The Milwaukee Brewers report to Arizona soon, and they're bringing a few new faces to spring training this year. Eric Thames is back in North America after a dominant run in the KBO, a few impressive prospects could make their Brewers debuts this season and a trio of young catchers will look to fill the void left by Jonathan Lucroy. Read on for our top questions for the Brewers as they head into spring training.
Who will be the starting catcher?
Home plate remains wide open following the trades of Jonathan Lucroy and Martin Maldonado. The Brewers have three catchers on the roster: Jett Bandy, Manny Pina and Andrew Susac. Of the three only Bandy and Susac have significant major-league experience. Bandy has just 72 games under his belt -- all with the Los Angeles Angels over the last two seasons -- while Pina got his first extended look last season, appearing in 33 games for the Brewers. Susac is the most seasoned of the trio, and appeared in 87 games for the San Francisco Giants before joining the Brewers. Jacob Nottingham remains the Brewers' catcher-in-waiting after starting for Double-A Biloxi last season, but is a virtual lock to remain in the minors for another year, leaving the above trio to battle for playing time. Both Bandy and Susac have demonstrated some pop in the bat in the minors while Pina is considered more of a defensive option.
USA TODAY SportsTim Heitman
Where will Scooter Gennett end up?
With Jonathan Villar likely now the starting second baseman, Gennett will try his hand as a utility player for the Brewers in spring training. He may need to succeed in that role if he wants to remain in Milwaukee. Gennett has made nearly all of his 396 career appearances at second base, the emergence of Villar, a switch-hitter who played mainly at short last year, complicates his situation. With Travis Shaw set to start at third and Orlando Arcia at shortstop, Gennett could have a hard time securing playing time.
Associated PressJim Mone
What kind of production can be expected from Eric Thames?
Orlando Arcia is a bankable star-in-the-making, while Keon Broxton oozes potential, but 30-year-old slugger Eric Thames may be the most interesting player on the roster. After registering a .250/.296/.431 slash line in parts of two seasons with Toronto and Seattle and flaming out with the Baltimore and Houston organizations, Thames took his talents to South Korea. He proceeded to dominate in the KBO, hitting 124 home runs, 101 doubles and 19 triples in three seasons with the NC Dinos. The projections vary for Thames -- Baseball Prospectus has him at .238/.298/.396 with 17 HR but Fangraphs projects 272/350/515 with 31 HR -- but if all goes well perhaps the Brewers could be set at first base for at least the next three years.
Rick WoodUSA TODAY Sports
Who will be in the 5-man rotation?
This may be the most pressing question as spring training nears as Milwaukee legitimately has seven candidates for the five spots. Junior Guerra, who was the surprise of 2016, is likely a lock, as is emerging Zach Davies. Those two were the only starters with ERA under 4 for Milwaukee last season. Battling it out for the final three spots will be Wily Peralta, the 2016 Opening Day starter, Jimmy Nelson, who took a step back last season, and veterans Chase Anderson, Matt Garza and newcomer Tommy Milone. Milone, who has pitched for Washington, Oakland and Minneosta, might seem like a longshot, but he's the only left-hander among the seven. There's also Taylor Jungmann, who was in the rotation in '16 but struggled and sent down and might be bound for the bullpen or ticketed back to the minors. Could a rookie emerge? It's always possible, but with so many veterans in camp we think the initial five will come from this group.
USA TODAY SportsDavid Kohl
Which rookies will make an immediate impact in 2017?
Milwaukee's farm system has been bolstered in recent years thanks to a number of trades. But when will the Brewers see the fruits of those deals? Center field might be the position to keep an eye on. Milwaukee receiver Lewis Brinson from Texas last season in exchange for catcher Jonathan Lucroy. Brinson, who turns 23 in May, hit .382 batting average with four home runs and four steals in 23 games with Triple-A Colorado Springs (overall he batted .268 with 15 homers and 17 steals). Last year, it seemed as though Brett Phillips might be the first outfield prospect to land in Milwaukee, but he hit just .229 at Double-A Biloxi in 2016, although he did have 16 home runs and 12 steals. He could easily be back on the fast track with a hot start in the minors. If the Brewers need pitching, left-hander Josh Hader is likely the one to get the call. The left-hander flourished in Double-A (0.95 ERA, 1.00 WHIP) but, as many pitchers do, struggled in Colorado Springs (5.22 ERA, 1.43 WHIP). As noted, Milwaukee's rotation is a bit crowded. The Brewers view Hader as a starter, but he might begin his career in the bullpen. There also might be an opportunity for Jacob Nottingham this season. If no one can grab hold of the catcher's spot, the soon-to-be 22-year-old could get his shot. He hit 17 homers combined in the minors in 2015 and last season, his first in the Brewers organization, he hit 11.