3 Biggest Issues for Brewers Entering 60-Game Season
By Michael Luciano
The Milwaukee Brewers, in many ways, are a team built for a 60-game season. They can win games on the strength of MVP frontrunner Christian Yelich and his insane raw power as frequently as they can slam the door on close pitchers duels thanks to All-Star closer Josh Hader. Even with those advantages, Milwaukee is by no means a favorite in the crowded NL Central, as Craig Counsell's bunch still have several major issues that could prevent a deep October run.
3. The Middle Infield
Keston Hiura is a phenomenal talent, but handing the second base job to such a young, inexperienced player might not be ideal for such a short season. The bigger offender, however, is shortstop Orlando Arcia, who has failed to evolve at the plate like Milwaukee thought he would. His 0.8 defensive WAR last season wasn't even good enough to justify the .223 average and 64 OPS+. Be it through the trade deadline or the minor leagues, Milwaukee has to upgrade here.
2. Lack of an Ace Starter
Brandon Woodruff was an All-Star last year, but he has just 26 starts to his name and probably shouldn't be given No. 1 pitcher duties on a team expecting a playoff appearance. Unfortunately, the likes of Adrian Houser and Eric Lauer populate Milwaukee's starting rotation, which gives them a startling lack of depth. In a season wherein one ace starter can help you lock down every fifth game, leaning on Woodruff is probably not a very prudent strategy for a team that might need to win a lot of 11-9 barnburners.
1. Bullpen Depth Behind Josh Hader
Hader might be the best closer in baseball when he's on, but getting to Hader just got much harder now that Jeremy Jeffress is no longer in town. Corey Knebel is coming off an injury, making him a complete unknown, while lefty Brent Suter hasn't pitched in more than 22 games in any season. Beyond that it's a bunch of journeymen and unknowns. One of them needs to emerge as a viable setup man, or Hader will be forced into more of those tricky six-out saves.