By Nick Piecoro, azcentral sports
As residents of the National League Central, the Brewers don’t have to look far to find hope as they embark on Year 3 of what has been a systematic rebuild. The division-rival Chicago Cubs, fresh off a championship season, represent the beau ideal of the modern teardown.
It’s hard to say the Brewers are as well-positioned as the Cubs were a couple of years ago, but they’re clearly making strides. After dealing infielder Jean Segura before the 2016 season and catcher Jonathan Lucroy during it, the Brewers sent setup man Tyler Thornburg to the Boston Red Sox in December, another deal that added to their solid collection of prospects.
The Brewers might not be ready to step into the realm of contention this year, but more of their young core will likely reach the majors at some point and should provide a glimpse of what’s to come.
Say what you want about him, but Ryan Braun remains the most high-profile – and still the most productive – player on the Brewers’ roster.
His popularity and production have taken hits in the years after the Biogenesis scandal and suspension, but Braun is coming off yet another strong season in which he hit .305 with 30 homers.
The most clear-cut battle probably will take place behind the plate, where the Brewers have Jett Bandy, Andrew Susac and Manny Pina vying for the everyday job. Prospect Jacob Nottingham is worth watching in spring training, though some believe he might not end up a catcher in the long term.
The Brewers are likely to have battles in the rotation and bullpen, and their outfield has a couple of intriguing, athletic players: Lewis Brinson and Ryan Cordell, who also are worth tracking.
Fantasy baseball players are probably familiar with the season Jonathan Villar had, but he managed to mostly float under the radar given that the Brewers didn’t really play meaningful games all year.
Villar was an offensive force last year, hitting .285 with 19 homers while stealing a major league-leading 62 bases. He enters 2017 as the Brewers’ everyday second baseman and presumptive leadoff man.
Manager: Craig Counsell.
Last season’s record: 73-89.
Big changes: Added: RHP Neftali Feliz, C Jett Bandy, OF Eric Thames, 1B/3B Travis Shaw, LHP Tommy Milone. Subtracted: RHP Tyler Thornburg, 1B Chris Carter, C Martin Maldonado.