Will the Milwaukee Brewers be competitive in 2024? After much speculation surrounding roster decisions and potential trades, Milwaukee looks set to fight for another division title. How will they fare in a fascinating National League Central? Here are three concerns for Milwaukee as the new season approaches.
Three Questions Facing the Brewers in 2024
Is the Rotation Good Enough?
At the end of the 2023 season, the Brewers’ most convincing strength was their pitching. A rotation led by Corbin Burnes and Freddy Peralta is about as good as it gets. Brandon Woodruff would be healthy again for a full season.
That changed after Woodruff’s shoulder injury left him as a non-tender candidate. The back end of the staff is suspect with Wade Miley, Colin Rea, and Joe Ross currently filling out the rotation, according to RosterResource. All three of those starters are projected to have ERAs north of 4.40.
This puts pressure on Burnes and Peralta to carry a heavy workload in what could be a feisty division race with teams like the Cincinnati Reds on the rise and the St. Louis Cardinals hoping for a bounce back. Burnes is still a top-tier starter, but he took a slight step backward from his Cy Young-caliber peak. His strikeout and walk numbers were worse, but he held opposing batters to a sub-.200 batting average for the fourth consecutive season.
Will the Offense Improve?
The biggest reservations for this Milwaukee team have stemmed from the lack of offensive firepower for multiple seasons. The Brewers finished the season as the 17th-ranked team in runs scored, but only hit the 24th most home runs. The offense could become a serious threat with some added thump, but it’s unclear just how much better this offense will be.
Two interesting additions could change the outlook for this problem. First, stud prospect Jackson Chourio could be a star in the making. He had 22 home runs in Double-A last season across 122 games, while only playing in six games at Triple-A. That’s a substantial leap for a 19-year-old to make if he is expected to be a pillar of the offense. The Steamer projection system expects Chourio to hit .253 with 17 home runs. That would be a promising debut for such a young rookie, but is it enough to carry the Milwaukee offense?
Jake Bauers provides an interesting bat, even if he is not the most exciting addition. He hit 12 home runs last season in 84 games, but his barrel rate tripled from his career average in what seems like an unsustainable manner given his sky-high strikeout rate. He has never been an above-average hitter, but at the very least, he could add some meaningful pop.
The returning stars could offer a test in perspective. Christian Yelich had his best season since 2019. William Contreras impressed in his first full-season workload while displaying an improved plate approach. If Yelich and Contreras can be counted on to repeat that performance, maybe the rest of the roster can fall into place. These two are the only returning players with a wRC+ above the league average. If Yelich and Contreras take even a small step back, it will be tough for the offense to push many runs across the plate.
How Good Will Young Players Be?
This might be the biggest wild card in the Brewers’ chase for a repeat division crown. Multiple rookies made auspicious debuts in 2023 and there are even more waiting in the wings. Both pitchers and position players could supplement the roster as the season progresses.
As mentioned, Chourio could be a key starter from Opening Day. Second-year players such as Sal Frelick, Brice Turang, and Andruw Monasterio will be relied upon to contribute. The problem with those three players is they are mostly defensive standouts with below-average bats. They all strike out less than average but struggle to make hard contact on the ball.
Several high-ranked prospects could fight their way into regular playing time this season. Tyler Black, 23, is a third baseman with impressive plate discipline and hit a .310 average in Triple-A. Robert Gasser, 24, ranks as one of MLB.com’s top left-handed pitching prospects. Once again, it’s difficult to assume rookies will come in and dominate at the major-league level, but Milwaukee has reinforcements in the pipeline.
Entering the offseason, it was easy to envision this becoming a transition year for Milwaukee, trading away players like Burnes and moving forward as their young players developed. Not so fast. The Brewers didn’t break away in their division until the second half of the season and that path will only be more difficult this season. But there are still cornerstone players leading this team with opportunities for young players to make an impact in the playoff hunt.
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