- Eric Karabell, ESPN.com Senior Writer
Things aren’t real pleasant for the Milwaukee Brewers these days, as they suffered their sixth consecutive loss Monday night to drop to 2-11, and in the process lost another key lineup component. Three Brewers were chosen among the top 70 in ESPN average live drafts. Outfielder and consensus top-10 pick Carlos Gomez is already on the disabled list; outfielder Ryan Braun, despite his ninth-inning home run Monday, appears a shadow of his former MVP-winning self; and awesome catcher Jonathan Lucroy is headed to the disabled list with a fractured big toe on his left foot, suffered on a foul tip Monday. Even the fantasy sleepers on the Brewers are hurt; second baseman Scooter Gennett somehow gashed a finger in the PNC Park showers during the weekend and could need a DL stint.
Lucroy’s loss might not seem like a tough one, since he’s hitting .156 for the young season, but he was fantasy’s No. 2 catcher last season, and the No. 1 guy, Buster Posey of the San Francisco Giants, was the only catcher consistently ahead of him in this season’s ADP. Now Lucroy is out at least a month, replaced by offensively challenged Martin Maldonado, and one has to wonder how the Brewers, dead last in the majors in runs scored, are going to turn things around with little offense and a struggling rotation. The Brewers are hitting .208 with four home runs this season, or half the total of Seattle Mariners outfielder Nelson Cruz.
However, I’m pretty confident in stating the Brewers will not continue to win a mere 15 percent of their games, as proven players will perform better, the affirmed will get healthy and talent will win out. I’m not saying it’s a playoff team, but several Brewers will be helping fantasy owners. Currently, no Brewers hitter is among the top 125 on the ESPN Player Rater, and the first guy is young right-hander Jimmy Nelson. Ouch. Anyway, here’s my take on which Brewers to buy, sell and otherwise ignore for fantasy purposes.
Jonathan Lucroy, C: Buy. Buy. Buy. Perhaps he misses more than the next four weeks with this injury, but this is a rock-solid hitter at catcher. Like injured Cleveland Indians backstop Yan Gomes, I recommend keeping Lucroy owned in standard formats.
Adam Lind, 1B: He’s one of the few off to a nice start, but I do wonder if he will hit for power. Lind hit a load of doubles in his abbreviated 2014, but only six home runs. It’s not that fantasy owners must have power from their corner infield spot, and Lind has value batting .300 with 12 home runs, but you get the point. I don’t see a 20-homer guy.
Scooter Gennett, 2B: It’s a bit early to abandon a guy I perceived as a nice sleeper after two weeks and a strange injury, but the Brewers don’t seem the least bit interested in batting Gennett near the top of their lineup, which is a problem. Also, he doesn’t have an extra-base hit yet. I think Gennett has a 12-homer, 15-steal campaign in him, but unless it’s a really deep league, I’ve moved on.
Jean Segura, SS: Here’s the sell-high guy on the offense. Segura is leading off, a spot he’s ill-advised for since he doesn’t seem capable of seeing pitches and drawing walks. We celebrate the first half of his 2013 season, but it’s not coming back. Segura was hitting .350 two days ago. He’s hitless in eight messy at-bats since. I’m not sure he bats over .250 this season or steals more than 25 bases, so be careful in your trust.
Aramis Ramirez, 3B: A longtime favorite of mine, he looks awful at the plate and people will remind you he’s 36 like he’s hit the cliff. What a great time to buy low! Ramirez should double his current batting average and since he’s among the most dropped in ESPN leagues, he’s become readily available. Ramirez always hits. In three years in Milwaukee, his lowest batting average is .283.
Khris Davis, LF: Davis hit 22 home runs and 37 doubles last season, so there’s definitely something here to watch. He’s not the walker he appeared to be in the minor leagues, or nearly as patient, but he just needs to swing at the right pitches. I’m seeing some progress. I don’t view him as a must-own in standard leagues, but anyone capable of 25 home runs generally is. It just looks like that’s the lone category he’ll help in.
Carlos Gomez, CF: Buy now, buy quickly. The hamstring injury doesn’t appear too serious, and Gomez might come off the DL as soon as he is eligible in a week or so. This is the lone player in the majors to have reached 20 home runs, 20 stolen bases and a .280 batting average each of the past two seasons, and he’s more than capable of doing this again, even with only five months of action. Invest in this top-10 overall player.
Ryan Braun, RF: Braun is getting overpowered by fastballs and naturally hit his Monday homer off a reliever who doesn’t throw hard in Burke Badenhop. It also was interesting that Braun was used in the leadoff role for a game during the weekend, and he reached base three times. Perhaps he didn’t like it, though, since the idea was abandoned after that. I ranked Braun as if a major comeback season was pending, hoping his thumb problems were over, but something isn’t right. The homer was his first extra-base hit. Pitchers don’t fear him. He’s walked once. It’s foolish to give up on Braun, but if re-ranking today, it’s tough to view him as a top-20 outfielder anymore. At this point, I’m kind of hoping he can deliver last season’s underwhelming numbers of a .266 average with 19 home runs and 11 steals.
Rotation: Nelson was on my preseason sleeper list and I’ve got him in a few leagues, but he’s not likely to keep fanning a hitter per inning or keep his ERA on the good side of 3.50 for long, so be wary. If you’re in a deep league, you know veterans Kyle Lohse and Matt Garza won’t be this awful for long, so pick them up. Neither is laden with upside though, either. Right-hander Mike Fiers is so frustrating. He has dominated for stretches in the majors and minors, but consistency doesn’t appear to be his thing. I think he can end up this team’s top fantasy starter if he can go 175 innings, with a big strikeout rate, so he’s the one you really buy low on. Still, does any Brewers starting pitcher end up a top-60 option among his position peers? Probably not.
Eric Karabell discusses the struggling Brewers for fantasy purposes.