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5 bold Brewers predictions for the 2015 season

April 7, 2015

With the regular season underway, here are five bold predictions for the 2015 Milwaukee Brewers:

1. Ryan Braun will hit 25 home runs for the first time since 2012.

I’m not as confident on this as I was as recently as Monday morning, but a full season with relatively good health should get Braun to the 25 to 30 home run range.

Before a strained ribcage muscle knocked Braun out in the fifth inning on opening day, Brewers manager Ron Roenicke spoke of Braun having his swing back. A look at his spring training performance backs that up.

So long as his thumb remains a non-issue, Braun will overcome this early setback and return to form. By season’s end, he may blow right by 25 home runs and hit the 30 mark.

2. Jimmy Nelson will not spend the entire season in the Brewers’ rotation.

He’s not replacing Yovani Gallardo, nor should he be expected to. Still, Nelson’s struggles last season and this spring are major cause for concern going forward.

Nelson disappointed in his 2014 call-up and got hit hard throughout spring training. There’s nothing about a switch to the regular season that would indicate a sudden change in fortune.

After a rough start to the season, Nelson eventually will be sent to either the bullpen or Class AAA to sort things out. Whether he does remains to be seen.

3. The Brewers will be the best team not to make the playoffs.

There’s a lot of talent on this team.

In fact, with good health, the Brewers could have one of the best offenses in the league, a strong bullpen and an average starting rotation. Unfortunately, that level of health is unlikely.

Instead, injuries will hit Milwaukee at some point over the course of the season. If those hit the starting rotation, this team does not have the depth to sustain a long absence by one of its starting five.

With that in mind, and the National League Central’s status as the “new AL East” and potentially the toughest division in baseball, the Brewers ultimately will fall short of the postseason once again. But they’ll be the best team watching from home in October.

4. Lefty reliever Will Smith will be an All-Star.

Much like he did a year ago, Smith will open the season in dominant fashion. This year, that hot start will earn him a trip to Cincinnati to represent the Brewers in the Midsummer Classic.

Smith struck out 36 batters with just 11 walks over 251/3 innings in his first 28 appearances of 2014. With two strikeouts in a scoreless inning Monday, Smith showed his nasty slider is ready to put opposing batters away once again.

The lefty will be the strongest arm in the Brewers’ pen, at least for the first half of the season. If his usage rate remains as high as last season, Smith undoubtedly will drop off again in the second half.

5. Jeremy Jeffress will finish the season as the team’s closer.

Another thing that could derail the Brewers this season is trusting Francisco Rodriguez and Jonathan Broxton to anchor the back end of the bullpen.

There’s no question K-Rod was dominant over his first 21 games last season, but the other 48 were a different story. After posting a 0.43 ERA through May 13, Rodriguez had a 4.21 ERA while giving up 13 home runs and blowing four saves the rest of the way.

Rodriguez and Broxton ultimately will struggle at some point. When that time comes, Jeffress has the opportunity and the stuff to step up and fill the closer’s role.

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