USATSI_9411730_168381442_lowres

2017 Brewers Fantasy Preview

The Milwaukee Brewers are not the world’s most interesting team for fantasy baseball purposes. They have two good players and then a lot of interesting young ones, but not a ton in the middle. However, those young players are generally worth monitoring throughout the season, particularly if playing time develops in either the outfield or rotation. To help provide insight for the coming season, the BP local sites have banded together to provide fantasy advice for some key players.

Fantasy Previews:
BP Bronx
BP Toronto
BP Wrigleyville

Note: All of the draft rounds below are based on a standard 5×5, 12-team rotisserie league with one catcher.


 

WORTH THEIR DRAFT SPOT

 Ryan Braun

2016 PECOTA Projection – .277 AVG, 82 R, 27 HR, 85 RBI, 17 SB
Expected Draft Round: mid-3rd

At this point in his career, Braun doesn’t have the massive MVP ceiling that he did in his late 20s. This will be his age-33 season, and he just isn’t as exciting as some other players around him in the third round. Francisco Lindor, Robinson Cano, and Nelson Cruz are much more fun to have on your team, and each is being drafted after Braun according to Yahoo!’s current ADP. Braun, though, is a pretty sure bet to meet his projections.

Braun’s .278 TAv in 2014 was the lowest of his career, and his .298 TAv in 2015 was the third-lowest of his career, and that would generally be a red flag. However, in each of those seasons he was battling a nerve problem in his thumb, and that appears to now be behind him. He was right back to his consistent excellent self last year, with a .305 batting average and 30 home runs. Even in 2015, which was a purported down year, he hit .285 with 25 home runs. He is as safe a bet as any to contribute in all five categories.

Jonathan Villar

2016 PECOTA Projection – .249 AVG, 92 R, 15 HR, 55 RBI, 48 SB
Expected Draft Round: mid-4th

Villar’s value comes down to essentially two things, but they are both valuable: positional flexibility and stolen bases. Regardless of your league rules, he will begin the season eligible at shortstop and third base. If the games requirement at a position is ten, he will also have second base eligibility; even if it is twenty, though, he will gain second base eligibility within the first two weeks of the season because Travis Shaw has been brought in to play third base.

His steals were his calling card last year, and there is no reason to expect any change this season. Craig Counsell’s Brewers were the most aggressive team on the bases last year; they stole 181 bases as a team in 2016, and the next closest team had just 139. Counsell clearly made running a priority, and there have been no quotes or personnel moves that would suggest any kind of change. This is particularly noteworthy for Villar because of his success rate. Even though he stole 62 bases last season, he was caught 18 times, and his stolen base rate was just 77.5 percent. While that is still above breaking even, it is not the most efficient use of Villar’s time on the bases. But lacking any reason to expect that Villar will have a more yellow light this season, he should continue to run wild on the bases. Oh, and the double-digit home runs won’t hurt either.

Neftali Feliz

2016 PECOTA Projection – 36 S, 62 K, 3.97 ERA, 1.26 WHIP
Expected Draft Round: 17

The Brewers traded nearly all the internal alternatives to Feliz at the back end of the bullpen, so he will be given every opportunity to hold on to the closer job. He is certainly risky, as he has never fully recovered from his 2012 Tommy John surgery. He missed some time at the end of last season with a bicep injury, and he also has performance questions: last year was the first DRA under 4.00 he posted since 2011 (3.45).

With all that being said, though, there is also clearly some potential upside. He will be given the first several chances to get saves, and DRA does think he improved last year. However, his save total will be tied to how well the team does, and this isn’t exactly a contending team. But if the Brewers finish around 75 wins, Feliz should be a solid closer option. This late in a draft, there aren’t many other more viable options.


SLEEPERS

Zach Davies

2016 PECOTA Projection – 9 W, 126 K, 4.12 ERA, 1.32 WHIP
Expected Draft Round: 20+

Davies could present some ratio upside this late in a draft. He and Junior Guerra are the only two Brewers who have rotation spots locked up, and the young right-hander will have every opportunity to stick in the rotation. He relies on his 90 mph sinker, so he won’t ever rack up the strikeouts. However, his DRA last year was 3.91, and he should provide solid, consistent performance. If he takes a step or two forward, he could improve on PECOTA’s projections for his wins and his ratios.

Junior Guerra

2016 PECOTA Projection – 10 W, 155 K, 4.08 ERA, 1.28 WHIP
Expected Draft Round: 20+

Almost literally everything that I wrote above for Davies could be applied to Guerra as well except for the age. Guerra will be starting on Opening Day, and he, like Davies, will have a long leash in the rotation given the suboptimal alternatives. Guerra’s splitter was one of the best in baseball at inducing whiffs, so he does have some strikeout potential. Overall, he was about as good as Davies last year, but his unique backstory (he pitched in Italy for a couple years before making his big league debut in 2015 at the age of 30) means that PECOTA is skeptical and there is a bit more uncertainty.

It is worth noting that Guerra’s ERA drastically outstripped his DRA last year (2.81 ERA, 3.87 DRA), so if he is drafted based on that then he isn’t worth the risk. However, if he slips because of concerns about how legitimate his breakout was, then he could be a worthy gamble late in drafts.

Eric Thames

2016 PECOTA Projection – .238 AVG, 62 R, 17 HR, 67 RBI, 7 SB
Expected Draft Round: 20+

PECOTA projects Thames for a .244 TAv, which is below the MLB average of .260. ZiPS projects him for a 109 wRC+. Steamer projects him for a 124 wRC+. All of this is a fancy way of saying that no one really knows what to expect from Thames. He previously played in MLB in 2011 and 2012 for the Blue Jays and Mariners, and he posted a career TAv of .257. But he spent the last few years crushing home runs in Korea, and he won the KBO MVP in 2015. If he resembles the player he was in Korea, then he is a steal at this point in a draft. If his improvements don’t carry over in his return to North America, then he isn’t worth a roster spot. But as a low-risk flier, Thames is a worthy gamble.


BUSTS

Domingo Santana

2016 PECOTA Projection – .246 AVG, 59 R, 19 HR, 63 RBI, 4 SB
Expected Draft Round: 20+

It’s hard to really find busts on a team that doesn’t have very high expectations, and “bust” is relative given Santana’s current ADP. However, I do believe there are better flier options late in the draft. Santana has a couple points working against him. First, playing time isn’t guaranteed. Braun will play left field, and Keon Broxton will presumably get most of the time in center field when lefties pitch. Only right field is available to Santana, and he will still have to compete with some of the other utility options on the team. Kirk Nieuwenhuis got a significant amount of playing time last year, and Hernan Perez and Scooter Gennett have also made themselves options in the corner.

Second, Santana has some real swing-and-miss problems. Last year, he had a contact rate of 69 percent. It was the highest mark of his career, and it still placed him in the bottom 20% of hitters who faced at least 300 pitches (66th of 463). He made excellent contact when he did hit the ball (13th in MLB in average exit velocity), but that wasn’t enough to make him a hitter worth rostering. He will be given every chance to play and so might be able to provide some cheap power, but he isn’t a great candidate to break out.


DEEPER/KEEPER LEAGUE OPTIONS

Keon Broxton

2016 PECOTA Projection – .230 AVG, 49 R, 12 HR, 38 RBI, 22 SB
Expected Draft Round: 18

At this point, most readers are probably familiar with the exit velocity phenom that is Keon Broxton. On that same leaderboard referenced above for Santana, Broxton placed fourth. He made harder average contact than Miguel Cabrera, David Ortiz, and Gary Sanchez. It didn’t all come together in terms of overall results, as his .278 TAv demonstrates. He was good but not great, but this coming season presents a great opportunity to see if the exit velocity does actually manifest itself as power. And at least if that doesn’t work out, he should be able to steal a bunch of bases on this run-happy team.

Orlando Arcia

2016 PECOTA Projection – .248 AVG, 72 R, 15 HR, 57 RBI, 16 SB
Expected Draft Round: 20+

It’s hard to know exactly what to make of Arcia offensively, but he will get a lot of at bats this year. His defense is his calling card and should keep him in the lineup even if he struggles to hit, but there is some upside at the plate. He struggled in 2016 (.217 TAv in 216 PAs), but the scouting report prior to the year was glowing and he is worth a flier in case his bat does click. Before the 2016 season, BP’s prospect team gave him future grades of 60 speed and 55 hit, and he was deemed to be a high-floor type of player because of his contact skills. He obviously didn’t reach that potential in his cup of coffee last season, but he should be more settled this season and will have every opportunity to hit and steal bases.

Lewis Brinson

2016 PECOTA Projection – .247 AVG, 19 R, 6 HR, 19 RBI, 4 SB
Expected Draft Round: N/A

As a consensus top prospect, Brinson must be owned in most keeper leagues where he could make a difference. However, the Brewers outfield situation is far from settled, and Brinson does have an opportunity to make an impact in 2017. Keon Broxton is exciting but unproven, and Domingo Santana is no sure bet to lock down playing time in right field. If Brinson hits in Triple-A and Broxton or Santana struggle in the big leagues, the Brewers could call on their top prospect by July or August. He is worth keeping on your radar just for that chance.

Wily Peralta

2016 PECOTA Projection – 6 W, 85 K, 4.33 ERA, 1.43 WHIP
Expected Draft Round: N/A

You shouldn’t actually draft Peralta, but he is worth keeping an eye on throughout the season in case he gets moved to the bullpen. The Brewers have a lot of mediocre rotation options and Peralta throws the hardest, so he seems to be one of the most likely to move to the bullpen.

Putting Peralta on this list is purely speculative; if he gets moved to the bullpen, his mid-90s fastball could play up and allow him to increase his strikeout numbers. And if Feliz gets hurt or struggles, Peralta could be in play for some late-season innings at the back of the bullpen.

Related Articles

1 comment on “2017 Brewers Fantasy Preview”

Leave a comment

Use your Baseball Prospectus username