The 2014 club is full of power potential with enough dynamic bats up and down the lineup to lead the NL in homers by year’s end. While this crew would be hard-pressed to challenge the franchise record of 231 dingers set in 2007, they have an outside shot at 200 long balls. That would be 19 more than the 2013 leader, the Atlanta Braves.
Despite a season that saw only 253 plate appearances out of Ryan Braun, an injury-plagued 92 games from Aramis Ramirez and their first basemen combine for a .370 slugging percentage, the Milwaukee Brewers finished sixth in home runs in the NL in 2013, hitting 157 as a team.
If you recall, the Brewers led the league in home runs in 2012 and 2011, so they’re no strangers to the top spot. The question is, where will the Brewers find all these extra home runs?
First base was a season-long frustration last season having to watch Yuniesky Betancourt and Alex Gonzalez combine for 241 plate appearances. The Brewers’ first basemen hit a total of 21 homers and sat in the middle of the league rankings. Enter Mark Reynolds, a veteran who has averaged 28 bombs in his last four seasons. Playing half his games in Miller Park, Reynolds may realistically blast 32 homers.
Tack on another eight or nine blasts from Juan Francisco and maybe a couple from Lyle Overbay, and that gives the Brewers approximately 22 more home runs.
Over at third base, Ramirez is hoping to suit up for more than 120 games this year, and if he’s relatively healthy, it will help boost his power numbers. Those manning the hot corner last season also totaled a not-so-special 21 taters. Ramirez, meanwhile, has averaged 22 homers in the previous four seasons playing in 130 contests per year. Add another six or seven blasts from players making those other 32 starts, and we’re talking a positive influence of about eight more long balls.
Then there’s the outfield. Carlos Gomez had a stellar season that included 24 home runs. It’s hard to see him hitting any more, but it’s possible. Let’s call that a push for this season. That still leaves the corner spots where a great shift has occurred.
The since-traded Norichika Aoki handled the vast majority of starts in right field last season. While he may have brought solid on-base skills and an ability to produce quality at-bats, he lacked any real pop. As a whole, right field produced just 10 home runs, the lowest output by any position.
Now Braun slides over to that corner, though he comes with his own questions. Some will wonder if the use of banned substances is what led to his phenomenal power numbers, but I point to the 2012 season as a reason for confidence. Having originally beat the system in January of 2012, there’s no way he was using more drugs just a few months after the decision. All he did that year was hit 41 bombs.
No one will predict that sort of performance, but 30-plus could be in sight. Without including last year’s 61 games, Braun had averaged 34 home runs per season in his career. Giving him credit for 30 blasts this year would add 20 more to the team total from 2013, a big jump in right field.
Finally, there’s left field where Khris Davis hopes to bring another big stick to the daily routine. Left field actually accounted for 23 home runs last season, so it may be hard to predict much more, if any. Maybe an extra homer or two can be counted on, but there aren’t any guarantees.
Add it all up and the Brewers could realistically be producing 52 more long balls this season, pushing them near 210 as a club. That leaves room for regression from a couple of players, but even with some lower production, they’d still be around the 200 mark and most likely be the top team in the league.
Expect lots of fireworks and Bernie Brewer trips down the slide in 2014. The Brewers will swing and miss plenty, but when they connect, you’ll see them deposit more balls into the seats than any other NL squad.