How Moose, Nelson's progress affect roster

March 7th, 2019

As the Brewers prepared to take the field on Thursday against the White Sox in Glendale, Ariz., they were three weeks shy of playing a baseball game that mattered in the standings. Opening Day is Thursday, March 28, against the Cardinals at Miller Park, and predicting Milwaukee's 25-man roster remains a tricky proposition.

It’s been about a month since we first gave this a try, so here’s our latest, best shot:

Catcher (2): ,
What changed? Nothing. was an October hero for the Brewers and inspiration to fans last year, but the addition of the switch-hitting Grandal, the top free-agent catcher on the market, clouded Kratz’s role.

First base (2): ,
What changed? Nothing, again. Last year, Aguilar was one of the last players to make the cut. Now he’s coming off an All-Star season in which he claimed primary duties at first and Thames is the one on the bubble. That bubble is particularly thin with the return of , which pushed and off second base and into bench roles.

Second base (1):
What changed? Moustakas was a free agent when we projected a Perez/Spangenberg platoon the first time around. The Brewers brought Moustakas back on a one-year deal, and rather than play him at third base and shift back to second as many had predicted, they decided on the opposite alignment. Moustakas said on Wednesday that while he still had work to do at second base, he was convinced the move would work. Book it.

Third base (1): Shaw
What changed? Nothing. The “default,” president of baseball operations David Stearns said during the offseason, was to play Shaw at third. Now we know he meant it, even after bringing back Moustakas. Shaw grades out better than Moustakas at third base, and with middle-infield prospects Keston Hiura and Mauricio Dubon on the way as second-base options, it made sense to leave third base alone.

Shortstop (1):
What changed? Nada. An up-and-down 2018 ended on a high for Arcia, who posted a .959 OPS in the postseason.

Outfield (4): , , ,
What changed? No change. The Brewers traded for Gamel, a left-handed hitter with a Minor League option remaining. Other backup outfield options include Perez and Thames, plus Spangenberg if he’s on the team. The Brewers really like Perez’s work in the outfield.

Utility (1): Perez
What changed? This category wasn’t here in the initial projection because Perez and Spangenberg were slotted at second base. This is tricky, since keeping both of them in addition to Thames would make it a 13-man bench and a 12-man pitching staff. We’re going to guess the Brewers open with 13 pitchers, which means either Thames or Spangenberg don’t make the initial cut. Since Spangenberg has an option, sending him to Triple-A and keeping out-of-options Thames could make sense in the interest of depth. That way, the versatile Spangenberg would remain in the organization to be the first callup in the event of an injury.

Starting pitchers (5): , , , ,
What changed? Jimmy Nelson was set back a few days by some forearm discomfort, and while he is back on track as of Thursday (when Nelson pitched in an intrasquad game), we’re going to take a conservative route and remove him in favor of Burnes. If Nelson proves healthy, we’ll put him back in before Opening Day. This list actually goes seven deep, with Freddy Peralta also likely to make a significant number of starts for the Brewers again this year. Dallas Keuchel and Gio Gonzalez still remain out there in free agency.

Of all the units, starting pitching remains the most difficult to predict. It’s worth remembering that the Opening Day roster is only a snapshot, and it will take more than the initial five starters to get through the season.

Relief pitchers (8): , , , , , , ,
What changed? A couple of things, most notably that Jeffress was delayed several days by what was initially called shoulder soreness, then removed three pitches into his spring debut Wednesday with what he described as weakness. The Brewers hope rest helps, but it is somewhat alarming that an initial rest period didn’t help. We also learned that another pitcher who was in our initial projection as out of options, Adrian Houser, had been granted a fourth option, and that Bobby Wahl needs ACL surgery and is likely to miss the season. That shifts Houser to Wahl’s place on the list of relief candidates with options, alongside Barnes, Williams and newcomer Jake Petricka. Burnes and Peralta could pitch out of the ‘pen, too. In other words, don’t fret too much about who makes the Opening Day cut; the Brewers actively manage their roster and are certain to shuffle players back and forth between the Majors and Minors as needs arise.

Just like last year, there are a lot of moving parts. So here’s our best guess for now:

Yasmani Grandal
Manny Pina

Jesus Aguilar
Orlando Arcia
Mike Moustakas
Travis Shaw
Eric Thames

Ryan Braun
Lorenzo Cain
Ben Gamel
Christian Yelich

Hernan Perez

Jhoulys Chacin
Chase Anderson
Zach Davies
Brandon Woodruff
Corbin Burnes

Jeremy Jeffress
Corey Knebel
Josh Hader
Alex Claudio
Matt Albers
Junior Guerra
Jacob Barnes
Taylor Williams

Brent Suter