Possibly the most intriguing team heading into the 2018 MLB season, the Milwaukee Brewers have very high expectations for the new year. Milwaukee exceeded expectations in 2017, as many saw them as barely a .500 ball club. The Brewers ended up finishing 10 games over .500 and missed the postseason by just one game. This young team improved itself in the offseason and is looking to show that 2017 was no fluke.
Though the offseason started out quiet, the Brewers made two huge splashes in one day. Their already potent offense got some added pop, as the Crew traded for star outfielder Christian Yelich from the dismantled Marlins, and signed free agent Lorenzo Cain to a 5-year, $80 million deal. Yelich has proven himself as one of the best pure hitters in the game and appears ready to take the next step into superstardom following his change of scenery. A career .290 hitter, Yelich will most likely lead off for the Brewers and play at a corner outfield spot. He will provide a much needed spark at the top of the lineup and has a gold glove on his résumé in the field. As for Lorenzo Cain, the Brewers get a seasoned veteran leader who is extremely consistent at the plate. Like Yelich, Cain boasts a .290 career batting average, and even finished 3rd in AL MVP voting back in 2015. Both acquisitions should prove positive for the Brewers in 2018 and beyond.
The rest of the Milwaukee offense may not claim the same fame as Yelich and Cain, but they are no pushovers. The biggest names other than the two newest members of the Brew Crew have to be Eric Thames and 11-year Brewer veteran Ryan Braun. After a lackluster start to a career in the MLB, Thames took his talents overseas for 4 seasons before returning to the bigs in 2017. Thames burst back onto the scene, hitting 31 home runs and creating a new Bash Bros tandem with third baseman Travis Shaw. Although he came back down to earth in the second half, Thames proved he is a viable bat in the Milwaukee lineup. What’s interesting about Thames and Braun is that they may split time at first base this season. Though adding Yelich and Cain improved the Brewers lineup, it bumps Braun out the the outfield after the stellar season that Domingo Santana had in 2017. You can never have too many reliable bats however and it will be interesting to see how 4th year manager Craig Counsell shuffles his lineup this season.
What may prove to be a problem for the Brewers in 2018 is the lack of star arms in the rotation. They return their top three starters from last season in Chase Anderson, Jimmy Nelson and Zach Davies, but other than those three they do not have much talent. They also received a massive blow when Nelson had to have offseason surgery on his shoulder, sidelining him until June. Milwaukee did bring in veterans Jhoulys Chacin and Wade Miley, but will it be enough? Miley himself will miss at least the first month of the season due to injury. The Brewers looked to be one of the favorites to sign Jake Arrieta this offseason, but a deal was never reached and he took his talents to Philadelphia. This pitching staff needs to carry its weight for the Brewers this season, which could pose to be too high of a task.
This team has enough talent to contend for a postseason spot, but in the end I think their pitching just is not enough. If they are in viable contention near the trade deadline, they need to trade for a reliable starter to get them over the hump, similar to what they did in 2008 when they traded for CC Sabathia. I am excited to see this team compete in 2018, and after seeing their incredible acting skills reenacting a scene from one of my top 3 favorite sports movies of all-time, The Sandlot, I have officially dubbed the Milwaukee Brewers my favorite “if the Phillies never existed” team. The Brew Crew are ready to make some noise in 2018, but can they tame “The Beast” that is the Chicago Cubs?