The Milwaukee Brewers finished the 2015 season with a 68-94 record, good enough for last place in the National League Central division. What started with high expectations ended with the team in full rebuild mode. Among players traded from the 2015 Brewers roster include first baseman Adam Lind, closer Francisco Rodriguez, shortstop Jean Segura, and outfielder Khris Davis. Of course, the fire sale started in 2015 after the Brewers fired manager Ron Roenicke and general manager Doug Melvin decided to step down. The Brewers traded outfielder Carlos Gomez, third baseman Aramis Ramirez, outfielder Gerardo Parra, and pitcher Mike Fiers last season netting many younger players we may not see in 2016. The Brewers added infielder Aaron Hill (.230 batting average, 6 home runs, 39 runs batted in, .640 on base plus slugging) and pitcher Chase Anderson (6 wins, 6 losses, 4.30 earned run average, 27 games started) from the Arizona Diamondbacks in the deal for Segura. First baseman Chris Carter (.199, 24, 64, .734) comes over from the Houston Astros and once touted young players such as outfielder Kirk Nieuwenhuis and infielders Garin Cecchini and Will Middlebrooks have a legitimate shot of making this ballclub.
Former National League MVP Ryan Braun (.285, 25, 84, .854) leads the charge for the Brewers offensively. Catcher Jonathan Lucroy (.264, 7, 43, .717) is healthy after a disappointing 2015 season. Carter will be counted on to provide a lot of offense as the only other projected starting player expected to produce above average major league numbers is outfielder Domingo Santana (.238, 8, 26 in 52 games). Hill, Cecchini and Middlebrooks are all battling for the starting third base job with Jonathan Villar (.284, 2, 11) getting the opportunity to be the everyday shortstop. Villar was acquired from the Astros in an early off season trade. Shane Peterson (.259, 2, 16) will battle with Nieuwenhuis and Eric Young Jr for at bats in center field. Scooter Gennett (.264, 6, 29, .675) looks to cement his position at second base. The opening day lineup I would go with is Gennett 2B, Santana RF, Lucroy C, Braun LF, Carter 1B, Middlebrooks 3B, Nieuwenhuis CF, Villar SS. A lineup that was once potent now resembles a replacement team (particularly the bottom three in the projected order).
The Brewers will hope that players like Hill, Cecchini, Peterson and Young provide a little bit more depth than they are projected to. Martin Maldonado (.210, 4, 22) is the backup catcher with Jacob Nottingham waiting in the wings after being acquired from Oakland in the deal for Davis. Rymer Liriano comes over from San Diego to try to gain some outfield at bats.
The Brewers made a couple of aggressive signings over the past couple seasons with the hopes they would deepen their starting rotation. Kyle Lohse is finally off the books and Matt Garza (6-14, 5.63, 25 starts) has two more years remaining on his contract. The Brewers can probably fill a rotation without Garza, but need young pitchers Jimmy Nelson (11-13, 4.11, 30 starts) and Taylor Jungman (9-8, 3.77, 21 starts) to continue to develop. Wily Peralta (5-10, 4.72, 20 starts) struggled last season and also battled some injuries. Anderson, and Zach Davies, acquired in the deal that sent Parra to Baltimore, could feasibly be the forth and fifth starters. Garza, however, will get every opportunity to prove he still has something to offer. The Brewers are hoping he goes as they would like to get something back for him in a trade.
The Brewers bullpen is missing Rodriguez (1-3, 2.21, 38 saves, 9.8 Ks per 9 innings pitched) dealt to Detroit. As has been said by many (I do not necessarily agree), bad teams to not need a good closer. The Brewers will likely use left hander Will Smith (7-2, 2.70, 70 games) as their closer this season. Right hander Jeremy Jeffress (5-0, 2.65, 72 games pitched) was a Brewers prospect years ago that has prospered with his first team after moving around to a couple of organizations. Right handers Corey Knebel (0-0, 4.22, 48 games) and Michael Blazek (5-3, 2.43, 45 games) will likely get a good look. One intriguing late inning relief candidate is Tyler Thornburg (0-2, 3.67, 24 games). Thornburg was a solid prospect as a starting pitcher but possesses some strong stuff as a short reliever. Perhaps is Smith hits a rough patch, Thornburg can emerge as the closer of the future.
Nottingham leads the list of top prospects to potentially impact the 2016 Brewers. Of course, it may be difficult to get playing time with Lucroy in the mix, but if Nottingham is ready, the Brewers will find a place for both him and Lucroy. The "crew" can also trade Lucroy and open the starting catching job to Nottingham. Shortstop Orlando Arcia looks like the Brewers shortstop of the future. We may see him this season as well. Right hand pitcher Jorge Lopez, like Davies, has some very good stuff and is coming off a solid 2015 minor league season.
What is tough about this particular rebuild is the fact that the Brewers do not have a ton of young players ready to make an impact within the next season or two. My theory is this club probably gets worse before it gets better. And that is not factoring in more trades that likely will be made during the season. I thought Las Vegas was generous with their over/ under number of 71 1/2. However, it is not that far off. I see the Brewers repeating their 2015 record of 68-94, but this time finish in last place in the NL Central division.