Good news cheeseheads: the Green Bay Packers will be one of the first teams to open training camp in the NFL because they face the Indianapolis Colts in the 2016 Hall of Fame Game in Canton on Sunday, Aug. 7, to kickoff the NFL preseason. Thus, the Pack and Colts are allowed to start camp a few days earlier than any other team.
Fans in Milwaukee will be ready to turn their attention to football season by late July because the Brewers are in full-on rebuild/tank mode. Hey, it worked for their neighbors to the south, the Chicago Cubs.
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It might seem like forever ago, but the Brewers led the NL wild-card chase for a long stretch in 2014 before falling off a cliff late in the season and finishing 82-80. Things only got worse last year with a 68-94 record, the franchise's worst since 2004. Manager Ron Roenicke only made it to early May, getting canned with an MLB-worst 7-18 record. In 2011, Roenicke led the Brewers to a 96-66 record -- the best in team history -- and the National League Central title.
Things were a bit better under Craig Counsell, with the team going 61-76, and he's the full-time guy going forward. Counsell worked in Milwaukee's front office after retiring in 2012 with the club.
The Brewers are doing a total reboot under the youngest GM in the majors, David Stearns (assistant GM in Houston the previous three years), and have a projected payroll of around $51 million this season, which would be the lowest by more than $10 million in the majors. Milwaukee would love to get that lower by trading a few of the recognizable and high-paid guys it has left.
The team's overhaul actually began last summer before Stearns was hired with outfielder Carlos Gomez and pitcher Mike Fiers dealt to Houston, third baseman Aramis Ramirez to Pittsburgh, outfielder Gerardo Parra to Baltimore and reliever Jonathan Broxton to St. Louis.
Milwaukee opens the season Monday at home against San Francisco.
Brewers 2016 Projected Lineup
Stearns has already done his wheeling and dealing as well, trading first baseman Adam Lind to Seattle for two pitching prospects, shortstop Jean Segura to Arizona for young pitcher Chase Anderson and a minor-league shortstop, and outfielder Khris Davis to Oakland for a pitching and catching prospect. Segura was an All-Star for his play in the first half of 2013 but never got back to that level again. The team sold high on Davis, who hit a team-best 27 homers last year. Lind hit .266 with 20 homers and a team-leading 87 RBIs.
Second baseman Scooter Gennett (.264 in 114 games) leads off. He's followed by former All-Stars in catcher Jonathan Lucroy (.264, 7 HRs, 43 RBIs) and left fielder Ryan Braun (.285, 25 HRs, 84 RBIs). Rumors abounded all winter of Lucroy being moved, and he probably will be by July. Braun is still a pretty good player if not the MVP candidate he was while juicing.
There's nothing to get excited about the rest of the way. It will be something like first baseman Chris Carter (.199, 24 HRs, 64 RBIs with Houston), right fielder Domingo Santana (.231, 6 HRs, 18 RBIs in 38 games), third baseman Aaron Hill, shortstop Jonathan Villar and center fielder Kirk Nieuwenhuis. Santana was the prize received from Houston in the Gomez/Fiers trade. Hill was part of that Segura deal, and the Brewers would like to dump him if possible. He doesn't fit on this team at his age and contract. Arizona wouldn't do the deal without including him.
So you are looking at only three regulars in this lineup from last year and that's the top three. This will be one of the three worst scoring teams in the NL.
Brewers 2016 Projected Rotation & Closer
The rotation might actually not be terrible. Wily Peralta (5-10, 4.72) I guess is the ace since he's starting Opening Day. Matt Garza (6-14, 5.63) is a trade candidate if he can stay healthy. But he never does. Jimmy Nelson (11-13, 4.11) is just 26 and still has plenty of potential. Ditto fellow 26-year-old Taylor Jungmann (9-8, 3.77). And finally, Anderson (6-6, 4.30) was a bright spot in Arizona last season.
In November, the Brewers traded closer Francisco Rodriguez to Detroit in basically a salary dump. Rodriguez had 38 saves in 40 chances and had a 2.21 ERA and 62 strikeouts in 57 innings last season.
To sum up what kind of year it's likely to be in Milwaukee, expected closer Will Smith tore a knee ligament recently while ... taking his shoe off. Smith said he was standing on one knee to take the cleats off and twisted his knee when he lost his balance. So now the job goes to Jeremy Jeffress. He was 5-0 last season with a 2.65 ERA in 68 innings but has one career save, coming five years ago with the Royals. Jeffers had two suspensions for marijuana use in the minors, the first in 2007 costing 50 games, another in 2009 sidelining him for 100. So he's one more from being done.
Brewers Futures Odds
At BetOnline , Milwaukee is +12500 to win the World Series, +8000 for the NL pennant, +6600 in the NL Central and has an "over/under" wins total of 70.5, with the under a -120 favorite. Braun is +10000 to lead the majors in homers. Santana is +2000 for NL Rookie of the Year.
Brewers 2016 Predictions
FanGraphs projects Milwaukee to finish 70-92 and last in the NL Central, 25 games behind the Cubs. Only Atlanta and Philadelphia are projected with fewer wins in the majors. I really don't like going under any total of 70, but I don't see how this team improves on last year's 68 victories. So under it is.
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