Projecting the Brewers’ Opening Day Lineup (Sort of)


Opening day for the Brewers is a mere 12 days away, and with each passing day, we begin to piece together the puzzle that will become Milwaukee’s April 1 lineup.

On Monday, Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel broke the news that Brewers manager Ron Roenicke had put the finishing touches on what will be his starting rotation to begin the starting rotation. The unveiled rotation — easily distinguishable from its 2012 opening-day version — is reportedly comprised of: Yovani Gallardo, Marco Estrada, Wily Peralta, Chris Narveson and Mike Fiers.

Aside from everyone’s curiosity of how the bullpen will be pieced-together, the question on everyone’s mind now seems to be: What will Milwaukee’s opening-day lineup look like?

While no one can answer that question with a whole lot of certainty at this juncture — aside from the third and fourth spots in the order  — we can certainly speculate as to how each of us would ‘structure’ Roenicke’s lineup should we wondrously transform into the Brewers’ third-year skipper.

Conveniently enough, that’s exactly what I plan on doing.

Allow me to attempt to persuade you into agreeing with my own personal ‘construction’ of Milwaukee’s opening-day lineup. This lineup is not so much a projection as the title would have you believe; rather, as I alluded to earlier, this is a more personal dissertation of how I would fashion positions one through nine on opening day against the Colorado Rockies (by the way, I’ll be at the game). Let’s get started.

1. Norichika Aoki (RF)Norichika+Aoki+Milwaukee+Brewers+Photo+Day+PSq3DwNmkpel

2012 stats: .288/.355/.433, 10 HR, 81 R, 50 RBI, 30 SB, 115 wRC+

There’s a lot to like about what Aoki, 31, brings to the table as a lead-off hitter, and he proved that to each of us last season. From this spot in 2012, the 31-year-old  posted a .286/.353/.438 slash line. The number to focus on here would be his .353 on-base percentage, as this is inarguably the most all-telling stat for the effectiveness of a lead-off hitter. Interestingly, Aoki topped heralded lead-off hitters such as (among others) Jose Reyes and Michael Bourn in this category last season. He also drew nearly as many walks (34) as he did strike out (37) from this spot, and furthermore stole 24 of 32 bases. Add the fact that Aoki posted the roster’s best contact rate (88.3%), a swell rate for any lead-off hitter, and it seems Aoki would make the most sense here.

2. Carlos Gomez (CF)

2012 stats: .260/.305/.463, 19 HR, 72 R, 51 RBI, 37 SB, 105 wRC+

Popular opinion seems to think Rickie Weeks would be the best fit here. While there are merits to that notion, Gomez probably brings more upside than what Weeks could otherwise provide. First, Gomez’s speed would be a tremendous complement to Aoki’s atop the order. Even at 27 years of age, Gomez hasn’t lost a step on the basepaths since his early professional days. Second, Given Gomez’s .311 on-base percentage out of the No. 2 hole last season, he and Aoki would be able to get on base at a respectable rate in front of Ryan Braun. For those reasons, Gomez gets the spot here.

3. Ryan Braun (LF)

2012 stats: .319/.391/.595, 41 HR, 108 R, 112 RBI, 30 SB, 162 wRC+

There will (probably) come a time when Ryan Braun’s slowly diminishing speed will place him on the clean-up spot in Milwaukee’s order; however, that time is . Must I explain myself here?

aramis-ramirez4. Aramis Ramirez (3B)

2012 stats: .300/.360/.540, 27 HR, 92 R, 105 RBI, 9 SB, 142 wRC+

Exactly 97.3 percent of Ramirez’s plate appearances last season came as Milwaukee’s clean-up hitter, and I see no reason as to why that should cease to be in 2013.

Just how effective was Ramirez out of the No. 4 hole last season? For starters, he out-performed Prince Fielder in the slugging percentage department, garnering a .540 slugging percentage to Fielder’s .528. He tied for the league-lead in runs batted in for cleanup hitters, led the league in doubles (49) and scored more runs than any other No. 4 hitter in the National League. If my calculations are correct, Ramirez seems the easy choice here.

5. Rickie Weeks (2B)

2012 stats: .230/.328/.400, 21 HR, 85 R, 63 RBI, 16 SB, 100 wRC+

Weeks’ days of being a viable weapon on the bases are certainly in the rear-view mirror, so for me, it seems only appropriate for him to move down in the batting order, where his power will help drive in runs. Many will point to the fact that Weeks has traditionally struggled at the plate with men on base as a reason for not placing him here. However, comparing Weeks’ 2012 numbers to those of the best No. 5 hitters in the game, we see that Weeks edged out many hitters as far as individual numbers (home runs, stolen bases, etc.) are concerned. Jonathan Lucroy would have been a nice choice here, but in my mind, Weeks is the best option.

6. Jonathan Lucroy (C)

2012 stats: .320/.368/.513, 12 HR, 46 R, 58 RBI, 4 SB, 138 wRC+

Lucroy was one of the most productive hitting catchers before his wife dropped some luggage on his throwing hand late last May, landing him on the disabled list for a good chunk of the season. Still, he prospered after coming back, hitting .299/.354/.458 post-injury. As for where he’s placed in the opening-day batting order is anyone’s guess, but the fact that exactly 87.5 percent of his career plate appearances have come in either the sixth, seventh or eighth spot gives us a clear indication as to where Roenicke may place him. I’ll put him here due to the fact that he is a .291/.327/.446 hitter in the No. 6 hole, with a .315 BABIP. Milwaukee will need someone with a knack for finding holes in defenses to drive in Braun, Ramirez and Weeks. For that reason, Lucroy is the best choice for this spot.

7. Alex Gonzalez (1B)

2012 stats: .259/.326/.457, 4 HR, 8 R, 15 RBI, SB, 133 wRC+

Gonzalez, also referred to as ‘Sea Bass’, has been a bottom-of-the-order dweller for much of his professional career, with exactly 56 percent of his 6,098 plate appearances coming as either a No. 7 or No. 8 hitter — and there’s a good reason behind that. Arguably his best work has come via the No. 7 hole, where he’s hit a respectable .247/.286/.409 with 45 home runs and 193 runs batted in. There’s a decent chance he ends up here if not due to the fact that the majority of his plate appearances with the club last season came from this spot.

8. Jean Segura (SS)Jean-Segura-late-round-steal-USAT-Images

2012 stats: .264/.321/.331, 19 R, 14 RBI, 7 SB, 74 wRC+

Putting Segura here makes a lot of sense if I’m Roenicke. For one, Segura batted from the No. 8 hole in all but one of his starts last season, so there’s a certain amount of familiarity with this spot in the lineup that would work to Milwaukee’s benefit. Secondly, Segura fresh legs would provide much-needed speed to the bottom of Roenicke’s lineup. Many seem to think Segura will hasten his way to a hefty stolen-base total this season, with ZiPS projecting him to steal 26 bases this season. If he is able to reach that mark, that would be the most stolen bases by any No. 8 hitter…since the turn of the millennium. Lastly, and most importantly, Segura’s successes in spring training (.350/.366/.500, 20 total bases in 14 games) would help even-out a front-loaded batting order, helping to set the stage for the top of the order to drive in runs.

9. Yovani Gallardo (RHP)

He is the opening-day starter, no?

To recap:

1.) Norichika Aoki (RF)

2.) Carlos Gomez (CF)

3.) Ryan Braun (LF)

4.) Aramis Ramirez (3B)

5.) Rickie Weeks (2B)

6.) Jonathan Lucroy (C)

7.) Alex Gonzalez (1B)

8.) Jean Segura (SS)

9.) Yovani Gallardo

Tweet me (@alecdopp) your thoughts and let’s get the conversation started.

Brewers Deal Darren Byrd, Acquire Stephen Parker


After two seasons spent with the Brewers’ double-A affiliate in Huntsville, MLB Trade Rumors has reported that the club has dealt right-handed pitcher Darren Byrd to the Oakland Athletics in exchange for infielder Stephen Parker.

MLB.com’s Adam McCalvy also confirmed the news on Wednesday.

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Byrd, 26, posted a 2.59 ERA and 1.29 WHIP while striking out 71 batters to walking 36 last season over 50 relief appearances. Of the 12 games in which he finished, six came as saves.

Parker, 25, batted .256/.327/.390 with seven home runs, 43 runs scored and 47 runs batted in over 99 games with the Athletics’ triple-A affiliate Sacramento River Cats. He has experience at every infield position, excluding shortstop.

Biggest Winners, Losers of Brewers Camp 2013 Thus Far


Every year, it seems there are at least a handful of players on each Major League roster whose job security hinges on his performance over the course of Spring Training.

At Milwaukee Brewers camp in this spring, there are a number of players who have either elevated their opening-day roster spot security or have increased the likelihood of their being either sent to minor league camp, or released from the organization altogether.

Just past the midway point of spring training, now seems a perfect time to pinpoint those players who have impressed and disappointed. Here is a look at a few winners and losers of Brewers camp thus far.

Loser: Hunter Morris

Although his scintillating 2013 campaign — he hit .303/.357/.563 and with 74 extra-base hits — warranted national recognition, scouts questioned his big league power potential at the next level, with many saying his swing entails too many holes for him to become a productive everyday first baseman.

In his first go-around with the big-league camp this spring, he seems to be backing those evaluations.The 24-year-old Huntsville, Ala. product has in 27 plate appearances hit .120/.185/.280, striking out six times to drawing just two walks.

With Corey Hart out for what could be the first month of the season, Morris hasn’t done much this spring to increase his value within the organization. His chances of landing an opening-day roster spot (and Major League salary) have taken a hit this spring, to be sure.

Winner: Carlos Gomez

Carlos Gomez has cashed in this spring — literally.

After his best season as a professional, hitting .260/.305/.463 with 19 home runs and 37 stolen bases, the 27-year-old center fielder procured a four-year, $28.3 Million contract extension from Milwaukee on Wednesday, Mar. 13. The deal will keep Gomez with the club through the 2016 season, and presumably validates the club’s confidence in his ability to be the starter in center field for the future.

Exactly what compelled general manager Doug Melvin to extend Gomez? His aforementioned 2012 campaign had a lot do with it. However, a terrific spring training may too have had a strong affect. In 28 plate appearances, Gomez is presently hitting .474/.615/.684 with six walks to just five strikeouts and 13 total bases.

Loser: Mat Gamel

Mat Gamel doesn’t have much to smile about these days.

Once considered the heir-apparent to Prince Fielder as Milwaukee’s first baseman of the future, the now 27-year-old suffered his second ACL tear in consecutive springs. The difference between the two? Last year’s came well over a month into the season, whereas this year’s incident came before he stepped into the batter’s box in spring training. Unfortunately for Gamel, this year’s ACL tear will cause him tomiss the entirety of his 2013 season. With this injury, Gamel’s future with the organization has been put in jeopardy. No player at camp this spring has lost more than Gamel.

Winner: Mike Fiers

It’s funny how dramatically a person’s situation can change over the course of 12 months. Mike Fiers is a perfect example. At this time last year, the Nova Southeastern University product was having a rough go at spring training,registering just eight total innings while allowing 10 earned runs to cross home on 12 hits, three of which were home runs.

This spring, Fiers is rekindling the stuff that gave him an opportunity for the Brewers’ starting rotation from mid-season onward. Over 12.1 innings, the 28-year-old right-hander boasts a 2.19 ERA with 11 strikeouts to four walks. The concerns that surrounded Fiers toward the back end of last season seem to be fading away with each preseason appearance. Should he continue at this pace, he may find himself as the team’s No. 3 starter come April in a rotation desperate for stability.

Loser: Mark Rogers

Mark Rogers wishes he could push the ‘redo’ button this spring.

After getting his long-awaited opportunity to contribute to the starting rotation last season, garnering a 3.92 ERA, 1.28 WHIP and a 9.5 K/9 rate over seven starts, Milwaukee’s former first-round draft selection has labored this spring to a 7.50 ERA and 3.00 WHIP over six innings. He hasn’t fooled anyone with his stuff, as evidenced by his walking 10 batters to striking out just one to this juncture.

Given his respectable and often impressive 2012 campaign, many surmised at the start of spring training that Rogers would contend for a back-end starting rotation spot to start 2013. But for Rogers’ command to be as shaky as it has been this spring, all signs point to him starting this season in triple-A Nashville.

Winner: Jean Segura

The centerpiece to the trade that sent Zack Greinke from Milwaukee to Anaheim, Jean Segura’s first go-around as an everyday big league shortstop left something to be desired. In 44 games as the Brewers de facto everyday shortstop, the 22-year-old struggled putting consistent contact on many offerings, leading to a .264/.321/.331 slash line toward the bottom of Ron Roenicke’s order over that span. His speed on the bases wasn’t utilized and he labored a bit defensively, too.

This spring, Segura is putting to bed much of the doubt had by scouts last season. Over 29 plate appearances, Dominican-born youngster boasts a .321/.345/.464 slash line at the plate with three runs scored and a stolen base. His defense has improved, as he’s committed just one error on 31 total chances while turning three double plays in 10 games.

Winner: Khris Davis

Khris Davis

Khris Davis

No minor leaguer upped his value within the system as much as Davis has this spring.

Rated as my No. 10 prospect at the end of last season, the 25-year-old Davis has never been one to overwhelm scouts with his skill-set. Indeed, talent evaluators seem to agree that he doesn’t possess one ‘plus’ tool. Instead, Davis has let his production do the talking.

Between rookie, double-A and triple-A ball last season, Davis posted a .350/.451/.604 slash line with 15 home runs and 52 runs scored. This spring, he has made an impression on Milwaukee’s coaching staff by leading all players with three home runs, eight runs batted in, six runs scored and a .655 slugging percentage over 31 plate appearances.

A spot on the opening-day roster may not be in the cards for Davis, but if he continues to put solid contact on the ball while showing versatility defensively, he will be of great value once rosters expand in September.

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.

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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.

Brewers’ Nelson Eager for 2013, Beyond


Courtesy of MiLB.com

Courtesy of MiLB.com

Catching up with Brewers Prospect Jimmy Nelson: A Pre-Spring Training Interview

For a minor league ballplayer, the journey to the promised land — breaking through to and remaining at the major-league level — is one filled with highs and lows, celebration and criticism, buildup and recession, and the like.

To be sure, it is an unique process very few are able to participate in.

Yet for as truly unique as the journey undoubtedly is, the values learned and virtues acquired along the way often parallel those in mainstream society: Hard work, determination and consistency eventually lead to success.

These are just some of the values that Jimmy Nelson holds dear to him both on and off the mound.

Embarking on his fourth season as a valued pitching prospect in the Milwaukee Brewers minor league system, Nelson, 23, has become a standout prospect in the Brewers minor league organization since being drafted by the club in 2010.

He made his way to double-A ball midway through last season, going 2-4 with a 3.91 ERA and 1.54 WHIP while striking out nearly a batter per inning. Before that, he spent time with the organization’s rookie club in Helena, Mon., low-A team in Appleton, Wis., and high-A squad in Brevard, Fla.

Nelson this fall also participated in Major League Baseball’s Arizona Fall League, where he learned from new coaches and gained valuable experience against a handful of baseball’s top minor league prospects.

This year, the 6’6″, 240-pound Niceville, Fla., native is setting his expectations high, aiming to impress the coaching staff at spring training en route to hopefully making his debut with the Brewers by season’s end. And wouldn’t you know, he carries with him those same aforementioned virtues everyday, both on and off the mound.

I had the opportunity to catch up with Nelson earlier this week. Here is the full transcript of our conversation.

**You can follow Jimmy on Twitter @Jimmy_J_Nelson. You can also follow me on Twitter @alecdopp**

AD: How’s your offseason been, Jimmy?

JN: It’s been going very well. I’ve been working out at a place near Houston since November, and just getting ready for spring training.

AD: What’s a typical workout day for you?

JN: We get up and stretch around 10:00 A.M. and do our warm-up stuff and stretch out our shoulders. Then, we throw and lift, do our run, swim, do yoga. After that, you get to do whatever you want.

AD: Last year you got a call-up to double-A ball around mid-season. What was the transition like? Anything noticeable?

Nelson's has set his expectations high for 2013. / MiLB.com

Nelson has set his expectations high for 2013. / MiLB.com

JN: Oh, man. That was definitely the biggest jump in my opinion. Going from rookie ball to low-A, and then low-A to high-A, things are relatively the same as far as competition.

Going to double-A, it’s like night and day. Hitters are much more patient, they know the strike-zone very well and the [strike] zone is a lot tighter. You’ve got guys that are older and know the game better, and just a lot of good players and prospects. You definitely need to step up your game and learn how to get guys out in different ways.

AD: Could you explain what you mean by “getting guys out in different ways” a bit more?

JN: Pitch sequences, learning the hitters better, adjusting to the hitter by what they’re giving you and what their swing. It’s all stuff that you and your catcher work on. At that level, catchers can tell by a hitter’s stance or swing what pitch you need to throw in certain situations.

AD: You went on the disabled list for a while last year. What exactly happened?

JN: When I was with Huntsville, I had three or four starts and then went on the disabled list for a month, and then I had three or four starts after that. But when I went on the DL I had shoulder fatigue and inflammation, so that needed some time so I could get where I wasn’t pitching through pain.

AD: What was the reason for the fatigue?

The Alabama product has been a nice addition to an improving Brewers farm system

The Alabama product has been a nice addition to an improving Brewers farm system

JN: It’s just one of those things. After throwing a lot of pitches and a lot of innings over the course of not just that season, but over previous seasons. That’s just something you try to prevent by getting in good shape and doing all of your shoulder exercises. Even if something does happen, it’s out of your control. Sometimes that stuff just happens.

AD: Did you notice any difference from the way you pitched before you went on the DL to after? Or even from high-A to double-A ball?

JN: Not really. As a pitcher, you want to pitch to your strengths. It’s not like I’m trying to trick guys out there. My game plan from high-A to double-A was pretty much the same. You can’t try to pitch to a hitter’s weaknesses, you have to pitch to your strengths. That’s one thing that the pitching coaches taught me. You just try to attack guys; getting that first-pitch strike, and getting ahead in the count. The counts are much more important at the higher levels.

AD: So there is a big difference in the umpires’ strike zone, then?

JN: Definitely. You can tell it’s tighter once you get to double-A. But, it’s going to be tight in the big leagues, so you’ve got to learn somewhere.

AD: I understand you contributed to a combined no-hitter on August 2. What was that experience like?

JN: Yeah, it was one of my first starts off the DL. That was pretty cool. Truthfully, I didn’t even realize it was a no-hitter because I had walked a few guys, so I was a bit disappointed in myself. I didn’t even know it until I had come back from the dugout. I looked up at the scoreboard in the seventh or eight inning and there were no hits.

Nelson pitching in the Arizona Fall League this past fall

Nelson pitching in the Arizona Fall League this past fall

AD: Any odd plays that you remember from that game?

JN: I guy hit a hard ground-ball back at me and I did this jump-kick thing, trying to stop it. The ball went up in the air and landed on the first-base line and our catcher [Anderson] De La Rosa bare-handed it and threw it side-arm to get the guy out. It was pretty incredible.

AD: Any double-A players you pitched against that stood out to you?

JN: There’s so many. Stefen Romero, for some reason, I feel like it’s the hardest thing in the world to get that kid out. The lineups are pretty solid all the way through, though. There aren’t really any holes.

AD: How’s the hitting been for you?

JN: I mean, we don’t do it very often, but in spring training we’ll work on bunting and situational stuff like that. But I’m pretty confident in doing what I need to do in certain situations. I’m not going to hit the ball all over the field, though. I haven’t done that since I was 15.

AD: Looking ahead to 2013, what is one thing you might need to improve on?

JN: I can give you two words for that: strikes and consistency. I showed in high-A Brevard [County] that I can say in the strike zone for a whole game and do that for several outings. But then I also showed in double-A that I wasn’t as consistent as I was in high-A. I know my stuff is there, I just have to be consistent in the zone, attack it and get ahead of hitters. Once I can do that from start-to-start, then I think that’s when I’ll take that next step.

AD: How has the changeup worked for you?

JN: It’s gotten a lot better, especially in double-A. I didn’t have as much of my fastball as I did the first half of the season, and in double-A guys will lay off the high fastball. My changeup has definitely come to strides, though. I consider it a serious weapon.

AD: Are sinker and slider still your biggest strengths?

Nelson (far right) contributed to a combined no-hitter on August 2, 2012

Nelson (far right) contributed to a combined no-hitter on August 2, 2012

JN: Yeah, definitely. But I want to get where I can see all four pitches as my strengths, and have as much confidence in any one of them to get a hitter out.

AD: You took part in the Arizona Fall League his past fall. What was that experience like for you?

JN: That was a really cool experience. I got to meet a bunch of players from different organizations, some from the [double-A] Southern League, and then I got to meet some of the best players in the minors. Throwing against that type of quality players was a great experience.

Coming into it, all the coaches from all the different organizations already know what you need to work on, and that’s part of being a professional as far as knowing what you need to work on. It was a bit of a laid-back atmosphere, especially at the end of a long season.

AD: You got to play with other Brewers prospects such as Johnny Hellweg during your stay. What’s the scouting report on him?

JN: He’s a tall guy. Almost like the Brewers putting together a basketball team — we’ve got a lot of big guys. He’s got kind of a three-quarters arm slot, very easy and smooth delivery, can sit up in the mid-90s easily, definitely got some good movement on his fastball and a good breaking ball. I’m excited to see how he does.

AD: I know you had a chance to play with Jean Segura in double-A ball after he came over from the [Zack] Greinke trade. What’s he like in the clubhouse?

JN: He’s a good guy. Full of energy. From day one it seemed like he’d been one of the guys for a long time. Very laid-back guy. Brought a lot of energy to the clubhouse. It was fun to have him around.

Nelson has improved leaps and bounds since his days in low-A Appleton

Nelson has improved leaps and bounds since his days in low-A Appleton

AD: What’s your status for spring training?

JN:  I’m not sure yet. I don’t know the exact date I’m supposed to report. They just told me that I’m coming early, so I’m just assuming I’ll report the second week in February. Whether I go to the big-league camp yet I’m not sure.

AD: What are some of your goals for 2013?

JN: Making it to the big leagues and help win at that level. Other than that, just keep improving my pitches and command. Getting ahead of guys, and getting guys out with three pitches or less. I learned a lot last year, so I’m just looking to improve on that, really. Staying consistent, too. I stayed consistent for half the year last year, so now I’m trying to do that for the whole year this year.

AD: You’re now two years removed from your stay in low-A Appleton. Do you have any advice for players in the lower levels of the minors?

JN: I mean, at those levels, it’s a big transition phase. You’re learning about professional life and new work habits that you have to develop as far as getting your work in and getting to the field early. You have to learn your own routine and stick to it. It’s really just a big chess game for pitchers and hitters.

AD: Baseball America just released their top 10 Brewers farmhand rankings for 2013, and you placed No. 5. Does that affect you at all?

JN: No, not at all. It has no say in how I act or what I think. I mean, it’s very nice to be recognized, and I appreciate it greatly. But as far as it comes to us getting our work in and doing what he have to do, it’s not going to change anything. You have to take that stuff with a grain of salt. Baseball is a crazy game. You can be rated high one year and low the next, so you have to learn how to deal with it. Of course, you’d much rather deal with the highs, but either way you still have to stick to your process and keep your mind on things you can control.

AD: Do you think that might actually get the better of some players?

JN: I don’t think so. Not at the professional level, because everybody realizes the ultimate goal of contributing at the big-league level, whether that’s at single-A or triple-A ball. I think however you get there, whether you’re a prospect or not a prospect, it doesn’t matter. I’ve seen plenty of guys who weren’t ranked a prospect play out of their minds, and I’ve seen guys ranked a prospect struggle. It’s a two-way street, really.

AD: I appreciate the time, Jimmy. Good luck with spring training. Hope to talk with you again soon.

JN: No problem. I appreciate it.

Brewers sign Tosoni, Hoey, Chavez to Minor League Deals


Big-name free agent signings haven’t exactly been in vogue for the Brewers so far this offseason. With relievers Tom Gorzelanny and Mike Gonzalez likely to end up as Milwaukee’s most notable winter additions, it has become obvious that general manager Doug Melvin and his brass prefer financial security over large, multi-year contracts that could otherwise hamper the organization moving forward.

That trend continued late Wednesday night, when it was announced that the club had signed three players to minor league deals.

Right-handed pitcher Jim Hoey, shortstop Ozzie Chavez and outfielder Rene Tosoni each agreed in principle to join Milwaukee’s farm system. The monetary figures of each contract have not yet been released to the public.

Matt Eddy, editor for Baseball America, first broke the story via his Twitter page Wednesday night.

Hoey, 30, is a former 13th-round draft pick back in 2003 by the Baltimore Orioles, and last pitched in the big leagues in 2011 with the Minnesota Twins. He held true to a 5.47 ERA, 1.91 WHIP and strikeout-to-walk ratio of 1.08 that year, and last season played within the Toronto Blue Jays’ triple-A affiliate, where he posted a 4.60 ERA and walked 6.2 batters per nine innings pitched, according to Baseball Reference.

Chavez, 29, first played professionally in 2001 as a 17-year-old in Milwaukee’s minor league system and remained there through the 2008 system. Since then, he has spent time in the Philadelphia Phillies and Chicago White Sox’s minor league systems. He is a career .245/.306/.324 hitter over his 11 minor-league seasons.

Tosoni, 26, is a former standout outfield prospect with the Minnesota Twins, spending time in the club’s farm system from 2007 to 2012. Over his six professional seasons, he has hit .262/.348/.398, but has managed to crack the big-league stage only once, where in 2011 he batted just .203 over 60 games for Minnesota. In 2009, Tosoni took home MVP honors in the 2009 MLB All-Star futures game , where he went 1-for-1 with one run batted in.

Brewers Rumors: 2012 in Review


The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

4,329 films were submitted to the 2012 Cannes Film Festival. This blog had 43,000 views in 2012. If each view were a film, this blog would power 10 Film Festivals

Click here to see the complete report.

Brewers Come to Terms With Mike Gonzalez


According to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports and Jim Bowden of ESPN, the Brewers have come to terms with left-handed relief pitcher Mike Gonzalez on a one-year, $2.250 million contract, pending a physical examination after New Year’s Day.

The signing comes roughly a week after Milwaukee’s acquisition of southpaw reliever Tom Gorzelanny.

Gonzalez, 34, appeared in 47 games for the Washington Nationals’ bullpen last season, posting a 3.03 ERA and 1.32 WHIP, striking out 39 batter to walking just 16. He was noticeably effective against left-handed hitters, holding them to a combined .179/.257/.269 slash line.

A true two-pitch reliever, Gonzalez relies on a heavy dosage of four-seam fastballs (91-93 MPH) and sliders (80-82 MPH) to hold batters in check, though he does occasionally throw in a changeup (80-83 MPH) and sinker (89-91 MPH) every so often. He doesn’t maintain one true “out pitch;” his four-seamer held batters to a true-average (TAv) of .292 last season, with his slider holding them to a .273 TAv.

With a ground-ball rate of just 39.8 percent last season, Gonzalez relies heavily on the fly-ball to be effective. Furthermore, he should be considered more of a ‘contact’ pitcher who relies on his command to get batters out, rather than simply overpowering them. He knows how to produce a good deal of pop-ups, as well, as evidenced by a splendid infield fly-ball rate (IFFB) of 20% last season.

The only drawback to Gonzalez’s pitch-to-contact style of approach is that when the ball is put in play, batters generally have success. Opponents put up a .322/.319/.456 slash line against Gonzalez last season on balls in play, according to Baseball-Reference.

Even so, Brewers fans should not  expect Gonzalez to be a long-distance reliever, so to speak, and more of a bullpen specialist who works almost exclusively against left-handed hitters.

It should be interesting to see how this signing effects Milwaukee’s spring training 40-man roster, and more specifically how it might reshape the opening-day bullpen depth chart.

Prior to the signing, MLBDepthCharts.com projected the Brewers’ bullpen to be comprised of John Axford, Jim Henderson, Brandon Kintzler, Jesus Sanchez, Gorzelanny, Burke Badenhop and Josh Stinson. With Gonzelez in the fold, there is a decent chance either Bradenhop or Stinson, both right-handers, could get the boot to triple-A Nashville.

Courtesy of WashingtonPost.com

Courtesy of WashingtonPost.com

Brewers to Sign Tom Gorzelanny


Courtesy of WashingtonPost.com

Courtesy of WashingtonPost.com

The Milwaukee Brewers have reportedly come to terms with free agent left-handed pitcher Tom Gorzelanny on a two-year, $6 Million contract, Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports. The deal will go through once Gorzelanny passes a physical examination set for Friday.

Gorzelanny, 30, spent the last two years with the Washington Nationals. In 2012, he made 45 relief appearances with the club. Logging exactly 68.1 innings in that role, he posted a 2.90 ERA and 1.30 WHIP, struck out 57 and walked 28, and held opponents to a .240/.318/.390 slash line.

Stuff-wise, the veteran southpaw employs a three-pitch mix that includes a sinker (89-92 MPH), four-seam fastball (90-92 MPH) and changeup (84-86 MPH), though he also tries to work in a slider (81-83 MPH), curveball (79-82 MPH) and cutter (87-89 MPH).

His best pitch is his slider, which opponents garnered just a .125 batting average and .188 slugging percentage against last season. The pitch is a true swing-and-miss offering, amassing a swing-and-miss rate of 43 percent. It was noticeably effective against left-handers, collecting a swing-and-miss rate of 46 percent.

Here’s a batter’s-eye-view of his arsenal.

Courtesy of BrooksBaseball.net

Courtesy of BrooksBaseball.net

Stay here for the latest developments.

-AD

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