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2 Brewers

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CONTENDERS

SCOUT'S TAKE

KEY QUESTION

In the playoffs last year, Josh Hader made Cubs hitters look like minor leaguers. He was 2016 Andrew Miller good. The bullpen is so important to this team and that's why Hader's health is key. They can't ride him as they did last year [when he threw 811/3 innings]. Miller wasn't the same after his 2016 season—will that happen with Hader?

UNDERRATED

Signing Mike Moustakas was a great deal. He can hit 30 bombs and he's so good in the clubhouse. A lot of people worry about him at second, but with all the positioning and shifts, he's not going to be that bad in the field.

ON THE CUSP

He was demoted twice last season, but you saw in the playoffs how talented Orlando Arcia is. He's learned how to get better pitches to hit, and you're just beginning to see his power. To have pop in the bottom of the order is huge.

LAST LICKS

They have a great bullpen and lineup, but can they win with no true ace? ... This team is analytics heavy, and Craig Counsell mixes well with the front office.... They have more pieces to trade than the Cubs, so they can make a move at the deadline that gives them an edge.

THE PAYOFF PITCH

THE BREWERS got within one game of the World Series last season by riding their bullpen. Their starters threw just 847 innings—the fewest of any NL playoff team ever—and they have lost Brent Suter (to Tommy John surgery) and Wade Miley (free agency). If Craig Counsell is going to use his staff more conventionally this year, he needs a healthy Jimmy Nelson back on the mound. Nelson was having a career year in 2017, with a 3.49 ERA and 199 strikeouts, when he tore his right labrum diving into first base in September. He missed all of '18 after undergoing surgery, and his absence was a big reason Milwaukee leaned so heavily on its pen. Nelson, 29, is the Brewers' only starter who has shown front-of-rotation potential, and having him take the ball 25 times and throw 160 innings is the key to their repeating as NL Central champs.

OVER UNDER

86.5

Where's the respect? After upgrades to the lineup, the reigning NL Central champs will exceed last year's 96 wins. If Jimmy Nelson emerges as an ace, they're a title contender.

LINEUP

CF Lorenzo Cain

.308/10 HR/30 SB

RF Christian Yelich

.326/36 HR/.598 SLG

1B Jesús Aguilar

.274/35 HR/.539 SLG

3B Travis Shaw

.241/32 HR/.480 SLG

LF Ryan Braun

.254/.469 SLG/11 SB

2B Mike Moustakas

.251/28 HR/.459 SLG

C Yasmani Grandal

.241/24 HR/.349 OBP

SS Orlando Arcia

.236/3 HR/.307 SLG

BENCH

IF/OF Hernán Pérez

.253/9 HR/11 SB

1B/OF Eric Thames

.219/16 HR/.478 SLG

FANTASY BREAKOUT

After four years in Dodger Stadium, YASMANI GRANDAL moves to hitter-friendly Miller Park, where 30 homers is possible.

ROTATION

RH Jhoulys Chacín

15 W/3.50 ERA/7.3 K9

RH Chase Anderson

9 W/3.93 ERA/1.19 WHP

RH Zach Davies

2 W/4.77 ERA/6.7 K9

RH Jimmy Nelson

12 W/3.49 ERA/1.25 WHP*

BULLPEN

RH Jeremy Jeffress

15 SV/1.29 ERA/10.4 K9

LH Josh Hader

12 SV/2.43 ERA/15.8 K9

RH Corey Knebel

16 SV/3.58 ERA/14.3 K9

MANAGER

Craig Counsell

*Stats from 2017