The 2023 Milwaukee Brewers look to bounce back from a disappointing finish to 2022, in which they missed the playoffs for the first time since 2017. Following a strong start to the season, the Brewers found themselves in a battle for the final Wild Card spot in the National League, ultimately finishing one game behind the Phillies. They also ended up looking up at the St. Louis Cardinals for the NL Central crown in 2022. Will strong starting pitching be enough to elevate the Brewers back to a division title this season?
2022 record: 86-76 (2nd, NL Central)
2023 FanGraphs projection: 83-79 (2nd, NL Central)
Let us start with the strength of the Milwaukee Brewers: their starting rotation. Heading into the season, the top four spots in the rotation are essentially locked. Their staff is led by Corbin Burns, a former NL Cy Young Wward winner, and two-time All-Star, who posted a 2.94 ERA and over 240 strikeouts in 2023. Brandon Woodruff is also an elite starting pitcher who is coming off a solid 2023 season of his own.
Beyond the stellar top two, Freddy Peralta is coming off an injury-plagued campaign in 2022, but is excellent when healthy and on the mound. Aaron Ashby will start the season on the IL, thus the rotation will be rounded out by Eric Lauer and Wade Miley. Overall, the Brewers rotation boasts top-end talent and serviceable starters, which on paper makes them a top-five unit in all of baseball.
With the trade of Hunter Renfroe in the offseason, the Brewers’ outfield will look different this coming season. The projected starting center fielder, Tyrone Taylor, is out for at least the first month of the season with an elbow injury. That means that Garrett Mitchell, one of the Brewers’ top prospects, is expected to be the everyday center fielder until Taylor can return. While strikeouts are a concern, he did have a strong performance with the big club over the last 28 games of the season.
Veteran Christian Yelich will continue to be a mainstay in the outfield for the Brewers. His numbers have regressed in recent years, but he still provides experience and a respectable bat in the Brewers lineup, if not one that’s far removed from his MVP peak. With a reshuffled outfield due to the Taylor injury, it appears that Brian Anderson, whose primary position is third, and Tyler Naquin, will form a right-field platoon to start the season. Naquin is looking to make the roster after signing a minor-league deal earlier this spring. It appears that the overall outfield depth, or lack of it, will be tested to start the season.
In the infield, the Brewers filled a need at the catcher position by trading for William Contreras. It will be interesting to see how he performs as a full-time starter, as his career-high starts in a single season comes in at 60. The Brewers have clear-cut starters at first and shortstop, with Rowdy Tellez coming off a career year and Willy Adames holding things down up the middle. How the remainder of the infield falls into place is yet to be determined. As previously mentioned, Anderson will be getting more outfield reps due to injury, so that likely leaves Luis Urías to play more third than second. As for second base, there is currently a position battle between Abraham Toro and Owen Miller. There seems to be a good amount of flexibility in the infield for the Brewers, with many players able to play multiple positions. We will see how Craig Counsell deploys his rotational players to maximize their potential.
Overall, it seems that the offense lacks overall depth. The Brewers are hoping that a bounce-back season from Jesse Winker, who is slotted to be the primary DH and was dismal in Seattle last year, will fill the offensive production left by the departures of Renfroe and Kolten Wong. The Brewers starting rotation will have to be excellent, but I’m not sure it will be enough to overtake the Cardinals in the NL Central. Competing for a Wild Card spot is a more reasonable expectation for the 2023 Brewers.
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