Ryan Braun is the key to the team's season. He has some support, but the loss of Corey Hart and Mat Gamel will have an impact on the offense. The Brewers have Aramis Ramirez (.300, 27, 105) at 3B, Jonathan Lucroy (.320, 12, 58 in 96 games) behind the plate and Norichica Aoki (.288, 10, 50 in 151 games) in RF. Two players that can change the fortunes of this team are CF Carlos Gomez (.260, 19, 51, 30 SB) and 2B Rickie Weeks (.230, 21, 63). If they have big seasons, the loss of Hart may not hurt as much. Losing Hart (.270, 30, 83) a year after losing Fielder puts the Brewers in a precarious position. Braun showed he could back up his MVP season of 2011 (.332, 33, 111) after failing a PED test. In 2012, he hit .319, 41, 112 before coming up in the reports of the Miami anti aging clinic. Obviously, the Brewers could be much worse without Braun playing at the level he has been at.
I'd lineup the Brewers like this Gomez CF, Aoki RF, Braun LF, Ramirez 3B, Weeks 2B, Lucroy C, Taylor Green 1B, Jean Segura SS. Green will probably get most of the playing time at 1B until Hart returns; however, that can be August. Segura is the SS prospect the team got in the Grienke trade last season. The bench is led by veteran Alex Gonzalez, who provides insurance at SS, as well as 1B. Players like Jeff Bianchi and Logan Verritt should make the team as reserves.
Yovani Gallardo is clearly the ace of the staff, coming off a 16-9, 3.66 season with 204 Ks in 204 IP. The drop off is drastic after that, as far as experience. Marco Estrada (5-7, 3.64 in 29 games, 23 starts) is the next experienced starting pitcher. Mike Fiers (9-10, 3.74, in 23 games, 22 starts) follows with rookies Wily Peralta and Mike Rogers rounding out the rotation. Estrada and Fiers had more strikeouts than innings pitched, as did Peralta in limited action. The Brewers will be counting on Chris Narveson to return from his prolonged absence to be a factor in the rotation. I think they will need him. I think it is too much to expect all the young starting pitchers, possibly 4 out of 5, to keep the team in most games. I think this same rotation will be a lot better next season. Perhaps a trade for Aaron Harang or a signing of Kyle Lohse would provide some more stability.
The bullpen no longer has Rodriguez, Cameron Loe and Jose Veras, among others. John Axford (5-8, 4.67, 35 saves in 75 games) is coming off a down year, despite having 93 Ks in 69 1/3 IP in 2012. Newcomers Tom Gorzelanny, Mike Gonzalez and Burke Badenhop will have their work cut out for them as all three may be taking on different roles than they are accustomed to. I can see the bullpen being a complete disaster this season. Add that to the inexperienced pitching staff outside of Gallardo, it does not look good.
The Brewers are clearly my first pick when it comes to being a disappointment. They did a great job last season, especially battling back when their season seemed finished. They have some fight and should score runs led by Braun, Ramirez, Lucroy and others. I just do not trust the pitching staff, at least right now. Vegas has the Brewers at 79 1/2. I am going with the under, as I see the Brewers finishing at 70-92, last in the NL Central. Weeks, Gomez and a healthy Hart can change things, as can pitchers like Estrada, Fiers and Peralta and Rogers. Perhaps they add a significant middle reliever to address a significant weakness.