The Milwaukee Brewers very well might have been my favorite team to watch throughout the course of the 2018 season. After seeing some positive growth in the prior season, the Brew Crew decided to lock in on a win-now mindset during the offseason. They inked perennial All-Star Center Fielder, Lorenzo Cain, to anchor the outfield. And then they traded for the final piece of the imploding Marlins’ outfield, Christian Yelich. What happened next was something magical. Despite the Cubs holding down the NL’s best record, and subsequently a healthy division lead for most of the season, the Brewers hung right within striking range from Opening Day. Finally chasing them down, they won the division crown in a rare, Game 163 of the season against the Cubbies.
That Brewers outfield led the charge in a major way. Lorenzo Cain proved his worth, and earned every bit of that contract he signed. Yelich took things well beyond even the grandest of expectations set for him, winning the National League MVP Award after nearly collecting the rare Triple Crown (league lead in batting average, home runs, and RBIs).
Throughout the rest of the organization, other breakout seasons came along too. Aside from off the field issues, 2018 was a resounding success for baseball’s best young bullpen arm, Josh Hader. Jesus Aguilar cemented himself as the stand alone starting first baseman in Milwaukee. Even Ryan Braun saw his superstar stats resurface to a degree for the first time since his most recent PED scandal. So it begs the question, who on this team hasn’t already experienced a breakout campaign?
For that answer we turn to the mound, a notable sore spot for an otherwise dynamic roster. More specifically, to the starting rotation, which has struggled mightily to produce consistently for a Brewers team who was engaged in a heated race for all of 2018. I like the trio of youngsters we got to see take the hill for the Brew Crew last season: Freddy Peralta, Brandon Woodruff and Corbin Burnes. Among them though, I like Woodruff the best…
The soon to be 26 year-old righty has preformed decently in 27 total appearances over the past couple of seasons. Primarily used as a reliever in his 2018 big league stint, his role for the Crew in the coming campaign has been something of a question mark. But a single, telling performance sticks out for me as an omen of things to come. In Game 5 of a pressure packed NLCS series against the Dodgers, the Brewers called on Woodruff to come into the game to replace starter Wade Miley in the very first inning. The move was utterly confusing considering that Miley had faced but a single batter (issuing a walk to Cody Bellinger), nonetheless though Woodruff took to the bump and pitched five innings of 1 run baseball against the National League’s most dangerous lineup. He exited the game in the sixth with a pair of runners on base who eventually came around to score, thus an additional two runs being charged to him. But the take away here was that this man could go the distance with the best of them and do so when the Brewers needed it most.
The Brewers continue to engage with free agents and teams who are actively shopping starters, so the current bare-bones staff in Milwaukee is bound to see at least one major upgrade before opening day. Regardless of who gets added in the coming weeks however, odds are that Woodruff is poised to get starting jump from the outset of the season and it’ll be his to lose. Opportunity breeds success, so look for Brandon Woodruff to capitalize on that!