Originally posted on isportsweb.com  |  Last updated 2/9/12

After covering both the infield and outfield over the past couple of weeks, we’ve finally gotten to possibly the most vital position on the team, if the last decade is used as a measuring stick. That is the starting rotation. There are no changes whatsoever from last year’s starting five except maybe the order they’re ranked. But no matter what, this is a team strength going in to the season.

#13 Zack Greinke (Age 28)

2011 (MIL): 16-6, 3.83 ERA, 171.2 IP, 201 K, 45 BB, 1.200 WHIP

2012 Projected: 18-7, 2.89 ERA, 212.1 IP, 235 K, 56 BB, 1.100 WHIP

Not allowing Zack Greinke on a basketball court might be the best move the Brewers make this off-season, signings of free agents not withstanding. Coming into his second season in Milwaukee, Greinke looks to build upon his impressive inaugural season, but look for his first loss at home sometime early on. With a long-term contract possibly on the horizon, look for a sharpness on every pitch he throws early on in the season, and for it to stay for the long term.

#49 Yovani Gallardo (26)

2011 (MIL): 17-10, 3.52 ERA, 207.1 IP, 207 K, 59 BB, 1.215 WHIP

2012 Projected: 17-8, 3.49 ERA, 221 IP, 234 K, 68 BB, 1.199 WHIP

There’s nothing more promising than a player who has progressed dramatically every year, and that is why Yovani Gallardo is such a great player and an ace in this league. Despite his listing here as the #2 pitcher, make no mistake, this man is an ace in stamina, endurance, ability, and character. As he continues to grow in baseball, he will continue to get better, especially at the tender age of 26. Last season it was his walks that were cut down. This year, I think that it is going to be his WHIP, which is essentially how many baserunners he allows per inning. That will be due to an increased command with his secondary pitches like his changeup, which will get a lot of groundballs and double plays. Expect a big year from Yovani.

#18 Shaun Marcum (31)

2011 (MIL): 13-7, 3.54 ERA, 200.2 IP, 158 K, 57 BB, 1.160 WHIP

2012 Projected: 15-12, 3.97 ERA, 211.2 IP, 152 K, 61 BB, 1.253 WHIP

It was a great sign for Marcum last season in a new league to set a career high in innings pitched, going over 200 for the first time. However, with his stuff, if he goes away from his changeup, his bread and butter, he will get burned. It happened in the postseason, and for him to be successful this season, he needs to regain that pitch’s effectiveness. He should do that, but don’t expect as good of a season as last year now that the National League has a scouting report on him.

#43 Randy Wolf (35)

2011 (MIL): 13-10, 3.69 ERA, 212.1 IP, 134 K, 66 BB, 1.320 WHIP

2012 Projected: 12-10, 3.94 ERA, 220 IP, 145 K, 69 BB, 1.312 WHIP

The elder statesman of the rotation, Wolf is looking to get a new deal, probably with the Brewers. With a resurgent year last season, he looks to build on it with another year in Miller Park, and should come close. With his curveball still sweeping like it has been, he should keep most hitters off balance enough to get a lot of groundballs and less home runs. His biggest asset though by far is his experience and leadership. Having some extensive postseason experience was huge, as outside of Gallardo he was the only starter to pitch in October before last year, and it showed in the NLCS with his 7 inning beauty in Game 4.

#38 Chris Narveson (31)

2011 (MIL): 11-8, 4.45 ERA, 161.2 IP, 126 K, 65 BB, 1.390 WHIP

2012 Projected: 12-6, 4.22 ERA, 173 IP, 145 K, 71 BB, 1.336 WHIP

Chris Narveson, the pleasant surprise from 2010 continues his career as a solid starting pitcher in Major League Baseball, and should keep improving this season under the tutelage of Rick Kranitz. Given only an average fastball, Narveson lives on keeping hitters off balance with a solid changeup and a good curveball, similar to Randy Wolf, but without the command, but that should come with time, and he has progressed each season. Look for a slight increase in his production.

#20 Jonathan Lucroy (26)

2011 (MIL): .265 BA, 12 HR, 59 RBI, .313 OBP, .392 SLUG

2012 Projected: .271 BA, 14 HR, 62 RBI, .331 OBP, .400 SLUG

Not since Mike Matheny has Milwaukee had a true franchise catcher, but that all changes with “Luc.” A solid offensive catcher with a knack for calling a game, especially with Greinke and Gallardo, the sky’s the limit for Jonathan. As a hitter, he will provide gap power with the occasional surge for a home run, but is very patient and goes to the opposite field incredibly well. Defensively, his agility behind the plate is outstanding and he has a good, accurate arm. Look for a possibly All-Star berth in his future.

C #9 George Kottaras (28) 

2011 (MIL): .252 BA, 5 HR, 17 RBI, .311 OBP, .459 SLUG

2012 Projected: .231 BA, 7 HR, 21 RBI, .300 OBP, .400 SLUG

Kottaras is in the perfect role for a man with his skill set. With a wide, sweeping swing, he won’t win any batting titles, but generates very good power from the left side of the plate, and has flashes in his spot starts as Wolf’s personal catcher, as shown by his cycle last season. Defensively he has average agility with an average to below-average arm. The only thing keeping him in the big leagues is the power his bat can provide, and that is a good weapon to have off the bench for the Brewers.

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