The loss of Carter will be felt a lot more than the talking heads and saber-ers will tell you. Sure, he is not by any means close to a complete player, but it means the Brewers are perhaps putting some extra pressure on Thames, who never became a full time player in the major leagues before leaving for Korea. In addition to Thames, it will be a very interesting season for shortstop Orlando Arcia, who will be playing shortstop full time in the big leagues for the first time. He hit .219 in 55 games and he is still developing as an offensive player. Scouts believe he will reach his best while in the big leagues, as he could be a consistent .290-.310 hitter and have a little bit more power. In addition, he is rated as a pretty good defender, prompting the Brewers to move 2016 starting shortstop Jonathan Villar to second base. Villar is coming off of a sound breakout season, where he hit .285 with 19 home runs, 92 runs scored and led the National League with 62 stolen bases.
Braun has been the Brewers franchise player and if his last three seasons are an indication, he can be counted on to hit about .290-.300 with 25-30 home runs and play in 130-135 games. Shaw, the son of former MLB reliever Jeff Shaw, hit just .245 last season for the Red Sox. Though he drove in 71 runs last season, more has been expected of the former prospect and perhaps contributed to the Red Sox moving him this past off season. Keon Broxton has emerged as the leading candidate to play center field and bat lead off for Milwaukee, with the talented Domingo Santana getting a full season as the right fielder. Jett Bandy comes over from the Los Angeles Angels, which they consider a slight upgrade over Martin Maldonado. Andrew Susac is intriguing as he could emerge with an opportunity to earn more regular playing time. It remains to be seen what the expectation should be for Jacob Nottingham, the catcher acquired in last year's Khris Davis trade. I would line the Brewers up like this- Broxton CF, Villar 2B, Braun LF, Thames 1B, Santana RF, Shaw 3B, Arcia SS, Bandy C. Kirk Nieuwenhuis and Scooter Gennett are the top candidates to come off the Brewers bench, with Ivan DeJesus trying to make the team as a non roster invitee.
Right hand pitcher Junior Guerra (9 wins, 3 losses, 2.81 earned run average) comes into camp as the Brewers number one starter. Zack Davies and Jimmy Nelson will slot behind Guerra, with Nelson and Davies tallying up the most innings among the Brewers starting pitchers last season. Chase Anderson and veteran Matt Garza will compete with Wily Peralta and Milone for the last couple spots in the Brewers rotation.
Feliz takes over as the closer but has not dominated as a top closer since the last time the Texas Rangers were making the World Series. It should be low profile enough in Milwaukee and I expect Feliz to have a solid season. Carlos Torres had a very good season and Jacob Barnes threw the ball well in limited action, but outside of that, the Brewers have a lot of questions. Michael Blazek and Corey Knebel struggled last season and will probably get more regular work this season by default. The Brewers have brought in Joba Chamberlain, Ryan Webb and Rob Scahill on minor deals with the hopes that at least one can help out on the major league roster.
Their top prospect is outfielder Lewis Brinson, who is expected to be the team's starting center fielder sometime this season. 2016 first round draft pick (fifth overall) Corey Ray is probably another full season away. Left hand starting pitcher Josh Hader has strikeout stuff, but struggled in Triple-A last season. Right hand pitcher Phil Bickford should impact the team this season once he is finished serving his suspension for drug of abuse. Shortstop Isan Diaz may very well have the most upside out of anyone in the organization. He can play second or third and the Brewers could use the twenty home runs he hit in the minors last season. Nottingham will go as far as his power will take him and there is a little concern over whether he can handle the duties of being a regular catcher.
I look at the Brewers as a team that should be much better in 2018. Brinson, Diaz, Hader and Bickford will all be major leaguers by then and Arcia will have another full season on his belt. I think the Brewers lack the pitching depth to compete reasonably in the National League Central, but as you will see, I am not very high on the two other NL Central teams coming up. The Brewers over/ under number is 72.5 and I will take the over. I have the Brewers finishing the season at 74-88, fourth place behind the Cubs, Pirates and Cardinals, but ahead of the Reds.