against lefties.

Gamel looks like the big key here. If he can provide a quality left-handed bat to slot behind Ramirez, it frees up manager Ron Roenicke to use Hart and Weeks at the top of the order. If Roenicke instead decides he needs a veteran presence behind Ramirez, then someone who doesn’t deserve to will hit high in the lineup. The Brewers are already treading dangerously up there, since it’s far from certain Morgan will be so good again.

  1. florida76 - Feb 12, 2012 at 7:15 PM

    Brewers look like a 90 win club, even when Braun returns, we have no idea how productive he’ll be. For a franchise which has never won a world title after all these decades(one of the longest droughts in North America history) , 2011 may have been their best shot for now. The winner of the NL Central may have 88-90 wins, St. Louis won’t be as good without Pujols and a rookie, inexperienced manager at the controls.

    • baseballisboring - Feb 13, 2012 at 1:37 AM

      Braun won’t be coming back from an injury though…just a suspension. I think if anything he’ll just be fresher for the end of the season, wouldn’t surprise me to see him come back and rake for 4 months. But the 50 games they have to play without him are really crucial…if Gamel can’t be average or above average at 1st the lineup looks a bat short. But the pitching is good, and even without Braun the lineup isn’t awful. It just makes the potential 50 game suspension suck even more for the Brewers, because Braun’s the guy the offense is built around and the Central is gonna be a tight race.

  2. stevesper88 - Feb 12, 2012 at 7:37 PM

    It looks like its gonna be a good battle for the ML central with the Brewers, Cards and Reds. I think a healthy Wainwright gives the Cards the advantage. The Reds will challenge them. Although the Brewers pitching staff is good, their offense has worsened drastically.

  3. stevesper88 - Feb 12, 2012 at 7:48 PM

    *NL Central!

  4. jason1214 - Feb 12, 2012 at 7:56 PM

    I think you are looking at an 84-85 win club at best boys and girls. Braun’s suspension will hurt. As I Cub fan I can tell you, you cannot lean on Aramis Ramirez to keep the offense afloat, that being said Hart, Weeks and hopefully Gamel will give the Brew Crew enough to survive w/o Braun. Bullpen should be very good, rotation is strong, but depth could be an issue. the NL Central is truly up for grabs sans Houston and probably Pittsburgh, but I expect Milwaukee, St Louis & Cincinnati to battle for the division.

  5. brewcrewfan54 - Feb 12, 2012 at 8:07 PM

    This loneup without Braun and Fielder is obviously weaker but I don’t think its as bad s the author anticipates. Bit thats really up to Weeks, Hart and Ramirez playing up to expectations which we all know is a crap shoot for anyone.

  6. brewcitybummer - Feb 12, 2012 at 8:21 PM

    Looking past 2012, the Brewers might be ok losing Greinke and Marcum if two of the three pitching prospects (Peralta, bradley, and Jungmann) pan out. Personally, I think the margin of error for soft tossers like Marcum is too small to invest in long term anyways. However, given the state of the farm system, the payroll already allocated over the next few years and the likely tarnish on the face of the franchise, this teams potential has a really low floor in 2013. As in first overall pick in the 2014 draft low. Hey! Silver lining.

    • brewcrewfan54 - Feb 12, 2012 at 9:32 PM

      What tarnish are you referring to? If you’re talking about Braun, his troubles hurt him more than the organization.

      • brewcitybummer - Feb 12, 2012 at 11:02 PM

        Hes a 20 mil a year player soon. Realistically the Brewers can afford one but not two players at that price tag. So unless they trade Braun they have no choice but to keep him as the face of the franchise. How does that not hurt the brand?

      • brewcrewfan54 - Feb 13, 2012 at 7:44 AM

        Who is he hurting the brand to, fans of other teams? Who cares about them. Since Antanassio bought the team the Brewers have been run as a first class organization willing to pay guys who are worth it as long as its feasible. Braun being suspended or not wont change that.

      • brewcitybummer - Feb 13, 2012 at 1:26 PM

        My concern would be the image of the brand among wealthy suburban families considering lowel level season ticket packages. We all know how good the Brewers attendence numbers have been over the past six years or so and we are all proud of that.

        However, 3 million in attendance is worth less in total revenue in Milwaukee than almost anywhere else. Even with the strong attendance numbers the club has reportedly been running annual deficits in the $3-5 million range. Now, some would say those losses are offset by appreciation in the value of the team and others call that bogus accounting. I can’t answer that.

        Nonetheless, the metro area has been in a recession for most of the last 48 years. There are fewer people here who are easily able to afford $10,000+ season ticket packages than in most pro sports markets. The Brewers have wisely compensated by embracing the high school and college crowd and tolerating a party atmosphere, which should have long term benefits. Especially since, in my understanding, other clubs have had a problem with the younger generations not caring much about baseball.

        However, in the short term that very young, wild and often drunk crowd, especially on Friday and Saturday nights could threaten to alienate the small, wealthier contingent of fans. And the team needs to sell some of those expensive ticket packages in the offseason as an insurance policy against a losing season. My concern is that the Braun scandal and a losing season could cost the Brewers some of that ticket revenue cushion that is not tied to the current season on field performance. I know they have had strong ticket sales so far, but my fear is that the raw numbers mask the fact that those are mostly, upper deck, $10 a seat tickets.

  7. isujames - Feb 12, 2012 at 8:40 PM

    It should be fun to see how the brewers do with no fielder in lineup and no steroids for their MVP!!

  8. mute617 - Feb 13, 2012 at 7:26 AM

    I’m not overly impressed with the rest of theML Centrals offseason moves so personally I think even without Braun for 50 games, the Brewers are still the team to beat in the Central

  9. brewcrewbombers - Feb 13, 2012 at 8:29 AM

    Braun being suspended will hurt but i dont think its gonna kill. Our offensive focus shifted from being a home run station to station, to a runs generated through good consistent hitting team. The only weak spot in this whole thin is Marcum. Speaking as a fan of course, if it was a certain blatant usage then he would of been suspended by now.

    • brewcrewfan54 - Feb 13, 2012 at 9:03 AM

      We all know Marcum didn’t pitch well toward the end of last season but I have a hard tome with you guys who bash the hell ou of him. He had around 30 starts last year and about 24 of them were pretty damn good. He isn’t this teams biggest problem. At least not yet.

    • brewcrewchamps - Feb 14, 2012 at 12:41 AM

      Randy Wolf and his loopy curveball scare me more than Marcum…how can you say Marcum is a weaker spot than let’s say..Gamel at first? Marcum got killed in the playoffs, true, but his season overall was still a successful one. The rotation will be pretty great again this year

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