Brewers' roster set ahead of opener
A trio of MLB Pipeline's Top 30 Brewers prospects -- Garrett Mitchell, Brice Turang and Gus Varland -- plus returning reliever Peter Strzelecki -- officially made their first Opening Day roster ahead of the Brewers' 2023 season opener at Wrigley Field on Thursday. William Contreras, Jesse Winker, Brian Anderson and Wade Miley are new names from last year. And Corbin Burnes and Woodruff lead a rotation that represents the strength of the team.
Here are the players who will stand on the foul line on Opening Day.
Catcher (2): William Contreras, Victor Caratini
The Brewers’ catchers were 18th of 30 teams in offensive value last season, so the team added Contreras, who has five years remaining of club contractual control. Caratini provides a capable, switch-hitting backup, and the Brewers reacquired former Milwaukee prospect Payton Henry as a catcher they can option as needed.
First base (2): Rowdy Tellez, Luke Voit
Voit's on-again, off-again spring ended with him signing a one-year deal with a 2024 club option. He has topped 20 homers in three of the past four seasons and has a 126 wRC+ since the start of 2018, and he will pick up at-bats as a right-handed-hitting DH or at first base in a pairing with 2022 Brewers home run leader Tellez.
Second base (1): Brice Turang
Our earlier attempts at projecting the roster had Turang in the Minors, but the Brewers kept him on the strength of his superior defense, because he's already proven he can handle Triple-A and because the current outfield situation means free-agent pickup Brian Anderson will be needed in right field, which in turn means Luis Urías could play a lot of third base. The latest episode of the Brewers' prospect docuseries captures the moment Turang shared the news with his family.
Shortstop (1): Willy Adames
Adames has won club MVP honors each of the past two seasons and is coming off a career-high 31 home runs and 4.7 fWAR. Urías can back him up, and Turang is a natural shortstop, too.
Third base (1): Luis Urías
Urías has been an underrated performer for the Brewers, delivering 4.4 fWAR and 112 wRC+ over the past two seasons. Anderson could also pick up at-bats at third base once the outfield situation settles.
Outfielders (3): Christian Yelich, Garrett Mitchell, Brian Anderson
With Tyrone Taylor down with an elbow injury, our earlier projections had the Brewers going with Tyler Naquin and his Major League track record. That proved wrong. Instead, the Brewers will head into the season with Yelich in left field and No. 4 prospect Mitchell in center while covering right field with a mix of organizational newcomers Anderson, Winker and perhaps Owen Miller, who had little outfield experience before playing a lot of center field in the spring. Besides top prospects Sal Frelick and Joey Wiemer, Milwaukee's depth options in the outfield include Blake Perkins. The Brewers think Perkins took some steps as a hitter last season and would like to see it play out at Triple-A.
But all eyes will be on the top prospects.
"In the end, it's the same for both [Wiemer and Frelick]," Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. "The message is, 'Go to Triple-A and force your way onto the big league team,' which they both can."
DH (1): Jesse Winker
Winker can also play left field, giving Yelich a chance to get off his legs while remaining in the lineup, and right, where Winker could make a left-right pairing with Anderson. Voit presumably will also be a big part of the mix.
Utility (2): Owen Miller, Mike Brosseau
The Brewers kept the super-versatile Miller and Brosseau over Abraham Toro and Keston Hiura, the latter of whom was removed from the roster, cleared waivers and was sent to Triple-A. Miller's ability to handle center field is important because the Brewers will be especially careful about keeping Mitchell healthy.
Starting pitchers (5): Corbin Burnes, Brandon Woodruff, Eric Lauer, Freddy Peralta, Wade Miley
Last year showed that you can’t have too many starters. Aaron Ashby is already dealing with a left shoulder issue that could cost him the opening month or two. Adrian Houser was ticketed for the bullpen before his groin injury flared up again. Both could make starts as the season wears on. Depth options on the 40-player roster with starting experience include Janson Junk and Tyson Miller, plus Jason Alexander once he returns from a shoulder injury. Pitching prospect Ethan Small was part of the starting depth last year but is working as a reliever now.
Relief pitchers (8): Devin Williams, Matt Bush, Hoby Milner, Peter Strzelecki, Javy Guerra, Joel Payamps, Bryse Wilson, Gus Varland
Rule 5 pick Varland pitched his way into an Opening Day job with a strikeout rate approaching 50 percent. Houser would have been in the 'pen had he not had a flare-up of the groin injury that prematurely ended his 2022 season. Bush, Guerra, Payamps and Wilson are all out of Minor League options.
Other depth options like Jake Cousins, Elvis Peguero, and prospects Abner Uribe and Cam Robinson are beginning the season in the Minors, but they could pitch for Milwaukee at any point in 2023. Veteran Justin Wilson signed at the start of camp but isn't expected to be fully back from Tommy John surgery until July.