Greetings! We're off to focus on Ryan Braun's PED habit...
Projected Starters - Jonathan Lucroy (C), Corey Hart/Hunter Morris (1B), Rickie Weeks (2B), Jean Segura (SS), Aramis Ramirez (3B), Ryan Braun (LF), Carlos Gomez (CF), Norichika Aoki (RF)
Let's start with one of the top 5 players in the league. Ryan Braun is an absolute monster, and while he's been embroiled in PED scandals for 2 straight years, I'm going to flat-out ignore that for the purposes of this because I don't think there's any chance he gets suspended. In 2012, he had a .319/.395/.595 slash line with 41 home runs, 30 steals, and a 7.9 WAR. Read that last sentence again. This is basically the most consistent player in the league over the last 5 years, too, and I'd expect that to continue. After that, Aramis Ramirez is probably the 2nd-best position player. The former Cub had a .900 OPS with 27 homers last year at 3rd base, and actually plays solid D at the position. There's some injury/batting average concern from Aramis, but if he's in the lineup, that's really solid. On paper, Corey Hart should be next in line, but he's scheduled to miss at least a month with injury. He's hit 26+ homers in each of the last 3 years, and they really need his power behind Braun/Ramirez. I also really like Lucroy (.881 OPS in 346 PA's last year) and Rickie Weeks (20/20 upside), but Lucroy has never done it for a full season, and Weeks hit .230 for a full season last year. Carlos Gomez could be the key to the whole lineup as a guy who stole 37 bases and hit 19 homers last year. He's a sub-.250 career hitter, but if he can keep that power/speed combo up, that's crucial.
Projected - Yovani Gallardo, Michael Fiers, Marco Estrada, Chris Narveson, Wily Peralta
You were probably wondering how Milwaukee was so low after reading that lineup... and here's why. I actually think Gallardo is one of the most underrated pitchers in the entire league. He's never had an ERA over 3.84, and his 9.00+ K/9 over the last four seasons is elite for a starting pitcher. He's also made 30-or-more starts for each of the four years, and while his WHIP is high (career 1.29), he's solid as all get out. After that, however, the questions arrive in a serious hurry. Fiers arrived with big-time numbers early in 2012, but things got off the rails a bit late in the year, which, along with his "meh" pedigree, brings some concern. He still finished with a 3.09 FIP over 127 innings, and could be a solid mid-rotation guy. Estrada and Peralta have both been pretty good in limited starter's innings, but again, neither guy has proven anything for a full-season. Finally, Narveson threw exactly 9 innings last year (allowing 7 ER), and has a career 4.67 ERA. That's not good.
Projected - John Axford (closer), Mike Gonzalez, Tom Gorzelanny, Jim Henderson, Burke Badenhop, Brandon Kintzler
I'm in the John Axford fan club. He dominated in 2011 (1.95 ERA, 46 saves) and the entire league didn't believe it, so when 2012 came around and his ERA ballooned to 4.67 over 69 innings, everyone panicked. The truth is somewhere in the middle, and I like his skill-set a lot. His career K/9 is over 11 (which is stellar), and his peripherals suggest that he was exceedingly unlucky last season. I think he bounces back... and he needs to, because the rest of the 'pen is brutal. Former Braves closer Mike Gonzalez (remember him?) is Milwaukee's set-up man and he'll actually be pretty solid, but the Gorzelanny's of the world don't inspire confidence in the 6th/7th inning.
If the pitching comes together (I'm looking at you Fiers, Estrada, and Peralta), this team could challenge for a wild-card spot, but if one or two of those guys "miss", they don't have the depth. I think the safest place to put them is 3rd in the Central, and they are a .500 team on paper.
80-82, 3rd in NL Central