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Brewers announce stadium naming rights deal

American Family Insurance signs 15-year agreement to rename Miller park, beginning in 2021
MLB.com

MILWAUKEE -- The Brewers made a trade Tuesday for a stadium to be named later.

The ballclub and Wisconsin-based American Family Insurance announced a 15-year partnership that includes naming rights to Miller Park, as the stadium has been called since it opened in 2001. That name will remain through '20, when the Brewers' original agreement with the Miller Brewing Company (now MillerCoors) comes to an end.

MILWAUKEE -- The Brewers made a trade Tuesday for a stadium to be named later.

The ballclub and Wisconsin-based American Family Insurance announced a 15-year partnership that includes naming rights to Miller Park, as the stadium has been called since it opened in 2001. That name will remain through '20, when the Brewers' original agreement with the Miller Brewing Company (now MillerCoors) comes to an end.

After that, the stadium will get a new name.

American Family Insurance Stadium? AmFam Field?

To be determined.

"That, to me, is kind of secondary. We will get to that point, and we've got time to actually make that happen," said Jack Salzwedel, chair and chief executive officer of American Family Insurance. "It will be probably a year before we need to start thinking about what those signs actually look like and how they will be positioned in the stadium.

"This deal was inked pretty quickly. When you're looking at naming rights, there's a ton of data that we need to look at. We don't take naming rights real lightly. We're going to pull a lot of data, look at customer input. There are a lot of things we'll look at. … Seriously, there's no handshake agreement or anything like that. Our marketing folks are in the process of doing that research."

Tweet from @ChristianYelich: Great meeting @AmFamJack and everyone else today at the @amfam big announcement! Looking forward to a bright future in Milwaukee! pic.twitter.com/86Gdk7zCE2

The sides agreed not to reveal the financial terms of the new agreement, which coincides with the Brewers' stadium lease. The final five years of the lease are contingent on the Brewers picking up a series of club options through 2035, which is widely expected to happen given their recent investments in the building.

The deal with Miller was struck in 1996 when the stadium was still in the planning stages. It pays $40 million over 20 years, and represented a critical investment in keeping the Brewers in Milwaukee.

But with that agreement nearing its end, the Brewers approached a very small group of companies last summer, including American Family, to gauge interest. Founded in 1927, the company is the largest provider of personal auto and homeowners insurance in Wisconsin.

"We pursued them early," Brewers COO Rick Schlesinger said. "They were a focal point from the get-go."

MillerCoors broke the news of the Brewers' agreement with American Family in an internal communication to employees on Tuesday morning. In it, as obtained by the website OnMilwaukee.com, MillerCoors Wisconsin GM Jim Kanter told workers, "Late last year American Family Insurance proactively pitched the Brewers an incredibly rich offer for the future naming rights to Miller Park, and we're proud to welcome American Family to the family we've been part of for generations. While the name on the stadium will change following the 2020 season, our relationship with the Brewers remains as strong as ever."

A source with knowledge of the deal's structure disputed Kanter's characterization of the new agreement, saying, "Any reports of the naming rights compensation offered by American Family being 'incredibly rich' are very exaggerated. The deal is very fair, consistent with the market size, and comparable to the amount teams are receiving in similar naming rights deals."

But to the larger ties between the Brewers and Milwaukee's most prominent brewing company, Schlesinger echoed that the relationship remains strong.

He said he understood why the initial public reaction to the pending name change was less than positive.

"Here's the thing: We love having our fans' views. The fans have passion about everything Brewers, and that includes the [stadium] name," Schlesinger said. "What I would say to fans is they have some time to get used to it. We're going to be respectful with the name and with our heritage. Miller beer is a prominent part of our experience here, and I don't see that changing."

Said Salzwedel: "I think we'll give it a day or two and let things tone down a little bit. Whenever you have an iconic brand like this and there's a switch, there's a very big emotional reaction to it. Being active on social media, I do understand that. That doesn't dilute the fact that when we look at this, we see a lot of real positives for our organization -- and for the Brewers as well. I think our brands align really well."

Salzwedel spoke of the agreement as part of a larger effort to increase the company's footprint in Milwaukee. In 2017, American Family became a "presenting sponsor" of Summerfest and secured naming rights to the music festival's main amphitheater. The company is working with Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett to find a site for a new office structure similar to the eight-story, 150,000 square foot "Spark" building on Madison's east side.

"We think this will be a great hub for us to hire employee talent," Salzwedel said.

At Tuesday's announcement, which included Barrett and other city officials, the Brewers presented Salzwedel with a No. 21 jersey with the name "AmFam" on the back.

Was that a hint that the stadium name could be a shortened version of American Family Insurance?

"I don't think so," Salzwedel said, "but I think it could end up being like the American Family Amphitheater; everybody's calling that the 'AmFam Amp.' I think you could have something like that happen."

Adam McCalvy has covered the Brewers for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter @AdamMcCalvy and like him on Facebook.

Milwaukee Brewers

Grandal to attend sold-out 'On Deck' Fan Fest

Brewers announce schedule of events for Sunday's festivities
MLB.com

MILWAUKEE -- The Brewers added free-agent pickup Yasmani Grandal to the list of attendees for Sunday's sold-out "On Deck" annual Winter Fan Fest while releasing a detailed schedule of events and autograph sessions.

More than 70 players, coaches, former players, broadcasters and club executives are scheduled to visit Milwaukee's downtown convention center for the event, which runs from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. CT on Sunday. The event is sold out for the first time in its current format.

MILWAUKEE -- The Brewers added free-agent pickup Yasmani Grandal to the list of attendees for Sunday's sold-out "On Deck" annual Winter Fan Fest while releasing a detailed schedule of events and autograph sessions.

More than 70 players, coaches, former players, broadcasters and club executives are scheduled to visit Milwaukee's downtown convention center for the event, which runs from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. CT on Sunday. The event is sold out for the first time in its current format.

The day includes game shows and Q&A sessions on the main stage, batting and pitching clinics for kids, a roundtable discussion with members of the Milwaukee media, a Brewers Community Foundation live auction and 50/50 raffle, photo and autograph sessions with players, coaches and alumni and a museum with artifacts from franchise history, including the team's 2018 season.

The club is encouraging fans to post their photos from the event to social media with the hashtag #BrewersOnDeck for a chance to be featured on Brewers platforms. An event schedule and map will be available on the Ballpark App prior to the event.

Here are some of the other details -- subject to change -- announced on Monday:

MAIN STAGE
10:15 a.m. -- Welcome/Introduction
COO Rick Schlesinger and public address announcer Robb Edwards will welcome fans to Brewers On Deck. The Brewers are in the process of finding a PA partner for Edwards, who is cutting back his schedule beginning in 2019.

11 a.m. -- Brewers Besties
New for 2019, three teams of three players and broadcasters compete to see who are the Brewers' best of friends.

12:30 p.m. -- Meet the Management
Chairman and principal owner Mark Attanasio, GM David Stearns, assistant GM Matt Arnold and the majority of the Major League coaching staff will answer fans' questions. Typically, some news comes out of this panel.

2 p.m. -- Brewers Game Night
Also new for this year, players pair up in three teams in a competition of some of the most popular game shows: charades, Heads Up! and Pictionary.

3:30 p.m. -- Brewers Face Off
Members of the 2019 and 1982 Brewers teams compete in a game show similar to Family Feud.

AUTOGRAPHS
Cash is the only acceptable form of payment for autographs; proceeds go to the Brewers Community Foundation. All autographs will be first come, first served and limited to the first 250 fans in each line. Autograph opportunities are for signatures on photo cards provided by the team. The Brewers cannot guarantee that players will sign other memorabilia.

In addition to the players on the schedule, several Brewers alumni will be available for autographs at the interactive stage from 11:15 a.m.-12:15 p.m. A single charge of $25 will allow fans to get autographs from the entire group. Manager Craig Counsell and his coaching staff will be available for autographs free of charge at the interactive stage from 2:15-3 p.m.

Stage 1
10:30-11:15 a.m.: Matt Albers ($10)
12-12:45 p.m.: Jacob Barnes ($10)
1:45-2:30 p.m.: Bob Uecker ($25)/Attanasio (free)
3-3:45 p.m.: Eric Thames ($10)

Stage 2
11-11:45 a.m.: Ryan Braun ($25)
12:30-1:15 p.m.: Jhoulys Chacin ($10)
2-2:45 p.m.: Junior Guerra ($10)
3:30-4:15 p.m.: Christian Yelich ($25)

Stage 3
10:30-11:15 a.m.: Brandon Woodruff ($10)
11:30 a.m.-12:15 p.m.: Orlando Arcia ($10)
1-1:45 p.m.: Hernan Perez ($10)
2:30-3:15 p.m.: Jesus Aguilar ($25)
3:45-4:30 p.m.: Tyler Saladino ($10)

Stage 4
10:30-11:15 a.m.: Alex Claudio ($10)
12-12:45 p.m.: Lorenzo Cain ($25)
1:30-2:15 p.m.: Grandal ($25)
3-3:45 p.m.: Brent Suter ($10)

Stage 5
11-11:45 a.m.: Taylor Williams ($10)
12:30-1:15 p.m.: Josh Hader ($25)
1:30-2:15 p.m.: Manny Pina ($10)
3:30-4:15 p.m.: Jimmy Nelson ($10)

Stage 6
11:30 a.m.-12:15 p.m.: Travis Shaw ($10)
1-1:45 p.m.: Robin Yount ($25)
2:30-3:15 p.m.: Jeremy Jeffress ($10)
3:45-4:30 p.m.: Freddy Peralta ($10)

Free Autograph Area
10-10:30 a.m.: Corbin Burnes/Marcos Diplan 
10:30-11 a.m.: Mauricio Dubon/Ben Gamel 
11-11:30 a.m.: Adrian Houser/Jacob Nottingham 
11:30 a.m.-12 p.m.: Cory Spangenberg/Troy Stokes Jr.
12-12:30 p.m.: Trey Supak/Tyrone Taylor  
12:30-1 p.m.: Bobby Wahl/Aaron Wilkerson 
1-1:30 p.m.: Zack Brown/Lucas Erceg 
1:30-2 p.m.: Jake Gatewood/Keston Hiura
2-2:30 p.m.: Diplan/Corey Ray
2:30-3 p.m.: Dubon/Gamel
3-3:30 p.m.: Spangenberg/Stokes
3:30-4 p.m.: Supak/Taylor
4-4:30 p.m.: Wahl/Wilkerson

Adam McCalvy has covered the Brewers for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter @AdamMcCalvy and like him on Facebook.

Milwaukee Brewers, Yasmani Grandal

Each team's rotation if season started today

MLB.com

We're less than a month away from Spring Training, so it's a good time to project what each club's Opening Day rotation will look like, or at least what it would look like if the season started today. With the help of all 30 MLB.com beat writers, here's a roundup of how they might shake out.

AMERICAN LEAGUE EAST

We're less than a month away from Spring Training, so it's a good time to project what each club's Opening Day rotation will look like, or at least what it would look like if the season started today. With the help of all 30 MLB.com beat writers, here's a roundup of how they might shake out.

AMERICAN LEAGUE EAST

Blue Jays
Marcus Stroman and Aaron Sanchez are back for the start of another year, but the big question is, for how long? Both starters have been mentioned as possible trade candidates, and with just two years of control remaining, the rumors aren't going away any time soon. There has been a lot of turnover in the Toronto rotation lately and there will be even more soon. J.A. Happ and Marco Estrada are gone, while Matt Shoemaker, Clayton Richard and rookie Ryan Borucki are in. -- Gregor Chisholm

Rotation if season started today
1. Marcus Stroman, RHP
2. Aaron Sanchez, RHP
3. Ryan Borucki, LHP
4. Matt Shoemaker, RHP
5. Clayton Richard, LHP

Orioles
With statistically the worst rotation in 2018, the Orioles could return a unit entirely unchanged from a year ago. It is also a group that could look completely different by season's end. Dylan Bundy regressed mightily in his age-25 season, while Andrew Cashner and Alex Cobb struggled to career-worst lines in their debut years in Baltimore. All are candidates to be dealt by summer's end, should they bounce back in some fashion.

But to start, as many as seven pitchers could be fighting for the final two spots. David Hess and Yefry Ramirez received the most work in 2018, but neither performed well enough to enter camp with starting jobs. Expect the likes of Jimmy Yacabonis, Dillon Tate, Luis Ortiz, Hunter Harvey and Keegan Akin to get long looks this spring. -- Joe Trezza

Rotation if season started today
1. Dylan Bundy, RHP
2. Andrew Cashner, RHP
3. Alex Cobb, RHP
4. David Hess, RHP
5. Yefry Ramirez, RHP

Rays
The Rays will continue to use the "opener" in 2019, but it remains to be seen just how they plan on doing so heading into the season. Blake Snell, the reigning American League Cy Young Award winner, will serve as the team's ace. Charlie Morton, the team's big free-agent acquisition, will give the rotation a big boost and a much-needed veteran presence. Tyler Glasnow, who showed flashes of why he was once the No. 1 prospect in baseball, will slot in as the team's third starter. Now, once you get past that trio, there are a lot more questions for the Rays. Manager Kevin Cash said during the Winter Meetings that the team plans on using the opener twice in the rotation. However, it'll make sense for the Rays to split up the days where they plan on using an opener in order to keep the bullpen fresh. It'll be interesting to see what order the Rays ultimately go with, but one thing is certain: The opener is coming back. -- Juan Toribio

Rotation if season started today
1. Blake Snell, LHP
2. Charlie Morton, RHP
3. Opener
4. Tyler Glasnow, RHP
5. Opener

Video: Cash discusses increasing use of openers in baseball

Red Sox
The defending World Series-champion Red Sox are loaded in the rotation. Ace Chris Sale is healthy again after going though a prolonged bout of left shoulder inflammation last summer. Then again, Sale looked plenty healthy when he threw a wipeout slider to whiff Manny Machado and end the World Series. For the first time since he got to Boston, David Price enters the season with no questions about his ability to come through in high-pressure moments. Nobody was bigger for the Sox in October than the veteran lefty. Well, perhaps nobody but Nathan Eovaldi, the flame-throwing righty the Red Sox prioritized this offseason by re-signing him to a four-year, $68 million contract. Rick Porcello might never win a Cy Young Award again, but he is consistently durable and dependable and is entering the final season of his contract. Once again, Eduardo Rodriguez comes into Spring Training in hopes of that breakout year. He was plenty good when healthy in 2018. The presence of depth options Brian Johnson, Hector Velazquez and Steven Wright will give manager Alex Cora the ability to rest his starters when healthy. -- Ian Browne

Rotation if season started today
1. Chris Sale, LHP
2. David Price, LHP
3. Rick Porcello, RHP
4. Nathan Eovaldi, RHP
5. Eduardo Rodriguez, LHP

Video: Sale says he feels 'normal again,' ready for spring

Yankees
The Yankees entered the winter aiming to add at least one top-of-the-rotation hurler, which they believe was accomplished by acquiring James Paxton from the Mariners in November. "Big Maple" projects to pair with Luis Severino to create a formidable one-two punch, though Paxton will need to remain healthy and Severino must cure the pitch-tipping ills that spoiled his second half. Masahiro Tanaka has been a reliable contributor through five big league seasons, and Happ seemed to instantly fit in after being acquired from the Blue Jays in July. After a scary health episode in December, CC Sabathia is looking to end his career on a high note. -- Bryan Hoch

Rotation if season started today
1. Luis Severino, RHP
2. James Paxton, LHP
3. Masahiro Tanaka, RHP
4. J.A. Happ, LHP
5. CC Sabathia, LHP

Video: Hoch analyzes the Yankees' starting rotation

AMERICAN LEAGUE CENTRAL

Indians
There have been plenty of rumors surrounding the Indians' starting rotation this offseason, but for now, both Corey Kluber and Trevor Bauer remain in Cleveland. Last season, the Tribe led all other starting staffs in Wins Above Replacement (22.9) for the second consecutive year, per FanGraphs, and is returning all five of its top 2018 hurlers. The club will also have options in Danny Salazar -- who missed last season due to right shoulder surgery -- once he is ready to rejoin the club, and Cody Anderson, who was sidelined the last two years from Tommy John surgery. If the rotation stays intact, it has the chance to be one of the most dominant in baseball once again with Kluber and Bauer being potential Cy Young Award contenders and Shane Bieber having a year of Major League experience under his belt. -- Mandy Bell

Rotation if season started today
1. Corey Kluber, RHP
2. Trevor Bauer, RHP
3. Carlos Carrasco, RHP
4. Mike Clevinger, RHP
5. Shane Bieber, RHP

Royals
The Royals' front four of the rotation seem fairly set heading into Spring Training, though the order is anything but set. If Danny Duffy's offseason work is as promising as he suggests, he likely will claim the top spot and be the Opening Day starter. The emergence of Rule 5 Draft pick Brad Keller last year makes one believe he'll elevate to the No. 2 spot. Jakob Junis' strong finish suggests he'll claim the No. 3 spot. Ian Kennedy also finished well, but it wouldn't be a huge surprise if at some point the Royals utilized him as a late-inning guy. The fifth spot will be the fun battle in Spring Training, although the PED suspension of left-hander Eric Skoglund narrows the rotation. That No. 5 spot probably comes down to Jorge Lopez (who nearly threw a perfect game last season), Heath Fillmyer and a host of other candidates, including Glenn SparkmanArnaldo Hernandez and Trevor Oaks. -- Jeffrey Flanagan

Rotation if season started today
1. Danny Duffy, LHP
2. Brad Keller, RHP
3. Jakob Junis, RHP
4. Ian Kennedy, RHP
5. Jorge Lopez, RHP

Tigers
Take three established starters who form the core of the Tigers' rotation and add two free-agent signings looking for career rebounds. Top it off with a young pitcher or two who could work their way into full-time starting roles but could also serve as depth for injuries or versatile swingmen in the bullpen. It's a formula the Tigers used to build their rotation a year ago. It's a formula they'll use again for 2019.

Replace Mike Fiers and Francisco Liriano with Matt Moore and Tyson Ross, and the Tigers' projected rotation looks similar to last year. Matthew Boyd has blossomed into a potential front-line workhorse with a breakthrough 2018 season. Michael Fulmer is again trying to bounce back from surgery, this time to repair a torn meniscus in his right knee. Jordan Zimmermann is recovering from core muscle repair surgery, but his arm appears to be fine. Daniel Norris again has a chance to prove himself but seems poised to reprise a spot starter/relief role following the Moore and Ross signings. Spencer Turnbull could be in line for a similar fit after an encouraging September stretch in the rotation, or he could serve as insurance at Triple-A Toledo.

With five highly ranked starting pitching prospects on the way, the Tigers could have a vastly different rotation in a couple of years. For now, however, there's some stability in the top half. -- Jason Beck

Rotation if season started today
1. Matthew Boyd, LHP
2. Michael Fulmer, RHP
3. Jordan Zimmermann, RHP
4. Matt Moore, LHP
5. Tyson Ross, RHP

Video: Boyd reflects on 2018, looks forward to 2019

Twins
Four of the Twins' starting spots for 2019 were all but set entering the offseason. At the top is 24-year-old Jose Berrios, who is coming off his first 200-strikeout season and supported by the experienced Jake Odorizzi and Kyle Gibson, who had his long-awaited breakout last season. Michael Pineda is also expected to hold down a rotation spot in his return from Tommy John surgery, as the Twins hope that he can regain the pre-injury form that netted him the American League's most strikeouts per nine innings in '16.

While there are several options on the roster for Minnesota's unclaimed fifth rotation spot, the Twins are reportedly adding left-hander Martin Perez, a veteran of seven Major League seasons, who could emerge as the candidate to hold down the position until the organization's young pitching prospects are more ready to establish themselves at the MLB level. Fernando Romero and Adalberto Mejia could also be in the conversation, and Kohl Stewart, Stephen Gonsalves and Chase De Jong should also push for consideration. -- Do-Hyoung Park

Rotation if season started today
1. Jose Berrios, RHP
2. Kyle Gibson, RHP
3. Michael Pineda, RHP
4. Jake Odorizzi, RHP
5. Martin Perez, LHP

Video: Twins reportedly sign Martin Perez to 1-year deal

White Sox
If Michael Kopech didn't suffer a tear in his ulnar collateral ligament at the end of the 2018 season and lose his '19 season to recovery from Tommy John surgery, the White Sox rotation would look quite a bit different. If Dylan Cease, the reigning MLB Pipeline Pitcher of the Year, continues the great progression he showed in '18, he could be the final piece of the rotation sooner than later.

The White Sox have Manny Banuelos, Carson Fulmer, Dylan Covey and Jordan Stephens battling for that fifth spot. But if the White Sox add another veteran hurler, that move would change the look of the starting staff.

There are rotation certainties heading into the season. Carlos Rodon could make his first Opening Day start as he enters the 2019 campaign fully healthy. Ivan Nova is a solid innings eater added to the middle of the rotation, and Reynaldo Lopez and Lucas Giolito will take what they learned in their first full seasons and try to make a step up in '19. -- Scott Merkin

Rotation if season started today
1. Carlos Rodon, LHP
2. Reynaldo Lopez, RHP
3. Ivan Nova, RHP
4. Lucas Giolito, RHP
5. Manny Banuelos, LHP

AMERICAN LEAGUE WEST

Angels
The Angels are counting on talented lefties Andrew Heaney and Tyler Skaggs to lead the rotation, but they've had injury concerns in recent years, so keeping them healthy will be key. They added Matt Harvey and Trevor Cahill via free agency on one-year deals to add depth, as Shohei Ohtani isn't pitching in 2019 after Tommy John surgery. They're hoping for a bounce-back season from Harvey, who pitched better after being traded to the Reds. Cahill is coming off one of his better seasons, turning in a 3.76 ERA with the A's. Right-hander Jaime Barria had a solid rookie season in 2018, posting a 3.41 ERA in 26 starts, and is the front-runner for the fifth spot. Others in the mix include Nick Tropeano, Felix Pena and Dillon Peters until highly regarded prospects Griffin Canning and Jose Suarez are ready for the Majors. -- Rhett Bollinger

Rotation if season started today
1. Tyler Skaggs, LHP
2. Andrew Heaney, LHP
3. Matt Harvey, RHP
4. Trevor Cahill, RHP
5. Jaime Barria, RHP

Astros
Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole both finished in the top five in American League Cy Young Award voting last year, so that's a great place to start. Collin McHugh is back in the rotation following a terrific season out of the bullpen. The Astros are in pursuit of a veteran starting pitcher to add to the mix, but for now they have promising youngsters Josh James and Framber Valdez in the rotation. Top pitching prospect Forrest Whitley should make his debut at some point in 2019, but another veteran arm is desired. -- Brian McTaggart

Rotation if season started today
1. Justin Verlander, RHP
2. Gerrit Cole, RHP
3. Collin McHugh, RHP
4. Josh James, RHP
5. Framber Valdez, LHP

Video: McHugh analyzes his important role with the Astros

Athletics
This is merely guesswork at this juncture of the offseason. The A's desperately need more starters to bolster this unit, which features little experience outside of the seasoned Fiers, and they're expected to find those add-on pieces in the coming weeks. Jesus Luzardo, of course, is the most intriguing name among this bunch; the A's anticipate their top pitching prospect to break camp with the big-league club. Elsewhere, Daniel Mengden, Chris Bassitt and Paul Blackburn represent the top in-house rotation options at this point, with Frankie Montas and Aaron Brooks acting as depth behind them. -- Jane Lee

Rotation if season started today
1. Mike Fiers, RHP
2. Jesus Luzardo, LHP
3. Daniel Mengden, RHP
4. Chris Bassitt, RHP
5. Paul Blackburn, RHP

Mariners
With Felix Hernandez coming off the worst season of his 14-year career (8-14, 5.55 ERA) and Paxton traded to the Yankees this offseason, the Mariners' rotation is a bit of a mystery at the top end. Should the club decide to end Hernandez's streak of 10 consecutive Opening Day starts, the likely options are up-and-coming lefty Marco Gonzales or newly signed Japanese free agent Yusei Kikuchi.

But with one remaining year at $27 million on his contract, Hernandez still figures to get a shot at fitting somewhere in the mix and the club also returns veterans Mike Leake and Wade LeBlanc, both coming off solid seasons. Clearly the future is knocking on the door, however, as newly acquired prospects Justus Sheffield, Justin Dunn and Erik Swanson are all potential additions at some point this year. -- Greg Johns

Rotation if season started today
1. Marco Gonzales, LHP
2. Yusei Kikuchi, LHP
3. Mike Leake, RHP
4. Wade LeBlanc, LHP
5. Felix Hernandez, RHP

Video: Mariners could be creative with Kikuchi's workload

Rangers
The Rangers could have a set rotation in place right now if they are content to go into the season with three starters who underwent Tommy John surgery within the last two years.

That's the mystery surrounding the Rangers with less than a month to go before pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training. The Rangers have five veteran starters in place, but they all have undergone significant physical issues recently in their careers. It would seem unlikely that the Rangers would go to camp without at least adding more depth. -- T.R. Sullivan

Rotation if season started today
1. Mike Minor, LHP 
2. Lance Lynn, RHP
3. Drew Smyly, LHP
4. Edinson Volquez, RHP
5. Shelby Miller, RHP

NATIONAL LEAGUE EAST

Braves
With Sonny Gray going to the Reds, it looks like the Braves may enter Spring Training without making a rotation addition. Mike Foltynewicz performed like a front-line starter last year, and Sean Newcomb has the capability to make a similar leap this year. Kevin Gausman and Julio Teheran provided quality depth to this group, which could be enriched by a healthy Mike Soroka and a further-developed Touki Toussaint. Soroka, Toussaint and Kyle Wright are among the Braves prospects who could share the fifth spot on an alternating basis during the early part of the season. -- Mark Bowman

Rotation if season started today
1. Mike Foltynewicz, RHP
2. Sean Newcomb, LHP
3. Kevin Gausman, RHP
4. Julio Teheran, RHP
5. TBD

Video: Newcomb, Soroka, Minter and Venters at Chop Fest

Marlins
How the rotation goes will largely determine how long the Marlins' rebuilding process takes. Based on talent and depth, there are many interesting options for Miami, either starters who will be on the Opening Day roster or join the rotation over the course of the season. Jose Urena has cemented himself as the ace. Dan Straily is an experienced right-hander and Wei-Yin Chen is projected to be the lone left-hander. If Straily isn't dealt before Spring Training, he profiles as the No. 2 starter. Trevor Richards, Sandy Alcantara, Caleb Smith and Pablo Lopez made starts as rookies in 2018. But Smith missed the second half due to surgery to repair a left pectoral muscle, and Lopez missed all of September with a shoulder issue. -- Joe Frisaro

Rotation if season started today
1. Jose Urena, RHP
2. Dan Straily, RHP
3. Wei-Yin Chen, LHP
4. Sandy Alcantara, RHP
5. Trevor Richards, RHP

Mets
The Mets' rotation won't feature any surprises. Jacob deGrom, the reigning National League Cy Young Award winner, will start on Opening Day. Noah Syndergaard, Zack Wheeler and Steven Matz will file in behind him, looking for healthy seasons. The Mets will round out their starting five with Jason Vargas, who rebounded from a poor first half to give the Mets confidence in him heading into 2019. -- Anthony DiComo

Rotation if season started today
1. Jacob deGrom, RHP
2. Noah Syndergaard, RHP
3. Zack Wheeler, RHP
4. Steven Matz, LHP
5. Jason Vargas, LHP

Video: deGrom wins the 2018 NL Cy Young Award

Nationals
"Starting pitching is king," general manager Mike Rizzo proclaimed at the start of December, before he began revamping a rotation that disappointed the Nationals last season. First, the Nats added the top free-agent starting-pitching prize in Patrick Corbin and followed it up by signing the resurgent Anibal Sanchez, fresh off a breakout 2018 that resurrected his career. Those additions combined with perennial Cy Young candidate Max Scherzer and the dominant when healthy Stephen Strasburg should give Washington one of the best rotations in the National League. -- Jamal Collier

Rotation if season started today
1. Max Scherzer, RHP
2. Stephen Strasburg, RHP
3. Patrick Corbin, LHP
4. Anibal Sanchez, RHP
5. Joe Ross, RHP

Phillies
The Phillies could open the 2019 season with the same rotation that finished 2018, which has the front office feeling OK and fans a little nervous. Aaron Nola, Jake Arrieta, Nick Pivetta, Zach Eflin and Vince Velasquez pitched well through early August before struggling mightily the final two months of the season. The front office believes the group will be better, based on experience and a 3.76 FIP, which ranked seventh in baseball last season. But the front office also acknowledges what fans wonder: Is it a risk? There is a reason the Phillies pursued Corbin and Happ this winter. It is why there remains an outside chance they take a run at free-agent left-hander Dallas Keuchel-- Todd Zolecki

Rotation if season started today
1. Aaron Nola, RHP
2. Jake Arrieta, RHP
3. Nick Pivetta, RHP
4. Zach Eflin, RHP
5. Vince Velasquez, RHP

Video: Aaron Nola on veteran help, Phils' comeback season

NATIONAL LEAGUE CENTRAL

Brewers
Predicting a five-man rotation for the Brewers under David Stearns and Craig Counsell is a challenge. Last season, they employed 11 starting pitchers, including seven who made double-digit starts. In 2017, 13 pitchers started games for the Brewers. That's in part by design. For example, last winter's consensus was that the Brewers needed a front-line starter and should spend big for a free agent the likes of Yu Darvish. Instead, Stearns signed Jhoulys Chacin to a two-year deal and built a rotation short on "aces" but long on depth, and those arms took the Brewers to within one victory of the World Series.

There is still time for acquisitions, but it appears the Brewers plan to employ the same strategy in 2019. Chacin leads the way, followed by a group of established pitchers aiming for bounce-back seasons and some up-and-comers seeking to build on 2018 success. We'll stretch the list to seven pitchers positioned to make more than a start or two. -- Adam McCalvy

Rotation if season started today
1. Jhoulys Chacin, RHP
2. Chase Anderson, RHP
3. Zach Davies, RHP
4. Jimmy Nelson, RHP
5. Brandon Woodruff, RHP
6. Corbin Burnes, RHP
7. Freddy Peralta, RHP

Cardinals
Options are plentiful as the Cardinals begin to piece together their starting rotation. Miles Mikolas will return as the likely Opening Day starter and anchor what could be an entirely right-handed unit. The first four spots seem solidified, barring injury, and Adam Wainwright will have the inside track for the fifth. If the Cards need to go further down the depth chart, they have several other starting candidates in John Gant, Austin Gomber, Dakota Hudson, Alex Reyes and Daniel Ponce de Leon-- Jenifer Langosch

Rotation if season started today
1. Miles Mikolas, RHP
2. Carlos Martinez, RHP
3. Jack Flaherty, RHP
4. Michael Wacha, RHP
5. Adam Wainwright, RHP

Video: Cardinals' 2019 rotation starting to take shape

Cubs
The Cubs' projected starting five average 32 years old with nearly nine years of MLB experience. They are experienced and capable of logging the kind of innings that could alleviate some of the uncertainty in the bullpen. Darvish, who was limited to eight starts last year due to injury, will be the wild card. But all indications are that he is healthy and Darvish said last week that he will be unrestricted this spring with Opening Day as a realistic goal. With all five starters issue-free, Mike Montgomery and Tyler Chatwood would become relief options. -- Jordan Bastian

Rotation if season started today
1. Jon Lester, LHP
2. Kyle Hendricks, RHP
3. Cole Hamels, LHP
4. Yu Darvish, RHP
5. Jose Quintana, LHP

Video: NL WC: Lester fans 9 in 1-run outing vs. the Rockies

Pirates
The Pirates might have one of the game's most underrated rotations after adding Chris Archer in the middle of a breakout season for both Jameson Taillon and Trevor Williams. A full year of Archer should help, and they would benefit from a healthy Joe Musgrove as well. Taillon and Williams must prove their improvements were sustainable. Free agent acquisition Jordan Lyles, who tweaked his pitch usage last season, looks like the early favorite for the fifth spot over lefty Steven Brault and out-of-options righty Nick Kingham. -- Adam Berry

Rotation if season started today
1. Jameson Taillon, RHP
2. Chris Archer, RHP
3. Trevor Williams, RHP
4. Joe Musgrove, RHP
5. Jordan Lyles, RHP

Reds
The Reds wanted to put their rebuilding efforts fully behind them, but they knew they couldn't get far without improving their rotation. Cincinnati, which ranked 14th out of 15 clubs in starter ERA last season, didn't just make tweaks; it was instead a big overhaul with three winter trades bringing in Gray, Tanner Roark and Alex Wood. Whether the Reds can fully contend in '19 after four straight 90-plus-loss seasons remains to be seen, but they should definitely pitch better. -- Mark Sheldon

Rotation if season started today
1. Sonny Gray, RHP
2. Tanner Roark, RHP
3. Alex Wood, LHP
4. Luis Castillo, RHP
5. Anthony DeSclafani, RHP

Video: Gray traded to Reds in three-team deal

NATIONAL LEAGUE WEST

D-backs
The rotation, which was a team strength in 2018, will be without Corbin and Clay Buchholz in 2019, but the D-backs still have Zack Greinke and Robbie Ray and expect to get Taijuan Walker back from Tommy John surgery. To build some depth behind Greinke, Ray and Zack Godley, the D-backs acquired right-hander Luke Weaver from the Cardinals in the Paul Goldschmidt trade, and they signed righty Merrill Kelly, who spent the past four seasons pitching in Korea.

Arizona does have some depth at the top end of the farm system in Matt Koch, Taylor Widener and Jon Duplantier among others. -- Steve Gilbert

Rotation if season started today
1. Zack Greinke, RHP
2. Robbie Ray, LHP
3. Zack Godley, RHP
4. Luke Weaver, RHP
5. Merrill Kelly, RHP

Dodgers
To those worked up over whether the top two on this list should be reversed, what a fantastic dilemma that is. Not making the top-five cut for now are Julio Urias and Ross Stripling, another high-quality surplus. Even without Kluber, who has been tied to the Dodgers in trade rumors all winter, Los Angeles' starting rotation is the envy of most clubs. -- Ken Gurnick

Rotation if season started today
1. Clayton Kershaw, LHP
2. Walker Buehler, RHP
3. Hyun-Jin Ryu, LHP
4. Rich Hill, LHP
5. Kenta Maeda, RHP

Video: Watch some of the Dodgers' nastiest pitches from 2018

Giants
Madison Bumgarner has been the subject of numerous trade rumors this offseason, but president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi has said he isn't making any outgoing calls regarding the club's longtime ace, so he remains in line to be the Giants' Opening Day starter. The Giants will miss Johnny Cueto, who will be unavailable for most of the season while rehabbing from Tommy John surgery, but they added some durability to their rotation by re-signing Derek Holland last week. Jeff Samardzija is a bit of a question mark after struggling with a persistent right shoulder issue in 2018, though he is progressing well in his throwing program. Despite their impressive rookie campaigns, Dereck Rodriguez and Andrew Suarez aren't necessarily locks for the Opening Day rotation, as the Giants would prefer to ease pressure on their young arms by having them begin the year in the bullpen or in the Minors. -- Chris Haft

Rotation if season started today
1. Madison Bumgarner, LHP
2. Derek Holland, LHP
3. Dereck Rodriguez, RHP
4. Andrew Suarez, LHP
5. Jeff Samardzija, RHP

Video: A look back at Madison Bumgarner's 2018 season

Padres
It seems likely the Padres add another arm to this mix before the start of Spring Training. Their rotation posted the highest ERA in the NL last year, and Garrett Richards has been the only addition. He might not even pitch this season. Still, it's clear San Diego wants to give its young arms a chance. Logan Allen and Jacob Nix will compete for places this spring, while Joey Lucchesi and Eric Lauer could headline the rotation. Meanwhile, keep an eye on left-hander Matt Strahm, who was outstanding in the 'pen last season in his return from knee surgery. The Padres have asked him to bulk up for a transition into a starting role. If his body holds up, he's got front-of-the-rotation stuff. -- AJ Cassavell

Rotation if season started today
1. Joey Lucchesi, LHP
2. Eric Lauer, LHP
3. Robbie Erlin, LHP
4. Bryan Mitchell, RHP
5. Matt Strahm, LHP

Rockies
Rare in the Rockies' history have they had such quality and depth. Lefty Kyle Freeland finished fourth in NL Cy Young Award balloting, righty German Marquez finished eighth in the NL in strikeouts, and hopes are high for lefty Tyler Anderson after he set career highs for innings pitched and strikeouts last season. Jon Gray is trying to rebound from a season that saw him optioned to the Minors and left off the postseason roster, and Chad Bettis hopes blister problems that marred his 2018 season are in the past. But the listed rotation is not chiseled in granite. Pushing hard for jobs are righties Antonio Senzatela, who started last year's NL Division Series opener; righty Jeff Hoffman, who suffered a shoulder injury last spring and never had a chance to challenge for a job; and righty prospect Peter Lambert, who climbed to Triple-A last season at age 21. -- Thomas Harding

Rotation if season started today
1. Kyle Freeland, LHP
2. German Marquez, RHP
3. Tyler Anderson, LHP
4. Jon Gray, RHP
5. Chad Bettis, RHP

Brewers slugger Eric Thames went on the Korean 'Masked Singer' and crushed it

Before taking MLB by storm with 11 home runs in the first month of the 2017 season, Eric Thames was a star for the NC Dinos of the KBO, slugging 124 home runs in three season. On Saturday, he returned to Korea to appear on "King of Mask Singer" -- the Korean version of "The Masked Singer." 

He started out with a classic:

Hiura leads list of Top 10 2B prospects

MLB.com

MLB Pipeline will unveil its 2019 Top 100 Prospects list on Saturday, with a one-hour show on MLB Network at 8 p.m. ET. Leading up to the release, we look at baseball's top 10 prospects at each position.

MLB Pipeline ended last week with a look at our Top 10 first-base prospects for 2019, a group teeming with future sluggers, some on the cusp of the Major Leagues.

MLB Pipeline will unveil its 2019 Top 100 Prospects list on Saturday, with a one-hour show on MLB Network at 8 p.m. ET. Leading up to the release, we look at baseball's top 10 prospects at each position.

MLB Pipeline ended last week with a look at our Top 10 first-base prospects for 2019, a group teeming with future sluggers, some on the cusp of the Major Leagues.

Our new list of the Top 10 second basemen has even more players nearly ready for the big leagues, as well as some familiar names, with Keston Hiura and Luis Urias headlining the five holdovers from last year's list.

Urias, Garrett Hampson and Brandon Lowe all reached the Majors in 2018, and they all seemed poised to make a greater impact in the upcoming season. They also account for half of the six total players on the list who are expected to arrive in the Majors in '19 -- a group that could grow even deeper should a few others surpass projections.

Top 10 Prospects by Position

Additionally, many second basemen who made our Top 10 list in previous years have gone on to have successful careers. Among MLB Pipeline's Top 10 lists for position players dating back to 2011, second basemen have been the third-most valuable group with 308.0 Wins Above Replacement, trailing only outfielders (496.7) and shortstops (569.5).

The Top 10 (ETA)
1. Keston Hiura, Brewers (2019)
2. Luis Urias, Padres (2019)
3. Nick Madrigal, White Sox (2020)
4. Vidal Brujan, Rays (2020)
5. Garrett Hampson, Rockies (2019)
6. Jeter Downs, Dodgers (2021)
7. Brandon Lowe, Rays (2019)
8. Cavan Biggio, Blue Jays (2019)
9. Jahmai Jones, Angels (2020)
10. Isan Diaz, Marlins (2019)
Complete list »

Top tools

Best Hitter: Hiura, Urias (70)
Hiura led NCAA Division I hitters with a .442 average as a UC Irvine junior and was widely considered by scouts as the top pure hitter in the 2017 Draft. After posting a .371 average in his pro debut, Hiura reached Double-A in his first full season, hitting .293 across two levels, and then raked in the Arizona Fall League en route to circuit MVP honors. Urias won the California League batting title (.330) and MVP award as a 19-year-old in 2016 and owns a .306 career average in 467 Minor League games.

Video: Top Prospects: Keston Hiura, 2B, Brewers

Best Power: Hiura (60)
Hiura recorded 52 extra-base hits including 13 home runs in his first full season, and he's poised to tap into even more of his plus raw power as he gains experience and refines his approach. He projects to hit for power to all fields, too, thanks to a preternatural feel for barreling the baseball with a short, impactful right-handed swing that consistently produces loud contact.

Fastest Runner: Brujan (70)
Brujan's 112 runs scored and 55 steals were the first- and second-highest totals in the Minors, respectively, in 2018. That he hits for average, reaches base at a high clip and doesn't strike out much provides Brujan with ample opportunities to wreak havoc on pitchers and defenses with his wheels.

Video: Top Prospects: Vidals Brujan, 2B, Rays

Best Arm: Urias, Brujan, Downs (55)
The keystone doesn't require the type of arm strength needed for the left side of the infield, so it shouldn't be a surprise that no player on this list has a true plus arm. That said, Urias, Brujan and Downs all have seen time at shortstop in their respective careers because they have above-average arms.

Video: Top Prospects: Luis Urias, 2B, Padres

Best Defender: Madrigal, Hampson (60)
Madrigal could be deployed by the White Sox as a shortstop because he has the hands and actions for the position, but his average arm makes him a better long-term fit at second base, where he could be a Gold Glove Award winner. The same goes for the speedy, slick-fielding Hampson, who has seen time at both middle-infield spots.

Video: Top Prospects: Nick Madrigal, 2B, White Sox

Superlatives

Highest Ceiling: Hiura
Hiura's ability to hit for both average and power makes him one of the more exciting offensive prospects in the Minors, and with just one full season under his belt, he's only begun to scratch the surface of his potential. He's a future middle-of-the-lineup run producer and could be the best second baseman in baseball during his prime.

Highest Floor: Madrigal
The White Sox made Madrigal the No. 4 pick in last year's Draft because there's very little doubt that he'll be an everyday player in the Majors. In addition to his aforementioned defense, Madrigal also was one of the better hitters in his class, with an approach and contact skills that will have him hitting atop a lineup for years to come.

Rookie of the Year Candidate: Urias
Urias made his big league debut last August and showed he could do a little bit of everything over parts of 12 games before a hamstring injury prematurely ended his season. Assuming he makes the Opening Day roster, he could have an early advantage in the National League ROY race based on his ability to hit near the top of an order and make everyday contributions on both sides of the ball.

Highest Riser: Downs
Signed by the Reds for $1,822,500 after they selected him with the No. 32 overall pick in the 2017 Draft, Downs posted 13 homers and 37 steals in his first full pro season as a 19-year-old in the Class A Midwest League. That power-speed combo caught the attention of the Dodgers, and they acquired him in December as part of a package for Yasiel Puig, Matt Kemp, Alex Wood and Kyle Farmer.

Humblest Beginning: Urias
Urias was a 16-year-old playing in the Mexican League when the Padres purchased his rights for $100,000 from Mexico City in December 2013. He's quickly proved a bargain for the club, excelling as a younger player at every stop in his career en route to the Major Leagues. He's one of two players on the list who wasn't taken in a Draft.

Most to Prove: Jones
The Angels' second-round pick from 2015 reached Double-A as a 20-year-old last season, but, overall, he hit just .239 across two levels. A shift from the outfield to second base likely played a part in that, and he'll need to make further defensive improvements to remain at the position. Jones does, however, have at least average tools across the board, including plus speed, and he'll carry momentum from a solid Arizona Fall League campaign into 2019.

Keep An Eye On: Kevin Kramer, Pirates
A revamped swing and an emphasis on hitting the ball in the air enabled Kramer to tap into his power last season, as he connected on a career-high 15 home runs and finished second in the Triple-A International League in both average (.311) and doubles (35) before making his big league debut in September.

Video: PIT@CIN: Kramer lines an RBI single into right field

Mike Rosenbaum is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @GoldenSombrero.

Inbox: Is this lineup Crew's best ever vs. RHP?

Beat reporter Adam McCalvy fields offseason questions from fans
MLB.com

Will next season be the Brewers' best lineup yet versus right-handed pitchers? Interestingly, outside of the Cubs' rotation, it seems as though the starting pitching in the NL Central is predominantly RHPs.
-- @CreamCityPro on Twitter

Pretty good question in the wake of the addition of switch-hitting catcher Yasmani Grandal, who does most of his damage batting lefty against right-handers. His arrival comes after left-handed-hitting Christian Yelich rode a huge uptick in offensive production to the National League MVP Award in 2018, Eric Thames hit 31 home runs in his return to MLB in '17, and Travis Shaw delivered back-to-back seasons of 30-plus homers after coming to Miller Park from Boston. The Brewers love acquiring lefty bats, and with Grandal in the fold, there could be days next season when all of them are in the lineup against a right-hander. And we have yet to see what the Brewers will do at second base.

Will next season be the Brewers' best lineup yet versus right-handed pitchers? Interestingly, outside of the Cubs' rotation, it seems as though the starting pitching in the NL Central is predominantly RHPs.
-- @CreamCityPro on Twitter

Pretty good question in the wake of the addition of switch-hitting catcher Yasmani Grandal, who does most of his damage batting lefty against right-handers. His arrival comes after left-handed-hitting Christian Yelich rode a huge uptick in offensive production to the National League MVP Award in 2018, Eric Thames hit 31 home runs in his return to MLB in '17, and Travis Shaw delivered back-to-back seasons of 30-plus homers after coming to Miller Park from Boston. The Brewers love acquiring lefty bats, and with Grandal in the fold, there could be days next season when all of them are in the lineup against a right-hander. And we have yet to see what the Brewers will do at second base.

:: Submit a question to the Brewers Inbox ::

The most potent season of offensive production in franchise history vs. right-handers surprised me, because it wasn't from the Miller Park era. It was 1996, when the Brewers posted an .803 OPS against righties. In fact, the top seven OPS totals in club history against righties were produced at County Stadium before the 2010 club showed up to break the streak:

1996: .803
1979: .796
1987: .785
1982: .784
1999: .781
1980: .772
1978: .765
2010: .764

If we're just talking home runs, however, Miller Park (which opened in 2001) rules. Here are the figures for team homers against right-handers:

2017: 184
2018: 166
2007: 158
2003: 155
2001: 155
2012: 146
2000: 144

The 1996 team was next on the homers list, hitting 141 against right-handed pitching. So who were those murderers of "northpaws?" By plate appearances that season, it was Jeff Cirillo, John Jaha, Jose Valentin, Fernando Vina, Kevin Seitzer, Dave Nilsson, Greg Vaughn and Matt Mieske. Switch-hitter Chuckie Carr did notable damage against right-handers that year, and left-handed slugger Jeromy Burnitz came over in a midseason trade from Cleveland. But Nilsson led the way, posting a 1.035 OPS against right-handed pitching.

Anyway, the answer to the original question -- Could this be the Brewers' best lineup yet against right-handed pitching? -- is yes. Look at those power numbers the past two years and then add Grandal.

Video: CIN@MIL: Miley tosses 5 scoreless to earn the win

Wade Miley still on the Brewers' radar?
-- @SillyA on Twitter

Yes. Miley really liked Milwaukee, his agent Tom O'Connell said at the Winter Meetings, and Milwaukee loved Miley's work when he was healthy. The question, however, is cost. The Brewers picked up Miley on a Minor League deal that only paid if he performed. Now, after posting a 2.36 ERA in 95 1/3 innings including the postseason, he's looking for a multiyear deal that would guarantee every dollar. The Brewers already have a deep pool of starting-pitcher candidates (you'll find the names on the Brewers depth chart, including pitchers like Junior Guerra and Adrian Houser who are listed in the bullpen but could also start), so it's logical that general manager David Stearns would only invest in additional arms if he perceives good value.

We'll see. For a while, Miley was waiting for some of the left-handers ahead of him to sign. Some did, including Patrick Corbin (Nationals), Yusei Kikuchi (Mariners) and J.A. Happ (Yankees). But the big name still out there is Dallas Keuchel. Once Keuchel signs, the market should crystalize for Miley.

Video: MIL@CHC: Chacin lets up 1 run, 1 hit in 5 2/3 innings

Is Jhoulys Chacin the best bet to be the Opening Day starter?
-- @thenilesriver on Twitter

Yes, if the Brewers make that choice the traditional way. Chacin was far and away their most reliable starting pitcher last season, giving him two straight years of a well-above-average adjusted ERA. He looks like a no-brainer choice to take the ball against the Cardinals on March 28 at Miller Park.

But perhaps the Brewers will try something different this year in an effort to change their luck. It's been a running joke that the first question on the first day of Spring Training is, "Who's going to be your Opening Day starter?" -- even though I know full well that manager Craig Counsell isn't going to answer until much deeper into the spring. It was funny, until those Opening Day starters began to endure lousy years. Wily Peralta in 2016. Guerra in 2017. Chase Anderson in 2018.

"It's almost like you've cursed our Opening Day starter," Counsell said at the Winter Meetings. "That's where I feel like we're at because we're on this running joke for three years. And you have cursed the Opening Day starter. We'll name this curse in Spring Training. It will be a central part of our morning interviews; the Adam McCalvy curse will be discussed."

Sorry.

Video: MIL@STL: Albers strikes out Fowler, collects save

Will Matt Albers have an ERA under 9.00 next year?
-- @BLightell on Twitter

Wow, tough crowd. Albers was awful last year after his right shoulder started barking in June. There's no other way to say that. But for the first two months of the season, he was as effective as any pitcher on the team -- a 1.08 ERA, .198 opponents' average in his first 21 appearances spanning 25 innings. He signed a two-year deal, so it is in the Brewers' interests to see if Albers can bounce back in 2019.

"Look, I think people [forget]. Matt had two drastic seasons last season," Counsell said last week. "We shouldn't forget about the first half of last season Matt had, where he was a very, very valuable piece. Look, relievers' seasons can be pretty volatile. Matt has a pretty good track record. I'm very optimistic and I'm very open to Matt making the same contribution he made in the first half of last year."

Give the man a chance. If he's good, think about how deep that bullpen can be.

Adam McCalvy has covered the Brewers for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter @AdamMcCalvy and like him on Facebook.

Milwaukee Brewers

Top prospect Hiura leads Crew's camp invites

Brewers' first full-squad workout scheduled for Feb. 19
MLB.com

The Brewers invited nine Minor League players to Major League Spring Training on Wednesday, a group headlined by top prospect Keston Hiura.

Milwaukee extended non-roster invitations to nine prospects, bringing the club's total of non-roster invitees to 14. The Brewers' first Spring Training workout for pitchers and catchers is set for Feb. 14, and their first full-squad workout will take place on Feb. 19.

The Brewers invited nine Minor League players to Major League Spring Training on Wednesday, a group headlined by top prospect Keston Hiura.

Milwaukee extended non-roster invitations to nine prospects, bringing the club's total of non-roster invitees to 14. The Brewers' first Spring Training workout for pitchers and catchers is set for Feb. 14, and their first full-squad workout will take place on Feb. 19.

The full list of non-roster prospects coming to big league camp: Hiura, third baseman Lucas Erceg, catcher Payton Henry, infielder Nate Orf, outfielder Corey Ray and right-handers Zack Brown, Bubba Derby, Jon Olczak and Miguel Sanchez.

There will be a lot of attention on Hiura, the club's No. 1 prospect and the No. 30 overall prospect according to MLB Pipeline. A first-round pick in 2017, the 22-year-old second baseman climbed from Class A Advanced Carolina to Double-A Biloxi last season while hitting .293/.357/.464 with 13 homers and 43 RBIs in 123 games. Hiura finished his excellent year in the Arizona Fall League, where he batted .323 with a .934 OPS in 23 games.

Video: Hiura on takeaways from a great Fall League season

Ray, the Brewers' No. 2 prospect, slashed .239/.323/.477 with 27 homers and 37 steals at Double-A last season. Drafted fifth overall in 2016, Ray was named the Brewers Minor League Player of the Year and the Southern League MVP in 2018.

Brown was also an organizational award winner last season, as he was named Milwaukee's Minor League Pitcher of the Year. The Brewers' No. 8 prospect finished the year 9-1 with a 2.44 ERA, 116 strikeouts and 36 walks in 22 games for Biloxi. A fifth-round pick in the 2016 Draft, Brown was named the Southern League's Most Outstanding Pitcher last season.

Erceg, the Brewers' No. 4 prospect, slashed .248/.306/.382 with 13 homers and 51 RBIs in 123 games at Double-A last season. Henry, the club's No. 11 prospect, batted .234 with a .707 OPS in 98 games for Class A Wisconsin. Orf, 28, made his big league debut last season and slashed .298/.397/.426 for Triple-A Colorado Springs.

Derby, acquired along with Jacob Nottingham in the Khris Davis trade, put together a 4.49 ERA over 31 outings, including 16 starts, in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League. The 25-year-old Olczak enjoyed a strong year in the Biloxi bullpen, posting a 1.44 ERA and 0.96 WHIP with 60 strikeouts in 56 1/3 innings over 42 appearances. Sanchez split the year between Carolina and Biloxi and made one Triple-A appearance, recording an overall 2.52 ERA and 1.07 WHIP with 95 strikeouts in 64 1/3 innings over 34 appearances.

The Brewers also added a split-squad game against the Angels on March 9 to their Cactus League schedule; that game will take place in Tempe, Ariz. Milwaukee also moved up two games by an hour. The Brewers' March 8 game against the D-backs will now begin at 12:05 p.m. local time, and their March 24 game against Arizona will start at 12:10 p.m.

Adam Berry is a reporter for MLB.com.

Milwaukee Brewers

30 best defensive prospects -- 1 for each team

MLB.com

MLB Pipeline recently unveiled its annual All-Defense Team, but there were only so many spots to fill. It made us realize there were so many outstanding defenders across all 30 organizations.

Evaluating defense is still very much subjective, with metrics measuring fielding still imperfect. Still, each system has glovework that stands out more than others, and we considered many to present one best defender from each organization.

MLB Pipeline recently unveiled its annual All-Defense Team, but there were only so many spots to fill. It made us realize there were so many outstanding defenders across all 30 organizations.

Evaluating defense is still very much subjective, with metrics measuring fielding still imperfect. Still, each system has glovework that stands out more than others, and we considered many to present one best defender from each organization.

American League East

Orioles: Cadyn Grenier, SS, No. 9
Grenier's stellar glovework at shortstop was key in helping Oregon State win the 2018 College World Series, and in the process, he established himself as one of the best defensive prospects in the Draft before going to the Orioles as the No. 37 overall pick. With good hands, plus arm strength and plenty of range, Grenier has all the ingredients needed to stick at the position long term.

Red Sox: Bobby Dalbec, 3B, No. 6
Dalbec has always possessed a strong arm and has worked hard to improve his agility and range at third base, with several Red Sox officials rating him as a plus defender and scouts outside the organization grading him more as solid. He also owns prodigious raw power and ranked second in the Minors in extra-base hits (70) and RBIs (109) last year, and fourth in homers (32).

Yankees: Estevan Florial, OF, No. 1 (MLB No. 45)
Florial has some of the best all-around tools in the Minors, with well-above-average raw power, speed and arm strength. He continues to improve as a center fielder, projecting as a plus defender, and has an exceptionally strong arm for the position.

Rays: Lucius Fox, SS, No. 9
While there's no shortage of standout defenders in the highly athletic Rays system, Fox, a top-flight athlete with plus-plus speed, could be the best. He's played shortstop exclusively as a pro and committed 15 errors in 105 games last season while reaching Double-A at age 21. His athleticism makes him an electrifying defender, and he has the requisite physical tools to remain at the position for the long haul.

Video: EAST@WEST: Fox showcases range, slick glove in 3rd

Blue Jays: Kevin Vicuna, SS, unranked
The Blue Jays felt so good about Vicuna's defense in 2017 that they had the then-19-year-old handle shortstop duties for Class A Advanced Dunedin from April 23-June 1, even though Vicuna previously had never played above the Rookie Gulf Coast League. He's an athletic and, at times, flashy defender, with quick, twitchy hands that help him absorb anything hit his way and a quick release that causes his average arm strength to play up across the infield.

AL Central

White Sox: Nick Madrigal, 2B, No. 5 (MLB No. 49)
The White Sox may try Madrigal at shortstop, because he has the hands and actions to thrive there, but his average arm makes him a better fit at second base. With his quickness and instincts, he could be a Gold Glove Award winner at the keystone, and he also rated as the best pure hitter in the 2018 Draft, where he went No. 4 overall.

Video: Top Prospects: Nick Madrigal, 2B, White Sox

Indians: Eric Haase, C, No. 27
Haase reached the Majors for the first time late last season, seven years after the Indians took him in the seventh round of the 2011 Draft. Though he's blossomed on both sides of the ball during the past two seasons, it's been Haase's defensive gains that have helped him climb the Tribe's depth chart. After throwing out 37 percent of attempted basestealers in 2017, Haase improved that mark to nearly 49 percent in '18 (33 of 68).

Tigers: Jake Rogers, C, No. 12
The Tigers got Rogers as part of the Justin Verlander deal, and in Rogers' first full season with the organization, he cemented himself as the game's best defensive catching prospect, earning a spot on MLB Pipeline's All-Defense Team for the second year in a row. He threw out 55.6 percent of potential basestealers in 2018, upping his career rate to 48.5 percent.

Royals: Sebastian Rivero, C, unranked
M.J. Melendez is very athletic for a catcher and has a chance to become a plus defender with an arm to match. Yet South Atlantic League managers rated Rivero, his teammate at Lexington last summer, the low Class A circuit's best defensive backstop in a Baseball America survey last year. The Royals liken Rivero to a young Salvador Perez, and in addition to his physical ability, Rivero also draws raves for his leadership skills, intelligence and work ethic.

Twins: Gilberto Celestino, OF, No. 14
Signed by the Astros for $2.5 million in 2015, Celestino made his United States debut in '17, then got dealt to the Twins in the Ryan Pressly trade last season. He's drawn comparisons to Albert Almora Jr. for his instincts in center, and coaches in Elizabethton feel he's one of the best defenders they've ever seen.

AL West

Astros: Myles Straw, OF, No. 15
Straw has double-plus speed that gives him tremendous range in center field, where his plus arm also stands out at a position not noted for strong throwers. That quickness also plays well on the bases (he topped the Minors with 70 steals in only 79 attempts in 2018) and allows him to beat out hits (he led the Minors with a .358 batting average in '16).

Angels: Jordyn Adams, OF, No. 6
The Angels signed Adams away from playing football and baseball at North Carolina, and he immediately put his tools on display during his pro debut and during instructs. He's still raw, but the Angels feel he has elite range and the highest ceiling as a defender in the organization.

A's: Nick Allen, SS, No. 15
Allen was viewed by many scouts as perhaps the best defensive prospect available in the 2017 Draft, and he's done nothing to diminish that reputation after signing for more than double slot value as the A's third-round pick. There is no doubt among scouts that Allen can stick at shortstop. He's already a plus defender there, with outstanding range that leads to many highlight-reel plays and plus arm strength that allows him to make throws from all over the diamond.

Mariners: Evan White, 1B, No. 5
It's not often a first baseman is mentioned as one of the premier defensive players in the Minors, but that's the reality with White, who recently was named to the All-Defense Team. All signs point to him becoming a Gold Glove Award winner at the position, as he's athletic with outstanding footwork, a strong arm and plus range. His ability to pick throws is elite, and he makes every infielder on his team better as a result.

Video: Top Prospects: Evan White, 1B, Mariners

Rangers: Jose Trevino, C, No. 28
Trevino won Rawlings Minor League Gold Gloves in both 2016 and '17, before surgery on his non-throwing shoulder last July squashed any chances of a three-peat. He's an outstanding receiver and blocker, gets the most out of his strong arm with a quick release and accurate throws and also earns high marks for his ability to run a pitching staff.

National League East

Braves: Cristian Pache, OF, No. 6  (MLB No. 68)
Pache is generally considered to be the best defender in the Minor Leagues, leading our All-Defense Prospect Team. He has the speed and instincts to be a Gold Glove center fielder to go along with a right fielder's arm.

Video: Mayo looks at MLB Pipeline's 2019 All-Defense Team

Marlins: Jose Devers, SS/2B, No. 13
The cousin of Red Sox third basemen Rafael Devers, Jose was acquired by the Marlins last offseason in the blockbuster trade that sent Giancarlo Stanton to the Bronx. While he doesn't have his cousin's offensive profile, Devers is a far superior defender, with the soft hands, slick footwork and strong arm needed to be a big league shortstop. He showcased his defensive prowess last season, committing only seven errors and posting a .971 fielding percentage as an 18-year-old in full-season ball.

Mets: Andres Gimenez, SS, No. 1 (MLB No. 55)
The shortstop on our All-Defense Team, Gimenez reached Double-A in 2018 as a teenager. While he needs to add strength offensively, he has everything he needs to play shortstop defensively in the big leagues. He has plus hands, range and the internal clock to allow him to slow the game down.

Phillies: Luis Garcia, SS, No. 14
Signed for $2.5 million in July 2017, Garcia had a tremendous debut in the Gulf Coast League in '18 on both sides of the ball. He has a strong arm to go along with terrific hands and feet, and speed that gives him excellent range to stay at shortstop long term. He's only going to get better as he matures.

Nationals: Victor Robles, OF, No. 1 (MLB No. 4)
Revered as one of the top defenders in the Minor Leagues and a member of MLB Pipeline's All-Defense Team, Robles has game-changing abilities in center field. His near top-of-the-scale speed gives him range for days in center field, and he's made strides in improving both his reads and routes in the past two years. His plus-plus arm is among the strongest in the Minors, and he totaled 29 outfield assists from 2016-17 before an injury-plagued campaign in '18.

Video: Top Prospects: Victor Robles, OF, Nationals

NL Central

Cubs: Miguel Amaya, C, No. 1 (MLB No. 87)
Amaya's defensive ability and makeup led the Cubs to sign him for $1.25 million out of Panama in 2015, and he continues to impress even though he has been pushed aggressively in the Minors. His aptitude to frame and block pitches is advanced for a teenager, and his arm strength has improved to at least solid and plays up because of his quick transfer and accuracy.

Reds: Mike Siani, OF, No. 9
The Reds' fourth-round pick got first-round money to sign because of his all-around tools. But his defensive skills have long stood out, and he might have been the best defensive outfielder in the 2018 Draft class, with the ability to cover a ton of ground in center and an arm that allowed him to throw low-90s fastballs from the mound in high school.

Brewers: Payton Henry, C, No. 11
A sixth-round pick in 2016 who signed for nearly twice his slot value, Henry threw out nearly 44 percent (46 of 105) of attempted basestealers and had only six passed balls in his first full season. A quick release and a strong, accurate arm help Henry to combat the running game, and evaluators have been impressed with how he's developed a receiving style that utilizes his big, athletic frame. Henry is also praised for his energy and leadership skills.

Pirates: Ke'Bryan Hayes, 3B, No. 2 (MLB No. 48)
Hayes was the third baseman on our All-Defense Team, and for good reason. He entered pro ball as one of the better defenders at the hot corner, but he's gotten even better as he's committed himself to his conditioning, adding to his agility and range to make him the best in the Minors at the position.

Cardinals: Delvin Perez, SS, No. 28
The Cardinals' first-round pick in 2016 has had trouble finding any traction offensively, but there are no concerns about his defensive chops. He gets plus grades on his arm and his overall fielding, thanks to a plus arm when he needs it, above-average hands and plus speed that helps him cover a lot of ground.

NL West

D-backs: Geraldo Perdomo, SS, No. 21
Perdomo's United States debut in 2018 was solid all-around, and he even earned a promotion from the Arizona Rookie League to the Pioneer League in the process. Tall and rangy, the teenager has shown the tools to stay at shortstop long term with outstanding range, actions and hands to go with a strong arm.

Rockies: Yonathan Daza, OF, No. 18
Thanks to his plus speed and fine instincts, Daza covers a lot of ground in center field, and he possesses a plus-plus arm that stands out at his position. He's also a career .310 hitter who won the Class A Advanced California League batting title in 2017 with a .341 mark.

Dodgers: Will Smith, C, No. 5
An outstanding athlete for a catcher, Smith has already shown that he's capable of playing third base and filling in at second. He has very soft hands and impressive agility, making him a fine receiver and framer, and he has a solid arm that plays better than that because of his fast footwork.

Padres: Buddy Reed, OF, No. 13
A member of MLB Pipeline's All-Defense Team, Reed's 70-grade speed and long, gliding strides allow him to cover huge swaths of territory in center field -- and he showcased that with his catch in last year's SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game. Reed also has a strong arm and recorded 12 outfield assists in 2018, surpassing his combined total from his first two seasons.

Video: WLD@USA: Reed wired up, makes great grab at the wall

Giants: Joey Bart, C, No. 1 (MLB No. 23)
The No. 2 overall pick in the 2018 Draft, Bart draws more attention with his bat, but his work behind the plate is impressive as well. He has improved markedly since high school, when scouts wondered if he could stay at catcher, enhancing his agility and receiving and improving the accuracy of his strong arm.

Jim Callis is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow @jimcallisMLB on Twitter. Listen to him on the weekly Pipeline Podcast.

Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLB Pipeline. Follow him on Twitter @JonathanMayo and Facebook, and listen to him on the weekly Pipeline Podcast.

Mike Rosenbaum is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @GoldenSombrero.

Grandal ready to wow Brewer Nation

Top free-agent catcher says Milwaukee was best for family
MLB.com

Early last week, Brewers general manager David Stearns told manager Craig Counsell that Milwaukee was close to signing free-agent catcher Yasmani Grandal. Stearns had mentioned the idea early this offseason, Counsell said, but he downplayed the possibility until it became realistic.

Counsell's one-word reply in a text message would later be repeated by many around the baseball world: "Wow."

Early last week, Brewers general manager David Stearns told manager Craig Counsell that Milwaukee was close to signing free-agent catcher Yasmani Grandal. Stearns had mentioned the idea early this offseason, Counsell said, but he downplayed the possibility until it became realistic.

Counsell's one-word reply in a text message would later be repeated by many around the baseball world: "Wow."

The Brewers formally introduced Grandal during a press conference at Miller Park on Tuesday, a day after officially signing him to a one-year contract that reportedly includes a mutual option for 2020. Grandal will earn $16 million this year, and his $16 million option includes a $2.25 million buyout.

"At the front end of the offseason, had you told me that we'd be sitting here right now, I probably would have been surprised," Stearns said. "But [owner] Mark Attanasio encouraged us to pursue every avenue possible to improve this team throughout the offseason. As this opportunity became a possibility, Mark and the ownership group authorized us to stretch our resources beyond our normal constraints. And equally important was the fact that Yasmani expressed a consistent desire to join our organization."

What led Grandal to the Brewers? The former Dodgers catcher expressed his admiration for the club -- particularly the "three-headed monster in the bullpen," as he put it -- but also pointed to some off-the-field factors that pushed him toward Milwaukee.

"It came down to what was best for my family," Grandal said. "My wife said she'd rather have Spring Training here [in Phoenix] and be with the kids a little bit more. I have a 14-month-old who's running crazy around the house, and if this gives me two extra months to watch him run around, that's one of the most important parts for me. [Free agency] was a little stressful being my first time through it, but the fact that I'm here is very exciting for me and my family. I can't wait to get going."

Video: Grandal signs a 1-year deal with the Brewers

Grandal got a first-hand look at the Brewers last October, as his Dodgers narrowly won the seven-game National League Championship Series.

"They've made the right moves. I like the way they play. I like the way that it seems like the clubhouse has a great feel to it," Grandal said. "I feel like they click, and it showed last season, especially late in the year where they were able to make a big run. The fact that they did that, it shows that they're built to win and they're built to win now.

"In my opinion, this is one of the most complete teams in baseball."

The Brewers' open competitive window also prompted Attanasio to allow Stearns to splurge for an upgrade behind the plate. Signing Grandal to such a high annual salary is a break from the norm for the small-market Brewers, and because Grandal declined the Dodgers' qualifying offer, signing him cost Milwaukee its third-highest selection in the 2019 Draft. But just as they did with outfielders Christian Yelich and Lorenzo Cain last January, the Brewers seized the opportunity to add one of the best players at his position.

"Mark was very open from the beginning of the offseason that he wanted us to explore every opportunity possible to improve the team, whether or not it could exist within the constraints that we've previously operated under," Stearns said. "In this case, as we talked through it, Mark certainly understood the value that we could bring to the organization and was very supportive of us pursuing it."

Milwaukee still has incumbent catcher Manny Pina and veteran Erik Kratz on the roster, with No. 9 Brewers prospect Jacob Nottingham not far behind. Pina and Kratz are out of Minor League options, but Kratz's salary is not fully guaranteed until Opening Day. That should allow the Brewers to sort through their options during Spring Training.

While the Brewers stand to benefit from Grandal's presence in their lineup and behind the plate, the 30-year-old backstop -- who reportedly turned down a four-year, $60 million offer from the Mets -- should be better off in Milwaukee's hitter-friendly environment. He hits for more power from the left side, and he's going to spend a lot less time in the NL West's mostly pitcher-friendly ballparks.

"I think about 85 percent of all Major League ballparks would have been good for me, as long as it wasn't Petco Park or Dodger Stadium," Grandal joked. "But I love hitting here. I love playing here. I also took that into account of why I wanted to come here. It's also going to be exciting to be away from those pitcher-friendly ballparks. For me, it's a challenge to be in a ballpark where, when I'm behind the plate, I need to take into account what I'm calling and how I want to go through certain situations."

With Grandal, the Brewers have significantly improved one of the few holes on their roster. The switch-hitting Grandal slashed .241/.349/.466 with 24 homers and 68 RBIs in 140 games last season, posting a 125 weighted runs created plus that ranked 50 points higher than the total produced by Milwaukee's catchers in 2018. Grandal is also highly regarded behind the plate as he rated as the game's best pitch-framing catcher, according to Baseball Prospectus.

"Lengthening your lineup is so important," Counsell said. "Adding a switch-hitter to that mix that's going to be a consistent presence in the lineup is something that's new for us, and it's something that's going to be very valuable. We've added a very good offensive player to the lineup. Defensively, he's proven how good he is -- and the receiving numbers that's he's generated and how important that is, it's a very important part of the game. Yasmani's very good at it."

Adam Berry has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter and read his blog.

Milwaukee Brewers, Yasmani Grandal

First Spring Training workout dates for all clubs

MLB.com

Major League Baseball has revealed the first Spring Training workout dates for pitchers and catchers and those for the full squads for all 30 clubs. MLB also announced game times for all Cactus and Grapefruit League action in February and March.

Major League Baseball has revealed the first Spring Training workout dates for pitchers and catchers and those for the full squads for all 30 clubs. MLB also announced game times for all Cactus and Grapefruit League action in February and March.

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

The A's, fresh off their surprise run to the 2018 American League Wild Card Game, will be the first club to have its pitchers and catchers report. They'll do so on Monday, Feb. 11, followed by the Indians and Mariners on Feb. 12 and the remainder of MLB clubs in the days following. Oakland and Seattle will travel to Tokyo to stage two exhibition games each against Japanese teams on March 17-18, followed by the first two games of the 2019 regular season on March 20-21 at Tokyo Dome.

Complete Spring Training schedule

Oakland and Seattle will hold their first full-squad workouts on Saturday, Feb. 16, in Arizona, with the rest of MLB following suit in the days after. The Braves will be the last club to hold its first full-squad workout, doing so on Thursday, Feb. 21. The A's and Mariners open Cactus League action with a matchup on Feb. 21, and the Rays and Phillies open up Grapefruit League action the following day. The Red Sox and Tigers will play exhibition games against college teams on Feb. 22.

Here are first-workout dates for pitchers and catchers and full squads for each team:

AMERICAN LEAGUE
Angels: Feb. 13/Feb. 18
Astros: Feb. 14/Feb. 18
Athletics: Feb. 11/Feb. 16
Blue Jays: Feb. 14/Feb. 18
Indians: Feb. 12/Feb. 18
Mariners: Feb. 12/Feb. 16
Orioles: Feb. 13/Feb. 18
Rangers: Feb. 13/Feb. 18
Rays: Feb. 13/Feb. 18
Red Sox: Feb. 13/Feb. 18
Royals: Feb. 13/Feb. 18
Tigers: Feb. 13/Feb. 18
Twins: Feb. 14/Feb. 18
White Sox: Feb. 13/Feb. 18
Yankees: Feb. 14/Feb. 19

NATIONAL LEAGUE
Braves: Feb. 16/Feb. 21
Brewers: Feb. 14/Feb. 19
Cardinals: Feb. 13/Feb. 18
Cubs: Feb. 13/Feb. 18
Diamondbacks: Feb. 13/Feb. 18
Dodgers: Feb. 13/Feb. 19
Giants: Feb. 14/Feb. 19
Marlins: Feb. 13/Feb. 18
Mets: Feb. 14/Feb. 18
Nationals: Feb. 14/Feb. 19
Padres: Feb. 13/Feb. 18
Phillies: Feb. 13/Feb. 18
Pirates: Feb. 13/Feb. 18
Reds: Feb. 13/Feb. 18
Rockies: Feb. 13/Feb. 18

Matt Kelly is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York. Follow him on Twitter at @mattkellyMLB.

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