2009 MLB Preview: #18 Milwaukee Brewers

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Offseason Movement: The Brewers signed long-time Padres’ closer Trevor Hoffman in the offseason and also brought on pitchers Jorge Julio and Braden Looper, as well as outfielder Trot Nixon.

Top Prospect: Mat Gamel, 3B
Some would say Alcides Escobar is the Brewers’ top prospect, but you can’t go wrong with either. Milwaukee seems to be following a trend of taking prospects based more on their offense than defense, because not unlike Matt LaPorta and Ryan Braun before him, Gamel doesn’t have the best defensive skills. But there is no denying that the kid can hit. Gamel has a nice, pure swing and has shown excellent plate discipline to this point in his career. He has great hand/eye coordination and he loves hitting the gaps. Gamel figures to start the season in Triple-A, but could get a shot to compete if Bill Hall continues to struggle with a calf injury.

The Big Question: How will this club respond without CC Sabathia and Ben Sheets?
The Brewers’ starting rotation shows some potential with Yovani Gallardo and Manny Parra at the top. But Gallardo missed four and a half months last year with a knee injury and Parra has had some shoulder issues in the past. If Sabathia and Sheets headlined the rotation, then there would obviously be less concern about Gallardo and Parra’s injury history. But considering Jeff Suppan, Dave Bush, Braden Looper and Seth McClung comprise the rest of the rotation, there are a ton of question marks following the Brewers’ pitching staff heading into Opening Day.

Outlook: Milwaukee’s lineup is absolutely stacked from top to bottom. Ryan Braun, Prince Fielder and Corey Hart make up one of the best middle of the order trio in the National League, while Rickie Weeks and J.J. Hardy have proven to be solid table setters. Unless a couple of players make lengthy trips to the DL, the Brewers will once again score a ton of runs this season. But will they have to? Losing CC Sabathia and Ben Sheets at the top of the rotation hurts and unless Yovani Gallardo and Matt Para have breakout seasons, the Brewers might not make a ton of noise this year. Then again, Gallardo and Para very well could have breakout campaigns and with that lineup, Milwaukee could easily win the Wild Card again. Their success this season likely lies at the feet of their starting rotation.

Projection: 3rd NL Central

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