The Milwaukee Brewers look to bounce back from a poor 2022 where they missed the playoffs for the first time since 2017.
The 2022 season did not go as planned for the Milwaukee Brewers. They missed the playoffs for the first time since 2017 after the St. Louis Cardinals beat them in the race for the NL Central division title. The Brewers missed out on the last Wild Card slot, which went to the Philadelphia Phillies.
The main storyline for the 2022 Milwaukee Brewers revolved around a perplexing move at the MLB trade deadline that ultimately altered the trajectory of their season. On August 1st, the Brewers traded All-Star closer Josh Hader for Taylor Rogers, two prospects in outfielder Esteury Ruiz and starting pitcher Robert Gasser, and Dinelson Lamet, a player designated for assignment two days after the trade.
The Brewers would have had difficulty paying Hader with his impending arbitration in the offseason and upcoming free agency the year after. The team was trying to capitalize on getting a return for Hader while they still could, but there were questions on if the value of the return was worth shaking up the clubhouse chemistry. The players felt good enough to compete for a World Series title, but the organization’s actions suggested otherwise.
Fast forward eight months later, and the drama over Hader is in the past, and the Brew Crew is looking forward to making a big push ahead for a new campaign with the postseason in mind.
Roster Turnover this Offseason
The 2023 Brewers roster will look a tad bit different this year. More youthful players in Milwaukee are looking to make big blows in the majors. The offseason goal was to clear room for much-anticipated prospects ready to make an impact at the big league level while maintaining the foundation of their lineup to keep them in contention. The Brewers have an interesting balance of solid veterans and exciting prospects, and I believe that the Brewers are coming into 2023 better than how they left 2022.
There were a few veterans that the Brewers parted ways with this offseason. Despite being one of the more consistent hitters on the club, Milwaukee traded right fielder Hunter Renfroe to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim for three pitching prospects. Renfroe’s $11 million contract proved too large for the Brewers, as they let him go to free up space for younger players.
Christian Yelich has not been the same since his 2019 split patella injury. It is unreasonable to expect MVP Yelich, but this season could be his chance to shine again and contribute what he feels he should. His peripheral stats show that the Brewers’ left fielder still looked impressive. His hard-hit rate statistic was top-notch despite only hitting 14 homers. Yelich still has the pop in the bat, he has just struggled to get the ball in the air.
Notably, this is the first healthy offseason Yelich has had since 2019. This season could finally be the one that gets him back in the saddle.
Brewers’ Infield was Busy this Offseason
The Brewers traded their veteran second baseman Kolten Wong to the Seattle Mariners for Jesse Winker and Abraham Toro. Much like I assume with the Renfroe situation, it’s anticipated the team will look to one of their top prospects, Brice Turang, to take over duties at second base. His speed is a big positive for what he will bring to this team’s infield.
Last season Willy Adames posted a career-low BABIP number (.278) despite posting a career-high in barrel rate (13%) and an impressive hard-hit rate of 43.6%. One of the reasons the shift was banned is to increase BABIP numbers leaguewide, which could work right in Adames’ favor. I believe Adames can post a BABIP number closer to his career average of .325, and I expect an even more significant step forward for him in 2023.
Rowdy Tellez will still be on the Brewers’ first bag in 2023. Tellez put together a very impressive 2022. He hit .219, but his peripheral stats, specifically his power numbers, were a sight to see. Tellez was around the 80th percentile in barrel rate, hard-hit rate, average and max exit velocity, expected slugging, and wOBA. While he struggled to get on base, he still demonstrated a good approach at the plate, posting an ISO of .242 and hitting 35 homers.
Milwaukee parted ways with Jace Peterson, but utility man Brian Anderson should be playing numerous positions this season, including some runs at third and second bases. The Brewers also will be without Andrew McCutchen, their designated hitter from last season, and Omar Narvaez, their starting catcher since 2020. Both elected free agency and signed with other ball clubs this offseason. Yet, the team did a great job filling these positions via the trade market.
Brewers’ Rotation is a Batter’s Nightmare
Walking into the season with a rotation that looks like the Brewers’ is significant, Corbin Burnes won the Cy Young in 2021 and has not looked back, finishing seventh last year. Burnes’ fastball is next level, and with the Brewers ace being as reliable as he is, it is a safe assumption he will have a great year again.
Amongst qualified pitchers in MLB since the beginning of 2021, Corbin Burnes has the best fWAR at 12.0, and Brandon Woodruff has the 11th-best fWAR at 8.3.
During that same period, Burnes’ K/9 of 11.63 and Woodruff’s K/9 of 10.85 are the second and fifth best, respectively, in the entire league. Finishing fifth in Cy Young voting in 2021, Woodruff has been pivotal to the Brewers’ success over the past few seasons. He is elite at striking out batters, and if he can remain healthy in 2023, he can finish in the top 10 in Cy Young voting once again. Burnes and Woodruff anchoring the top of the rotation should keep the Brewers in contention all season long.
When discussing the Brewers pitchers, you must talk about the potential Freddy Peralta displays. Peralta had a stellar 2021 season, posting an ERA+ of 147, a K/9 of 12.16, and a 4.0 fWAR. He was plagued with various injuries last season, which threw his 2022 campaign off. His peripheral stats suggest it was still a strong season for Peralta. He excelled at minimizing hard contact, ranking in the 93rd percentile in hard-hit rate and 97th percentile in barrel rate, and was efficient in generating swings and misses.
Overall, I see this season being a stellar one for the Brewers. I will not count out a divisional title taking them into the postseason where, with good health, they could make some noise.
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