February 2013

Ryan Braun Included in Biogenesis Records


After becoming the first player in Major League to appeal and successfully overturn a 50-game suspension for alleged performance-enhancing drug usage last year, Ryan Braun’s reputation for being drug-free is once again in jeopardy.

Capture

On Tuesday night, Yahoo! Sports’ investigative reporters Tim Brown and Jeff Passan reported that Braun’s name was included in a Miami-based Biogenesis clinic said to have distributed performance-enhancing drugs. The league has been investigating the clinic’s operator, Anthony Bosch, for his involvement in the dispersal.

Here is an excerpt from the story:

Three of the Biogenesis clinic records obtained by Yahoo! Sports show Braun’s name. Unlike the players named by the Miami New Times in its report that blew open the Biogenesis case, Braun’s name is not listed next to any specific PEDs.

He is on a list that includes Alex Rodriguez,Melky Cabrera and Cesar Carrillo, who the New Times reported received PEDs from Bosch. Also on the list are New York Yankees catcher Francisco Cervelli and Baltimore Orioles third baseman Danny Valencia, who weren’t listed near PEDs either. The record matches a document the New Times posted with Braun’s name redacted and Cervelli and Valencia’s cut off.

Representatives for Braun, Cervelli and Valencia did not return multiple phone messages left by Yahoo! Sports.

We will continue to relay information as it becomes available.

Bold 2013 Predictions for Brewers’ Top 15 Prospects


TopProspects2013

The Brewers’ minor league system has  had two seasons to recover from the Zack Greinke trade that severely decimated its young, prospective talent pool.

Thankfully, however, the outlook for the system seems promising.

With two first-round selections in each of the last two amateur drafts, director of amateur scouting Bruce Seid annexed several promising youngsters who could be solid contributors for the club down the road. If not they may become valuable trade bait for general manager Doug Melvin.

Those players not included in the Greinke trade of 2010 have also helped add depth and talent to the system. Jimmy Nelson and Tyler Thornburg, among others, have progressed quite well.

Even so, one would be generous to place the Brewers’ system among the most elite in all of baseball, or even in the top half of the National League. The fact still remains that no “top-caliber” prospect has revealed himself…yet. Perhaps 2013 will be the year Milwaukee’s draft-day labors pay off with the manifestation of an elite youngster.

Below depicts how I see the Brewers’ system stacking up with February upon us. I’ve also included a prediction for each player for the upcoming season. Let’s get to it.

Click here for my 2012 prospect rankings and predictions.

#1 Wily Peralta (RHP)

Age

G

GS

IP

H

HR

K/9

BB/9

ERA

FIP

23

6

5

29

24

0

7.14

3.41

2.48

2.65

Brief: A standout 2011 campaign between double-A and triple-A ball made Peralta the Brewers’ top pitching prospect for good, but relatively disappointing (4.66 ERA, 1.58 WHIP over 28 starts) 2012 stay in the Pacific Coast League put his big-league future in question. But after putting on a show in his short stint in the big leagues toward the end of last season, Peralta seemed to have regained respect from scouts who once praised his upside as a youngster. His slider has great action and his velocity is legit; the only question is his control.

Prediction: Peralta doesn’t make the opening-day rotation; however, he does amass at least five spot-starts by the end of the regular season.

#2 Taylor Jungmann (RHP)

Age

G

GS

IP

H

HR

K/9

BB/9

ERA

FIP

23

26

26

153

159

7

5.82

2.71

3.53

3.62

Brief: Jungmann’s ludicrous senior campaign at Texas placed a heavy burden of expectation on his shoulders following the 2011 draft, so by comparison his first professional season was farm from scouts’ expectations. A slight decrease in velocity and underwhelming swing-and-miss ability was obvious over his 26 starts in high-A Brevard County.

However, I see reason for optimism. He showed an ability to throw each offering in just about any situation, his command remains plus-average and he knows how to induce ground-balls, as evidenced by a splendid 1.94 GO/AO ratio. Throw that all together and I think you’ve got an average No.3 and solid No.4 starter.

Prediction: Jungmann starts out in double-A ball and eventually moves his way up to triple-A Nashville by season’s end.

#3 Tyler Thornburg (RHP)

Age

G

GS

IP

H

HR

K/9

BB/9

ERA

FIP

24

8

3

22

24

8

8.18

2.86

4.50

7.09

Brief: Lurid strikeout rates between low-A and high-A ball in 2011 put Thornburg on the map, punching out a ridiculous 10.5 per nine innings that year. Given his smallish stature, scouts were astonished at the velocity with which he was able to create; his secondary offerings were impressive, too. That production carried over into his jump to double-A ball to start off 2012, where in his first eight starts he allowed just 10 earned runs and struck out 51 batters, enough to warrant a spot-start during inter-league play.

Stuff wise, I’m almost convinced he is bullpen bound. His low-90s fastball is incredibly straight and lacks consistency with respect to command and is destroyed when up in the zone; however, his curveball has very nice action and his changeup has come along well.

Prediction: Thornburg doesn’t make the opening-day roster, but (despite my intuition about his stuff) eventually carves a niche as Milwaukee’s No. 5 starter by the end of August.

#4 Johnny Hellweg (RHP)

Age

G

GS

IP

H

HR

K/9

BB/9

ERA

FIP

24

28

23

139.2

121

8

6.8

4.8

3.38

4.25

Brief: Odds are you won’t see Hellweg this high on many organizational rankings, so allow me to elaborate as to why I have him here: upside, upside, upside — quite possibly no other Brewers prospect has as much of it as the 24-year-old Hellweg.

His fastball touches close to triple-digits with little effort and easy arm action and his secondary offerings have no other option but to improve. Furthermore, his massive size (6’9″, 210) portends a future workhorse. Control issues are still an issue, but those are bound to see improvement with further coaching.

Prediction: Hellweg starts in double-A but quickly moves up to triple-A, where he makes a legtimate push for time out of Milwaukee’s bullpen at the end of the season.

#5 Clint Coulter (C)

Age

PA

H

2B

HR

BB

SO

SB

AVG

OBP

SLG

wOBA

19

214

51

3

5

37

33

3

.302

.439

.444

.418

Brief: High on Bruce Seid’s draft board last summer, the Brewers took Coulter 27th overall and got one heck of a first professional season in return. The 19-year-old posted a .302 batting average and .363 average on balls in play with the rookie club in Helena, showing an advanced approach at the dish, though he wasn’t able to tap into his power, amassing only 11 extra-base hits.

While he’s still a project as a catcher, all indications are that the coaches like what they see in him from behind the plate. With more coaching, he may live up to the Brian McCann comparisons.

Prediction: Coulter flashes his line-drive power potential to the tune of 15 home runs between rookie and low-A ball.

#6 Jimmy Nelson (RHP)

Age

G

GS

IP

H

HR

K/9

BB/9

ERA

FIP

23

23

23

127.1

97

5

8.4

4.4

2.83

3.32

Brief: Big, strong and admittedly competitive on the mound, the 6-foot-6, 240-pound right handed-throwing Nelson pieced together a spectacular stint with high-A Brevard County last season. However, injury and heightened competition slowed him up (though not by too much) in double-A ball. Still, Nelson has legit stuff, with the system’s best sinker and a slider that grades out as plus-average. His ability to generate whiffs with his changeup may determine how effective a starter he will be.

Nelson told me earlier in January that he’s set his ceiling high for 2013, aiming to make his debut with the Brewers by the end of the season. Check out our full conversation here.

Prediction: Nelson is a standout in spring training and finds his way to triple-A by mid-season.

#7 Hunter Morris (1B)

Age

PA

H

2B

HR

BB

SO

SB

AVG

OBP

SLG

wOBA

24

571

158

40

28

40

117

2

.303

.357

.563

.413

Brief: Morris’ best professional season came in 2012, where he led the double-A Southern League in home runs, runs batted in and wRC (100), and finished in the top five in doubles and batting average. Unfortunately, that production came at the expense of a lack of patience and plate discipline, as he finished near the bottom of the league in BB/K (0.34) and fielded criticism from scouts for having too many holes in his swing.

Still, Morris is without question the top first-base prospect in the system, and with a strong spring training and start to his 2013 campaign, he may push for playing time should Mat Gamel falter once more.

Prediction: Morris starts the year triple-A and continues to pound the ball at an impressive rate.

#8 Victor Roache (OF)

Brief: After tearing through the Southern Conference as a junior in 2011, Roache’s stock at the 2012 draft plummeted after injuring his left arm last February, an injury that sidelined him for nearly all of his 2012 collegiate campaign. Still, the Brewers believe they got the steal of last summer’s draft when they took him 28th overall, with Seid quoted saying, “…at this point, we feel very confident in the makeup of the kid to work hard and that the injury will heal, and he will be who we think he’ll be.”

Roache has been rehabbing all offseason in preparation for 2013. He told me in late December that his arm is “feeling well” and that he’s not sure where he will start off 2013.

Prediction: Roache starts out in low-A Appleton and works his way up to high-A Brevard County by season’s end.

#9 Ryan (Scooter) Gennett (2B)

Age

PA

H

2B

HR

BB

SO

SB

AVG

OBP

SLG

wOBA

22

573

156

30

5

28

71

11

.293

.330

.385

.330

Brief: Gennett has been a fan-favorite since his 2010 rookie season not only for his unique name but for his productivity at the plate. The 22-year-old has a career .300/.339/.416 slash line as a professional and has been a singles and doubles machine each year. He doesn’t have much raw power, but he’s shown to pound the gaps with consistency, especially against right-handed pitchers, as evidenced by his .405 slugging percentage versus such pitchers last season.

He still has room to improve with his defensive consistency, even with his above-average range (he was a shortstop in high school) at second-base. He won’t be much of a base-stealer at the next level, but he’s an intelligent base-runner that may be of great use to manager Ron Roenicke down the road.

Prediction: Gennett starts in triple-A Nashville and stays the entire season.

#10 Tyrone Taylor (OF)

Age

PA

H

2B

HR

BB

SO

SB

AVG

OBP

SLG

wOBA

19

83

29

9

2

6

11

6

.387

.434

.667

.483

Brief: The Brewers took a calculated risk when they took Taylor with their second-round selection last summer, as Taylor had been a Cal State Fullerton commit with a football background. That risk payed off in a big way, as the athletic former high school football standout produced a .435 batting average on balls in play and 1.100 OPS between the club’s two rookie-level clubs in just his first professional season.

Evaluating a player based off 83 total plate appearances is far from just. However, scouts seem to believe Taylor has an incredibly high ceiling. A knack for putting solid contact on the ball, impressive defensive range and palpable base-running skills, this 19-year-old is a youngster to keep an eye on.

Prediction: Taylor comes back down to earth once he reaches low-A Appleton.

#11 Ariel Pena (RHP)

Age

G

GS

IP

H

HR

K/9

BB/9

ERA

FIP

23

26

26

141.7

129

18

8.7

3.9

3.88

4.32

Ariel Pena / MiLB.com

Ariel Pena / MiLB.com

 

Brief: Probably the least well-known piece to last summer’s Greinke trade, Pena is difficult to evaluate and project for several reasons. Though he has tremendous raw stuff, with a fastball regularly touching the mid-90s and changeup worthy of high praise, and great physical and athletic ability at 6-foot-3, 190 pounds, his lack of control has toubled scouts. In seven starts with double-A Huntsville last season, the young 23-year-old walked 23 batters in just 32.1 innings, which offset his tremendous swing-and-miss capabilities. Improvement in that area could give him a back-end rotation opportunity; regression could lead to a long stay in the minors.

Prediction: Pena starts off in double-A Huntsville and sees improvement with his control, eventually leading to a call-up to triple-A by August.

#12 Jed Bradley (LHP)

Age

G

GS

IP

H

HR

K/9

BB/9

ERA

FIP

22

20

20

107.1

136

9

5.03

3.61

5.53

4.54

Brief: Bradley’s inaugural season in the system got off to a scorching start, allowing zero earned runs to cross home over his first 19 innings of work. Then, May rolled around and it wasn’t until late June that he put together a respectable outing. It was a disheartening campaign for the touted southpaw, to be sure.

One of the big things that plagued Bradley in 2012 was his inconsistencies around the strike-zone. At Georgia Tech, he pounded the zone and generated swings-and-misses from start to start, therefore having confidence in his stuff on a regular basis. In the Florida State league, hitters capitalized off his lack of command and weren’t fooled by his late-breaking action. Bradley is without question the top southpaw in this system, but it will be crucial for him to improve his control and, more importantly, become more confident in each of his offerings.

Prediction: Bradley returns to high-A ball and moves up to double-A by the end of 2013.

#13 Mitch Haniger (OF)

Age

PA

H

2B

HR

BB

SO

SB

AVG

OBP

SLG

wOBA

22

58

14

4

1

7

13

1

.286

.379

.429

.371

[Scouting Report]

Brief: Baseball America caught many folks off-guard when they placed Haniger in its top 10 prospect rankings a few days ago, but I wasn’t surprised. I had the opportunity to scout Milwaukee’s 2012 supplemental first-round selection last summer in low-A Appleton, and I can tell you that this is the type of kid Roenicke would love to have on his roster. Strong, accurate arm; good range in the outfield; intelligent base-runner who can also steal a few bases here and there; puts solid contact on the ball; still improving with pitch recognition. It will be interesting to compare his game from 2012 to this coming season.

Prediction: Haniger returns to low-A ball and quickly proves to be ready for a call-up to high-A by August.

#14 Hiram Burgos (RHP)

Age

G

GS

IP

H

HR

K/9

BB/9

ERA

FIP

24

28

27

171

128

8

8.05

2.58

1.95

2.95

Capture

Brief: Burgos was the fastest-riser in the system last season, moving up to triple-A ball by season’s end after starting in high-A Brevard County. Consequently, the 25-year-old heightened his reputation with scouts and casual fans each step of the way. For me, the biggest determining factor in whether he can push for a late rotation spot will be if he can continue to generate ground balls and hold batters in check. Last season, Burgos posted a ground-ball rate of 42.4 percent and held batters to a .265 BABIP, though he hit a rough patch against tougher Pacific Coast League competition late last season. Control, command and offerings seem to be in place; it’s his ability to help out the defense with ground balls that will be critical moving forward.

Prediction: Burgos picks up where he left off in triple-A Nashville, earning a September call-up with a spot start by season’s end.

#15 Drew Gagnon (RHP)

Age

G

GS

IP

H

HR

K/9

BB/9

ERA

FIP

22

25

25

149.2

123

9

6.86

2.22

2.83

3.36

gagnon

Drew Gagnon / MiLB.com

Brief: Being drafted after the likes of Jungmann and Bradley in 2011, Gagnon has proved to be yet another solid find for Seid and company. The Cal State Long Beach product last season started 25 games between the low and high-A levels and was productive at both. He wasn’t and probably never will be a strikeout hoarder, as he lacks one true swing-and-miss pitch to his repertoire. However, his command has been stellar and hitters simply haven’t figured him out just yet — as evidenced by a .264 BABIP last season. He’ll turn 23 years old in June.

Prediction: Gagnon returns to high-A ball to start 2013 and remains there for the entire season.

Two to Watch in 2013

Yadiel Rivera (SS)

Age

PA

H

2B

HR

BB

SO

SB

AVG

OBP

SLG

wOBA

20

506

115

26

12

26

119

7

.247

.290

.402

.312

[Scouting Report]

Brief: Scouts have had the scoop on Rivera since his rookie 2010 season, where he put up a .209/.243/.257 slash line with a ludicrous 5.04 range factor at the rookie level: a plus defender with a well below average approach at the plate. While there is some merit to that widespread sentiment, I don’t believe it is completely indicative of the type of player Rivera might one day become.

Yes, it is true that Rivera has struggled with pitch precognition and his plate discipline is far from big-league ready. However, posting a career-low in strikeout rate (23.5 percent) and career-high in walk rate (5.1 percent) is reason for optimism. Add that to what I’ve seen to be very nice raw power, hastened bat speed and tremendous range and feel for the shortstop position, and I think 2013 could be a breakout season for the young Puerto Rico native.

Prediction: Rivera lights up Midwest League pitching and finds himself in high-A Brevard County by season’s end.

Christopher Mcfarland (2B)

Age

PA

H

2B

HR

BB

SO

SB

AVG

OBP

SLG

wOBA

20

313

85

17

6

23

79

15

.301

.358

.433

.360

Brief: With just one pro season to his resume, Mcfarland has flown relatively under the radar for his brief stay in the system, which is surprising given his outstanding production at the rookie level last season. The 20-year-old showed a solid approach at the plate and a knack for getting hits (as evidenced by a superb .397 BABIP) whenever he makes contact. One scout described Mcfarland as being “athletic, great hands with glove and bat, quick release, puts ball in play, runs like hell.” If he continues to garner such respect while putting up big numbers across the board, he’ll have a change to hasten quickly through the system.

Prediction: McFarland witnesses slight regression at low-A Appleton, but nonetheless remains one of the most intriguing of Milwaukee’s prospects.

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