2014 Outlook: Milwaukee Brewers

2014 Outlook: Milwaukee Brewers
January 21, 2014, 4:00 pm
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2013 record: 74-88, 4th place in NL Central
Manager: Ron Roenicke, 4th season
Estimated 2014 payroll: $83 million
Key additions: 1B/3B Mark Reynolds, LHP Will Smith
Key losses: OF Norichika Aoki, 1B/OF Corey Hart, 1B/3B, Yuniesky Betancourt, LHP Mike Gonzalez

Projected lineup
SS Jean Segura
2B Scooter Gennett
RF Ryan Braun
3B Aramis Ramirez
C Jonathan Lucroy
CF Carlos Gomez
1B Juan Francisco
LF Khris Davis

Projected rotation
RHP Yovani Gallardo
RHP Kyle Lohse
RHP Marco Estrada
RHP Wily Peralta
RHP Tyler Thornburg

Top relievers
CL Jim Henderson
RHP Brandon Kintzler
RHP Rob Wooten

Biggest questions entering 2014
1. Can Ryan Braun make a smooth transition back from suspension? Before all of baseball's venom was thrust upon Alex Rodriguez, it was squarely on Braun's shoulders. The former NL MVP served a 65-game suspension to end the season; now he returns to unprecedented scrutiny. How will Milwaukee fans welcome him back? How will his teammates? And above all else, how will Braun perform post-PED suspension?

2. Can the kids pitch? The Brewers' top two prospects (Wily Peralta and Tyler Thornburg) are slated to hold the Nos. 4 and 5 slots in the Opening Day rotation. The club has three solid starters in Yovani Gallardo, Kyle Lohse and Marco Estrada. But this team won't have much chance of making a move up the NL Central standings if the back end of the rotation can't hold up its end of the bargain.

3. What happens to Aramis Ramirez? The veteran third baseman was beset by injuries in 2013 and played in only 92 games. He's entering the final year of his contract, due to make $16 million, and there are questions about the Brewers' plan for him. If they play well enough early in the year, perhaps they keep him for a pennant race. But the more-likely scenario would have Milwaukee struggling and Ramirez becoming a trade chip this summer. He'll only have value, though, if he's healthy and productive.