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The Milwaukee Brewers are entering 2018 with much optimism, as well as a realistic expectation for contention in the National League. Thus far, they have undertaken a successful rebuild under GM David Stearns, and last season they arrived a bit ahead of schedule. In adding 14 wins to their 2016 total, the Brewers finished 2017 with a record of 86-76. Most importantly, they remained in contention for a wild-card berth until the final day of the regular season.

In 2018, the Brewers will be looking add to that success. In the process, they hope to make the playoffs for just the fifth time in franchise history. To that end, the Brewers still have work to do. However, they have used a productive offseason to improve their chances of seeing postseason baseball in the Badger State for the first time since 2011.
Without further ado, let’s take a look at your 2018 Milwaukee Brewers.

On the Mound:

Jimmy Nelson (cred. Getty Images)

Last season, Milwaukee ranked a very-serviceable fifth in the National League in rotation ERA. However, this season they will begin the season without premier starter Jimmy Nelson, who underwent major shoulder surgery. Once Nelson returns from shoulder surgery (ideally in late May or early June) he should claim the spot at the front. In the meantime, the Brew Crew will depend on starters Chase Anderson and Zach Davies to stabilize the rotation. Despite strong showings in 2017, Anderson and Davies have never before been tasked with leading a rotation. Should they experience any regression, it would make Nelson’s return that much more vital, and thus stressful.

These points were not lost on the Brewers front office. To address these concerns, the brought in right-handers Jhoulys Chacin and Yovani Gallardo. They also signed left-hander Wade Miley on a minor-league deal. Miley is expected to make the team as a possible candidate for the fifth slot in the rotation. There are also some depth options within the system in Brandon Woodruff, Brent Suter, and Junior Guerra. However, it is highly likely that the Brewers will look for additional rotation help throughout the remainder of Spring Training, and into the regular season. By adding another needle-mover in the rotation, Milwaukee could add at least two or more coveted wins to the ledger.

Probable rotation:
Chase Anderson, RHP
Zach Davies, RHP
Jhoulys Chacin, RHP
Yovani Gallardo, RHP
Wade Miley, LHP

Probable bullpen:
Closer: Corey Knebel, RHP
Setup: Josh Hader, LHP; Jacob Barnes, RHP
Middle: Matt Albers, RHP; Jeremy Jeffress, RHP; Boone Logan, LHP; Oliver Drake, RHP
Long/spot starter: Junior Guerra, RHP

At the Plate/In the Field:

Apr 10, 2016; Milwaukee, WI, USA; Milwaukee Brewers right fielder Domingo Santana (16) drives in a run with a double in the fourth inning against the Houston Astros at Miller Park. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

The additions of outfielders Christian Yelich and Lorenzo Cain have created a bit of a logjam in the outfield. While there are worse problems to have, it’s going to be something manager Craig Counsell must sort out all season. Yelich and Cain will obviously be lineup fixtures. Presumably, Domingo Santana is in line to fill the vacant corner on a primary basis. Santana is fresh off of a 2017 campaign in which he hit 30 homers. His presence in the lineup should provide a depth that the Brewers will need to compete in the National League in 2018. However, there is no guarantee that he will remain in that lineup.

Initially, Eric Thames and Ryan Braun will likely split duty at first base, and occasionally in left. On the surface, Thames and Braun could make a devastating platoon at first base. However, it’s hard to imagine Braun (who is still productive and owed $20 million for the upcoming season) being relegated to the right-handed half of a first-base platoon. If the Brewers decide to address their rotation needs via trade, either Braun or Santana could be the centerpiece of that deal. Should that happen, the situation will be resolved. Otherwise, it’s going to be on Counsell to find enough at-bats to keep Thames and Braun both fresh and content. The Brewers would most-likely be reticent to deal Santana over Braun. However, he may be the easier of the two to move, considering Braun’s contract. Also, Keon Broxton and Brett Phillips are waiting in the wings and could fill Major League roster spots before season’s end. Based on these circumstances, it is likely that the Brewers will use the strength of their lineup to their advantage…one way or another.

Probable lineup:
Christian Yelich, LF
Lorenzo Cain, CF
Travis Shaw, 3B
Eric Thames, 1B
Domingo Santana, RF
Manny Pina, C
Orlando Arcia, SS
Jonathan Villar, 2B

Bench:
OF/1B Ryan Braun, INF/OF Hernan Perez, INF/OF Eric Sogard, C Stephen Vogt

Final Analysis:

As they head towards Opening Day, the state if the Brewers is sound. While there is still some space between them and the NL Central-favorite Chicago Cubs, the Brewers should be squarely in the fray of NL wild-card contenders. If they are able to add an impact arm to the rotation, the Brewers could become wild-card favorites in 2018.

Predicted Record: 89-73

Mike D’Abate is a Managing Editor and National Columnist for Full Press Coverage Sports Media. Follow him on Twitter @mdabateFPC

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