Just days following the Zack Greinke trade, the Brewers made yet another roster splash when it was announced they had recalled 22-year-old and newly acquired shortstop Jean Segura from double-A Huntsville to take over the starting job at shortstop on Monday night. Segura, the centerpiece to the aforementioned trade, held a stifling .433/.500/.533 line in his first eight games with the organization and apparently received a vote of confidence from management having been recalled to the big-league roster just days after being dealt.
The transaction may have seemed a bit abrupt to some, but it should come as no surprise to most that the Brewers are in somewhat of a rush to indoctrinate many of their top prospects to the big-leagues. General manager Doug Melvin and owner Mark Attanasio remain staunch in their believe that Milwaukee will have the pieces necessary to compete for a division title in 2013, and its tough to argue with that notion when you consider the fact that A.) The Brewers have witnessed significant improvements down on the farm this season, B.) They [should] be at full health by the start of next season and also that C.) Rickie Weeks’ god-awful offensive yield this season can’t possibly replicate itself over 162 or some odd games next season.
In all seriousness, though, there should be no reason to believe Milwaukee won’t have those essential pieces to make a run at the playoffs next season. However, as this season begins to wind down, there are a few things that have yet to be checked off the “to-do” list, and it all begins on September 1 when rosters expand from 25 to 40.
Which Brewers prospects have the best odds of being recalled to Ron Roenicke’s 40-man September roster? Let’s start our list by ranking the five most plausible:
1.) Tyler Thornburg, RHP (stats)
Making mince meat of double-A Southern League hitters in the first half of the season, Thornburg became the darling of Brewers fans everywhere when he made his first big-league start on June 19. Since then, he’s seen limited time, making just one other start to go with three separate relief appearances for Ron Roenicke. Consequently, management demoted back to triple-A Nashville on July 30 for him to regain his rhythm as a starter, and he’s performed well ever since.
In a system that’s been yearning for a young player to step up and fill at the very least a somewhat important role this season, Thornburg has made his name known. For that reason, you can wager your mortgage that he’ll be on the 40-man September roster.
2.) Wily Peralta, RHP (stats)
Command issues plagued the early stages of what looked to be his final season in the minors, but after making his big-league debut in late April, he’s come around quite nicely. This past month, Peralta, 23, posted a 2.78 ERA and 1.31 WHIP over six starts, held batters to a .275 batting average and struck out over a batter per inning. His first August start was one to forget (3.2 IP, 5 ER, 6 BB, 6 K), but his swing-and miss stuff that has made him Milwaukee’s top hurler on the farm still remains.
With such a blatant shortage of arms out of the bullpen, it’s tough to imagine a scenario where Peralta isn’t on the 40-man roster come September; the Brewers have questions to answer regarding their starting-five next season, and they’ll need to determine if he’s the mid-to-backline starter scouts project him becoming in the near future.
3.) Logan Schafer, OF (stats)
My top-rated Brewers position prospect when the season started, Schafer’s entire 2012 campaign has been spent in triple-A Nashville where he’s strove to return to the big-league roster as he did last September. But after a strong spring training, Schafer struggled to hit the ball where defenders were not, resulting in an uncharacteristically low .266 average between April and May. Schafer regathered himself to hit a scintillating .354/.385/.521 in June but was equally as abhorrent in July where he posted an on-base percentage of .197 — yes, 1.97. To make matters worse, Schafer was placed on the 7-day disabled list on July 30 where he was reported to have a sore left knee and hasn’t suited up since.
Seen as a player with a chance to see legitimate playing time in 2013, things just haven’t gone Schafer’s way this season and his odds of making the 40-man roster next month have consequently taken a beating. I still think there’s a very good chance he’s recalled, as Roenicke could use his base-running prowess on a few occasions, but not to the extent of which we all previously thought.
4.) Taylor Green, 2B/3B (stats)
Receiving a decent amount of playing time after his recall from triple-A in early May, Green’s offensive output just wasn’t up to snuff and he was demoted back to Nashville early on in July, where the Brewers hoped he’d return to his slugging ways just in case Aramis Ramirez was dealt (it didn’t happen) at the trade deadline.
Unfortunately, Green hasn’t been able to tap into his power stroke, garnering just a .372 slugging percentage between July and August. He’s still a serviceable defender at third but all signs point to Ramirez sticking there for the remainder of the season as his own statistics continue to climb. Expect Green on the 40-man roster but as a pinch-hitter/runner almost exclusively.
5.) Caleb Gindl, OF (stats)
Coming off one heck of a 2011 season in triple-A where he hit .307/.390/.472 with a .357 BABIP, Gindl too seemed on the cusp of getting some real playing time by the beginning of 2013. A disciplined hitter with a very good approach at the plate, the stocky outfielder impressed Ron Roenicke this past spring. Since then, he’s been anything but impressive (at least up to his standards). With a career-worst .246/.302/.392 line to go with a heightened amount of strikeouts and diminished walks, Gindl’s big-league future has been put in serious doubt and his odds at making the 40-man roster have also taken a blow.
The Brewers are and will be heavy in outfielders, so there’s a slim chance he gets any substantial playing time should he make the September roster. Right now I’d say he has a 50/50 shot at making it.
Others (in no particular order)
Johnny Hellweg, RHP — A bit of a stretch considering he’s still in double-A ball, but its tough to ignore a guy who throws upwards of 100 MPH and has future strikeout machine written all over him. Will need to work on control issues but some big-league experience next month would do him wonders.
Jeff Bianchi, SS — Despite Segura and Cody Ransom already on the roster, the Brewers simply cannot get enough infield help so they might as well consider promoting him next month.
Tim Dillard, RHP — I don’t necessarily care for his stuff, but he can be good.
Hiram Burgos, RHP — The starting rotation is in disarray anyways, so why not try out one of Milwaukee’s top pitcher-of-the-year candidates a few times?
Fautino De Los Santos, RHP — Melvin might as well see what he got in return for Kottaras.
Mitch Stetter, LHP — Why not recall a southpaw reliever?
Edwin Maysonet, SS — Is it possible to have too many shortstops on this roster? There is a limit, but it has yet to be reached even with Maysonet.
Eric Farris, 2B — Elite speed could be utilized on the bases and, hey, maybe he shows he can hit at a mediocre level after all.
Ariel Pena, RHP — Like Hellweg, Pena has back-line starter material and has performed well thus far in double-A. Might as well see how he fairs against big-league hitting, right?
The month of July is a very important one for many top minor league prospects. More or less the midway juncture of the regular season, prospects who wowed early in the season and perpetuated their success into June are now enjoying the fruits of their labor in the form of a promotion to the next level of the minors. For comparison’s sake, July is essentially the baseball equivalent of Saturdays on the PGA Tour: Moving days.
For many of the Milwaukee Brewers’ top prospects, July 2012 was one we’ll never forget. Following a month where we witnessed a few noteworthy promotions and a colossal and unexpected one in Tyler Thornburg, the July dog-days also produced a number of headlines and superb performances. More specifically, a number of players within the system found an acute amount of success during July, putting up gaudy numbers at a prolific rate and moreover raising their respective stocks within the organization.
The following 10 prospects depict those aforementioned players.
Hunter Morris, 1B (stats)
July Line: 106 AB, .340/.393/.736, 20 XBH (10 HR), 24 K/10 BB (28 G)
There are few players in the system who’s power rivals that of Morris, and that was never more evident than in his stellar July showing. This month, he managed to raise his 2012 isolated power (ISO) rating to a career-best .255. His approach will still need refinement before he challenges for the starting first-base job, though is yield at the plate this month is still nonetheless impressive.
Caleb Gindl, OF (stats)
July Line: 91 AB, .319/.370/.527, 11 XBH (4 HR), 18 K/8 BB (25 G)
Gindl’s otherwise impressive power was nowhere to be found early on in 2012, though he turned things around in a big way in July. The 23-year-old hoarded four round-trippers to go with seven two-baggers this past month, raising his slugging percentage back above the .400 mark for the first time this season. A solid finish to his season could put him in prime position to battle for a roster spot this September.
Wily Peralta, RHP (stats)
July Line: 6 GS, 2.78 ERA, 1.38 WHIP, 42 K/8 BB, .275 BAA (35.2 IP)
Peralta got off to a miserably slow start to his season, struggling to command his pitches and keep batters at bay through 2012’s first two months, so anything better than that would have been viewed as a successful July. However, he turned things around in the big way this past month; he effectively commanded his breaking pitches, striking out well over a batter per inning with a mere eight base-on-balls over six starts. This month could be a big reason he’s called up to the 40-man September roster in a few weeks.
Jose Pena, OF (stats)
July Line: 90 AB, .333/.413/.511, 8 XBH (5 3B), 22 K/13 BB (22 G)
Pena, a non-draft pick free agent who signed in 2010, finds himself with the rookie club in Arizona for the third straight; the only difference between 2012 and the two years previous have been his power at the plate, and that was extremely noticeable this month. With plus-speed at 6’2″, 195 pounds, the Dominican native collected three triples on his way to eight total extra-base hits, raising his wOBA to .422, his ISO to .242 through 30 games this season. Still very raw, this could be a major sign of maturity from Pena and may just cause management to scoot him along through the system.
Nick Ramirez, 1B (stats)
July line: 104 AB, .287/.306/.611, 18 XBH (8 HR), 41 K/2 BB (25 G)
Nearly a consensus top-25 prospect at the beginning of the season, Ramirez performed well below expectations in the season’s first two months, struggling with strikeouts and a power shortage at the plate.
While the former was still of clear concern in July, posting a strikeout rate of 37 percent in 25 games, the latter seems to have improved drastically. Belting eight home runs and 11 doubles this past month, Ramirez raised his season wOBA to .344 and his ISO to .224. While both of those numbers are still well below what management had expected entering the season (his power is his only big-league projectable tool at this juncture), such a profound improvement at the plate this past month should offer up some optimism heading into the season’s final stretch.
With the All-Star break now upon us and Major League Baseball’s 2012 first-year player draft in the rear-view mirror, the natural inkling of many baseball fans is to check up on how well things are going down in the minors. If you’re a fan of the Milwaukee Brewers, it would behoove you to know that things are going very well this season down on the farm — at least much better than what was expected.
Coming into the season, the Brewers were noticeably dry on the farm despite a talented flock of youngsters from the 2011 draft itching to get their feet wet in professional ball. But after a strong 2012 class that saw general manager Doug Melvin add a few power bats early on, the Brewers are yet again proving that their scouting department is among the best in baseball and that they’re nearly recovered from the trade that put Zack Greinke in blue and gold back in the winter of 2010.
So in an effort to help satisfy your crave for Milwaukee’s top minor league youngsters while Ron Roenicke and company reboot for a second-half run, here is my updated top 25 prospects at mid-season.
25. Amaury Rivas
Signing on as a non-draft pick free agent way back in 2005, Rivas has now spent upwards of eight seasons in Milwaukee’s system. Having gone through Tommy John surgery, demotion and now conversion from starter to reliever all during that timespan, Rivas has had both extreme highs and lows thus far in his career.
Once thought to have the stuff of a back-line starter in the bigs following a stellar 2009 campaign, the now 26-year-old Dominican Republic native pitches exclusively out of the bullpen in Triple-A, and he hasn’t exactly flourished. He’s walked nearly as many batters as he’s struck out, posting a groundout-to-airout ratio of just 1.28 and a WHIP of 1.70.
Rivas throws a low-90s two-seam fastball that gets good movement and a mid-90s four-seamer that straightens out and gets crushed by opponents when left in the zone. His slider has been anything but a swing-and-miss pitch, as he’s struggled his whole career to command it. Rivas’ best pitch is his changeup, which Baseball America rated as the best pitch in the system after the 2009 and 2010 season. If he has any intention of sniffing the majors, he’ll need to develop his slider.
24. Santo Manzanillo
2012 Stats (Double-A): 12 G, 6.08 ERA, 5.90 FIP, 10 K/10 BB, .255 BAA (13.1 IP)
Brought into the organization as an extremely raw 16 year old from the Dominican ranks in 2006, Manzanillo struggled mightily with his command, walking a wholesome 47 batters over 16.1 innings in the Arizona Rookie League. His next two seasons in rookie ball were almost as unsightly, posting a WHIP of 1.97 over 27 appearances during that span.
Manzanillo then blew out his elbow prior to the 2009 season and underwent Tommy John surgery that cast a serious shadow of doubt over his career. However, he came back in 2010 and saw massive improvements with his command in low-A ball and then proceeded to crack Huntsville’s bullpen in double-A by the end of last season. Last year, he overpowered hitters with a strikeout rate of over 23 percent and notched 17 saves out of the closer role.
Stuff-wise, Manzanillo has what it takes to flourish out of a setup role. He utilizes a four-seam fastball that tops out in the mid-90s and has reportedly hit triple-digits on a few occasions. He complements it with an effective changeup and power slide to get hitters off balance. If he can continue to hone his pitches and ward off injury, he’ll have a bright future in Milwaukee for years to come.
2012 Stats: N/A (Injured)
Once a glistening prospect considered to be on the cusp of a big-league promotion at the end of last season, Scarpetta put on an abhorrent showing at the Arizona Fall League where he posted an ERA of 19.43 over just 7.1 innings of work. Things would only get worse from there, when doctors told him he would miss his entire 2012 season due to Tommy John surgery on his right elbow.
Still, Scarpetta is only 23 years old and has the stuff of a back-line MLB starter in a best-case scenario. He features a low to mid 90s fastball with some sink to it, a hard-breaking curveball that was nearly plus-average before his surgery and a changeup that improved massively as he progressed through the system. He generated a lot of strikeouts with these three pitches but was also markedly inconsistent command-wise, walking nearly five batters per nine innings pitched over the course of his professional career.
With the physique of a big-league innings eater and a determination to break through soon after his surgery, Scarpetta could still definitely offer value as a bullpen type for Milwaukee down the road. His future will rest heavily on his recovery from surgery and a refinement of his control.
2012 Stats (Low-A): 286 PA, .300/.323/.453, 24 XBH, 112 wRC+ (71 G)
A lifetime .339/.409/.515 hitter during his three seasons at St. John’s University, Hopkins was especially impressive during his 2010 junior campaign with the Red Storm, where his .358 BA topped that of Big East rivals George Springer and Mike Olt, both of whom are now considered consensus top-50 prospects in all of baseball. The Brewers got him as a mid-round pick that year, and it’s now looking like another huge steal for general manager Doug Melvin.
While he posted adequate numbers in rookie ball and the following season in low-A ball, he has been fairly impressive this season in low-A. With a .300/.323/.453 line though the first half, Hopkins has an outside shot to finish atop the organization in those three categories. If he could perpetuate those numbers in subsequent seasons, he would profile nicely at third base sometime down the road.
Right now, Hopkins simply needs to make sure his batting average stays above at least .285. He has the defensive skills and hard-working demeanor to play third base. His bat is the only thing keeping him from cracking Triple-A (yes, I said it) by the end of next season.
2012 Stats (Double-A): 17 GS, 5.18 ERA, 3.58 FIP, 72 K/27 BB, .282 BAA (92 IP)
A three-year contributor to the Kennesaw State rotation, Heckathorn was heralded as one of the better right-handers of the 2009 draft class. He was a strikeout machine in college and that was a big reason the Brewers took him at 47th overall that year. Since then, however, he’s been anything but what Milwaukee drafted him for.
Finally making his way to double-A ball this season, Heckathorn has harbored a K/9 ratio of just 6.77 during his professional career. His sometimes plus-average control can compensate for his lack of strikeouts, which is what you would hope for considering he doesn’t have a true swing-and-miss pitch. His offerings include a rather flat fastball that sits in the 92-94 MPH range, a hard slider with some projection left on it and a changeup that’s fringe-average at this point.
Looking the part of a big league innings-eater at 6’6″, 223 pounds, Heckathorn’s career will ultimately be determined by his ability to spot his pitches. A lack of strikeout pitch coupled with the fact that he leaves the ball over the plate at a high rate (he has a H/9 ratio of 10.1 this season) shows that he’s still a ways off from a big-league appearance.
20. Eric Farris
2012 Stats (Triple-A): 314 PA, .263/.310/.305, 10 XBH, 63 wRC+ (83 G)
Once thought to challenge Rickie Weeks for the full-time role at second base, Farris is now in the midst of his third consecutive season in Triple-A ball. The difference between this season and his past two seasons, however, seems to be his production at the plate; he’s garnered just a .304 slugging percentage this season compared to a .372 last season.
Knocking on the door of 27 years old, Farris’ power decline at the plate will likely keep him from a starting job with the Brewers. He’s an above-average defender at second base and can hold his own at shortstop and the outfield, but the fact that his bat has been lagging so much this season says that he just doesn’t have the capacity to be an effective all-around big leaguer. It’s a shame, too, because he possesses top-tier speed that Ron Roenicke would love to utilize on the bases.
2012 Stats (Double-A): 302 PA, .252/.336/.350, 19 XBH, 100 wRC+ (72 G)
After putting up tremendous numbers across the board against tough SEC competition at Tennessee, Davis fell to the Brewers at 39th overall in the 2009 draft and was considered one of the bigger steals of that year’s draft. The athletic outfielder was considered to have the ingredients necessary to be a future five-tool player at the next level. Now, he’s lucky if to sniff the majors in the next two seasons.
After tearing up the Midwest league to the tune of a .335/.421/.518 line during his rookie 2010 season, Davis was promoted to high-A Brevard County, where he batted just .244 in 150 plate appearances and witnessed a palpable spike in strikeouts. He spent his entire 2011 season in high-A again, and now resides in double-A, where his ability to hit for power has actually gotten worse.
Right now, the only thing keeping him in our top 25 rankings is his speed tool. Davis has tallied 55 career stolen bases to go with a 6.3 SPD rating this season, according to FanGraphs. Of course, his ability to steal bases is severely limited since his below-average bat has almost no projection left on it. Consequently, if Davis has any shot at the bigs, his bat will need major refinement.
18. Drew Gagnon
Low-A: 14 GS, 2.83 ERA, 3.37 FIP, 65 K/19 BB, .217 BAA (82.2 IP)
High-A: 2 GS, 2.25 ERA, 2.45 FIP, 12 K/3 BB, .227 BAA (12 IP)
A third round pick from last summer’s draft, Gagnon came into this season overshadowed by the likes of fellow draftees Taylor Jungmann and Jed Bradley. While he is still pitching a full level lower than each, you could make the argument that he’s outperformed both.
After blowing through the rookie ranks in seven starts last season, the Long Beach State product has witnessed his strikeout rates diminish noticeably against Midwest League hitters. However, that’s the only area that’s witnessed regression, as he’s been able to hold batters in check to the tune of a .213 BA and a .254 BABIP. He’s looked even better over his first two starts in the Florida State league since his promotion.
With a four-pitch mix that includes a low-90s fastball and developing slider, curveball and changeup, Gagnon has the potential to be a quick-riser to the bigs with a chance to be a back-line starter.
2012 Stats (Low-A): 317 PA, .226/.260/.401, 29 XBH, 82 wRC+ (78 G)
A late-round pickup out of Puerto Rico in the 2009 draft, it’s taken Rivera just over two years to be named the consensus best overall shortstop in Milwaukee’s system. Mind you, there isn’t much competition for the title, however, there are some positives to take away from his game.
First and foremost, Rivera is an exceptional defender at shortstop. While he doesn’t have elite speed by any stretch of the imagination, he does have great athleticism that allows him to cover a lot of ground in the infield. Baseball Reference cites that he’s harbored a career range factor of 4.48 over 223 professional games. For comparison’s sake, that not too far off from what former Brewers shortstop J.J. Hardy’s posted this season.
Yet while Rivera could probably play a decent shortstop in the bigs right now, it’s his bat that’s held him back from shooting through the system. He’s an aggressive hitter, rarely drawing walks and striking out at a concerning clip. If he can continue to make his swing more compact and continue to work on hitting offspeed offerings, he could see a spike in his offensive yield. Until then, though, he likely won’t see double-A for a few more seasons, which isn’t all that troubling since he’s still very young.
16. Hiram Burgos
High-A: 6 GS, 0.87 ERA, 2.04 FIP, 41 K/6 BB, .147 BAA (41.1 IP)
Double-A: 10 GS, 2.05 ERA, 2.96 FIP, 61 K/24 BB, .234 BAA (61.1 IP)
The undoubted ace of the small-school Bethune Cookman rotation during his 2009 senior campaign, Burgos fell to Milwaukee in the sixth round of that year’s draft. Since then, his value within the organization took a massive beating due to poor performance against competition in the lower-minors. Then this season came around, and the Puerto Rico native flipped the switch on his previously dwindling career.
While he has a bevy of pitches at his disposal that he can throw for strikes, Burgos’ main pitches are a low 90s fastball, slider, curveball and changeup. None have much projection left and they don’t grade out as plus-average, either, though his command with each has been exceptional. He posted a walk rate of just four percent over six starts in high-A ball to start this season.
Burgos was pushed up to Double-A ball early on this season and while he flashed glimpses of success, he’s fallen off a bit. His walk rate has more than doubled and batters have teed off on him due to leaving the ball over the plate. If he’s to crack Triple-A or the big-league roster anytime soon, he’ll need to polish up his command a bit more.
2012 Stats (Double-A): 86 PA, .324/.442/.479, 7 XBH, 168 wRC+ (27 G)
A guy who’s arguably outperformed any one player from Milwaukee’s abysmal 2009 draft class, Davis has proved to be one of the better bats in a farm system that has been starving for outfield position talent.
At 6’0″, 195 pounds, Davis doesn’t possess any one tool that projects to be plus-average at the next level, however, he doesn’t have any known weakness, either. He’s proven to be able to hit for average and little bit of power. He draws a fair number of walks but by that same token has struggled somewhat with strikeouts, most notably posting a strikeout rate of 23.3 percent this season against double-A Southern League pitching.
Davis was enjoying a tremendous season at the plate until suffering a leg injury back in mid-May, so much so that he currently holds true to a 168 wRC+. If he can get back to his line-drive hitting ways after returning, there’s a good chance he starts his 2013 campaign in triple-A.
14. David Goforth
2012 Stats (Low-A): 17 GS, 5.42 ERA, 5.05 FIP, 49 K/39 BB, .273 BAA (84.2 IP)
A full-time reliever turned starter by the end of his three-year collegiate stay at Ole Miss, Goforth fell to the Brewers in the seventh round at last year’s draft and should be considered a steal because of it. He showed to have good command of his pitches and the ability to strike out a ton of batters, additionally.
Strictly out of a relief role with the rookie club in Helena last season, Goforth struck out 42 batters in just 40.2 innings and posted a walk rate of just 5.8 percent. As a reliever in low-A ball this season, his strikeout yield and command have each witnessed regressions similar to what he went through in making the transition from reliever to starter in college. Those declines have a lot to do with Goforth’s “overpowering” mentality on the bump; he has a four-seamer that touches the upper 90s and a cutter slider that he gets batters off balance with.
The Brewers love what this kid has to offer and if he doesn’t start finding success as a starter, management is convinced he has the makeup of a legitimate big-league setup man/closer once his secondary pitches come around.
2012 Stats (Low-A): 58 PA, .286/.379/.429, 5 XBH, 133 wRC+ (58 G)
A three-year contributor for head skipper Larry Lee at Cal Poly, Haniger’s most productive season came this year, where he was without question one of the best hitters in the country. In 211 at bats, the stocky outfielder retained a .458 wOBA (weighted on-base average), proving that he was more than capable of racking up extra-base hits.
Physically, Haniger has the ideal build of a guy who should hit for some power at the big league level. He’s drastically improved his approach at the plate during his junior season and that’s consequently helped him to tap into his power stroke that has a real chance to be plus-average. What’s more, Haniger also boasts a strong arm that should profile nicely in right field.
12. Hunter Morris
2012 Stats (Double-A): 348 PA, .309/.362/.525, 42 XBH, 148 wRC+ (84 G)
While Prince Fielder held down the fort at first base for the past six or so seasons, it was undoubtedly a tough time to be a first-baseman in the Brewers’ farm system. Now that he’s gone (and the future of Mat Gamel is also in deep question), an opportunity has risen for a handful of players. Leading that pack by a sizeable margin is none other than Hunter Morris.
An unmitigated slugger out of the University of Auburn, Morris agreed to sign on with Milwaukee as a fourth-round pick in 2009, and has since then stakes his claim as the top power-hitter in the Brewers’ system. This season, he’s produced career-best numbers in slugging percentage (.525), ISO (.202) and wOBA (.378) in a pitching-friendly double-A Southern League.
The only cause for concern right now seems to be his approach at the plate. He struggled with strikeouts in college to some extent and has garnered a career-high strikeout rate of 21.5% thus far this season. If he can shore that facet of his game, I believe he could be playing a full-time first-base for Ron Roenicke by the end of the 2014 season.
11. Jorge Lopez
2012 Stats: 3 GS, 6.61 ERA, 5.28 FIP, 11 K/9 BB, .304 BAA (16.1 IP)
The general consensus on young talent out of Puerto Rico is that there are plenty of projectable bats to go around but not a whole lot of arms to speak of. Lopez, Milwaukee’s third selection of the 2011 draft, may be one of the very few exceptions to that presumption.
Weighing in at an athletic 6’4″, 165 pounds, Lopez is very raw physically, with a ton of room to pack on some muscle in an effort to add more velocity to his pitches. Right now, he features a fastball that sits in the 89-91 MPH range that he’s shown to throw to both sides of the plate, a curveball that’s already close to big-league ready and a developing changeup. He’ll be a project for Milwaukee to develop, but once he pans out physically, he could be a very, very intriguing prospect.
2012 Stats (Double-A): 370 PA, .289/.333/.389, 26 XBH, 104 wRC+ (86 G)
One of the most undervalued prospects in Milwaukee’s system by many scouts, Gennett continues to get his cuts from the left side of the plate as he rises toward the upper-levels of the minors. The impressive part is that those same cuts have resulted in consistent numbers.
At 5’9″, 180 pounds, Gennett doesn’t hit for power with much consistency, however, he is able to hit for a high average and knows the importance of getting on base. This season, the former 2009 draft pick has batted an even .300 with a .342 BABIP that’s close to his career .344 BABIP.
Representing the Brewers at the 2012 All-Star Futures Game in Kansas City, Gennett had the chance to strut his stuff at the plate in front of many scouts. If he can continue to hit at or above .300 at the double-A and triple-A level, the Brewers will have a tough time not giving him a shot at second base.
9. Caleb Gindl
2012 Stats (Triple-A): 299 PA, .242/.299/.385, 24 XBH, 74 wRC+ (79 G)
The second player taken in the 2007 draft from the traditionally talent-laden Pace High School in Pensacola, Florida, one could argue that Gindl has been Milwaukee’s top performing prospect since his 2008 rookie season. From that year up until the end of last season, Gindl has amassed a fairly high WARP rating of 12.7, according to Baseball Prospectus.
Physically, Gindl is probably a smidge undersized, however, he is able to generate a lot of home runs and gap power with a short, compact swing and strong hands at the plate. While he can run at an adequate rate, speed doesn’t really play into his game a whole lot and will be fringe-average at the next level. Moreover, his arm is nothing to write home about, which leads many scouts to believe he profiles as more of a corner outfielder if anything.
Gindl got off to an uncharacteristically slow start this season but has torched the competition this month. Still just 23 years old, the Brewers would love to hang on to him as long as they can; he could have a shot to stick it in the bigs as a platoon type right-fielder by the end of next season.
2012 Stats (Rookie): 43 PA, .154/.233/.282, 2 XBH, 31 wRC+ (10 G)
Designated for assignment with Milwaukee’s rookie club in Arizona to start his pro career, the 27th overall pick in last month’s draft looks to become the fastest-rising high schooler in the Brewers’ system since Prince Fielder in 2002. And if his physical tools, high school statistical yield and hard-working demeanor are any indication, he should be able to do just that.
At 6’3″, 215 pounds, Coulter is a physical specimen by any standards. Justin Roswell, Senior Director of Team One Baseball, deems the 18-year-old to have “big man strength“. That natural strength could turn him into a consistent line-drive power threat at the big league level. He has a balanced approach at the plate and a swing that’s quick and has little wasted movement.
In a Brewers farm system that was bereft of any elite bats prior to the draft, Coulter could vie to be Milwaukee’s top hitter on the farm with a solid showing at the plate this year.
2012 Stats: N/A (Injured)
Leading the country in home runs (30) as a sophomore in 2011, Roache was one of the most productive position players in all of college baseball during his stay at Georgia Southern, where he averaged a .289/.423/.621 line as a two-year starter. Had he not suffered a broken wrist just seven games into his junior campaign, he would have surely been a top-10 pick instead of Milwaukee’s final 2012 first-round draftee.
Nevertheless, the Brewers remain staunch in their belief that Roache has a lot of helium, and it’s tough to disagree with that sentiment. At 6’2”, 225 pounds, the Michigan native has enough athleticism to play the outfield with an average arm that would profile nicely at either corner position, though he could ultimately end up in center depending on how well he performs in the next few seasons. He is an absolute force at the plate, moreover, having great pitch-recognition with violently quick-hands that drive the ball to all fields. To me, he looks like a more muscular version of Alfonso Soriano at the dish.
Roache is currently rehabbing in preparation for offseason competition, possibly even the Arizona Fall League. We should be able to gauge how quick he’ll rise to the majors based off his performance in those leagues.
6. Logan Schafer
2012 Stats (Triple-A): 347 PA, .288/.340/.449, 31 XBH (7 HR), 102 wRC+ (83 G)
One of the better all-around position players in the system, Schafer does just about everything in a proficient manner. His bat has been exceptional since his rookie season in 2008 and has been able to tap into some power with it as well. Moreover, Schafer might just be the best defender down on the farm.
After putting up a combined .315/.385/.439 line last season, Schafer has nearly worked his way back up to those numbers this season despite harboring an uncharacteristic .265 BA in the season’s first two months. His power-stroke has exhibited itself once more this season, holding true to a .138 ISO in 289 plate appearances.
Possibly his best tool, Schafer’s defense in the outfield this season has been arguably the best of his career. Right now, the Cal Poly product maintains a 2.42 range factor at the triple-A level compared to his career 2.27 range factor. Should he break through to the majors, it will be his coveted glove that will carry him.
High-A: 13 GS, 2.21 ERA, 2.89 FIP, 77 K/25 BB, .210 BAA (81.1 IP)
Double-A: 3 GS, 4.73 ERA, 6.20 FIP, 9 K/14 BB, .245 BAA (13.1 IP)
Turning down the opportunity to join the Reds’ farm system as a 39thround pick in 2009 out of high school, Nelson was able to hone his pitches and grow into his massive build at the University of Alabama for three seasons before signing on with Milwaukee as a second-rounder in 2010. Since then, Nelson put together two solid seasons of professional ball. Neither, however, has been as impressive as his current campaign.
After working to develop his changeup this past offseason, the 6’6”, 245-pound Florida native was able to thoroughly dominated the competition, posting a 2.21 ERA and 1.08 WHIP in 13 high-A ball starts, striking out just under a batter per inning. His achievement warranted a promotion to double-A, where he looks to see his improved offerings prompt a promotion to the Pacific Coast league in the near future.
Given his gargantuan yet still prototypical frame, credible three-pitch mix – that includes a low to mid-90s sinker, slider with plus-average movement and drastically improved changeup – and willingness to listen and get better, I’d say Nelson has the chance to reach the bigs possibly by the end of next season with a good chance to stick there by 2014.
4. Tyler Thornburg
Double-A: 13 GS, 3.00 ERA, 3.39 FIP, 71 K/24 BB, .203 BAA (75 IP)
Triple-A: GS, 3.60 ERA, 0.80 FIP, 6 K/0 BB, .263 BAA (5 IP)
In the weeks following up to 2010 draft, there were a handful of scouts who hadn’t made up their minds over what Thornburg best projected to be – a below-average defensive position player with some pop in his swing, a slightly undersized starter who’d eventually struggle to eat innings or a kid who would utilize his hard-throwing nature to flourish out of a bullpen role.
Now just over two years later, scouts know exactly what Thornburg projects to be: A future big-league strikeout machine, no matter the role.
After making a mockery of hitters at the rookie ranks in 2010 to the tune of 38 strikeouts in just 23.1 innings, Thornburg posted almost as gaudy of number his following season between low-A and high-A ball, garnering a 10.5 K/9 ratio in 24 starts. This season, his yield was simply too overwhelming (8.5 K/9 in 13 double-A starts) to ignore, as he was able to make his first big-league start with Milwaukee on June 19.
While there are still some concerns about Thornburg’s taxing delivery and how well his arm might be able to hold up, there’s no denying that the guy simply knows how to get batters out with his stuff. If he can prove to go deeper into his starts by the end of this season, who knows where he’ll be pitching this time next year.
2012 Stats (High-A): 17 GS, 3.35 ERA, 3.51 FIP, 64 K/29 BB, .242 BAA (102 IP)
After putting up ridiculous numbers his junior season with Texas and being Milwaukee’s first selection in the 2011 draft, Jungmann faced tremendous expectations coming into the season. While he hasn’t been the strikeout machine many have expected, there have been plenty of positive takeaways thus farm.
In a Florida State League that houses some of the most advanced hitting prospects in the minors, Jungmann has averaged over six innings per start and has garnered an impressive walk rate of 6.8 percent. Sure, his strikeouts have been down at just six punchouts per nine innings, but the fact that he goes deep into most of his starts (he already has a complete game to his credit) says a lot about the workhorse-type of pitcher the Brewers believe he can be.
Jungmann features three pitches that graded out as plus-average at the draft last summer. His mid-90s four-seam fastball tops out at 98 MPH and his curveball has nice, sweeping bend to it. His changeup complements his fastball nicely and probably has more projection on it than any other of his offerings at this juncture.
2012 Stats (High-A): 16 GS, 4.55 ERA, 3.95 FIP, 54 K/31 BB, .278 BAA (87 IP)
Leading a shallow crop of left-handers in the 2011 draft, the Brewers were pleasantly surprised that Bradley fell to them at the No. 15 overall slot. After dominating for three seasons at Georgia Tech in which he went fanned over a batter per inning while conceding just one home run over 16 starts in his junior season, many scouts believed Bradley was one of the biggest steals of the draft – it’s easy to see why.
Having four pitches – a fastball that sits around 93-90 MPH, big-bending curveball, slider and changeup – that he has proven to throw strikes and induce a lot of swings-and-misses with, Bradley’s stuff isn’t that far from big-league ready. Moreover, his prototypical 6’4”, 225-pound frame suggests he could be areal innings-eater as a professional. Put that all together, and he’s believed to have the makeup of a solid No. 2 in a five-man big league rotation.
While he’s been fairly inconsistent in high-A ball this season, Bradley has managed to put together a string of solid starts. If he continues that type of production, there’s no doubting he has the chance to fly through the system and make his big-league debut possibly by the end of 2013.
2012 Stats (Triple-A): 18 GS, 5.10 ERA, 3.82 FIP, 79 K/49 BB, .275 BAA (90 IP)
Beginning his professional career as a undrafted free-agent out of Puerto Rico at just 17 years old in 2006, Peralta’s lengthy stay in the minors has him atop many scouts’ organization prospect rankings for a multitude of reasons. A big, durable frame to go with three big-league ready offerings are just a few of those aforementioned reasons.
At 6’2″, 240 pounds, Peralta has the a strong build that should be able to handle 30 or more starts at the big league level. He’s averaged roughly six innings per start since pitching exclusively as a starter back in 2010. For comparison’s sake, that’s about what Yovani Gallardo averaged during his stay in the minors.
Peralta throws a mid-90s fastball and an average changeup with little projection left on it. His best pitch is easily his slider, having great movement that induces a lot of swings-and-misses. The biggest reason for his delayed ETA has to be his command issues, which have been woefully obvious thus far this season, holding true to a walk rate of 13.2 percent over 14 starts.
Despite his struggles this season, Peralta is by my estimation the most well-rounded pitcher in Milwaukee’s system.
When evaluating a minor league prospect, it’s essential for scouts to ask themselves whether or not a player can become an impact player for their team sometime in the near or distant future.
Just what is an “impact player”, you ask? In a nutshell, these are the guys who — more often than not — contribute to a team’s success on a regular basis. Ideally, these players are everyday starters for their respective teams, however that isn’t always the case. Players who have taken on a platoon-type role on their team’s roster can also make an impact despite not being the everyday guy.
Which top Brewers prospects have the best shot at becoming an impact player at the big league level? Lucky for you, we’re here to answer that very question today.
*All statistics through April 3, 2012
15. UTIL Eric Farris
2012 Line (AAA Nashville): .229/.289/.253, 3 RBI, 9 R, 6 SB, .025 ISO, 56 wRC+ (91 PA)
At one point Milwaukee’s most polished infielding prospect, Eric Farris’ path to the big leagues was derailed due to injury in 2010. However, don’t be mistaken — there’s a lot to like about what he brings to the table.
First and foremost, Farris is an unmitigated thief on the basepaths. In 2009, the former 2007 fourth-round pick stole 70 bases in just 124 games in high-A ball. Injury has taken it’s toll, though there’s no doubt that Farris has what it takes to be a base-stealer at the big league level.
The problem is, his bat, particularly the power portion, has been non-existent. In 594 plate appearances in triple-A last season, Farris amassed just a .100 ISO and .309 wOBA. That facet of his game has been the most pressing issue in his development as a prospect.
Now 26 years old, Farris has limited time to shore up that portion of his game. If he’s able to find his power stroke once more, he could turn out to be an impact player for any number of big league organizations.
2012 Line (AA Huntsville): .333/.447/.444, HR, 8 RBI, 7 R, 2 SB, .111 ISO, 169 wRC+ (76 PA)
One of the most overlooked positional prospects in Milwaukee’s system, no one has gotten off to a hotter start to 2012 than 24-year-old outfielder Khris Davis.
A late bloomer, Davis tapped into his slugging capabilities in low-A ball in 2010, mashing 22 home runs and 72 RBI on his way to a very solid .224 ISO and .423 wOBA in 128 plate appearances. He followed that up with an 84 RBI 2011 campaign last season between high-A and double-A ball, quickly grabbing attention from scouts through his slugging ways.
This season, Davis is absolutely destroying the ball, so far garnering a career-best .427 wOBA and .465 BABIP in 76 plate appearances against double-A Southern League pitching. It remains to be seen if he’s capable of keeping those number up, however.
At 24, there’s still time for Davis to grow improve and refine his game in preparation for the big leagues. Needless to say, if he continues to rake at this level, he’ll have no trouble finding a spot on a big league roster.
13. RHP Kyle Heckathorn
2012 Line (AA Huntsville): 1-0, 3.18 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, 27 K/5 BB, .239 BAA (5 GS)
Widely considered a steal at 47th overall at the 2009 draft, Kyle Heckathorn has hardly performed up to his billing as one of the top collegiate arms of the 2009 class thus far in his pro career. Having said that, there are a lot of things to like about Heckathorn’s game.
For one, his 6’6″, 225-pound build is extremely projectable to the next level. His lanky framework allows him to work on a downward plane and have good command, which is one of the foremost strengths to his game. Unfortunately, his biggest strength is also his biggest weakness. He tends to leave the ball over the plate at a far too concerning rate and hitters have as a consequence lit him up on a consistent basis since he lacks the velocity necessary to blow by hitters.
Improvements to his game have been palpable this season, particularly in lowering his walk rate (4.4%) and elevating his strikeout rate (23.5%). Heckathorn is still a bit of a project, however, he could definitely grow into an impact back of the rotation starter at the next level.
12. SS Yadiel Rivera
Young shortstops who can play exceptional defense are always in high demand at the big league level, and with the Brewers’ shortstop situation where it’s at, Yadiel Rivera has a great shot to grow into a real impact player at the big league level. There’s a real potential for him to be Milwaukee’s shortstop of the future.
Drafted in the ninth round of the 2010 draft as an extremely raw 18 year old, Rivera has always been known for his near elite defensive range at shortstop. In just over two full professional seasons, Rivera boasts a 4.56 range factor comparable to the likes of former Brewers shortstops J.J. Hardy and Alcides Escobar.
Of course, there’s really no getting around his struggles at the plate. Rivera has averaged a .223/.260/.325 line with a .102 ISO and .264 wOBA per season so far in his professional career. He’s a project in that area, but if he can develop that facet of his game, there’s no doubt he can tremendous upside as an all-around ballplayer.
11. RHP Michael Fiers
2012 Line (AAA Nashville): 0-2, 3.99 ERA, 1.40 WHIP, 26 K/11 BB, .268 BAA (6 GS)
Hardly a prospect at this stage of his career, 26-year-old Michael Fiers (he’ll turn 27 in June) was extremely productive both as a starter and relief man at the double-A and triple-A levels last season. In 126 total innings, he punched out 132 batters and walked just 36 for a solid 3.67 K/BB ratio. His performance warranted a promotion, where he made a couple relief appearances for the Brewers in September.
Fiers doesn’t have much velocity to speak of (his fastball typically sits in the high 80s to low 90s), however he does know how to fool batters with a plus-average changeup. He also throws in an occasional get-me-over curveball and below-average slider that doesn’t have much projection.
The Brewers are experimenting with him as a starter at the triple-A level right now, however, it doesn’t look llike he has any plans to become a starter in the bigs. His very good fastball-changeup combo portends he could thrive out of a relief role in a major league bullpen.
2012 Line (single-A Wisconsin): 3-0, 1.02 ERA, 0.82 WHIP, 28 K/6 BB, .185 BAA (6 GS)
Overshadowed by Taylor Jungmann and Jed Bradley at last summer’s draft, Drew Gagnon, Milwaukee’s third round selection, has been equally if not more impressive than any Brewers pitching prospect early this season. He leads all Brewers prospects with a 0.64 ERA and ranks in the top five in WHIP and BAA.
Gagnon was a very productive starter on the collegiate scene thanks to a solid three-pitch repertoire — a mid to low-90s fastball, curve and changeup — allowing roughly seven hits per nine innings pitched during his junior season at Long Beach State. His command was in question though he’s seen dramatic improvements to that facet of his game, conceding under two walks per nine innings on the young season so far.
If Gagnon keeps this up, it won’t be too long until he finds himself pitching at the triple-A level and battling for a spot in Milwaukee’s bullpen.
9. RF, LF Caleb Gindl
2012 Line (AAA Nashville): .189/.232/.356, 3 HR, 10 RBI, 8 R, .161 ISO, 44 wRC+ (95 PA)
A fifth-round draft pick in 2007, Caleb Gindl wasted no time adapting to pitching in the minor league level. The stocky 5’9″, 205 pound outfielder posted a .580 slugging percentage and .208 ISO in 231 plate appearances against Pioneer League pitching during his rookie season. Since then, he’s only continued to impress with his bat.
In his first season in triple-A ball last season, Gindl drove in 60 runs, socked 15 home runs and scored 84 times towards the top of Nashville’s batting order. His power witnessed a decline from his first two seasons, though, posting a .165 ISO and .380 wOBA in 538 plate appearances in 2011. He’s struggled out of the gates to start his 2012 campaign, mostly with respect to his plate discipline.
Still, in a Brewers farm system devoid of any legitimate power threat — save for Hunter Morris — Gindl has staked his claim as arguably Milwaukee’s most MLB-ready positional player with respectable power.
2012 Line (AA Huntsville): .324/.353/.505, 2 HR, 14 RBI, 14 R, .178 ISO, 135 wRC+ (116 PA)
One of the premier offensive talents featured in the 2010 draft, Hunter Morris flew relatively under the radar in his first professional season, though after socking 20 home runs between high-A and double-A ball last season, it seems he’s finally getting the notoriety he’s deserved.
There a lot to like about what the 6’4″, 205 pound Auburn product has to offer from an offensive standpoint. He has a compact, powerful swing that’s allowed him to become a formidable run-producer and legitimate slugger at the plate. Morris’ .505 slugging percentage currently ranks second-best among all Brewers prospects and his .324 batting average comes in at third overall.
Not only that, but he can also hold down the fort at first base with great efficiency. Morris holds true to a career .983 fielding percentage and 8.48 range factor at first base.
With the future of Mat Gamel clearly in question, there’s a very good chance Morris will have his shot at first-base for the Brewers soon if he keeps up his production.
7. CF Logan Schafer
2012 Line (AAA Nashville): .255/.307/.387, 2 HR, 6 RBI, 16 R, 3 SB, .137 ISO, 85 wRC+ (117 PA)
Ever since his scintillating 2008 rookie campaign in the low minors, the Brewers have had Logan Schafer on their radar. Unfortunately, both injury and Milwaukee’s overloaded outfield depth chart have limited his opportunities severely.
Still, the 25-year-old Cal Poly product has proven he can do it all: Hit for minimal power and a high average, play unparalleled defense in center field, flash a strong arm when needed and be a threat on the bases when needed.
If his power were to ever develop into its full potential, he’d be a legitimate five-tool prospect and would be without a shred of doubt Milwaukee’s everyday starting centerfielder. Now 25, those aspirations aren’t completely out of reach, though his situation isn’t exactly ideal. Nevertheless, teams are always on the lookout for outfielders with exceptional range. He could turn out to be an impact player in that regard.
6. 2B Scooter Gennett
The Brewers don’t have a whole lot of infielding talent to speak of on the farm, but Ryan “Scooter” Gennett has clearly separated himself from the pack as Milwaukee’s top infielding prospect — and for a multitude of reasons.
The first and most obvious reason can be attributed to his exceptional hitting efficiency. Despite his somewhat meager 5’9″, 170-pound frame, Gennett has proven he’s can slug, garnering a career .134 ISO and .459 slugging percentage up to this juncture. He’s fairly dependent on singles, though he’s still produced a solid career .371 wOBA.
On top of his surprisingly impressive hitting capacity, Gennett is moreover a respectable base-stealer. The 22-year-old has nabbed 30 stolen bases through roughly two and a half professional seasons for a career 5.4 SPD rating, according to Fan Graphs.
Gennett still maintains a fair amount of skeptics who believe his stature will ultimately become his downfall against tougher competition. Based on the way he continues to produce, though, it looks like he has a real shot to be an impact player at the next level.
5. RHP Tyler Thornburg
2012 Line (AA Huntsville): 3-0, 1.80 ERA, 0.83 WHIP, 40 K/7 BB, .172 BAA (6 GS)
Weighing in at a smallish 6’0″, 190 pounds, Tyler Thornburg defied the odds that came with being one of the smaller starters in the minors in his first two professional seasons, and so far this season, he’s doing it again. He’s allowed just seven earned runs in 35 total innings against double-A Southern League hitters.
Just what makes Thornburg so effective? Despite his lack of size, Thornburg has tremendous velocity, able to run his four-seam fastball up to 95 MPH on a consistent basis and has a devastating changeup and solid curveball to go along with it. Those three pitches have bestowed him with a tremendous strikeout capacity, striking out exactly 11 batters per nine innings pitched thus far in his career.
Durability has probably been the biggest shortcoming to Thornburg’s game, averaging just under five and a half innings per start thus far in his career, though he’s greatly improved that facet of his game this season, averaging over 5.8 innings per start in double-A ball.
4. RHP Jimmy Nelson
2012 Line (A+ Brevard County): 2-1, 1.73 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, 39 K/13 BB, .192 BAA (6 GS)
One of the most overlooked prospects in Milwaukee’s system, Jimmy Nelson wasn’t exceptionally productive in his first two professional seasons. However, after working to develop his changeup and command this past offseason, he’s finally enjoying the fruits of his labor. Consequently, Nelson is finally developing to the polished starter the Brewers saw when they took him in the second round of the 2010 draft.
At 6’6″, 245 pounds, Nelson just looks the part of a big league starter from a physicality standpoint. He’s proven that he can go deep into many starts and that his command issues are well behind him. Add in the fact that Nelson has three very solid pitches — mid 90s fastball with good sinking action, much improved changeup and a plus-average slider with exceptional movement — and Nelson has the makings of an impact middle to back of the rotation starter at the big league level.
2012 Line (A+ Brevard County): 2-3, 2.72 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, 25 K/10 BB, .234 BAA (6 GS)
Winner of the 2011 Dick Howsler Award as college baseball’s top player last season, Taylor Jungmann obviously knows what it takes to succeed as a collegiate pitcher. And for the that reason alone, many scouts see him growing into an impact player at the big league level.
Of course, there are plenty of other reasons why the statuesque right-hander projects to be an effective starter at the next level. He bears three plus pitches — a mid-90s fastball with good tailing action, a mid-80s “sweeping” curveball and a mid to low-80s changeup — that he throws with great efficiency and command. Jungmann’s lanky yet durable 6’6″, 220 pound frame allows him to go deep into a majority of his starts, additionally.
Jungmann’s first pro season got off to a bit of a shaky start, however, he’s rebounded nicely, allowing just five six runs (five earned) to cross home in 18.2 innings over his last three starts in the Florida State League. The Brewers are hoping he can fly through the system to be their No. 4 starter by the start of 2014.
2. RHP Wily Peralta
2012 Line (AAA Nashville): 1-2, 3.72 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, 26 K/12 BB, .180 BAA (5 GS)
After signing on as a free agent out of the Dominican Republic at just 16 years of age, Wily Peralta has swiftly developed into a one of the most MLB-ready pitchers in all of minor league baseball. His size, durability, solid three-pitch repertoire and impressive strikeout capacity are all things to like about his game.
At 6’2″, 240 pounds, Peralta has the build necessary to become an adequate big-league starter. His frame has granted him the durability needed to go deep into a majority of his starts, averaging 5.8 IP over 26 starts between double-A and triple-A ball in 2011.
While his above-average stamina is one of his foremost strengths, his strikeout abilities are probably the most impressive facet to his game. Thanks to a mid-90s fastball with good movement and a hard-breaking slider that many scouts believe to be one of the minors’ best, Peralta has fanned well over nine batters per nine innings pitched in each of his last four seasons. Once he finishes polishing his command a bit more, there’s no doubting Peralta could be an annual 30-plus start hurler at the big league level.
2012 Line (A+ Brevard County): 3-2, 3.34 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, 32 K/8 BB, .231 BAA
There were plenty of reasons why Jed Bradley was one of the most coveted arms of last summer’s draft. The Georgie Tech product has three projectable pitches to his repertoire and prototypical frame, was highly successful during his junior season with the Yellow Jackets and is moreover a very personable guy with tremendous baseball IQ.
Bradley’s fastball-curve-changeup combination each grade out as a plus-pitch at the next level. His fastball sits in the low 90s with good but not great movement, his curveball sits in the mid to low 80s with good curve/sliding action and his changeup consistently sits in the mid 80s and produces a low of swings-and-misses. His prototypical frame allows him to hide the ball well and also go deep into ballgames, additionally.
Throw that all together and you’ve got what looks to be a very good middle of the rotation starter who can log at least 200-plus innings and 30-plus starts at the big league level for many years to come. Bradley easily takes the cake over other Brewers prospects with respect to MLB potential.
You’d be beating an already lifeless horse if you said that the Milwaukee Brewers have one of the most inept farm systems in all of Major League Baseball. Everyone knows it, and there’s really no other way of putting it.
However, a successful 2011 first-year player draft has officially put the Brewers back on the map in terms of markedly young talent in the minors. The club notched Texas RHP Taylor Jungmann and Georgia Tech LHP Jed Bradley in the first round last June, and both are expected to make leaps and bounds in their first year in the organization.
Outside of Jungmann and Bradley, though, things aren’t particularly saturated in talent. However, there are a number of prospects who may have their sights set on the majors. Let’s rank 10 prospects with the highest MLB ceilings down on the farm.
10. OF Caleb Gindl
There aren’t many true power hitters within the Brewers’ organization, and none of them look to have a very high ceiling at that. Gindl, though, might be an exception to that fact.
At 23 years old and four solid professional seasons under his belt, Gindl is as prepared as he’ll ever be to break through to the majors in 2012, even if it means simply being an off-the-bench type player. He’s amassed at least 13 home runs and 60 RBI in three seasons down in the minors. Not terribly impressive, but it was enough for Milwaukee to add him to their 40-man roster. Last season in triple-A, he maintained a .307/.390/.472 line with 15 home runs and 60 RBI. Couple his slightly above-average power with a competent glove, and he could get a chance to platoon with a number of other players in Ryan Braun’s spot in left field.
9. CF Logan Schafer
Schafer, 25, was at one point a very promising young star but a heated battle with injuries has derailed his development. Last year between high-A, double-A and triple-A ball, Schafer batted .315 with five home runs and 43 RBI. He also notched 16 stolen bases and scored 66 runs. He was promoted to the big leagues as a September call-up last season but only amassed three plate appearances.
At this point, it’s hard to distinguish what Schafer’s future holds in store. If I had to give it my best guess, I’d say he’s bound to be a utility, off-the-bench type player who probably won’t ever get a legitimate shot at a full-time starting role.
Rivera is one prospect that I would advise even the casual fan to keep up on. He’s a very young talent at just 19 years old and has the potential to be a defensive superstar at the major league level. He has extremely quick feet and has great range in the field.
That said, there are some concerns moving forward. In rookie ball in 2010, Rivera batted .209 with no home runs, 23 RBI and just a .257 slugging percentage. Last year between rookie and low-A ball, he batted .236 with nine home runs and 43 RBI, though he did manage to eclipse the 100-hit plateau. He does struggle with strikeouts, and that will be a stressing point moving forward in his development.
Tom Haudricourt projected on Baseball America last November that he expects Rivera to be Milwaukee’s starting shortstop at the beginning of the 2015 season. If that’s the case, who knows how high his ceiling might be.
7. RHP Jorge Lopez
Seldom do the Brewers take chances on unproven players coming out of high school through the draft, but Lopez was one omission to that tendency.
A third-round draft pick in last June’s draft, Lopez posted a 2.25 ERA in four starts in rookie ball last year. And while he only pitched 12.0 innings, there’s a growing sentiment around the organization that, with at least four years in the minors, he could be a back-end of the rotation type pitcher for Milwaukee. There’s still a lot left to be proved on Lopez’s end as his consistency is still in question, but his plus-average curveball is definitely something worth building off of.
6. RHP Jimmy Nelson
Truth be told, Nelson hasn’t yet put up the overwhelming statistics that come with being a “top prospect”. In 2010, Nelson went 2-0 with a 3.71 ERA and struck out 33 in 26.2 innings in rookie ball. He also garnered a 11.1 K/9 IP and a less-than-impressive 1.61 WHIP. Last year, he went 8-9 with a 4.38 ERA in 25 starts in low-A ball.
One thing that scouts take notice to is his big frame, which looks to translate well at the major league level. He’s able to go deep into games thanks to a average-power arm with a fastball topping out in the mid-90s. What separates him from the pack, though, is his plus-slider and improving changeup. Nelson has a ton of potential and at 22 years old, he’s already a seasoned pitcher down on the farm who will challenge to break through to the bullpen by late 2013. He projects to end up as a middle of the rotation starter.
Fans have anxiously awaited the day that Peralta, 22, makes the jump to the big leagues for quite some time now. The Brewers signed him to a minor league contract at the ripe age of 17, and, needless to say, he’s as ready as he’ll ever be.
Last year, the 6’2″, 240-pound right-hander went for 150.2 innings between double-A and triple-A, posting a 3.17 ERA and 9.4 K/9. He’s become notorious for his strikeout abilities but also for his lack of consistency, which will be a stressing point at spring training in February.
His fastball tops out in the low to mid 90s and has a plus slider that has serious potential. He’ll likely start 2012 in the bullpen and will eventually end up as an end-of-the rotation type pitcher in the coming years.
4. 2B Scooter Gennett
In a farm system largely dominated by pitching talent, Gennett has staked his claim as Milwaukee’s top infielding prospect.
At just 21 years old, Gennett already has two professional seasons to his credit. He skipped rookie ball and went straight to low-A ball where he batted .309 with nine home runs, 55 RBI and 87 runs scored. He also notched 14 stolen bases. Last year at Brevard County, he batted an even .300 with nine home runs, 51 RBI and 74 runs scored.
He’s slightly undersized which will clearly limit his power potential at the major league level, but his great work ethic and likability all work in his favor moving forward. His ceiling is limited, though, with Rickie Weeks holding down the fort at second-base. I do expect him to push for a starting role by 2014, nevertheless.
There are many differing opinions about what the future holds in store for Thornburg. Some say he has the stuff to be a No. 2-3 starter in the big leagues, others say his stature (5’11”, 185 pounds) could keep him from being a starter altogether.
The one thing I think we can all agree on, though, is that he’s been impressive thus far.
After posting a 1.93 ERA with 38 strikeouts in 23.1 innings in rookie ball, Thornburg made his way through low-A and high-A ball in 2010. He went 10-6 with a 2.57 ERA and struck out a remarkable 160 batters in just 136.2 innings of work in that time-frame.
Some have made comparisons of his unorthodox windup to that of Tim Lincecum’s in that it generates a considerable amount of torque on his arm. Whether or not that effects his development moving forward remains to be seen, but Thornburg has clearly made himself known throughout the minors. His ceiling is definitely high.
2. LHP Jed Bradley
Bradley may play second-fiddle to Taylor Jungmann once next season gets under way, but you’d be kidding yourself if you think there’s any substantial disparity in how successful their futures might be.
In his senior season at Georgia Tech, Bradley went 7-3 with a 3.49 ERA, struck out 106 in 98.0 innings (9.73 K/9 IP) and allowed just one home run. He held batters to a .239 BA and maintained a 1.22 WHIP.
His left-handed arm was a splendid addition in last June’s draft, and will be a key asset for the organization moving forward. He made his professional debut last fall in the Arizona Fall League, be struggled. Bradley is likely to start his 2012 campaign at the low-A level.
The overwhelming sentiment shared by scouts is that Taylor Jungmann has the potential to be a future star at the major league level for years to come. Please keep in mind he has yet to throw a professional pitch.
Last year at Texas, the tall, lanky right-hander went 13-3 with a remarkable 1.60 ERA. He also struck out 126 in 146.0 innings (8.04 K/9 IP), held opponents to a .165 BA and allowed just four home runs in 18 starts.
Most of his success at the collegiate level can be accredited to his power fastball that tops out at in the mid-90s. Scouts say there’s room for improvement with his secondary pitches, however his location is second-to-none. Jungmann has all the ingredients to be a legitimate No. 2 starter at the major league level, and there’s no doubting he has the highest ceiling of any current Brewer prospect.
For the better part of the last decade, the Milwaukee Brewers have prided themselves in their outstanding scouting, drafting, and development of young players from minor-league amateurs to MLB talent. Ryan Braun, Rickie Weeks, Corey Hart and, yes, even Prince Fielder (to name a few) are quintessential examples of that efficiency.
Last winter, however, GM Doug Melvin dealt a number of top-tier minor league prospects to furnish deals that would send Zack Greinke and Shaun Marcum to Milwaukee. Though largely successful, the transactions would recede the level of talent in Milwaukee’s minor league system, sparing a handful of pertinent players down on the farm.
Which remaining youngsters have the best opportunity for success in the near future? Let’s take an early look at Milwaukee’s top 15 prospects heading into 2012.
Honorable Mention: RHP Santo Manzanillo
Manzanillo signed with the Brewers as a non-draft pick back in 2005, but has only begun to find his stride down in the minors.
The young power-righthander put together a nice 2011 campaign between high class-A Brevard County and double-A Huntsville. He worked 61.2 innings and posted a combined 1.75 ERA, distinctly in a reliever/closer role. He also punched out 62 in that same time-frame.
He’s been able to find the most success with his upper-90s fastball thus far. If he’s able to stay within himself as far as his command goes, he’ll only continue to work his way through the system.
Dishonorable Mention: RHP Mark Rogers
No matter how disappointing or enigmatic his short-lived career has been up to this point, it would be an outrage not to mention the 25-year-old former prodigy.
Drafted fresh out of high school as the fifth-overall pick in 2004, Rogers was expected to be the next best thing since sliced bread for the Brewers, but quickly found out his arm wasn’t quite ready for prime-time. Suffering a shoulder injury in 2006, Rogers injured his right shoulder and underwent surgery to repair a torn labrum.
He would not pitch until three years later, where in 2009 he would go 1-3 with a 1.67 ERA, 67 SO in 64.2 IP. His 2010, arguably his best, Rogers went 6-8 with a 3.71 ERA while garnering 111 SO in 111.2 IP, prompting a mid-season call-up, where the youngster made his first start as a Brewer.
Then, last March, the right-hander was suspended for 25 games for testing positive for a stimulant. He probably still has a future with the organization, but this certainly isn’t the way we all foresaw it transpiring.
Selected by Milwaukee at 49th overall back in 2009, the lanky right-hander made a solid impression on the organization back in 2010, going a combined 10-6 with a 2.98 ERA between single-A and class-A advanced ball.
Coming off his stellar showing, Baseball America ranked Heckathorn as Milwaukee’s ninth-best overall prospect heading into 2011. He wouldn’t live up to expectations, however, going a lackluster 5-10 with a 4.97 ERA while punching out just 89 in 22 starts.
While there’s no questioning his skill-set, the 23-year-old has yet to strut his best stuff with consistency. The youngster will have that opportunity next spring with double-A Huntsville.
15. RHP Jimmy Nelson
Coming into 2011, the 6’6″, 235-pound power right-hander was ranked as Milwaukee’s eighth overall prospect by Baseball America — and for good reason.
In his first minor league go-around with, Nelson went 2-0 with a 3.71 ERA while punching out 33 in just 26.2 innings of work as a member of the Brewers’ rookie club in Helena. As a starter, the University of Alabama product would go 8-9 with a 4.38 ERA, 120 SO and 146.0 IP in 25 starts with single-A Wisconsin.
He features a four-seam fastball that tops out in the mid-90s with a sinker, along with a slider and developing changeup. Look for him to start with class-A advanced Brevard County in 2012.
14. RHP Austin Ross
Another productive pitcher taken by the Brewers back in 2010, Ross has gone relatively unknown around Milwaukee. That may be about to change.
In five starts with Milwaukee’s rookie club in Helena, the 23-year-old went 2-1 with a 2.70 ERA, 52 SO and walked just six in 46.2 innings of work. He also held the opposition to a .246 BA and allowed just one home run during those starts. Yet, like so many other young pitchers, Ross’ production tapered a bit as he moved up, posting a combined 5.28 ERA and striking out 114 in 133.0 IP between class-A Wisconsin and class-A advanced Brevard County.
By no means is Ross a power pitcher that will strike out a lofty number of batters. However, he’s able to limit mistakes — he conceded just a 1.13 HR/9 in 13 class-A advanced starts last season — making him a near lock to be promoted to Milwaukee within the next few seasons.
There’s no doubting the 24-year-old righty is on the cusp of being a call-up for Milwaukee in the very near future, but his poor execution has led to him dropping out of our top 10.
Signed by the Brewers back in 2005, Rivas has put together a number of splendid minor-league campaigns, most notably in 2010, going 11-6 with a 3.37 ERA and 114 SO in 141.2 IP with double-A Huntsville.
Invited to spring training prior to last season, the youngster had his sights set on another noble effort with triple-A Nashville in 2011. That was not the case, going 7-12 with a less-than-impressive 4.72 ERA in 28 starts. He has the stuff to be a potential No.4 starter for Milwaukee, but he’ll need to put together a complete minor league season before that becomes a reality.
12. LHP Dan Meadows
“Unheralded” doesn’t even begin to describe this 24-year-old southpaw.
A 49th-round selection out of Temple Texas College in 2008, Meadows’ 6’6″, 223-pound frame initially classified him as a future starter in the big-leagues.
Going 13-6 with a 4.07 ERA and 108 SO in his second minor league season in class-A ball, Meadows established himself as a real workhorse in the making. The very next year, his label would change drastically.
Promoted to class-A advanced Brevard County, Meadows registered 2.86 ERA, 92 SO and a .221 BAA in 91.1 IP (42 games) in 2010, strictly in a relief role. He would be called-up to double-A Huntsville to start his 2011 campaign, where he would go 6-2 with a gaudy 1.51 ERA while holding batters to a .185 BAA, evoking yet another promotion to triple-A Nashville later that year.
11. 2B Eric Farris
Calling the 25-year-old Farris “fleet-of-foot” would be a bit of an understatement.
In just five seasons in Milwaukee’s system, the former fourth-round selection out of Loyola Marymount has ripened into a true barn-burner on the basepaths, stockpiling a Brewers record 70 stolen bases in 2009, a year he also batted .298 with 7 HR and 49 RBI.
Like so many other speedsters before him, though, Farris truly lacks power at the plate. The youngster maintained a .792 OPS during his lone year in rookie ball in 2007, but has seen a gradual decrease in OPS ever since.
We had him ranked higher in our preseason rankings last March, but after a pedestrian 2011 campaign with triple-A Nashville (.271 BA, 6 HR, 55 RBI, .689 OPS), Farris will have to prove himself capable once more in 2012.
One of the few classic power-hitters remaining in Milwaukee’s system, Gindl has yet to disappoint in five minor-league seasons.
His inaugural rookie season with the Brewers’ rookie club in Helena, the then 19-year-old outfielder batted .372 with 5 HR and 42 RBI, including a 1.000 OPS in 55 total games (207 AB). His outstanding production was enough for him to be named a Baseball America Rookie All-Star.
Since then, he’s only continued to make strides in the organization. Last season, the now 23-year-old amassed 15 HR, 60 RBI, .307 BA and ranked fourth among all Brewers prospects with a .309 OBP.
The only thing that could hold him back from a big-league promotion is Milwaukee’s lack for talent in the outfield. However, if he continues to generate runs at such a rapid pace, management may have no other choice than to bring him up for an audition.
9. RHP Cody Scarpetta
Blazing his way through rookie ball (2-0, 2.23 ERA, 58 SO) in 2008, Milwaukee’s 11th-round selection back in 2007 seemed intent on making a serious impact in the organization early on.
The very next year, the young Scarpetta worked his way from single-A ball to double-A Hunstville, posting a combined 3.52 ERA while striking out 116 in just 105.0 innings of work. However, the 6’3″, 244-pounder has since gained a reputation of poor command, ultimately leading to punching out just 98 batters in 117.0 innings of work last season in double-A Huntsville.
Despite all the negativity surrounding the youngster, he still has a boatload of potential in the big leauges. A number three spot in Milwaukee’s rotation in 2014 could be in the works if he gets his act together.
8. RHP Mike Fiers
One of the older prospects you’ll ever see — he’s currently 26 years old — Fiers has been an absolute gem in Milwaukee system in each of the past two seasons.
In just his second year in the minors, Fiers attained a 5-9 combined record, 3.53 ERA and 130 SO in 125.0 IP between class-A advanced Brevard County and double-A Huntsville in 2010. This past season, he persevered, going 13-3 with a staggering 1.86 ERA along with striking out 132 in 126.0 innings of work in double-A ball and triple-A Nashville.
He would later be named Milwaukee’s top minor-league pitcher of 2011, and subsequently found himself in a Brewers uniform mid September.
You know your farm system is dry when a player who has yet to make a minor-league start is a top-ten prospect. But that’s exactly the position the Brewers find themselves in.
Bradley, taken with the 15th overall pick in last summer’s 2011 draft, is currently polishing his exceptionally raw game in the MLB Arizona Fall League, where though over three weeks of baseball, has pitched but 2.0 innings.
Nevertheless, his talent and tremendous upside makes him a top-ten prospect by Milwaukee’s standards. Last season with Georgia Tech, the youngster went 7-3 with a 3.49 ERA, struck out 106 and allowed just one home run in 16 starts. Expect him to be pitching with Milwaukee’s rookie club in Helena next spring.
6. RHP Taylor Jungmann
Whatd’ya know, another first-round draft pick from last June’s draft cracks Milwaukee’s top-ten preseason prospect rankings.
The recipient of the 25th annual Dick Howser Award — an award handed out to college baseball’s player of the year — in July, the 6’6″, 220-pound Jungmann has been a portrait of success at the collegiate level. Chances are he’s well on his way toward stardom with the Brewers, as well. Last season, the lanky right-hander went 13-3 with an insane 1.60 ERA, 126 SO in 141.0 IP. He held opponents to a .165 BA, and an otherworldly 0.214 BABIP.
Jungmann signed a $2.525 Million deal with Milwaukee back in mid August. Like Bradley, he’s likely to be designated to the Brewers’ rookie club in Helena next spring.
One of my personal favorites, Ryan “Scooter” Gennett is, unlike many prospects in the system, on the virtual fast-track to the majors. The Florida State product has been nothing short of a sensation in just two full seasons in the minors.
In 2010, the speedy second-baseman batted .309 with 9 HR, 55 RBI, scored 87 runs and stole 14 bases in 118 games with class-A Wisconsin. The very next year, he progressed to class-A advanced Brevard County, amassing a .300 BA, 9 HR, 51 RBI and 11 SB.
This offseason, he’s lighting up opposing pitching in the Arizona Fall League, where through 13 games, he’s batting .357 wih 2 HR and 8 RBI, with a .946 OPS. Talk around the organization estimates he could push to be the full-time starting second baseman as soon as 2014.
4. CF Logan Schafer
An athletically capable outfielder by nature, the 25-year-old Schafer has been bustling his way through the system since his rookie season in 2008, where he batted .272 with 2 HR and 28 RBI in Helena.
He started his 2009 campaign in class-A advanced ball, and would really burst onto the scene shortly thereafter, batting .308 to go with 6 HR and 58 RBI.
A groin injury in spring training shattered his hopes for a productive 2010 season, but he would recover handsomely, amassing 5 HR, 43 RBI and a .315 BA between class-A advanced, double-A and triple-A this past season. His performance would be enough for a September call-up last season, but was specifically limited to a pinch-hitting/running role.
Depending on how management handles their depth chart in center-field, Schafer could be in a starting role by 2013. He’s presently sharpening his skill-set with the Peoria Javelinas in the Arizona Fall League.
Through just one and a half years in the low minors, the 5’11”, 185-pound Thornburg is already drawing comparisons to Tim Lincecum. Its easy to see why.
Milwaukee’s lone third-round pick in the 2010 draft, Thornburg went 1-0 with a gaudy 1.93 ERA, amassing 38 SO in just 23.1 innings of work while holding opponents to a .179 BA with Helena in 2010. He started his 2011 campaign in single-A ball, going 7-0 with a 1.57 ERA, including 76 SO in just 68.2 innings.
Promoted to class-A advanced Brevard County at mid-season, Thornburg went 3-6, but still managed a 3.57 ERA and a .186 BAA. His stature will raise question marks regarding his durability and stamina, but, for now, he looks the part of a future ace.
2. 3B Taylor Green
Working his way up through the ranks of the unknown for quite some time, Green has manifested his big-league potential in admirable fashion, being named Milwaukee’s top minor-league hitter of 2011.
Last season, Green led all Brewers prospects with a .336 BA, amassed 22 HR, 91 RBI, and an organization-best .412 OBP and .580 SLG in triple-A ball. In brief, 2011 was a suptuous one for the rising star.
A September call-up, Green recorded 10 hits in 37 at-bats in his short stint with Ron Roenicke’s crew. It remains to be seen whether or not he’ll be the opening-day starter in 2012, but he’s nonetheless made an exceptional impression on the club thus far.
Peralta, who signed on as a non-draft pick in 2005 at the ripe age of 16, is unquestionably Milwaukee’s top talent down on the farm and will be bound for the majors in the very near future.
His first two seasons in rookie ball were forgettable, but the young right-hander would really start materialize into a top prospect in 2009, where he went 4-4, maintained a 3.47 ERA and, most notably, struck out 118 in 103.2 IP in low-A ball.
In 2010, he went a combined 8-6 with a 3.79 ERA between class-A advanced and double-A, but witnessed his prominent K/BB ratio drop from 2.6:1 in 2009 to 1.6:1. He then took his talents to triple-A Nashville toward the end of 2011, where he would go 2-0 with a 2.03 ERA while garnering 40 strikeouts in just 31.0 innings, also holding opponents to a .193 BA.
There were rumblings about the 22-year-old being promoted to the majors last September, but that obviously didn’t happen. You can count on the youngster making his Brewer debut sometime in 2012, and there’s an outside chance he’ll be on the opening-day roster this March.
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