The Brewers are an interesting team to try to assess going into the season. The offense looks to be solid enough, although they’ll miss Corey Hart for the first six weeks or so. The pitching, however, is the wild card and its hard to discern just how good, or how bad, the pitching staff really will be. After Yovani Gallardo, nothing is really certain except the newly signed Kyle Lohse, but the upside is intriguing.
If you are looking for someone to sell you on Ryan Braun or Rickie Weeks, this is the wrong place. They are solid players who barring outside factors should produce. Instead let's focus on guys with factors that could affect their fantasy performance.
Here are 10 to watch in 2013. Yovani Gallardo (SP): Gallardo is the ace of the Brewers staff and the leader of what is largely a young and unproven staff. While Gallardo isn’t a first or even second tier pitcher at this point in his career, he’s just a hair away and still hasn’t reached the prime of his career. He’s aiming for a fifth season of 200-plus Ks and with just a small step forward could offer a sub 3.50 ERA and 16-20 wins to go with it.
John Axford (CL): Axford is a bit of a coin toss at this point. He’ll get the ball back in the ninth for Milwaukee and he has solid skills, which usually is enough to cover the occasional bouts of wildness. He was certainly unlucky last with a spike in home runs/fly balls (19%) but his other peripherals suggest he’s a good bounce back candidate. If he flops Michael Gonzalez is waiting in the wings.
Aramis Ramirez (3B): He’s 35, which makes him both a prime regression and injury risk, but hey, aside from the 35 part, he’s been that way for the past five years. His home run totals over that time were 27,15, 25, 26 and 27 respectively, and the 15 came in a year he only got 306 ABs. That said, his offensive surges over the past four years have all been second half explosions. It might be worth letting someone else ride out the early months and see if you can target him sometime around the end of May. He’s a solid second tier third baseman.
Jonathan Lucroy (C): So much upside and so overlooked. If you look at Lucroy’s numbers for the last two years they look remarkably similar, except in terms of average which surged last year. However last year he only got 316 ABs. With 450 he could make a run at 20 home runs and a .280 average. He’s currently slotted into the five spot in the lineup, so the RBI chances should be plentiful.
Jean Segurra (SS): Segurra was a top prospect and he showed it last season at AA. A bit of a free swinger, he still manages to get on base a lot due to an impressive contact rate. From there it’s all about the speed. He has 20-30 steal potential and should manage to hit better than .250. Plenty of growth room here.
Carlos Gomez (OF): Provided Gomez racks up ABs like he did last season (when he got 415), he should continue to put up solid counting numbers. 15-30 would be nothing to sneeze at but he could have even more upside than that.
Corey Hart (1B): Hart is expected to miss the first six weeks of the regular season as he rehabs from knee surgery. That will make him cheaper than he should be, though he’ll tie up a bench or DL spot. With four months' of playing time he could still easily hit 20 home runs and post a .270 average so in many leagues he’ll still be worth it.
Marco Estrada (SP): The much-hyped Estrada has been on everyone's pick list this year. He took immense strides forward last year, posting a 3.64 ERA and striking out 143 in just 138 innings. It could be a signal that he’s finally turned a corner and is ready to evolve into a dominant pitcher, but that is probably an overestimation. Draft him for K’s and hope for more, even with good run support he’s probably only a slightly better than .500 type pitcher.
Mike Fiers (SP): While Estrada is getting all the love in fantasyland, Fiers, who pitched almost as well, is getting overlooked, mainly due to a brutal August and September which greatly inflated his ERA and WHIP. That may have been due to overwork. He threw 55 more innings than his career high last year. His best pitch is a fastball that tops out at about 92 mph and he’s averaged about a strikeout per inning over his career, though mostly in the minors.
Aoki Norichika (OF): Norichika had a great rookie campaign, going .292 with 10 home runs and 30 steals. Age (31) is a factor and the speed could easily take a step back, but his ability to make contact should keep his average up. This is most likely a case of what you saw last season being the template for what to expect.