Last season, the Milwaukee Brewers went 82-80, finishing third in the National League Central. While 82 wins was an impressive feat, fans felt somewhat disappointed by the end result. Milwaukee led the National League Central for nearly five months before slowing down in September. Milwaukee has several elite offensive players that should keep them in the playoff hunt. Milwaukee’s outfield, which is led by Ryan Braun, Carlos Gomez, and Khris Davis, is one of the best in baseball. Milwaukee’s infield will be made up of catcher Jonathan Lucroy, who finished fourth in National League MVP voting, first baseman Adam Lind, second baseman Scooter Gennett, shortstop Jean Segura, and third baseman Aramis Ramirez. Milwaukee has some obvious question marks in its rotation, but will be led by Matt Garza. Here are five things to watch during Spring Training.
Storyline #1: Bounce Back Braun
Braun, who has been one of Milwaukee’s best players in recent memory, dealt with thumb and oblique injuries last season. Braun appeared in 135 games, but his performance was impacted after injuring his thumb in early May. Before the thumb injury, Braun posted a .327 batting average while posting a .241 batting average after the injury. Braun had thumb surgery during the off-season and is reportedly healthy. Watch his power output during Spring Training to see whether he’s truly healthy.
Storyline #2: Will Trades Pay Off?
Milwaukee had a quiet off-season, but a pair of trades helped bolster its lineup. Milwaukee traded starting pitcher Marco Estrada to the Toronto Blue Jays for Lind and traded starting pitcher Yovani Gallardo to the Texas Rangers for three prospects. Milwaukee opted to trade two stalwarts of its starting rotation in an effort to shed payroll and add left-handed power. Both Gallardo and Estrada were one year away from free agency, while Lind is under control through 2016. Texas traded one of its better prospects, shortstop Luis Sardinas, as the centerpiece of the Gallardo trade. Lind is one of the better pure left-handed power hitters, so expect him to put on a show during batting practice.
Storyline #3: Make or Break Year for Segura
By trading for Sardinas, Milwaukee is clearly undecided on Segura. Entering his third season as the starting shortstop, Segura struggled last season. His batting average fell from .294 to .246 and his stolen base total dropped from 44 to 20. Segura, who made the All-Star team in 2013, will need to show Milwaukee that his 2014 season was an aberration. Expect a strong showing from him during Spring Training.
Storyline #4: An Encore for Lucroy?
Lucroy was one of the biggest surprises in baseball in 2014. After posting career highs in runs (73), hits (176), doubles (53), walks (66), and on-base percentage (.373), Lucroy finished fourth in National League MVP voting. More impressively, he performed at a high level without the protection of a healthy Ryan Braun. With Braun and Lind in fold, Lucroy will have more support in the lineup. Lucroy’s home run output (13) was slightly below his career average, but the extra doubles paid dividends. Expect Milwaukee’s 28-year-old catcher to have a strong Spring Training en-route to another strong season.
Storyline #5: Closing Time
Francisco Rodriguez saved 44 of Milwaukee’s 82 wins during 2014. To date, Rodriguez is still a free agent and Milwaukee is slated to open the season with Jonathan Broxton as its closer. While Broxton is not an ideal closer candidate, Milwaukee discussed trades with several teams. Milwaukee has had preliminary discussions with the Philadelphia Phillies regarding a trade for closer, Jonathan Papelbon. If Milwaukee does not make a trade or sign Rodriguez, expect Broxton and Jim Henderson to compete for the closer role during Spring Training.
The current average price for Brewers spring training tickets is $44 on the secondary market over 16 games at Maryvale Sports Park.