SCOTTSDALE, Arizona — Chris Carter played for the Brewers in 2016. He led the National League in home runs with 41. (OK, so he also led the league in strikeouts, 206, and hit just .222.)
The Brewers decided they didn’t need that power, so they let him go via free agency. Replacing him at first base will be Eric Thames, who hasn’t played in the major leagues since 2012 and who played the last three years in KBO in South Korea. Granted that Thames crushed KBO pitching (124 home runs and a .348 BA) over those three years, that isn’t big-league pitching.
There will be a dropoff in power in Milwaukee... unless Travis Shaw, who they acquired from the Red Sox for Tyler Thornburg, can hit the way they think he can. Shaw hit for a .421 SLG in Boston (34 doubles, two triples, 16 home runs). He’ll play third base for the Brew Crew and is the most notable addition for 2017.
Otherwise they return much the same cast that lost 89 games in 2016. Keon Broxton, who suffered a broken wrist running into the brick wall at Wrigley last September, should be healthy and able to play center field. He stole 23 bases in 75 games and could be a speed threat.
Speaking of which, Jonathan Villar had one of the most surprising seasons in all the big leagues last year. Let go by the Astros, Villar took over at shortstop in Milwaukee and hit .285/.369/.457 with 19 home runs and 62 stolen bases, the latter figure leading the major leagues. This year he’s moving to second base, with last year’s regular second basema Scooter Gennett becoming a backup as the Brewers try top prospect Orlando Arcia at shortstop.
Brewers pitching appears to be their weak point. They keep hoping Chase Anderson will become a No. 1 starter, but I don’t see it. Junior Guerra did pretty well for them in 21 starts last year, but he’s no kid — he’s 32, just one year younger than Matt Garza, who still is hanging around, this the last year of the four-year deal he signed in Milwaukee. The last time Garza made 30 starts in a season was 2011, with the Cubs, and I don’t see that streak ending.
With Jonathan Lucroy gone, the Brewers have acquired two catching prospects with unusual names: Andrew Susac from the Giants, and Jett Bandy from the Angels, and if “Jett Bandy” isn’t a rock band name, I don’t know what is.
With the trade of Thornburg, the Brewers signed former Ranger and Pirate Neftali Feliz to be their closer. He was a pretty good one... in 2010 and 2011. Injuries have gotten in the way over the last few years. If he’s healthy this could be a good value signing.
You’ll notice I haven’t mentioned Ryan Braun. There, I just did. There are four years left (plus an option year with a buyout) on the eight-year deal he signed after 2012. His numbers were decent enough last year, he missed about 25 games with injuries, and he will get booed by Cubs fans in all 19 games the teams play this year.
Speaking of which:
April 7-8-9 at Milwaukee
April 17-18-19 at Wrigley
May 19-20-21 at Wrigley
July 28-29-30 at Milwaukee
September 8-9-10 at Wrigley
September 21-22-23-24 at Milwaukee