Over the past few seasons, the Milwaukee Brewers have quietly created a mini-contender in the Midwest. Despite being from a small market with a low payroll, the Brewers have won at least 86 games three straight years and have reached the playoffs the past two seasons. In 2018, Milwaukee won 96 games and took the Dodgers to Game 7 of the NLCS. Last year the Brewers went 89-73 and earned a Wild Card berth. Unfortunately, the Beer Makers blew a 3-1 lead in the bottom of the 8th inning of the one-game playoff and lost to the Nationals 4-3.
It's been an eventful offseason for the Brew Crew. Their biggest victory was locking up their best player and 2018 NL MVP Christian Yelich to a 9-year, $215 million deal. But Milwaukee also lost a plethora of key contributors in free agency, including catcher Yasmani Grandal, second baseman Mike Moustakas and first baseman Eric Thames. The trio each hit at least 25-homers apiece last season. In their place, the Brewers signed former Rays outfielder Avisail Garcia (.282, 20 homers, 72 RBIs in 2019) and former Jays first baseman Justin Smoak (.208, 22 homers, 61 RBIs), along with adding utility men Eric Sogard, Brock Holt and Jedd Gyorko. The Brewers also traded for former Mariners catcher Omar Narvaez (.278, 22 homers, 55 RBIs).
The Brewers' lineup will be led by their number 3 and 4 hitters, Yelich and emerging star Keston Hiura. Drafted in the first round in 2017, Hiura, 23, hit .303 in his rookie season in 2019, including 19 homers and 49 RBIs. Milwaukee will also benefit from the NL now having a designated hitter, a position which veteran slugger Ryan Braun will assume.
Here is the projected Brewers lineup for 2020
1. Eric Sogard 3B
2. Lorenzo Cain OF
3. Christian Yelich OF
4. Keston Hiura 2B
5. Ryan Braun DH
6. Justin Smoak 1B
7. Avisail Garcia OF
8. Omar Narvaez C
9. Orlando Arcia SS
Milwaukee's starting rotation is anchored by 27-year-old emerging ace Brandon Woodruff (11-3, 3.62 ERA). There are a lot of unknowns after Woodruff.
1. Brandon Woodruff
2. Adrian Houser
3. Brett Anderson
4. Josh Lindblom
5. Eric Lauer
Luckily for the Brewers they have a lights out bullpen, which allows manager Craig Counsell to shorten games and compensate for a mediocre starting staff. The unhittable Josh Hader (2.62 ERA, 37 saves) returns as closer, along with setup men Freddy Peralta and Brent Suter.
At BetMGM, the Brewers' win total is 30.5 with even -110 juice on both sides. This translates to 82.35 wins based on a 162-game schedule. Over the past three seasons Milwaukee has averaged 90.33 wins per season.
FanGraphs, one of the most respected sites for advanced baseball stats and analytics, is projecting the Brewers to go 32-28. This represents 1.5 games of actionable value on the Milwaukee over 30.5 win total.
Despite value on the over win total, Milwaukee isn't expected to make the postseason. The Brewers are a -223 favorite to miss the playoffs and a + 180 dog to make it. This is partly due to the highly competitive division Milwaukee plays in.
The Brewers are + 300 to win the NL Central. The Cubs and Cardinals are co-favorites at + 240, followed by the Reds at + 275. The Pirates are a distant + 5000.
Milwaukee is + 2000 to win the National League and + 4000 to win the World Series. The Brewers have never won a World Series in their history. They were founded in 1969.
In terms of player props and futures, Yelich has the 3rd-best NL MVP odds at + 700, trailing only Mookie Betts + 500 and Ronald Acuna Jr + 600. Yelich is the co-favorite to lead the NL in batting average at + 800 with Nolan Arenado. Yelich is + 900 to lead the NL in runs and + 1000 to lead the NL in hits. Yelich is + 2500 to lead MLB in home runs.
Yelich's over/under home runs is 14.5 (over -120, under -110). His over/under RBIs is 35.5 (-115 both sides) and steals 8.5 (-115 both sides).
Hader has the 4th-best odds to lead the NL in saves at + 700.