There’s not a whole lot to like about the Brewers’ rotation in 2016 (ranked 26 of 30 by fangraphs, with a projected 9.7 WAR for the group), but that probably doesn’t matter much to Brewers’ fans. For the most part, these guys won’t have a role to play on the next good Brewers team, so they’re just holding down the fort until reinforcements arrive. Normally in these situations fans can at least get excited about a top prospect, but Milwaukee seems to be taking a longer-term approach to their rebuild and isn’t planning on auditioning a lot of young guys this year (and starting their service clocks). There are a few real prospects waiting in the wings that will probably have to pitch some innings this year when the inevitable injuries crop up, but for now, the rotation is an uninspired collection of 4th to 6th starters.
Wily Peralta – 26 years old – RH
Peralta, just named the Brewers’ opening day starter, has always had the stuff to be a top-of-the-rotation starter, but never really put it all together. This will be his 5th season, and at this point he’s really a two-pitch pitcher with a plus fastball and a plus slider. He lives 95 mph+ with the fastball, and gets a lot of groundballs when he’s going good, but gives up a lot of home runs when he isn’t. He’s also struggled to stay healthy recently. He’s got below average ERA+ and FIP numbers on his career (96, 4.25), and at this point it really looks like that’s the pitcher that he is.
Jimmy Nelson – 26 years old – RH
Nelson may be the best of this group, and that’s depressing since he’s incredibly average overall. One thing to note is that he has intense splits against righties and lefties, with the latter causing him intense heartburn. If he can make inroads against left-handed hitters, he could become a reliably above average pitcher, and maybe even help the Brewers post-rebuild. There’s no real sign that that will happen though. This will be his second full season.
Taylor Jungmann, 26 old – RH years
Jungmann was the Brewers’ first round pick in 2011 (12th overall) and made his debut last year, putting up an above average ERA and FIP (3.77, 3.92). He’s never really produced like a high first round pick, and for the most part, walks have been the issue. He had a rough September with the walks last year, but that’s easy to overlook given he pitched 30 more innings last year than his previous high. Like Nelson, it’s conceivable that Jungmann can help the Brewers on the other side of the rebuild, but not if he walks four or more per nine innings, which has been his M.O. in the past.
Matt Garza – 32 years old – RH
The grizzled veteran of the group, somehow Garza is just 32 years old. He’s been in the league for 10 years, and the Brew Crew is his 5th team. The days of Garza being a second-tier star are hard to remember after 2015, when he was among the worst starters in the league (5.63 ERA, 4.94 FIP). All the talk was that he would be dealt in the offseason after a contentious episode where he refused to move to the bullpen and was ultimately shut down for the season. But with the Brewers under new management, it looks like he’ll be staying put, at least for the time being. If he can manage a league-average ERA, they might be able to move him at the deadline, but I can think of safer bets. He’s owed $25 million over the next two seasons.
Chase Anderson – 28 years old – RH
Anderson came over from the Diamondbacks in the Jean Segura trade. He’s a late bloomer, with only two seasons and less than 300 innings under his belt at the big league level. That means that the Brewers have him under contract for four more years; the question is, is that a good thing? He’s got a plus change up, but a below average everything else, and he struggled mightily to get strikeouts last year. He’s a fine 5th starter for now, but in a year or two, he may be taking innings away from someone with higher upside.
The Brewers relief corps is largely unremarkable, though slightly better than the Reds’ at this point, to our collective shame. They traded their closer Francisco Rodriguez over the offseason, and then Will Smith (the LH reliever who was going to get saves for the Brewers this year, not the fresh prince) somehow tore a ligament in his knee taking of his shoes. So the closer role will likely fall to Jeremy Jeffress, if getting saves on a team likely to lose 90+ games is noteworthy. Jeffress came up with the Brewers but went to the Royals before making the big leagues. He was reunited with his original club in 2014, and he’s a solid relief pitcher. However, while he doesn’t give up a ton of runs overall, he gives up more than his fair share of home runs, so watch for some late inning fireworks if he’s holding a late lead against the Reds.