Projecting Nick Franklin

Another day, another roster move for the rebuilding Milwaukee Brewers.

On Wednesday, the Brewers claimed INF/OF Nick Franklin off waivers from the Tampa Bay Rays and designated reliever Michael Blazek for assignment. Blazek was a dominant piece of Milwaukee’s 2015 bullpen but really struggled to find any success in 2016 (5.66 ERA/5.71 FIP). Franklin, on the other hand, was once a top prospect, although he has failed miserably to live up to that billing in the major leagues. He did, however, enjoy a career year last season with the bat, creating 10 percent more runs than league average — by far his highest wRC+. But even with that, he posted a 0.0 WAR — the definition of a replacement player.

Franklin enticed the Brewers due to his versatility, as he’s similar to Hernan Perez by being able play multiple infield and outfield positions. He doesn’t have much power and his on-base skills are limited, but general manager David Stearns believed he was worth a flyer, though it may be an expensive flyer if another team ends up claiming Blazek.

Franklin is expected to join the Brewers on Friday, so let’s see what RW23 thinks of the 26 year old.

PA AB AVG OBP SLG OPS ISO wOBA K% BB% BABIP HR
RW23 181 167 .229 .285 .390 .674 .161 .294 27.6% 6.1% .291 5

It’s not all that pretty. Other projection systems like Steamer and ZiPS aren’t as pessimistic as RW23, but the difference is extremely small. They all believe Franklin won’t make much of an impact.

But because the Brewers are rebuilding, they need to take chances on guys like Franklin. They have very little to lose, and if one of these dart throws sticks, it will only increase the speed of the rebuild.

Projecting Brent Suter

Just like a season ago, the Milwaukee Brewers made a pitching move following Opening Day. In 2016, they designated Ariel Pena for assignment after getting blasted, and this year, they placed starting pitcher Junior Guerra on the 10-day disabled list with a strained calf and recalled LHP Brent Suter to replace him. Tommy Milone — who pitched two innings of relief Monday — will most likely serve as a starter to fill Guerra’s void, while Suter will take Milone’s place as the only lefty in the bullpen.

So let’s project what to expect from Suter using RW23.

IP HR WHIP BABIP K/9 BB/9 K% BB% ERA FIP xFIP
RW23 25 3 1.34 .303 6.18 2.26 16.1% 5.9% 4.21 4.22 4.51

According to RW23, Suter projects to be relatively the same pitcher as Milone, so the good thing is that the Brewers won’t be losing anything. However, like Milone, Suter won’t miss many bats, but that’s nothing new. He’s never shown strikeout ability in the minor leagues and has never been considered a top prospect. But his performance in spring training was impressive, and that’s likely what led to his call up. Meanwhile, highly coveted prospect Josh Hader and outspoken reliever Tyler Cravy will remain at Colorado Springs for the foreseeable future.

Suter made his major league debut in 2016, and in 21.2 innings — including two starts — he posted a 3.32 ERA and 4.39 FIP. His relies heavily on his fastball and mixes in a sllider and changeup, as well. He’s definitely not a power pitcher, though, as his fastball averaged just 84.8 mph last season. It’s all about location for the southpaw.

Don’t expect Suter to see many high-leverage innings out of Milwaukee’s pen, but he’s likely to stay there until Guerra — who’s expected to miss more than the minimum 10 days — is healthy enough to rejoin the rotation.

Pitcher projections for the 2017 Milwaukee Brewers

Below is the same opening I used for my hitter projections, so if you have already visited those, just skip right on down to the stats. If not, here’s where you can find RW23’s hitter projections.

I’m really excited about this.

For the first time in its two-and-a-half year existence, The First Out At Third is featuring real projections rather than educated guesses like it has in previous years. I’m very excited to announce to finally debut RW23 projections.

RW23 is named after my favorite (and greatest) baseball player of all time, Rickie Weeks. I’ve loved him from the moment he made his Brewers’ debut and I shed many tears during his final game in Miller Park, although he wasn’t even given an at bat. I own a banner of Weeks that used to hang up in the stadium, and his is the only autograph I truly cherish. Naming my projections after him was a no-brainer.

Now, RW23 isn’t a scientific or mathematical, computer-based model. It relies on relatively simple formulas that I entered into Excel. I’d be remiss if I didn’t give Mike Podhorzer and his book “Projecting X 2.0” credit, though, as I purchased his book to aid me. I made a few small changes and added a bit of my own sauce to it, but there’s no way I would’ve been able to do this without Mike’s book.

Below you will find RW23’s projections along with a side-by-side comparison to Steamer and ZiPS — two well-respected projection systems.(Note: ZiPS doesn’t project xFIP.) At the end of the year I’ll compare the three systems to see how RW23 performed in its debut season.

As new players are added to the 25-man roster, I will dedicate an entire post to their projections, but for now, here are the pitcher projections for the 2017 Milwaukee Brewers.

SP Junior Guerra

IP HR WHIP BABIP K/9 BB/9 K% BB% ERA FIP xFIP
RW23 162 17 1.27 .281 7.48 3.25 19.8% 8.6% 3.61 3.99 4.35
Steamer 192 25 1.39 .303 8.24 3.47 21.0% 8.9% 4.43 4.29 4.25
ZiPS 123 18 1.35 .294 8.20 3.66 20.9% 9.3% 4.24 4.54 N/A

SP Zach Davies

IP HR WHIP BABIP K/9 BB/9 K% BB% ERA FIP xFIP
RW23 168 22 1.32 .305 7.75 2.61 20.2% 6.8% 4.13 4.14 3.95
Steamer 174 23 1.36 .306 7.67 2.82 19.7% 7.3% 4.35 4.19 4.11
ZiPS 169 20 1.27 .307 7.76 2.55 20.2% 6.6% 3.99 3.91 N/A

SP Jimmy Nelson

IP HR WHIP BABIP K/9 BB/9 K% BB% ERA FIP xFIP
RW23 181 21 1.35 .296 7.83 3.47 20.1% 8.9% 4.02 4.27 4.16
Steamer 120 15 1.46 .308 7.39 3.64 18.5% 9.1% 4.80 4.57 4.48
ZiPS 170 21 1.38 .307 7.57 3.39 19.2% 8.6% 4.34 4.45 N/A

SP Matt Garza

IP HR WHIP BABIP K/9 BB/9 K% BB% ERA FIP xFIP
RW23 96 11 1.44 .303 6.05 3.18 15.4% 8.1% 4.45 4.46 4.53
Steamer 128 19 1.46 .308 6.54 3.06 16.5% 7.7% 4.89 4.71 4.57
ZiPS 122 18 1.43 .309 6.30 3.04 15.8% 7.6% 5.04 4.76 N/A

SP Wily Peralta

IP HR WHIP BABIP K/9 BB/9 K% BB% ERA FIP xFIP
RW23 125 16 1.42 .310 6.66 2.94 17.0% 7.5% 4.49 4.37 4.09
Steamer 140 18 1.45 .312 6.93 3.12 17.5% 7.9% 4.64 4.43 4.26
ZiPS 149 22 1.43 .312 6.67 3.07 16.7% 7.7% 4.81 4.70 N/A

SP Chase Anderson

IP HR WHIP BABIP K/9 BB/9 K% BB% ERA FIP xFIP
RW23 138 25 1.40 .295 7.37 3.12 18.9% 8.0% 4.82 5.03 4.51
Steamer 133 18 1.37 .301 7.81 2.83 20.0% 7.2% 4.72 4.56 4.43
ZiPS 139 22 1.38 .308 7.28 2.96 18.5% 7.5% 4.64 4.67 N/A

RP Tommy Milone

IP HR WHIP BABIP K/9 BB/9 K% BB% ERA FIP xFIP
RW23 61 7 1.33 .292 6.13 2.68 16.0% 7.0% 4.11 4.32 4.48
Steamer 57 8 1.27 .301 7.96 2.22 20.9% 5.8% 4.10 4.03 3.94
ZiPS 128 21 1.34 .306 7.03 2.46 18.0% 6.3% 4.71 4.61 N/A

RP Jacob Barnes

IP HR WHIP BABIP K/9 BB/9 K% BB% ERA FIP xFIP
RW23 52 4 1.20 .293 9.09 3.12 24.5% 8.4% 3.10 3.18 3.54
Steamer 35 4 1.32 .304 8.98 3.28 23.3% 8.5% 3.94 3.84 3.88
ZiPS 53 5 1.27 .313 9.56 3.35 24.9% 8.7% 3.52 3.46 N/A

RP Corey Knebel

IP HR WHIP BABIP K/9 BB/9 K% BB% ERA FIP xFIP
RW23 63 6 1.22 .297 10.32 3.48 27.6% 9.3% 3.24 3.29 3.43
Steamer 65 7 1.28 .302 10.66 3.77 27.9% 9.9% 3.56 3.49 3.56
ZiPS 54 7 1.27 .316 11.28 3.81 29.3% 9.9% 3.65 3.68 N/A

RP Jhan Marinez

IP HR WHIP BABIP K/9 BB/9 K% BB% ERA FIP xFIP
RW23 53 4 1.33 .300 7.39 3.34 19.0% 8.6% 3.64 3.82 3.99
Steamer 55 6 1.41 .307 8.43 3.89 21.4% 9.9% 4.16 4.12 4.14
ZiPS 68 8 1.34 .307 8.07 3.31 20.7% 8.5% 3.84 4.21 N/A

RP Neftali Feliz

IP HR WHIP BABIP K/9 BB/9 K% BB% ERA FIP xFIP
RW23 61 9 1.19 0.261 9.18 3.37 24.8% 9.1% 3.67 4.28 4.01
Steamer 65 8 1.28 0.295 10.15 3.56 26.5% 9.3% 3.83 3.81 3.88
ZiPS 55 9 1.30 0.299 9.43 3.58 N/A N/A 4.39 4.41 N/A

RP Carlos Torres

IP HR WHIP BABIP K/9 BB/9 K% BB% ERA FIP xFIP
RW23 73 9 1.28 .285 8.16 3.26 21.5% 8.6% 3.76 4.10 4.08
Steamer 55 7 1.36 .304 8.58 3.33 22.0% 8.6% 4.17 4.09 4.09
ZiPS 80 11 1.33 .301 8.74 3.59 22.4% 9.2% 3.92 4.29 N/A

RP Taylor Jungmann

IP HR WHIP BABIP K/9 BB/9 K% BB% ERA FIP xFIP
RW23 53 6 1.52 .312 7.53 4.23 18.7% 10.5% 4.62 4.52 4.70
Steamer 85 11 1.53 .306 8.02 4.54 19.8% 11.2% 4.91 4.78 4.75
ZiPS 142 19 1.52 .308 8.09 4.78 19.9% 11.7% 4.97 4.88 N/A

RP Jared Hughes

IP HR WHIP BABIP K/9 BB/9 K% BB% ERA FIP xFIP
RW23 62 5 1.38 .292 5.11 2.95 13.0% 7.5% 3.99 4.39 4.43
Steamer 10 1 1.46 .308 6.06 3.41 15.3% 8.6% 4.34 4.40 4.46
ZiPS 63 6 1.41 .303 5.12 2.98 N/A N/A 3.69 4.52 N/A

Hitter projections for the 2017 Milwaukee Brewers

I’m really excited about this.

For the first time in its two-and-a-half year existence, The First Out At Third is featuring real projections rather than educated guesses like it has in previous years. I’m very excited to announce to finally debut RW23 projections.

RW23 is named after my favorite (and greatest) baseball player of all time, Rickie Weeks. I’ve loved him from the moment he made his Brewers’ debut and I shed many tears during his final game in Miller Park, although he wasn’t even given an at bat. I own a banner of Weeks that used to hang up in the stadium, and his is the only autograph I truly cherish. Naming my projections after him was a no-brainer.

Now, RW23 isn’t a scientific or mathematical, computer-based model. It relies on relatively simple formulas that I entered into Excel. I’d be remiss if I didn’t give Mike Podhorzer and his book “Projecting X 2.0” credit, though, as I purchased his book to aid me. I made a few small changes and added a bit of my own sauce to it, but there’s no way I would’ve been able to do this without Mike’s book.

Below you will find RW23’s projections along with a side-by-side comparison to Steamer and ZiPS — two well-respected projection systems. At the end of the year I’ll compare the three systems to see how RW23 performed in its debut season.

As new players are added to the 25-man roster, I will dedicate an entire post to their projections, but for now, here are the hitter projections for the 2017 Milwaukee Brewers. Pitching projections will be out shortly.

C Manny Pina

PA AB AVG OBP SLG OPS ISO wOBA K% BB% BABIP HR
RW23 360 330 .246 .302 .356 .658 .110 .290 16.1% 7.0% .275 8
Steamer 109 99 .250 .305 .384 .689 .135 .298 17.2% 6.6% .282 3
ZiPS 304 278 .241 .291 .371 .662 .129 .286 16.4% 5.9% .271 6

1B Eric Thames

PA AB AVG OBP SLG OPS ISO wOBA K% BB% BABIP HR
RW23 535 478 .265 .334 .517 .851 .252 .360 26.4% 9.3% .308 31
Steamer 534 470 .272 .350 .515 .864 .243 .364 24.2% 9.6% .313 29
ZiPS 507 450 .247 .321 .493 .815 .247 .343 28.2% 8.7% .297 26

2B Jonathan Villar

PA AB AVG OBP SLG OPS ISO wOBA K% BB% BABIP HR
RW23 625 545 .260 .348 .398 .746 .137 .326 24.9% 11.8% .336 15
Steamer 641 563 .255 .333 .397 .731 .142 .318 25.3% 10.0% .329 15
ZiPS 584 515 .256 .332 .410 .742 .153 .322 26.9% 9.8% .338 15

3B Travis Shaw

PA AB AVG OBP SLG OPS ISO wOBA K% BB% BABIP HR
RW23 541 485 .254 .322 .439 .761 .185 .330 24.4% 8.7% .301 22
Steamer 388 347 .245 .314 .431 .745 .186 .319 23.3% 8.6% .286 15
ZiPS 542 492 .246 .308 .433 .741 .187 .316 22.9% 7.9% .287 20

SS Orlando Arcia

PA AB AVG OBP SLG OPS ISO wOBA K% BB% BABIP HR
RW23 580 537 .255 .304 .383 .688 .129 .300 17.5% 6.5% .293 12
Steamer 538 497 .246 .292 .375 .667 .129 .288 18.3% 5.8% .286 10
ZiPS 635 593 .245 .289 .379 .669 .135 .288 20.2% 5.5% .291 13

OF Ryan Braun

PA AB AVG OBP SLG OPS ISO WOBA K% BB% BABIP HR
RW23 555 496 .291 .355 .495 .850 .204 .362 18.6% 8.6% .320 24
Steamer 544 487 .280 .346 .492 .838 .212 .353 19.3% 8.7% .310 24
ZiPS 548 497 .282 .343 .477 .820 .195 .347 18.4% 8.0% .313 22

OF Keon Broxton

PA AB AVG OBP SLG OPS ISO wOBA K% BB% BABIP HR
RW23 522 456 .242 .331 .413 .743 .170 .325 31.0% 11.4% .337 15
Steamer 530 466 .222 .304 .378 .683 .156 .298 32.9% 10.2% .315 15
ZiPS 469 417 .216 .297 .408 .705 .192 .304 37.3% 10.0% .325 16

OF Domingo Santana

PA AB AVG OBP SLG OPS ISO wOBA K% BB% BABIP HR
RW23 515 441 .256 .354 .490 .843 .234 .362 31.0% 12.3% .341 23
Steamer 517 448 .253 .343 .449 .792 .197 .342 28.8% 11.4% .327 21
ZiPS 466 408 .243 .333 .441 .774 .199 .334 32.6% 11.2% .335 19

OF Kirk Nieuwenhuis

PA AB AVG OBP SLG OPS ISO wOBA K% BB% BABIP HR
RW23 275 245 .212 .295 .366 .661 .154 .292 32.7% 10.1% .300 7
Steamer 242 212 .219 .305 .385 .690 .165 .301 31.3% 10.4% .297 8
ZiPS 349 308 .218 .305 .412 .717 .195 .310 31.2% 10.6% .289 13

UTIL Hernan Perez

PA AB AVG OBP SLG OPS ISO wOBA K% BB% BABIP HR
RW23 315 296 .261 .296 .383 .679 .122 .295 21.6% 4.7% .314 7
Steamer 402 379 .261 .294 .385 .679 .124 .292 19.6% 4.2% .308 8
ZiPS 486 458 .266 .293 .400 .693 .133 .296 18.1% 3.7% .308 10

C Jett Bandy

PA AB AVG OBP SLG OPS ISO wOBA K% BB% BABIP HR
RW23 300 280 .267 .304 .457 .761 .190 .326 17.8% 3.9% .282 14
Steamer 218 199 .237 .288 .393 .681 .156 .294 19.7% 4.9% .267 7
ZiPS 337 307 .225 .278 .378 .655 .153 .284 22.8% 4.2% .260 11

1B Jesus Aguilar

PA AB AVG OBP SLG OPS ISO wOBA K% BB% BABIP HR
RW23 145 134 .231 .283 .334 .617 .103 .273 22.3% 6.5% .280 3
Steamer 99 90 .238 .303 .411 .714 .174 .306 23.0% 7.9% .276 4
ZiPS* 568 516 .250 .310 .448 .758 .198 .322 23.1% 7.6% .283 26

*ZiPS seems to think Aguilar is Milwaukee’s everyday first baseman. Hm.

Bold predictions for the 2017 Milwaukee Brewers

I’ve never published bold predictions on here before. In large part I’ve focused on providing analysis and staying away from clickbait articles, especially when my site was in its infancy. But this year I wanted to try it. Plus, when the season wraps up, you can all laugh at me and tell me how stupid I am. That’s what the internet’s for, right?

Here are my five bold predictions for the 2017 Milwaukee Brewers:

1. Eric Thames will lead the Brewers in home runs

Thames is coming back to the major leagues after a three-year hiatus in Korea where he played like Barry Bonds. He launched 147 home runs in the KBO league and earned a three-year, $16 million deal from the Brewers, which could ultimately be the steal of the offseason.

RW23 thinks he’ll finish with 31 home runs this season, besting Ryan Braun and Domingo Santana for the lead. With the power he showed in Korea and his perceived plate discipline improvement, it comes as little surprise that other projection models are spitting out similar numbers.

2. Domingo Santana will be Milwaukee’s best hitter

I’ve been driving Domingo’s bandwagon since he was acquired from Houston, and I went more in depth about my love for him in an article a few weeks ago. But to sum up, I think he’ll produce the highest wRC+ on the Brewers.

Santana hits the ball hard (he had one of the highest increases in exit velocity from 2015 to 2016), which should lead to more home runs and better production in 2017. His plate discipline is tremendous, but he’ll flourish even more if he becomes just a little more aggressive. He took too many called strikes in 2016 and will need to take the bat off his shoulder if my prediction has a chance to come through. He has a real chance to be an All-Star.

3. Kirk Nieuwenhuis will not make the Opening Day roster

This maybe shouldn’t be classified as a “bold” prediction, but I’m putting it on here nonetheless. The Brewers have a plethora of young, highly regarded outfielders who will eventually need playing time. Therefore, Nieuwenhuis could be the odd-man out, despite hitting 13 home runs in limited playing time a season ago.

Nieuwenhuis is a useful bat off the bench, but at this point of his career, he is what he is. He’s produced just one season as an above-average hitter and will never get on base at a consistent clip. I believe Michael Reed — who has more upside — will take his spot on the 25-man roster, as Nieuwenhuis is owed just $900,000 this season. Cutting him loose will be easy.

4. Jacob Barnes will take over the closer’s role at some point

Barnes is really good. Like really, really good. RW23 absolutely adores him, and with his high strikeout rate and exceptional command that he showed throughout the minors and last year during his rookie debut, I think he’ll eventually supplant Neftali Feliz as closer, who will struggle a bit for the Brewers. He struck out 24 percent of batters faced and allowed just one home run in 26.2 innings last season, along with a 2.70 ERA and an even better 2.36 FIP.

If Feliz doesn’t adapt well in Milwaukee, Corey Knebel might get the first shot to replace him, but Barnes has the stuff to be a lockdown late-inning guy.

5. Ryan Braun doesn’t get traded

I thought for sure he’d be gone by now. After a 133 wRC+ season, Braun’s value is the highest its been since 2012, and I was convinced David Stearns would take advantage of that. But spring training games have started, and Braun remains a Brewer. I now believe he’ll remain one for the duration of the season.

However, I do think he’ll be traded this winter, especially if he produces at a high level again. But if he were to take a step back, Stearns may be kicking himself for not finding a trade partner sooner.

Regression candidates for the Milwaukee Brewers

“Regression” is a commonly used phrase in the baseball community, particularly among those who consider themselves statheads or sabermetric-minded. It’s even popular among fantasy baseballers. Listen to a fantasy baseball podcast and I guarantee you’ll hear the word “regression” at least 49 times. It might become redundant, but it’s important to understand and expect regression, especially if a player has a stat that looks like an outlier and/or is getting up there in age.

Take Gary Sanchez of the New York Yankees, for example. Forty percent of his fly balls flew out of the park in 2016. There’s absolutely no chance he repeats that. If he does (he won’t), his home-run-to-fly-ball ratio would be the highest of any qualified hitter in Major League Baseball history. Sanchez has terrific power for a catcher, but even Barry Bonds’ fly balls didn’t carry that much. Sanchez will regress, that much is certain.

Like the Yankees’ backstop, there were a few players on the Milwaukee Brewers last season that produced numbers that are more than likely unsustainable.

Jonathan Villar

Villar is coming off a .373 BABIP, meaning 37 percent of his batted balls went for hits. To put that in perspective, he ranked fourth in MLB in that category, and he was better than Mike freakin’ Trout. Right away, the odds of him sustaining that high of a BABIP are extremely low, just because that’s insane. But there are other warning signs, as well.

Villar hit the ball on the ground 55.6 percent of the time in 2016, which doesn’t leave much room for other types of batted balls, including line drives. In order to try and predict his regression, I looked at every player who was within about three percentage points of Villar’s GB%, so I could see how their BABIP compared to the Brewers’ infielder.

Player GB% BABIP
Eric Hosmer 58.9% .301
Yunel Escobar 58.1% .339
Christian Yelich 56.6% .356
Ryan Braun 55.7% .326
Jonathan Villar 55.6% .373
Cesar Hernandez 54.9% .363
Wilson Ramos 54.3% .327
Adam Eaton 53.7% .329
Ian Desmond 53.4% .350
Jean Segura 53.1% .353
Denard Span 52.7% .291
Adonis Garcia 52.4% .308
Brett Gardner 52.3% .310
Average .333

This list actually shows the 14 players with the highest GB% last season — which illustrates just how frequently Villar put the ball on the ground — and out of all these guys, Villar’s BABIP was far and away the highest, which essentially points to automatic regression. Now, keep in mind that league average batting average on balls in play is usually around .300, and aside from Span, every player above exceeded that, so Villar is still likely to as well. He has the speed which allows him to use ground balls to his advantage — which is why most of these players have admirable marks — but while Villar’s BABIP probably won’t crater down to earth like President Donald Trump’s approval rating, it’s definitely going to drop closer toward the mean (.333) in 2017, and as a result, his overall offensive production will falter a bit.

Ryan Braun

During the last two seasons, Braun has looked like the same fearsome hitter that he was when he produced MVP-caliber campaigns back in 2011 and 2012. He has 55 home runs during that span, 30 of which came last year, and while that has been an impressive run, it’s likely going to come to an end, as Braun is about to experience some serious home run regression.

braun

Above is a chart of Braun’s HR/FB ratio over the course of his career. His fly balls have always carried over the wall at a higher rate than most other players, but 2017 was an entirely different story. Braun not only posted a career high with a 28 percent home-run-to-fly-ball ratio, but he actually led all of baseball in this statistic, and it wasn’t all that close, either. Before last year, Braun never even came close to hitting 25 percent, much less flirting with 30, so predicting a home run regression isn’t exactly a shot in the dark. Not to mention the fact that he recently turned 33, and power usually evaporates with age.

Braun turned in one his best seasons in recent memory, but if his fly balls stop carrying out of the ball park, can we really expect him to put up similar numbers?

Junior Guerra

Guerra came out of nowhere and provided 2.5 WAR in 20 starts for the Brewers last year, second only to Zach Davies. He’ll battle Davies for the right to start on Opening Day, but it’s unwise to believe he can repeat a 2.81 ERA. Just look at his peripherals. His 3.71 FIP and 4.29 xFIP are huge warning signs going into 2018. Those two marks were considerably higher than his ERA because he wasn’t much of a strikeout pitcher, had some issues with walks and kept the ball in the park at an alarming rate — all of which suggest that regression is about to hit him hard.

The then 31-year-old rookie was also quite lucky last season. His .250 BABIP was the fifth-lowest mark among starting pitchers (min. 120 IP), just ahead of Clayton Kershaw and a fraction behind Kyle Hendricks. And even when he did allow hits, he did an unusually terrific job at stranding them, as is evident by his 79.4 percent strand rate.

Steamer projections are predicting him to fall off a cliff with a 4.32 ERA, and while I could definitely see that happening, that may be a bit too much projected regression.

If I were manager: Picking the Brewers starting rotation

Let’s play a game. You like games, right? Good, because we’re going to pretend I’m the manager of the Milwaukee Brewers, and I get to pick the starting rotation. Game on.

The Milwaukee Brewers starting rotation posted a combined 4.40 ERA and 8.5 WAR in 2016, ranking 17th and 20th, respectively. A good portion of the rotation’s WAR came from Zach Davies (2.8) and Junior Guerra (2.5), but overall it was just slightly below league average, despite you probably thinking otherwise. With no big-name free agent starters added to the pool, Milwaukee’s pitching staff doesn’t figure to be too much better in 2017, especially if the team rolls out the same lot it did a year ago. But is that really going to happen?

The Brewers have arguably seven pitchers who could start. Only four of them probably should, but manager Craig Counsell needs five. And so do I since I’m taking over as manager for this post. Here are the seven candidates according to Milwaukee’s depth chart:

  1. Junior Guerra
  2. Zach Davies
  3. Jimmy Nelson
  4. Wily Peralta
  5. Chase Anderson
  6. Matt Garza
  7. Tommy Milone

Guerra and Davies are my top two pitchers and are definite locks to make the rotation. RW23 believes Guerra and Davies will see some regression this upcoming season, but not nearly enough to cause alarm. They should still be the best pitchers on the Brewers.

Notice how Garza isn’t listed among the top five. Given how much the Brewers are paying him, that’s a rather big surprise, but his stats back it up. Garza continued to prove he was one of the worst free agent signings in history by accumulating a 4.51 ERA and 4.33 FIP last year, bringing his Brewers total to 4.59 ERA/4.27 FIP across the last three seasons. He’s no longer a viable starting pitcher, and odds are he’ll only be worse this season. As manager, he will not be a part of my rotation. I’m going to stick him in the bullpen where he’ll hopefully eat up some innings as a long reliever. I’d cut him, but he’s owed $12.5 million in 2017, and that’s a lot of money to pay someone to not be on the team.

Like Garza, Wily Peralta and Jimmy Nelson also struggled mightily. Peralta so much so that he was sent down to the minors to try and get right. Nelson, instead of taking another step forward, fell back and posted the highest FIP (5.12) of his career. Still, there’s upside remaining with both of them, more so with Nelson’s side, though. Walks really hurt him last year, along with the home run ball, and If he gets those things figured out, we should see some improvement. As for Peralta, well, I think we know what we’re going to get from him. He’s at best a No. 4 pitcher, and that’s being generous. He needs another chance to return to his 2014 form, though, so I’m going to give him one. Peralta and Nelson, welcome to my rotation.

Four spots are filled with one to go. Anderson and Milone are the final contestants, and neither of them are exactly endearing. Anderson has become increasingly more defective as his career rolls on, and even though he’s just 29, there’s literally no upside. Milone, on the other hand, has been serviceable but has never been considered a good pitcher. He’ll be 30 on Feb. 16 and owns a career 4.12 ERA in 673.1 innings as a starter. And although that ERA would be useful on many ball clubs, he’s never really been able to stick to a team. He started for the Athletics for parts of three seasons and was then shipped to the Twins in 2014 for another two and a half years. In 12 starts a year ago, he was blasted by everyone, as his 5.71 and 5.54 FIP clearly stated. And yet…

I’m going with Tommy Milone to round out my rotation. He’s been a better pitcher throughout his career than Anderson, and it’d be useful to have a southpaw in the mix. Milone has been underrated throughout his career, and I’d like to see what he can bring.

So here it is, my 2017 starting rotation for the Milwaukee Brewers:

  1. Junior Guerra
  2. Zach Davies
  3. Jimmy Nelson
  4. Tommy Milone
  5. Wily Peralta

Milone’s in at No. 4 just to break up the string of right-handed pitchers, but I also wouldn’t be surprised if he outperformed Peralta. Regardless, that’s a rather uninspiring group, and it honestly might develop into the worst rotation in MLB if it stays that way.

Help is on the way, however, as Josh Hader should be just a few months away from breaking the rotation. I don’t believe he’ll make the roster right out of spring training, but if he does, he should absolutely be in the rotation. I’m not buying him as a reliever. He’s more than that. Taylor Jungmann isn’t on here either, solely because I don’t think the Brewers have any faith in him. They have Milone on their depth chart over him, for crying out loud.

Until the Brewers are ready to compete, they must adapt to an iffy starting rotation, as underwhelming as it may be. It’s forecasted to be another long season in Milwaukee.