Predicting the Milwaukee Brewers’ 2014 Starting Rotation

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Milwaukee Brewers' 2014 Starting Rotation

Milwaukee Brewers' Starting Rotation Predictions
Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

With the 2014 spring training in full swing, the Milwaukee Brewers are excited to watch some of their position battle competitions get underway. Even though there will be plenty of focus on the battles for first and second base, there is still a competition many fans might have forgotten about.

The Brewers have a good idea of what the starting rotation will look like, but the real question will be what order those starters will appear in. Along with that, there is no guarantee for the fifth spot in the rotation, which means Milwaukee will allow an open competition among a few potential starters. Since the Brewers had a down season in 2013, several pitchers were given an opportunity to start and showcase their talent. For that reason, the Brewers are definitely not handing out the fifth spot without giving all of the contenders a legitimate opportunity.

Even though several ball clubs have a very good idea of what their starting rotation will look like already, the competition for the Brewers is something that should excite fans. Not only will the fans get to see exciting battles up and down the roster, but also they will get to see first-hand how competition makes the ball club better.

The organization is very confident about their chances in 2014. More importantly, they expect to field a winner. The only way to put the best product on the field is to push the players to the brink in spring training and watch the best emerge from the ashes. Check out the ensuing slideshow to see the prediction for Milwaukee’s starting rotation this season.

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5. Wily Peralta

Wily Peralta rotation
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In my opinion, the fifth spot will come down to Wily Peralta and Tyler Thornburg. The Brewers are high on Peralta, especially since he only pitched his first full season in the majors last season. However, Thornburg emerged as a quality arm when he was given a chance to shine in 2013. For that reason, the competition for the fifth rotation spot will be fierce.

Personally, I believe Peralta will win the job and Thornburg will be placed in the bullpen. The Brewers are very confident that Peralta can be someone special, which is why they have no intentions of giving up on him quite yet. Obviously, the right-hander will have to show improvement in spring training for the confidence to continue. In order for that to happen, he will need to consistently find the strike zone and rack up the strikeouts in order to be effective.

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4. Marco Estrada

Marco Estrada rotation
Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports

Marco Estrada is someone I believe is going to have a career year. The 30-year-old has steadily made significant progress over the past two years and should be set for a breakout season in 2014. At this point, he must decide to either take his game to the next level or force the Brewers to give up on him as a starter. Estrada isn’t going to have the same strikeout numbers as the other starters. However, he’s someone that eats up a lot of innings, which is something Milwaukee definitely needs.

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3. Matt Garza

Matt Garza rotation
Lance Iversen-USA TODAY Sports

Milwaukee’s big offseason acquisition has the potential to be a game changer. The hope is that Matt Garza’s NL Central magic rubs off on the Brewers and gives the team a season to remember. Garza is someone who could pitch lights out every fifth day. He also has the ability to disappoint, which is something Milwaukee simply can’t afford this season. For the most part, fans can expect a consistent pitcher who will do everything in his power to give the team a chance to win.

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2. Kyle Lohse

Kyle Lohse rotation
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Even though the Brewers were uninspiring last season, Kyle Lohse proved to be worth every penny. In a down season, he stood above the rest and showed why he’s one of the more talented veterans in the game. The only hope is that he didn’t waste his solid effort in a season that was meaningless for Milwaukee. The Brewers need Lohse to come back even stronger in 2014 and show the team what winning is all about.

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1. Yovani Gallardo

Yovani Gallardo rotation
Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

Some fans may disagree with my prediction of Yovani Gallardo remaining in the ace role. The truth is the only way the Brewers take him out of that position is if he shows he can’t handle it in spring training. There’s no question Gallardo had a down year in 2013, on and off the mound. He posted career-low numbers and never could gather any momentum. As long as his poor performance stays in the past, Milwaukee should be thankful that it occurred in a season in which the team was out of the playoff race. Expect Gallardo to rebound and show the Brewers why he deserves to be called an ace.

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  • Conner David Boyd

    A – Marco Estrada is probably the most talented strikeout pitcher on the staff. He has a career K/9 of 8.8.

    B – They’re not going to give up on Estrada even if he has a similar year to last year. Despite his injuries, he was one of the more reliable starters on the squad.

    C – Peralta has the fifth spot, and the competition won’t be close unless he bombs spring training. And of course they’re not giving up on him yet, he’s 24 for God’s sakes. From July to the end of the season, Peralta pitched to a 3.15 ERA, and had his first complete game (3 hit) shutout.

    D – Thornburg will likely be in AAA, keeping his arm stretched as a starter.

    E – Yovani did have a down year, but again, you’re incorrect in saying that he didn’t gain any traction. After overcoming a nagging rib injury that he sustained before the WBC, Yo pitched pretty well. From June onward, he posted a 3.66 ERA, and if you take out two ugly starts in July, that number drops below 3.50.

    You need to do some fact checking next time.

    • jakedock

      Disagree with you here by far. Gallardo is our best strike out guy. Estarda is a good 4-5 guy, nothing special. I actually expect Esterda to decline this year, I am hoping he is in the BP as our long arm guy. Thornburgh if he started a full season could easily put up 200 k’s. With his performance last year, he deserves a look this season. This all should be decided in spring, if thornburgh dominates, he will get a spot in the rotation, and the only guy to bump out is Estarda. Everybody else is locked in. Perlta is the ace of the future, everyone else has large contracts.

      • jakedock

        I also base this off of, if brewers were not going to make Thornburgh a 5th starter at some point this year they would of traded him to the Mets. The mets wanted him bad, and were offering up Ike Davis, who we be wonderful at 1b. Thats how much they are counting on thornburgh.

        • Conner David Boyd

          Of course they’re counting on Thornburg. Him and Jimmy Nelson are the two best arms we have as prospective starters for the future. Kyle Lohse has this season and next on his contract, and Gallardo is in a contract year this season. Those are two potential openings.

          Only elite pitchers “easily” put up 200 Ks. That’s not an easy thing to do. If Thornburg ever does it, it won’t be easy.

          And if you would have made the argument that Gallardo was the best strikeout pitcher we have a year ago, I would agree. His K’s declined dramatically this past year, and he relied a lot more on a cutter to get ground outs. Marco Estrada isn’t going anywhere. He has excellent control of his fastball, maybe one of the best change-ups in baseball, and a curveball that, once he gets it going consistently, is a wipe-out pitch. You also have to look at his K/BB ratios (4.93 in 2012, 4.07 in an injury-filled 2013, both of which are elite numbers) To put that into perspective, Gallardo has had a K/BB above 3 once in his entire career, in 2011. Lohse has only been above 3 the past two seasons. Garza is consistently around 3, but has never come close to 4. Even Clayton Kershaw has only been above 4 twice, and his career best of 4.46 is nothing to Estrada’s 4.93.

          That’s what makes Estrada an elite strikeout pitcher. He consistently has K/9′s around or above 9, while rarely walking anyone. It’s an extremely rare combination that is usually only seen with true aces. Estrada isn’t an ace, but he is certainly the most talented strikeout pitcher on the staff, because batters have to be ready for anything on a 3-ball count. His command is so good, they know they’re not going to walk, so even if he throws a change-up in the dirt, they’re swinging to protect. No one else on this staff is like that.

          Peralta only becomes an ace if he drastically improves his control/command and starts using his insane power to strike some more batters out. Until then, he projects as a solid 3-4 guy. I’m not the only one who believes that. Nearly every scout does.

          The best chance we have of a farm ace is with Thornburg or Nelson, but neither are getting extended chances this season to start in the majors. Another year starting at AAA will help them both.

          • Scott

            He consistently has WHAT? This is a guy who’s pitched a total of 390 innings and is 30 in July.
            Gallardo has thrown 3 innings short of 1100 and is 27 years old. You’re taking very small sample sizes.

            As for Gallardo, there are questions about him after a bit of a down year(though his ERA last year in his worst year by far is the same as Estada’s career ERA). In my opinion that was the result of fatigue having pitched in the WBC. He was much better after the ASB and after having a few extra days rest.

            He also has improved velocity thus far this spring…though that should be taken with a grain of salt.

            That said, Estrada only has a high K/9 rate in small stretches whereas Garza and Gallardo have done so in large stretches, and Peralta obviously has the best strikeout stuff on the staff(though I’m fine with a 7.5 K/9 from him if he can stay in the zone and get the GB’s that his naturally heavy-HEAVY ball can get).

            But a few clarifications;
            1-Gallardo is not in a contract year. Not really. He’s got a team option that’s very likely to be exercised this upcoming off-season. Unless he falls off from last year even, he’ll be under Brewer control next year.

            2-The fact the Brewers balked at trading Thornburg for Ike Davis, a player who looks like a bust and who would likely provide much more than what a Reynolds/Francisco platoon or whatever we end up with will likely provide. So trading a talented young pitcher for that doesn’t make sense. It sure as hell doesn’t mean we’re “expecting,” him to be our #5 or that he can easily get 200 K’s in a season. I’d be shocked if he comes near that in the next year or two.

            3-Peralta absolutely profiles as a #3 unless he can strike out more guys. But he’s pretty damn young. And what you’re saying is the case with nearly every young pitcher. A Clayton Kershaw is extraordinarily rare.

            BUT THE BIGGEST POINT!!!!

            You CANNOT argue that Estrada is an “elite,” anything when he’s thrown over 100 innings just twice in his career and has NEVER thrown over 138. He threw just 128 last year.

            I see these positive comparisons to Gallardo and people just seem to have no concept of how important availability is in baseball or sample size apparently.

            Estrada would be a good #2 pitcher if he could do what he did last year and 2012, but make more than 21 starts. But he’s never been able to do that while Gallardo makes on average 32 starts and throws 193 innings since 2009. Estrada at age 30 has what amounts to 2 good years worth of innings as a starter spread out through about 7 seasons.

            Really not a good comparision.