Inside Pitch | Notes, Quotes | Roster Report | Player News
The Milwaukee Brewers don't have a collection of superstars on their roster this season and as such, they more than likely won't be challenging the Cubs for the National League Central crown but they do have is something very important for a team in the midst of a massive rebuilding process:
Strength in numbers.
Unlike most rebuilding squads, the Brewers believe they have legitimate major league players at every position at the big league level, and if any of those players can't hold their own, the minor league system is primed with prospects waiting for their chance.
"I think we have a number of players who have a chance to be a part of this organization for a long time, both from a talent-level perspective and a major-league-experience perspective," general manager David Stearns said. "We have a lot of younger players, players who are just beginning their major league careers, and because of that, we have the ability to keep them here for multiple years going forward."
The Brewers went 73-89 a year ago, good for fourth in the NL Central and a five-game improvement over 2015. That number might have improved significantly had the starting pitchers not stumbled out of the gate in April. However, optimism is high after the pitching staff closed the season strong, combining for a major-league-best 3.13 ERA over the final 39 games.
"It's a great stepping off point, a great building point for us because they showed that that level is in them," manager Craig Counsell said of his pitchers. "But now we have to do it for a longer stretch. And if we do it for a longer stretch, how we prevent runs pitching and defense is the start of that. How we prevent runs will be a big factor in what the ceiling of this team is this year."
Improved pitching, combined with a young offense that led baseball with 181 stolen bases and produced 181 home runs, could make for an exciting 2017 campaign.
Ryan Braun will once again anchor that offense. The Brewers' longest-tenured player is back for an 11th season, despite being the subject of multiple trade rumors during the winter. He posted a .305/.365/.538 slash line with 30 home runs and 91 RBIs last year.
"I expected Ryan to be back, as I said over and over," Counsell said. "I expected Ryan to hit third, and I'm very happy that I get to continue writing his name.
"He played at a high level last year. He's going to play at a high level this year. It's what he's done, and I think it's what he'll continue to do."
Most important for Milwaukee, Braun was healthy last year.
He came to camp fresh off back surgery, but thanks to a plan that he created with Counsell and the team's medical staff, Braun appeared in 135 games in 2016.
"I feel a lot better this year than I have in a long time," Braun said. "So certainly the goal is to play more than the (135) games I played last year. I think the goal is always to be somewhere over that 150 range. Obviously, there is a long ways to go, but certainly, though, the goal is to play in more games that I did last season."
Count Braun among those impressed with the influx of young talent into the organization.
"The energy has been really good," Braun said. "The competition is a great thing for everybody. It should inspire everybody to become the best version of themselves and to understand that they need to reach their potential and continue to have success to establish themselves as big-leaguers. The overall talent level, athleticism and size. That's what really stands out."