It might be considered a bit of a surprise that roughly one-third of the way into the season, the Milwaukee Brewers find themselves just 2.5 games back of the St. Louis Cardinals. The Brewers were supposed to be pretty dreadful this year while the Cardinals are searching for another playoff spot. Milwaukee enters this home series at 23-27 overall, not too bad for a team in a clear rebuilding phase while St. Louis sits at 26-25, a disappointment considering the offensive output that has been one of the best in baseball. The Cardinals should destroy the Brewers.
The last time these two teams played, it was the Cardinals home opener. The Cardinals took two of three outscoring the Brewers 21-7, including a masterful one-hitter from Jaime Garcia. The Brewers have beaten up on a few lousy teams lately. Since getting swept by the Mets last weekend, the Brewers swept the Braves and then took two of three from the Red heading into this series. Since that series near the beginning of the season, much of the team is the same, but there are a few differences.
The Brewers two young outfielders have not had the best time of it this season with the Brewers. Domingo Santana is on the disabled list, and Keon Broxton was sent to the minors only to return after a month on the farm. Playing time has been dispersed among Kirk Nieuwenhuis, Ramon Flores and Alex Presley. Nieuwenhuis and Presley are low upside veterans, but Flores is an interesting player. He has a solid track record in the minors and he has carried over his high walk rate to the majors. It has also come with a lot of strikeouts and a lack of power. He's probably better than he has shown thus far, but is still adjusting to the majors.
The Brewers other outfielder, Ryan Braun, is having another great season. The 32-year-old is sporting a .351/.424/.583 line with a 164 wRC+ supported by a too-high .373 BABIP. Even when that BABIP goes down, there's no reason to think that Braun won't be able to at least replicate last season's .285/.356/.498 the rest of the way. Braun's contract did not look very tradeable two seasons ago with a relatively poor season for Braun's standards coming off a PED suspension.
Despite his advancing age, with Braun's current numbers, the lack of potential free agents and the Brewers' rebuilding status, Braun might actually have decent trade value now. He is owed just $76 million over the next four years after this one and $14 million of that is deferred until 2022. With Jonathan Lucroy, who has rebounded well this season, along with Chris Carter, who has power, and Aaron Hill, who has hit well this season, the Brewers should be very active at the trade deadline with a real shot at accelerating their rebuild.
One player who has surprised this season for the Brewers has been shortstop Jonathan Villar. His 14% walk rate and .419 BABIP have caused a 126 wRC+ so far this year. Those numbers have come with a lot of strikeouts, but even when the walk numbers come down (a little) and the BABIP comes down (a lot), his hitting line should still be about average for a shortstop. Orlando Arcia is the future of the position with the Brewers, but even at second base, Villar could be a decent low-cost option for the team if his fielding plays a little better there and he can unseat Scooter Gennett. The Brewers current starter at second, Gennett, hasn't played well since the first half of the 2014 season.
On the pitching side, today's game will be started by Junior Guerra, a 31-year old who completed a pretty amazing comeback to get to the White Sox last season before the Brewers claimed him off waivers. Guerra throws a mid-90s fastball with a good splitter and will sometimes throw a curve. In 30 innings this season, Guerra has 30 strikeouts against 12 walks with a solid 3.30 ERA and 3.18 FIP, both have been helped by the ability to keep the ball in the park. He will face off against Carlos Martinez, who had a terrible second inning against he Cubs, but managed to go five innings and keep the Cardinals in the game.
In game 2 of the series, Wily Peralta will get the start for the Brewers. Back in 2014, it seemed like Peralta might be good, or at least average. Since then, he's just been really bad. He eats innings in a sense that he takes the ball every five days, but he averages only five innings per start, and is not effective in those innings. In his last start against the Cardinals, he gave up five runs, striking out five, walking two, and gave up a home run to Randal Grichuk. The Cardinals are starting the seemingly resurgent Mike Leake, who has a 1.29 ERA and 3.90 FIP over his last four starts while averaging seven innings per start.
On Wednesday, the Brewers are starting Zach Davies, a 23-year-old righty with a high-80s twoseamer and a high-80s change. He's had good numbers in the minor leagues by suppressing homers with that twoseamer, but that has yet ot carry over to MLB. He does not strike out a ton of guys and walks more than you would like given the lack of Ks. Jaime Garcia will face the Brewers again after pitching one of the best games in Cardinals history his first time out against them in April.
Today's game is at 1:10 pm CT on Fox Sports Midwest
Tuesday's game is at 7:10 pm CT on Fox Sports Midwest
Wednesday's game is at 12:40 pm CT on Fox Sports Midwest