2006 Finish: 75-87, 4th place in the NL Central, 8.5 games back
Manager: Ned Yost
Comings: RHP Jeff Suppan, RHP Elmer Dessens, INF Craig Counsell, C Johnny Estrada, RHP Claudio Vargas
Goings: 3B Jeff Cirillo, 3B David Bell, RHP Dan Kolb, RHP Toma Ohka, LHP Doug Davis, OF Brady Clark
Offense: The Brewers have a young and talented everyday lineup. Bill Hall is taking over in center so that the Brewers can keep him in the lineup. Hall had a breakout year in 06, hitting 35 HRs and scoring 101 runs. Expect 1B Prince Fielder to continue to improve. He had a solid rookie year, hitting 28 HRs. Like his father, he strikes out a bunch. 2B Rickie Weeks is a star in the making. He appeared in only 95 games due to injury but hit .279/.363/.404. There are concerns if he can continue playing second but the Brewers are sure he can handle the position. SS J.J. Hardy is a solid defender with good range. He is coming off an injury that limited him to only 35 games last year. Johnny Estrada was brought over from Arizona to take over behind the plate. A talented switch hitter, Estrada hit .302 for the Diamondbacks. RF Corey Hart got more playing time in 06 and proved he could be an everyday player. He hit .283/.328/.468 in 87 games last year. Geoff Jenkins and Kevin Mench will platoon in left and whoever sits out that day will provide power bat off the bench. 3B Corey Koskie is still suffering from post concussion syndrome and his return is up in the air. For now the Brewers will use a platoon of veterans Craig Counsell and Tony Graffanino.
Rotation: RHP Ben Sheets is the key. If he is healthy the Brewers have a good chance of playing in October. Sheets only appeared in 17 games last year due to shoulder troubles. The Brewers must have him in order compete at the top of the NL Central. RHP Jeff Suppan comes over from the Cardinals. He received the biggest contract in Brewers’ history and will help stabilize the rotation. Not only will he eat up innings but he will be a positive influence on the Brewers’ young pitchers. LHP Chris Capuano is establishing himself as a very solid, middle of the rotation starter. He will provide plenty of innings and keep his team in the game. RHP Dave Bush is getting better and better. The key to Bush’s success is getting out lefties which he improved upon in 06. The fifth spot in the rotation will be handled by RHP Claudio Vargas. Vargas was 12-10 with a 4.83 ERA last year with the Diamondbacks.
Bullpen: RHP Francisco Cordero came over in the Carlos Lee trade and appeared in 28 games in 06. The National League agreed with him a he had 16 saves and posted a 1.69 ERA. Former closer RHP Derrick Turnbow will slide into a setup role. He struggled last year, blowing 8 saves and posting a 6.87 ERA. He has been really good this spring. RHP Jose Capellan has a power arm but has not put all together up to this point. LHP Brian Shouse is tough on lefties, they slugged .350 against him last year. RHP Matt Wise was solid appearing in 40 games an posting an ERA under 4. RHP Elmer Dessens was brought in this week to provide depth.
Yovanni Gallardo-RHP-2nd round pick in the 2004 First Year Player Draft. Led the minors in strikeouts last year with 188. His fastball sits at 90-94 touching 96. Has a good overhand curveball that is a definite strikeout pitch. Shows good control, walking only 51 in 155 innings. Should start the year at Triple A Nashville and could be ready to contribute to the big club by the end of the season.
Ryan Braun-3B-First Round selection (5th overall) in the 2005 First Year Player Draft. Has the offensive prowess to contribute at the big league level now, but his defense is a work in progress. Braun hit .303/.367/.589 with 15 HRs and 40 RBIs in 231 at bats at Double A after starting the year at Class A. Hit .326 with 6 HR and 25 RBIs in 92 at bats in the Arizona Fall League. A definite five tool player, the only question is what position he will play, third or left.
Analysis: The Brewers have the makings to be this year’s Detroit Tigers. I really like their everyday lineup and the veteran bench Manager Ned Yost can tinker with. I think Jeff Suppan will bring something that stats don’t measure and that is a winning attitude. Not only will he teach this rotation how to win, but I think he will teach them to expect to win. The bullpen is deep and has some talented power arms. I think if things fall into place and everyone stays healthy, the Brewers could win a mediocre Central Division.