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MLB Team Roundup: Milwaukee Brewers

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Milwaukee Brewers

Team Record: 92-70 (.568)

First Place, NL Central

Team ERA: 3.73 (1st)

Team OPS: .704 (23rd)

What Went Right

It’s safe to say that pitching led the team to their first-place finish in the NL Central. The Brewers tied with the Padres for the best team ERA in baseball. In the rotation, it starts with the ace of the staff, Corbin Burnes. While still excellent by most standards, Burnes had his worst statistical season since 2019, finishing with a 3.39 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, and 200 strikeouts across 193 2/3 innings. With Brandon Woodruff out for much of the season due to injury, Freddy Peralta stepped up, providing a career-high 165 2/3 innings with a 3.86 ERA, 1.12 WHIP, and 210 strikeouts. The bullpen was dominant, producing a collective 3.40 ERA, second-best behind the Yankees. Devin Williams was one of the best closers in baseball, converting 36 saves with a 1.53 ERA, 0.92 WHIP, and 87 strikeouts over 58 2/3 innings.

Things weren’t as glowing, offensively. Christian Yelich and William Contreras were the team’s best hitters. Yelich had his best season since 2019, hitting .278 with 19 homers, 106 runs, 76 RBI, and 28 steals. Contreras arrived from Atlanta before the season to become Milwaukee’s full-time catcher. He blasted 17 homers with 86 runs and 78 RBI while leading the National League in plate appearances at the position at 611, getting 33 starts as designated hitter.

What Went Wrong

As good as the Brewers’ pitching was, it could have been better had Brandon Woodruff remained healthy. He was limited to just 67 innings but produced a 2.28 ERA and 0.82 WHIP with 74 strikeouts. The real downfall for the Brewers was their offense, as Yelich and Contreras were the only qualifying hitters with an OPS over .720. Willy Adames was third at .717 while leading the team in home runs at 24, the only hitter to surpass 20. Rowdy Tellez was to be a force in the middle of the lineup. But he made just 351 plate appearances after suffering a forearm strain, hitting 13 homers that sadly ranked fourth on the team.

Fantasy Slants

** Burnes had struggled in the second half of 2022, posting a 3.97 ERA in the second half. That carried over into 2023, with a 3.94 ERA going into the All-Star break. He was much better down the stretch, posting a 2.71 ERA that we’re used to seeing from the ace in the second half. He also displayed a spike in his strikeout rate, from 23.1 percent to 28.6 percent. With the chance we see the Burnes of 2020-2022 return, he’ll be among the top starters taken in fantasy drafts.

** On the surface, Peralta’s 3.86 ERA wasn’t spectacular. But he did a lot of things well that could signal better numbers to come in 2024. It was great to see him stay healthy for the season, making a career-high 30 starts and tossing 165 2/3 innings. He also cut his walk rate for the second straight season, improving to 7.9 percent. And his swing-and-miss stuff remains elite, with a 14.4 percent swinging-strike rate. The upside here is last season’s volume with 2021’s ratios and strikeout rate. There’s ace potential if he can avoid injury.

** After a couple of seasons where we saw Yelich get more lift on his swing for a home run boost, he’s returned to his extreme ground ball ways. And that’s probably here to stay. An elite hard-hit rate of 49.9 percent and still excellent 9.2 percent barrel rate will continue to make him a 20-homer threat. But the power upside will be capped. Yelich’s plate discipline will keep him on the bases and in line to score plenty of runs while still capable of stealing nearly 30 bases, making him a solid five-category contributor and a relatively safe pick in fantasy drafts.

** Contreras cut his strikeout rate from 27.7 percent in 2022 to 20.6 percent in 2023. His improved contact ability with his impressive hard-hit rate helped him achieve a .289 batting average that led all catchers with at least 300 plate appearances. Like Yelich, he has a bit of a problem with ground balls, but there is 20-homer potential there. With his on-base skills, the Brewers should continue to keep his bat in the lineup with starts as the designated hitter, making him one of the most valuable fantasy catchers going into 2024.

** Adames was a major letdown in 2023, hitting .217/.310/.407 with 24 homers and five steals across 638 plate appearances. His plate skills, including his walk and strikeout rates, actually improved. But a career-low .259 BABIP suppressed his batting average. And his hard-hit rate dipped to 36.1 percent, which maybe points to something just being off with Adames this season. He suffered a concussion in late May. He’ll be heavily discounted in fantasy drafts but could provide value as a bounce-back candidate next season.

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Key Free Agents

Jesse Winker, Brian Anderson

Team Needs

The team can use help everywhere outside of the bullpen and the catching position. With Woodruff set to miss the entire 2024 season after undergoing shoulder surgery, a reliable third starter will need to emerge or be added this winter. Yelich in left field and Adames at shortstop seem to be the only other positions locked in going into the off-season. The team will surely be hoping for better contributions from their young group of outfielders, including Joey Wiemer, Sal Frelick, and Garrett Mitchell. Around the infield, it seems every position is up for grabs outside of shortstop. This team will need to make significant improvements offensively. Adding power and hitters with on-base skills to extend the lineup should be a priority.