The Milwaukee Brewers finished last season 96-67 while winning the National League Central Division. Their postseason went well, in some eyes, as they swept the Colorado Rockies in the National League Division Series. They lost to the National League Champion Los Angeles Dodgers in seven games. They were very close to making a World Series appearance, and they look to take the next step to make it there.

The Brewers got most of their wins from their lineup, led by National League MVP Christian Yelich. The 26-year old had a breakout season in his first season away from Miami. He hit .326/.402/.598 with a team high 36 home runs. Yelich also walked 10.4 percent of his plate appearances, but he strikeouts 20.7 percent of his plate appearances as well. He is also helpful in right field as he won a Rawlings’ Gold Glove in 2014, and he has a career fielding percentage of 99.1 in the outfield. He will lead this team as long as the Brewers want him in Milwaukee, and as long as he wants to be there.

Lorenzo Cain was also a rookie in Milwaukee as he signed there in the 2017 offseason. He was a major factor in the Kansas City Royals’ World Series championship in 2015 when they beat the New York Mets. In his first season with the Brewers, he hit .308/.395/.417 with 10 home runs. The contact hitter also stole 30 bases to go with his 11.5 walk percentage. His 15.2 strikeout percentage is low, and can remain low if Cain doesn’t look to do too much in his at-bats.

Second-year Brewer Travis Shaw was also an important role in the Brewers success. He hit .241/.345/.480 with 32 home runs. The 28-year old walked 13.3 percent of his plate appearances, and he only walked 18.4 percent of his appearances. He also boasted a wRC+ of 119, which is above the major league average of 100. Shaw is a huge part of the Brewers’ win now mentality, and he is a part of their future as well.

Ryan Braun has been on this team since 2007, and he won National League MVP in 2011. In 2018, he hit .254/.313/.469 with 20 home runs. Braun helps the Brewers more than just at the plate. While he walked 7.6 percent and struckout 19 percent of his plate appearances, he leads this team by being the most tenured player on the team. Christian Yelich, Travis Shaw, and Lorenzo Cain have only been on the team for less than two years, so Ryan Braun knows the “Brewer Way”. Now he did have the scandal involving performance enhancing drugs in 2013, and he served his suspension. He seems to be clean since he served his suspension, but nonetheless, he is the leader for this Brewers’ lineup.

Mike Moustakas is also now on this Brewers’ team in Milwaukee. He, along with Lorenzo Cain, was a massive part of the Royals’ 2015 World Series championship. Moustakas also brings the World Series mentality and leadership to this overall young team. In his 54 games with the Brewers, he hit .256/.326/..441 with eight home runs. He also walked 8.7 percent of his plate appearances, but he struckout 18.3 percent of those same plate appearances. “Moose” also had a wRC+ of 105 when he was wearing a Brewers uniform.

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Eric Thames took a step back in comparison to his 2017 season. In 2017, Thames played 138 games, and he hit .247/.359/.518 with 31 home runs. His walk percentage, 13.6 percent, and strikeout percentage, 29.6 percent, are typical of a slugger of his caliber. However, in 2018, he played in 96 games and hit 16 home runs. He walked more, 10.4 percent, but his strikeout percentage skyrocketed to 34.9 percent. His averages dipped as well, .219/.306/.478, but the Brewers are looking for his 2017 production to come back.

The lineup isn’t the only aspect of the team, although it is a big part of their success. Ace Jhoulys Chacin had a good season last year. He had a 3.50 ERA and 7.29 strikeouts per nine innings in 192.2 innings pitched. To continue to be successful, he needs to lower the number of walks he allows, 3.32 walks per nine innings. His left on base percentage, 72.5 percent, could be improved, but it’ll probably increase the more innings he pitches, or not allowing base runners when he’s on the mound.

Bullpen sensation Josh Hader came on to the scene at a perfect time. He had a strikeout per nine innings of 15.82 and a 2.43 ERA in 81.1 innings pitched. He haa 3.32 walks per nine innings, which could be brought down, but it is redeemed with his 80.9 left on base percentage. However, his 14.5 home runs per flyball definitely needs to be brought down. Hader is only 24-years of age, so he has plenty of time to figure it out and thrive off of his success.

The Brewers’ farm system could be improved on. They only have one player in MLB.com’s top 100 prospects, second baseman Keston Hiura at 20. The 21-year old hit .272/.339/.416 with six home runs. In his 73 games with the AA affiliate, the Biloxi Shuckers, he struckout 18.2 percent and walked 7.2 percent of his appearances. Hiura’s wRC+ was at 116, which is above the league average of 100. The Brewers could use a little more than Keston Hiura, which no offense to him, but that probably ins’t their focus, which is win the World Series for many years to come.

The Brewers should win the division again. The St. Louis Cardinals added Paul Goldschmidt to their lineup this offseason. That should at least put them into the conversation in winning the division. The Chicago Cubs shouldn’t go anywhere in terms of postseason play. They still have a very nice roster and are primed for another playoff push. The Reds added Yasiel Puig and Matt Kemp in a trade for Homer Bailey. The Reds aren’t quite ready to make a playoff push, but they should be ready in the next few years. The Pittsburgh Pirates are just rebuilding, so they shouldn’t be winning many games this upcoming season.

Team Prediction: 93-69

Team MVP: Christian Yelich

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