The Brewers' offseason brought a big trade with the White Sox in which Milwaukee acquired their best offensive player, left fielder Carlos Lee for major league stolen base leader Scott Podsednik. Ben Sheets leads a promising pitching staff that, in addition to holdovers Doug Davis and Ben Hendrickson, includes former Braves phenom Jose Capellan. The future for the Brewers' new ownership looks bright because of the host of young players, such as Prince Fielder, Rickie Weeks, Dave Krynzel and Brad Nelson, on the way. Milwaukee won't contend in 2005, but by the middle of 2006, watch out.
Worth Every Penny
Sheets had a 2.70 ERA, 0.98 WHIP and 264 strikeouts last season. So how the heck did he have a losing record? Sheets has to be baseball's hardest luck pitcher. On a contending team, the right-hander would be considered for the Cy Young Award every season. This year, he may even come close for the Brewers.
About To Blossom
Getting out of Comiskey Park and removed from the shadows of Frank Thomas and Magglio Ordoņez will be just what Lee needed to become a star in his own right. The big slugger from Aguadulce, Panama has hit 31 home runs in each of the past two seasons while averaging 106 RBIs. Playing under Ned Yost -- and in a contract year -- look for Lee to run, as well. Expect career highs across the board.
Geoff Jenkins had never played more than 135 games in any season before last year, when he played 157. Strangely, he did more in 487 at-bats in 2003 than he did in 617 at-bats in 2004. His average slipped dramatically and he should still be considered an injury risk, so tread lightly when honing in on him.
Do You Feel Lucky?
If I were choosing a theme song in Miller Park for Russell Branyan's plate appearances, there would be no other choice than Frank Sinatra's rendition of All Or Nothing At All. In his career, 81 of his 288 hits (28.1 percent) have been home runs, while he has struck out once every 2.4 at bats. He has the potential to hit 30 home runs, but he also has the potential to be released.
Gone is Podsednik, who ran wild after the Brewers fell completely out of contention. This year's center fielder, Brady Clark, won't challenge the league lead, but he stole 15 bases as a part timer last season and could top 20 given 550 plate appearances.
If Something Should Happen To Mike Adams
The departure of Danny Kolb to the Braves leaves the Brewers with a void at the end of games that Ned Yost hopes can be filled by Adams, the impressive 2004 rookie. If he fails, the default will be former Phillies closer Ricky Botallico, who had a 3.38 ERA and 61 strikeouts in 60 appearances for the Mets last season. Former A's prospect Justin Lehr is an intriguing option, too.