All winter long, any talk of the Milwaukee Brewers was focused on the team's rebuilding prospect and the influx of young talent that pushed the organization into the upper echelon of most national rankings.
And while there is certainly hope for the future along with plenty of new faces as the Brewers opened spring training, there were still a handful of veterans in the clubhouse at Maryvale Baseball Park.
"It's weird to look around and see so any young guys," outfielder Ryan Braun said. "There are so many people that haven't been part of the organization over the last few years but I think we have probably more potential, young impact players than we've had in a long time, probably since I've been part of the organization.
"If you look at it from that perspective, it's exciting. But in the near term, certainly a lot of change and continuing transition, I think."
General manager David Stearns has turned Milwaukee's roster over since taking over for Doug Melvin late last season. Twenty players on the 40-man roster have joined the team since the end of last season.
But Braun, who enters the first year of a five-year, $105 million contract extension signed in April 2011, remains. As does catcher Jonathan Lucroy, who created a stir over the winter when he suggested he'd rather be traded to a contender than endure the losing that is sure to come with Stearns' rebuilding project.
The 29-year-old battled through injuries and slumps the entire way last year, but reported to camp feeling healthy and ready to move on from his comments, choosing instead to embrace the opportunity to help his new, young teammates, reach their potential.
"That's what Jason Kendall once did for me," Lucroy told MLB.com. "So regardless of what I said in the past about not wanting to be on a rebuilding team -- I'm going to make the best out of it.
"We have a really good group of guys, a good coaching staff, and the fans are awesome and they're going to support us, no matter what. I just want to be positive and I want to have fun."
He'll be charged again with handling a pitching staff that could be Milwaukee's strong suit. Young right-handers Wily Peralta, Jimmy Nelson and Taylor Jungmann are a rarity in Brewers' history; all home-grown talent. But, they're young -- Peralta is in his fourth season, Nelson his third and Jungmann his second.
Stearns added right-hander Chase Anderson from the Diamondbacks to add some strength to the rotation and is hoping that veteran Matt Garza can bounce back from an abysmal 2015 campaign (6-13, 5.63 ERA) and return to form in 2016.
"Every year's a fresh start, Garza said. "Slate's always wiped clean in spring training. Numbers this year don't carry over to next year. I'm excited and I'm going in with not a little chip but a big chip on my shoulder. I need to show the world I'm still me. I'm still one of the best in the game."
How painful Milwaukee's season is largely dependent upon those three veterans but, as is usually the case in rebuilding situations, their success comes with a catch; the better they perform, the more likely they are to hear their name in trade rumors.
Melvin got the rebuild started last year, dealing right-hander Yovani Gallardo before the season, then parting with some of the team's best players at or near the deadline as the Brewers were mired in the NL Central basement.
Stearns has been active, too, swinging nine deals for 16 players since he took over, and with an eye on the big picture, will be open to adding more controllable, young talent.
"The biggest thing is just staying in the moment," Braun said. "That's it; don't worry about what happened yesterday, don't worry about what will happen in two weeks.
"Nobody needs to worry about trade speculation, nobody needs to worry who is here and who is not here and which young guys are coming up or when they are coming up. You just stay in the moment and focus on the task at hand.
"If each of us focuses on doing our own job better we will be more successful as a group. But if we start worrying about everybody else and what is going to happen to the players on the team or where we will be in two months or what happened to guys that used to be with us a couple of months ago it will distract from that.
"If each of us focuses on getting a little bit better every day then we will be headed in the right direction."
POSITION BATTLE TO WATCH: Stearns and Counsell come into camp confident that they've addressed most of their roster needs for the upcoming season, but the jury is still out at third base and center field; two positions considered up for grabs as Opening Day approaches.
Milwaukee is confident that it has a long-term solution in center, but highly-touted prospect Brett Phillips will almost certainly begin the season at Triple-A Colorado Springs.
Third base is a greater concern, both at the big league and minor league level, where there currently is no prospect waiting in the wings. Hernan Perez saw action at third last season after he was picked up on waivers from Detroit, but like so many on Milwaukee's depth chart, is more comfortable at a middle infield position. Veteran Aaron Hill, picked up from Arizona in the Jean Segura trade, is the leading candidate as camp opens with former Red Sox prospects Gavin Cecchini and Wil Middlebrooks also in the mix as non-roster invitees.
ROOKIE WATCH: The Brewers will have plenty of rookies to keep an eye on this season but the biggest star on the horizon will likely be in Milwaukee sooner than later. Shortstop Orlando Arcia is by far the Brewers' top prospect, and one of the best in baseball overall. The 20-year-old was the Southern League's Player of the Year last year after batting .307 with 37 doubles, 69 RBIs and 25 stolen bases. Considered a defensive gem, Arcia will need some conditioning at Triple-A before Stearns & Co. are ready to bring him up for good. But don't expect the wait to be too long.
COMEBACK TRAIL: LHP Chris Capuano has been through a Milwaukee rebuilding project before. The 37-year-old returns to Milwaukee, where he spent five seasons after being shipped from Arizona in a six-player deal that also included current Brewers manager Craig Counsell. The 11-year veteran bounced back and forth between the Yankees and Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre last season, going 0-4 with a 7.97 ERA in 22 appearances including four starts.
--RF Ryan Braun will move back to left field this season, where he was a fixture from 2008-13. He enters the first season of the five-year, $105 million extension he signed in spring 2011 looking to build on a strong 2015 campaign. After battling injuries and suspension in 2013 and 2014, Braun rebounded a year ago, batting .285 with 25 home runs, 84 RBIs and 24 stolen bases in 140 games before a sore back sidelined him for the final week of the season. He underwent surgery immediately following the season and reported no setbacks; Braun said he was slightly behind schedule as camp opened but expected to be ready for opening day.
--RHP Matt Graza was nothing short of a disaster in 2015, going 6-14 with a 5.63 ERA in 26 appearances, the worst numbers of his career. He was so ineffective that he was pulled from the rotation on Sept. 6 declining to work out of the bullpen and ultimately left the team early to tend to his wife, who was expecting twins. Milwaukee would love to have included Garza in its slew of offseason deals, but the 32-year-old is still signed for two more seasons and owed $25 million. Those numbers, coupled with his recent struggles, will make a move incredibly difficult.
--C Jonathan Lucroy wants to get back to work after an uncertain offseason. Lucroy had been the subject of multiple trade rumors during the winter and in a January interview, suggested that it might be best for all parties if he was dealt to a contender. But Milwaukee has held onto the 30-year-old, who battled through injuries all season and finished with a .264 average -- his lowest since going .265 at the plate in his first full season -- along with seven home runs and 43 RBIs. If he returns to form early in the season, expect Lucroy's name to get tossed around a lot as the trade deadline approaches.
--2B Scooter Gennett struggled in his first season as a full-time starter. A slow start, coupled with a freak hand injury, led to Gennett being sent down to Triple-A Colorado Springs in mid-May. He was batting .154 at the time of the demotion but posted a .287 average with five home runs and 26 RBIs after he was recalled on June 11. His numbers against left-handers are still a concern; he batted .114 against them last season, though in limited exposure (36 PAs). With a glut of middle infielders in the system, Gennett -- not eligible for arbitration until after the 2017 season -- could find himself on the trading block should he get off to a good start.
--1B Chris Carter is expected to be Milwaukee's every day starter at first after signing a one-year, $2.5 million deal during the winter. The Brewers are optimistic that Carter, a career .217 hitter with 109 home runs and 280 RBIs in six seasons, will pick up where left off at the end of last season, when he batted .333 with seven homers and 15 RBIs over the final 20 games. While something of a strikeout machine (he whiffed 151 times last year), Carter's power could thrive in the hitter-friendly environment of Miller Park.
--INF Aaron Hill will be counted on for veteran leadership and versatility for the rebuilding Brewers. Acquired from Arizona in the Jean Segura trade, Hill will likely be the team's opening day starter at third base and could also see time in a platoon with Scooter Gennett at second. Hill batted .302 in 2012, his first full season with the Diamondbacks, but since then has gone .253 at the plate while averaging nine home runs and 47 RBIs. In 116 games last season, he batted .230 with six homers and 39 RBIs. Should he get off to a good start, expect his name to come up often as the trade deadline approaches.
--OF Domingo Santana made a strong impression last season after coming over from Houston in the Carlos Gomez trade; now, he's on track to be an everyday player in the big leagues for the first time. Santana, 23, appeared in 38 games for Milwaukee down the stretch and hit .231 with six home runs and 18 RBIs. His strikeout-to-walk ratio (46-to-18) is a little alarming, but the Brewers are hoping that his approach will improve with regular playing time and that his power will benefit from playing full time at Miller Park. After spending his big league stint last season out of position in center field, Santana should be more comfortable this season in a corner outfield slot, now that Khris Davis was dealt to Oakland.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "It is not like we've gone to the playoffs the last few years. I think we're building toward something better than where we are coming from." -- OF Ryan Braun, on the Brewers' rebuilding project