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Milwaukee Brewers 2007 Preaseason Predictions

Staff
on 03/30/2007

 

It's time for Brewerfan.net to take a stab at naming the players that will make the biggest impact during the 2007 season while tackling a few of the key issues the team will need to overcome.

Player of the Year

Bill Hall
I think the move to center field will prove to be a good one for Bill. I think he'll hit close to another .900 OPS this season, and his age suggest that we should be seeing the best years of his career coming up.
- Brian Kapellusch

Hall has been the team's MVP the past two seasons, so I'm not going to get burned this time around. He just keeps getting better and better, and showed his willingness to help the team by moving to the outfield, not to mention signing a four-year contract extension.
- Patrick Ebert

Rickie Weeks
Before his season ended prematurely, Weeks showed us that his defense was much improved. In fact, his second half of '06 was rather impressive. Weeks will solidify the middle of the infield with a fine glove. Perhaps most importantly, Weeks will prove to us that although not a typical lead off hitter, he will show discipline at the plate and show the National League that power can be put in the lead off spot.
- Jamie Siegel

Prince Fielder
The King in waiting is about to put up a 40 home run, 120 RBI season. He won't just be the Brewers MVP, he'll push for the league MVP. Prince's reign in Milwaukee will probably only last another five seasons, but i predict they will be five of the best seasons in Milwaukee this side of Hank Aaron.
- Brad Jiles

The 7th best N.L. rookie in the greatest "freshman" class of my lifetime will be class president as a sophomore. I'm not sure Billy Hall is an ideal cleanup guy, but if pitchers are forced to throw to Prince Fielder consistently all season, 110 RBI should be a given.
- Jim Goulart

Pitcher of the Year

Ben Sheets
Sheets has had some pretty strange things happen to his health. I don't think he's fragile by any means. Ben is quite competitive and he is going to show the Milwaukee Brewers and their fans that he is amongst the Major League's finest pitchers. Look for a huge season from him with tons of K's.
- Jamie Siegel

The peripheral numbers won't match the ungodly 2004 standards, but if the Brewers don't get Ben 18 wins worth of run support this season, then the playoffs are a pipe dream.
- Jim Goulart

Sheets has been healthy all spring, and we all got to see what a healthy and determined Sheets can do in 2004. A repeat of that season mean big things for the 2007 Brewers.
- Patrick Ebert

He seems to be 100% healthy and ready to go. There's really no reason to think that he won't put up the best number out of anyone on the staff.
- Brian Kapellusch

Francisco Cordero
I think Coco will dominate all season, carrying a low two's ERA and saving 40-plus games. Sheets will be stellar as well, but after last years pen, I think we are ready to cheer for the closer again.
- Brad Jiles

Rookie of the Year

Ryan Braun
Mr. Braun, meet Mr. Hardy, Mr. Weeks, Mr. Fielder. Thank you, Jack Z., thank you, thank you, thank you.
- Jim Goulart

How can I not pick Braun? As soon as he gets called up, he will prove to be the middle of the order bopper we all know he is primed to be. I expect 20 homers, even though we won't see him until May/June.
- Brad Jiles

The Brewers really don't have too many ROY candidates, and Braun has the best chance to make the biggest impact at the big league level. He seems like a lock to be called up before the All-Star break.
- Patrick Ebert

Since Carlos Villanueva exceeded the innings pitched limit for this award in 2006, I have to go with Braun by default. This isn't to say that he would not be well-deserving if he saw significant playing time in 2007, but I don't see any other rookie having an impact, the way the roster is put together this year.
- Brian Kapellusch

Maybe by default. I think that he gets called up earlier than the half-way point because of injury or need of a serious bat off the bench.
- Jamie Siegel

Jack Voigt Memorial Award - Unsung Hero

Derrick Turnbow
I think the Bow will return to form this year and pitch very well out of the pen. Unfortunately, no one will notice because they will have all fainted when he entered the game.
- Brad Jiles

Claudio Vargas
I'm not a huge fan, but I think Vargas will soak up a large number of innings, whether he be the fifth starter or get moved to the bullpen to be the swing-man. I don't think anyone's really expecting much out of him, so I'll tag him as my pleasant surprise.
- Brian Kapellusch

Carlos Villanueva
If the Brewers are going to be good this next year, someone in the bullpen needs to step up, and Villanueva probably has the best chance to make the biggest impression in the most ways. He can serve as a long man and as a spot starter, and that versatility could make him one of the more valuable players on the team.
- Patrick Ebert

Tony Graffanino
He will not only share duties at third with Craig Counsell, but he will also in all likelihood be the only back up at first base. He can also play at second base so he will obviously see some action on the field. Graffanino will not only aid the team defensively, but also add a nice bat off the bench. He also adds leadership to a pretty young infield.
- Jamie Siegel

Jim Skaalen
Tough category. Hard to say, so I'll go with the new hitting coach, Jim Skaalen.
- Jim Goulart

Impact Callup

Ryan Braun
The guy won't be a gold glove nominee, but he will put a few holes in gloves of those unfortunate enough to try catching one of his line drives. That guy has some power!
- Jamie Siegel

His ascension to Milwaukee is highly anticipated, and he will most likely be able to hold his own batting-wise from day one.
- Brian Kapellusch

Braun is both my impact callup and rookie of the year, as he's going to start the year at AAA Nashville, but it shouldn't take long for him to find himself in Milwaukee.
- Patrick Ebert

If Braun were replacing Prince or Bill Hall, then I might go with someone else, but replacing Crony Counsinino? Forget it. Braun will play a large role in the playoff run.
- Brad Jiles

Joe Thatcher
Brewerfan.net has been on the Joe Thatcher bandwagon since his Helena outings after being signed out of independent ball. This dude, with just a touch more seasoning, is going to be a lethal weapon in July, August, September and October.
- Jim Goulart

Minor League Impact Player

Will Inman
Even though I think Gallardo is going to spend most of the year at AAA Nashville given the strength of the Brewers pitching staff, I feel Inman is going to have a big, big year at high-A Brevard County in the Florida State League, a league where pitchers thrive. That year will probably mean a July promotion to AA Huntsville, much like Gallardo's '06 season.
- Patrick Ebert

A healthy Inman will pitch 150 dynamite innings in Brevard and Huntsville. He will prove that Yovani Gallardo isn't the only ace in waiting.
- Brad Jiles

The dude has lost twice in two seasons. He was the A-ball pitcher of the year and he will continue to impress in 2007. He walks very few batters and makes very few mistakes. This kid is going to be a big time pitcher.
- Jamie Siegel

Angel Salome
Salome will remind us all who will be the Brewers' backstop on Opening Day in 2009 and for the following decade, allowing 5'8" guys like myself to bask in his glory.
- Jim Goulart

Cole Gillespie
I usually don't like to dig down this far into the minors for an impact player, but Gillespie's plate discipline and general offensive attributes will probably see him knocking on Huntsville's door by the end of the year. He's the next real deal, on the position player side of things.
- Brian Kapellusch

Minor League Sleeper

Alcides Escobar
All of you Alcides Escobar doubters had better be prepared to say sorry you ever doubted a kid who rocked the Arizona Fall League at age 19.
- Jim Goulart

Tim Dillard
Although he's not hugely unknown to Brewerfan.net, I'm pretty sure most folks don't know the name. They will this season though.
- Jamie Siegel

David Welch
He's not the flashiest pitcher in the world, but all his numbers got better last year as he went through West Virginia. I think this Aussie will end up in the Milwaukee bullpen before he calls it a career.
- Brian Kapellusch

Mike Bell
If Bell could hone his defense in the middle infield and continue his power surge in Brevard, then he could prove to be the next Keith Ginter (in a good way!). Otherwise, watch for Brad Nelson to re-emerge and be traded for something useful.
- Brad Jiles

Kevin Roberts
Roberts has bounced between the rotation and bullpen before thriving in the bullpen after being moved there seemingly permanently in the second half last year. He has always had a power arm, and his velocity is better in shorter stints.
- Patrick Ebert

Five Burning Questions

#1: Name something that will surprise fans about a member of the Brewers starting rotation, good or bad, in 2007.

I think we'll see a rotation that's not scarred by injuries. Capuano's conditioning has alleviated my fears of nagging injuries. Suppan's as solid as they come. Bush and Vargas seem solid, and Sheets is ready to go.
- Brian Kapellusch

Jeff Suppan will not remain undefeated at Miller Park for his career. There, I said it, now deal with it.
- Jim Goulart

Jeff Suppan will surprise folks. He got big time money and will not perform to that level. Suppan will be an afterthought when talking about the Brewers starters.
- Jamie Siegel

While people continue to argue who is the true staff ace between Ben Sheets and Chris Capuano and how Suppan is being paid like a staff ace, Dave Bush will lead the team in wins.
- Patrick Ebert

Chris Capuano will only pitch 100 innings. Everyone thinks Sheets is the injury prone one, but I think 2007 will be the year we find out it's actually Chris C.
- Brad Jiles

#2: Will the bullpen find a way to stabilize itself, or will the team need to shuffle the arms regularly to try and find a good and productive fit?

I think it will. I think Coco, Turnbow, Capellan, and Wise will pitch full productive seasons. I also think Carlos Villenueva and Brian Shouse will succeed, though not with the consistency of the others. Sarfate will impress as well, making the bullpen the strength it has been in every season except 2006.
- Brad Jiles

The bullpen will prevail. Turnbow and Cordero will join the NL's elite as most feared closing duo, and the middle relievers will prove themselves to be just fine.
- Jamie Siegel

Elmer Dessens should help in that flex role that's needed, and no, Carlos Villanueva will not be "hurt" long-term by being a heck of a 6th / 7th inning guy. I have a lot of trepidation about everybody else, except for Coco.
- Jim Goulart

I think the bullpen will be the chink in the team's armor. There's really not one pitcher I have that much confidence in. I think we may see the Brewers trying some starters out in the bullpen (Jackson, Gallardo, Villanueva) before the season's out...but that's a good thing, because it will mean the team's competitive.
- Brian Kapellusch

I think we'll see a lot of shuffling this year, and the bullpen will be the biggest weakness to the 2007 club. Fortunately there may be some decent arms to choose from at the AAA level, such as Sarfate and possibly some combination of Joe Thatcher, Robert Hinton, Greg Aquino and Chris Spurling. If the Brewers are sniffing the playoffs at the end of July, I'm guessing this will be Doug Melvin's number one target approaching the trade deadline.
- Patrick Ebert

#3: Ryan Braun participating at the big-league level doesn't seem to be a matter of if but when. When do you see him taking his place with the big-league club?

The home series vs. the Twins May 18th looks like a nice opportunity for a DH game, before heading out west where the kid can play before his home folks.
- Jim Goulart

I think that a combination of reasons will prompt Braun to get a chance. Craig Counsell's bat will be one factor, an injury to the infield being another. If one of these happens he will be up perhaps as early as late May.
- Jamie Siegel

Mid-June. I think it is clear that the Brewers can't rely on Corey Koskie at all, and the team will likely feel the lack of offense by a mix-match platoon of Tony Graffanino and Craig Counsell. Braun may continue to struggle defensively at AAA, but his bat will make it impossible for the Brewers not to call him up.
- Patrick Ebert

June. The team broke Prince Fielder in as a DH, and it might be a good idea to flush out some of Ryan's jitters that way as well.
- Brian Kapellusch

June 1. With Ryan carrying a 1.000 OPS in Nashville and Crony Counsinino struggling to stay above replacement level, the Brewers will be forced to make a move. Hopefully Graffanino gets traded for the second coming of Tomo Ohka or some prospects.
- Brad Jiles

#4: What player needs to step up the most for the Brewers to enjoy a successful season in 2007?

Rickie Weeks. He's flashed his potential in two shortened big-league seasons with the Brewers, and now it's time for him to stay healthy and show what he can do over the entire season. With a full year of health he could establish himself as one of the most dynamic leadoff hitters in the game.
- Patrick Ebert

Rickie Weeks really needs to be the player most folks think he can be, and that means staying on the field. I am concerned, not about the performance part, but the staying on the field part.
- Jim Goulart

Rickie Weeks. It's time to stay healthy, steal 30 bags, continue the improved defense, bat .300, show that power you had in AAA, and earn some of the press you receive. I do not doubt you, Mr. Weeks, but now is the time to become Joe Morgan, if you ever plan to make the change.
- Brad Jiles

Prince Fielder. He's already shown that he's a quiet leader in the clubhouse, and it's time for him to be a leader on the field. It's a tall order for a 22-year-old, but he's the kind of hitter I wouldn't expect to see go through a sophomore slump.
- Brian Kapellusch

I'd say Geoff Jenkins, but every time I do, he disappoints me. I'm going to say J.J. Hardy instead. Last season he at one time was hitting the ball very sharply and was sound defensively. It's time for J.J. to have a full season without any injury time and start hitting around the .300 mark as he is capable of doing.
- Jamie Siegel

#5: The most important question, will the Milwaukee Brewers not only find a way to put together a winning season, but will they make the postseason for the first time since 1982?

AAAugh! I like the '82 team too, but let's finally stop talking about them and concentrate on the here and now. This team will create the excitement and the drive to do just that. Postseason play is a possibility for them, but I think they need to win the division to do that.
- Jamie Siegel

Yes, the Brewers will break the .500 mark, but no, they will not make the playoffs. They will be one step closer to the postseason, and while I said basically the same thing last year, I still believe they need one good year to serve as a launching pad, especially given how much they're relying on several young players, for bigger and better things starting in 2008.
- Patrick Ebert

Ugh. I want to say yes. I really do. I think this team will win 85-87 games, but my gut says the playoffs happen in 2008.
- Brad Jiles

I'm going to put my neck out there and say yes, they'll make the post-season. I think many people in the organization feel that the time is right to strike, and I have no doubt that the front office would open the wallet and perhaps shed a prospect to get a missing piece at the trade deadline. The NL Central is weak, and chances like this don't come along that often.
- Brian Kapellusch

Minds much more pessimistic than mine have looked at the Cardinals, Cubs, and Astros pitching realistically, and have yes, determined that the Brewers will print postseason tickets this year. Those minds would be correct.
- Jim Goulart

Annual bonus question: Who will be number one on the Power 50 at the end of the season?

Yovani Gallardo I believe we'll see him spot start a couple of times in the year, but I don't think he'll see 50 innings of work.
- Brian Kapellusch

Yovani Gallardo. He won't pitch enough this year at the big-league level to accumulate the 50 innings necessary to graduate.
- Patrick Ebert

Will Inman. Of course, if he's in the bigs (let's hope calmer heads prevail) then I'll go with Cole Gillespie followed by Lorenzo Cain. Yo Gallardo will get 50-plus innings in the bigs somehow...though hopefully it's because he's unstoppable, and not because half the staff is hurt.
- Brad Jiles

Will Inman. Simple as that.
- Jamie Siegel

If Yo will be #1 worthy again, it'd be hard to imagine he doesn't get 50 Brewer innings somehow. I'm a Will Inman diehard, but there's an Angel looking over his shoulder. I love the fact these two are on the same exact career path. Salome, baby, Salome.
- Jim Goulart

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