Tagged: Drew Gagnon

Brewers Minor League Report: Who’s Hot and Who’s Not, April 2013


Scooter Gennett / Courtesy of sportsnashville.wordpress.com

Scooter Gennett / Courtesy of sportsnashville.wordpress.com

At the beginning of the season, the Brewers maintained a minor league farm system that many scouting databases deemed one of the worst Major League Baseball. Despite utilizing four first-round draft picks in each of the last two first-year player drafts, the organization entered 2013 without any of its prospects considered to be future stars at the next level. As of Wednesday evening, no Brewers farmhands were featured in Jonathan Mayo‘s top 100 rankings over at MLB.com.

Yet the first month of the minor league season proved Milwaukee’s farm system may not be as shallow as previously thought. Several pitchers and position players with relatively low stocks heading into the season have caught the eyes of scouts early on, and could be well on their way to promotions in the near future. Conversely, some prospects have witnessed their stocks decline after a month’s worth of play.

Position Players

Who’s Hot: Cameron Garfield, C, class-A advanced Brevard County Manatees

2013 stats: .265/.294/.510, 5 HR, 15 RBI, 12 R, .358 wOBA (102 PA)

Quite possibly no prospect in the system got off to a hotter start at the plate with respect to power numbers this season than Garfield, who with five home runs in 24 games is already approaching the 12 home runs over 66 games he mashed last season with low-A Appleton. Behind the dish, Garfield improved immensely in April, committing just three errors and allowing three passed balls in 20 games, boasting an improved 8.00 range factor that’s on par with the likes of Buster Posey.

Who’s Not: Clint Coulter, C, class-A Wisconsin Timber Rattlers

2013 stats: .186/.275/.356, 2 HR, 7 RBI, 8 R, .291 wOBA (69 PA)

Coulter, last summer’s 27th overall selection in the first-year player draft, certainly gave fans enough reason for optimism after posting a slash line of .302/.439/.444 and a .419 wOBA over 49 games in rookie ball last season, and his decent play behind the plate only added to that. His first month of 2013, however, was far from that. In his first stint in low-A ball, Coulter’s strikeout rate (23.2%) increased, walk rate (10.1%) decreased and has yet to produce a multi-hit game. His fielding efficiency (.953 Fld%) and range (7.36 RF) behind home plate regressed, too.

Who’s Hot: Mitch Haniger, RF, class-A Wisconsin Timber Rattlers

2013 stats: .289/.367/.474, 2 HR, 13 RBI, 8 R, .380 wOBA (90 PA)

Haniger’s 2012 campaign in low-A was cut short by a PCL injury in his right leg, but after a strong spring training showing in Arizona and scalding return to the Timber Rattlers, the injury doesn’t seem to be affecting his performance. While his batting average and slugging percentage remain close to where they were last season, April revealed a much more selective approach from Haniger. He cut his strikeout rate (11.1%) by a handsome 12 points from where it was last season and his range in the outfield has improved a notch.

Who’s Hot: Scooter Gennett, 2B, triple-A Nashville Sounds

2013 stats: .403/.425/.468, 0 HR, 5 RBI, 12 R, 4 SB, .406 wOBA (81 PA)

With each passing day, it seems the debate over whether or not the Brewers should give Gennett an opportunity to contribute gains considerably more steam — and his hot start at the plate in April is a big reason why. Though his strikeout rate (13.6%) is up and walk rate (2.5%) are down from last season, he found plenty of holes in defenses, producing a .470 BABIP with triple-A Nashville. Gennett’s lack of power may be the only thing holding him back from a big league promotion.

Pitchers

Who’s Not: Taylor Jungmann, RHP, double-A Huntsville Stars

2013 stats: 1-4 (5 GS), 7.89 ERA (5.42 FIP), 16 K/14 BB, 1.57 WHIP, .250 BAA

When the Brewers took Jungmann at No. 12 overall in the 2011 draft, they were told they were drafting a pitcher with great command, tremendous strikeout capabilities and a guy who would more often than not go deep in to each start. But in his first month in the double-A Southern League, he looked far from that. In five starts, Jungmann put nearly as many men on base via walk (14) as he did strike out (16), and he lasted on average only 4.2 innings in those starts. Granted, he held batters to a .250 average and .290 BABIP, but the fact that his previously touted command has been nearly non-existent this season is reason for concern.

Who’s Not: Drew Gagnon, RHP, class-A advanced Brevard County Manatees

2013 stats: 1-2 (5 GS), 7.36 ERA (4.02 FIP), 22 K/11 BB, 1.82 WHIP, .319 BAA

Gagnon’s April began underwhelmingly, allowing 18 earned runs to cross home over his first four starts of the season, which totaled just 16.2 innings. However, he would rebound in his final start of the month in which he pitched 5.1 innings and allowed just four baserunners. Hopefully the end of the month is sign of good things to come because, as a whole, Gagnon’s command regressed tremendously. His WHIP of 1.82 in April was a far cry from the impressive 1.10 WHIP he posted last season in high-A ball.

Who’s Hot: Jimmy Nelson, RHP, double-A Huntsville Stars

2013 stats: 3-0 (5 GS), 1.30 ERA (1.65 FIP), 32 K/5 BB, 0.83 WHIP, .177 BAA

Though the Alabama product made huge strides during his stay at high-A and double-A ball last season, Nelson told me in Janurary that the biggest concern for him was being consistent from start to start . And that’s exactly what he did in April. In none of his five starts did he last through less than five innings and in none of those did he allow more than five hits. His swing-and-miss capabilities have revealed themselves on a regular basis and his command has been superb. Shouldn’t be too much longer before Nelson gets the call to triple-A.

Who’s Not: Ariel Pena, RHP, double-A Huntsville Stars

2013 stats: 1-2 (5 GS), 4.84 ERA (6.87 FIP), 12 K/18 BB, 1.52 WHIP, .208 BAA

Acquired in the Zack Greinke trade last season, many scouts believed Pena had the potential to be a back-of-the-rotation arm. Not even a year later, and there are concerns that he may not be a serviceable reliever. In five starts with double-A Huntsville this April, Pena’s swing-and-miss stuff vanished and his command only worsened, in turn leading to an obscene 7.25 BB/9 rate and disheartening 4.84 K/9 rate. No starter in the organization had a more rough opening month than Pena.

Who to keep an eye on

Michael Reed, OF, Wisconsin Timber Rattlers (.323/.384/.446, .382 wOBA) –Accumulated four doubles, two triples and 29 total bases in April, finishing out the month with a nice seven-game hit streak.

Nick Ramirez, 1B, Brevard County Manatees (.245/.312/.439, .320 wOBA) – Strikeouts are still a problem, but raised his walk rate by over three percentage points from last season en route to 45 total bases.

Jacob Barnes, RHP, Brevard County Manatees (2-0, 1.08 ERA, 2.84 FIP, 12 K/5 BB, 16.2 IP) – Held batters to a palty .177 average and posted a 0.96 WHIP in three starts and one relief appearance.

Damien Magnifico, RHP, Wisconsin Timber Rattlers (2-0, 4.00 ERA, 3.87 FIP, 19 K/7 BB, 18 IP) – Walks are down and strikeouts have increased, and has strutted his triple-digit four-seam fastball on a regular basis. Tremendous potential as a late-inning reliever if these all continue.

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.

Milwaukee Brewers’ End-of-Season Top 25 Prospect Rankings


Taylor Jungmann / MiLB.com

It was undoubtedly a year worth looking back on with exuberance for the Milwaukee Brewers’ farm system.

Coming into the season, you would have been hard-pressed to find the Brewers’ collective system placed above of the bottom-five overall in many organizational rankings among big-league ball clubs. Baseball America and Baseball Prospectus followed that trend, with BA ranking Milwaukee at No. 26 overall prior to the season and BP placing Milwaukee at an even worse No. 28 overall.

This shouldn’t come as much of a surprise to anyone with a fundamental knowledge of the Brewers’ minor-league talent, of course. The Zack Greinke trade of two winters ago left the talent-pool excessively thin, consequently leaving 23-year-old right-handed pitcher Wily Peralta with the proverbial “top prospect” moniker prior to the season after a tremendous 2011 campaign. First-round picks from 2011 Taylor Jungmann and Jed Bradley were also seen as guys who could take home top-prospect honors after the season, as well as right-hander Tyler Thornburg. After that, there weren’t many youngsters who looked to be of any relevance anytime soon at the big-league level.

However, after a fruitful 2012 draft class and the trade that made Greinke a Halo, subsequently giving Milwaukee three intriguing prospects to add to the system, things are looking up and fans can now expect a steady influx of talent to the big-league roster as early as the start of next season.

So with the season essentially over, it seems fitting for me to update my end-of-season top-25 prospect rankings.

To see my preseason rankings, click here and to see my mid-season rankings, click here.

1. Wily Peralta, RHP — Walks have been up due to control regressions and will need to show more refined control of his heavy fastball. However, pure swing-and-miss ability is certainly there; his slider has great diving action and will be a definite asset down the road. Have no doubt he’ll show signs of potential out of the ‘pen this month and with a good spring training should be the No. 5 starter come April.

2. Taylor Jungmann, RHP — Has been anything but the strikeout hoarder he was in college but has absolutely looked the part of a top prospect in every other aspect. Is always around the plate and hits his spots consistently; knows how to set-up hitters with his secondary offerings and hardly ever gives up the long-ball. A good looking prospect in my book.

3. Tyler Thornburg, RHP — Milwaukee’s prospect darling has been outstanding by all accounts in 2012; the raw statistics are there to support his case to be in the rotation come next April. Still, I have concerns; namely with his pure stuff. His fastball gets crushed when over the plate, is way to reliant on the pitch and furthermore doesn’t induce a lot of ground-balls. His curveball — though having nice movement — is much too inconsistent control-wise. Add on that he still hasn’t developed a good feel for his changeup and his lack of stamina, and, yes, I have my doubts. Will be a reliever when all said and done.

4. Jimmy Nelson, RHP — Got off to a scorching start in high-A but ran into troubles — and shoulder fatigue — upon being promoted to double-A midway through the season. One of my favorite prospects in the system; massive yet prototype 6’6″, 245 build makes him highly durable. Good three-pitch mix with a promising sinker and plus-average slider that’s already MLB ready. The ability to control his fastball will be the key moving forward. Could push for a spot start by the end of next season.

Jimmy Nelson / MiLB.com

5. Logan Schafer, OF — Knocking on the major-league door for a while now, Schafer should get at least minimal playing time in September. Impress, and he will certainly challenge Carlos Gomez for the starting job in center field next season. Disappoint, and who knows what happens.

6. Hunter Morris, 1B — The lack of a quality approach at the plate dampened his otherwise impressive power numbers from 2010 to 2011, nearly to the point where scouts questioned his ability to grow into a serviceable bat in the bigs. But while his strikeout rate remains somewhat high, he is drawing more walks and is developing a more refined approach. Further improvement in that area could mean he is starts for Milwaukee at first base in 2014.

7. Clint Coulter, C/DH — Milwaukee’s 2012 first-round pick has struggled behind the plate but has thrived at it. With 22 passed balls in just 25 games, catching may not be where he best projects at the next level; maybe a first base or third base. However, his impressive eye at the plate — as evidenced by his .429 OBP — is a great sign for the organization.

8. Jed Bradley, LHP — It was a season filled with disappointment and injury for the 22-year-old southpaw. Missed a stretch of time due to a groin strain and has not pitched since August 8 due to arm soreness. Still believe the stuff is there to be a future No. 3, but will need to refine his command before he becomes what scouts project him to be.

9. Johnny Hellweg, RHP — Second piece received in the Greinke deal, Hellweg stands in at a healthy 6’9″, 205 pounds. Has very good raw stuff including a mid-90s fastball that induces ground balls. Doesn’t have much control over his secondary offerings and has walked nearly as many as he’s struck out in his short stint in the system. I believe he would be an excellent late-inning reliever down the road.

10. Khris Davis, OF — Scouts aren’t high on his toolset but his statistics are tough to ignore. Slugged his way to a .383/.484/.641 line in 44 double-A games and got the call to Nashville, where he ran into troubles but is still boasting a nice 119 wRC+ through roughly 30 games. Not entirely sure he has a position to play on the big-league roster; may ultimately wind up as trade bait.

Ariel Pena / creamcitycables.com

11. Ariel Pena, RHP — The final piece in the Greinke trade, Pena also has the stuff to suggest he could be a backline starter in the bigs. His devastating changeup gets hitters off his fastball, but lacks a quality breaking pitch. Doesn’t induce a lot of ground-balls and control issues are troubling. A strong spring training could put him on an early call-up list next season.

12. Scooter Gennett, 2B — Has thrived off his ability to hit for singles and pound the outfield gaps with well below-average power. Pushing to hit over .300 for his third consecutive season. Sees the ball well and has good knowledge of the strikezone, still developing as a defensive second-baseman. His diminutive 5’9″, 185 pound frame still concerns scouts.

13. Victor Roache, OF — Selected with their second first-round pick this past June, Roache’s broken right wrist suffered during his final year at Georgia Southern has kept him from playing time this summer, as he’s rehabbed in Arizona in preparation for fall and winter instructional leagues. Athletic build with a ton of pop in his bat, could end up as a corner outfielder.

14. Hiram Burgos, RHP — Started in high-A and moved all the way up to triple-A, where his stuff has stacked up well against the competition. Won’t blow batters away but shows a good feel for each of his pitches. Much more of a fly-ball pitcher than a ground-out pitcher. Will have the chance to be on the opening day roster with a strong 2013 preseason.

Hiram Burgos / MiLB.com

15. Caleb Gindl, OF — The stocky 5’9″ outfielder has been waiting to burst onto the big league scene for two seasons now and should get the call this September as a depth-adding corner arm. Got off to an abysmally slow start but has since found his stroke; put up a .319/.370/.527 line in July and furthermore managed to raise his slugging percentage up to a respectable .429. Unfortunately, there doesn’t look to be anywhere on the roster for him to play next season.

16. Kentrail Davis, OF —  I’ve always loved Davis’ tools; is extremely athletic with plus-speed on the bases and in the outfield. His bat has been in question for his entire playing career, but has shown great signs of improvement this season. Displaying good discipline at the plate and improved power during his stay in double-A this season.

17. Drew Gagnon, RHP — The Brewers’ fourth-round pick in the 2011 draft has produced well above what many had anticipated to this juncture of his career. Posted a very nice 2.83 ERA over six starts with low-A Appleton and got the call to Brevard County this summer. While he’s struggled to produce ground outs consistently, his credible fastball-curve-changeup repertoire has worked splendidly against the competition. Could turn out to be a future No. 5 in a best-case scenario.

18. Jorge Lopez, RHP — A youngster who still has a ways before he fills out physically, Lopez has racked up the strikeouts during his second season in the system but at the same has struggled to control his fastball-curve-changeup mix. Scouts love his overall upside and its tough to disagree. Could become a mid-rotation arm in at his very best — a middle-inning reliever at his very worst.

19. Mitch Haniger, OF — Found immediate success in low-A Appleton after becoming the Brewers’ third and final first-round pick in last June’s draft, however an untimely PCL tear ended his rookie stint. Has a very well-rounded game without any noticeable weakness.  Has gap power to all fields; solid defender with plus-arm, good work ethic and makeup. Really like his game. Will be interesting to see how his bounces back from injury next season.

Yadiel Rivera / Rinaldi Photos

20. Yadiel Rivera, SS — A defensive whiz at shortstop, no one will argue that his glove doesn’t project to be plus-average at the next level — his bat, however, is an entirely different story. Still learning to repeat his mechanics and overall plate discipline, Rivera’s hit tool still remains in question. The good part is that time is on his side; at just 20 years old, he should finish next season in high-A and with improvements there could skyrocket to the upper minors. Definitely a name worth watching next season.

21. Tyrone Taylor, OF — Exceeded expectations in rookie ball after being taken in the second round of last June’s draft, especially with his bat; posted a .387/.434/.667 line in 83 trips to the plate this season before injury sidelined him on July 22. His bat will need some mechanical tune-ups as he continues to move up the ladder. Could be a lethal base-stealer down the road.

22. David Goforth, RHP — The Mississippi State product blew past hitters in rookie ball last season out of the bullpen, striking out over a batter per inning. This season, that has been anything but the same in low-A ball — strictly as a starter, Goforth punched out a very average 5.7 batters per nine innings over 27 starts. I’m not too high on his overall arsenal of pitches but his slider certainly looks the part of a big-league swing-and-miss pitch.

23. Jose Pena, OF — After two full seasons in the Dominican Summer League, the raw 19-year-old earned a promotion to Helena after putting up a scintillating .877 OPS in the rookie Arizona League. He now boasts a .309/.316/.582 line in 57 plate appearances and looks like a very intriguing youngster in the system.

24. Eric Farris, 2B — The once highly-touted second baseman began his 2012 campaign ridiculously slow at the plate but he’s recovered to boast a very nice .286/.328/.378 line. His haste on the bases has been far from what it was during his early days in the organization but still nabbed 33 bases in 129 games. Nevertheless, would be a nice depth-providing roster addition this September.

25. Nick Ramirez, 1B — A defensively cumbersome first-baseman with plus raw power at the dish, Ramirez has witnessed massive declines in his offensive production this season juxtaposed to his rookie 2011 campaign, most notably with respect to his plate discipline. A great fastball hitter, the Cal State Fullerton product just can’t seem to stay on breaking offerings and that has in turn led to a strikeout rate of 34 percent this season. His capacity to become a more disciplined hitter will determine his big-league ceiling.

Player Not Mentioned Worth Watching in 2013: Chris McFarland, 2B

Chris McFarland / helenair.com

Taken in the 18th round of the 2011 draft out of Lufkin (TX.) High School as a groomed middle-infield defender, McFarland made a permanent transition to second base this season — his rookie season — and has flourished. His above-average athleticism enabled him to post a range factor of 4.36 and turn 37 double plays in just 59 games with the rookie club in Helena, though he certainly won’t be limited to that position moving forward. He showed scouts during his high school days that he is a very capable outfielder with a strong arm and quick release to stick at nearly any position on the diamond.

Offensively, McFarland has also impressed. A quick bat that produces natural gap-power to all fields has allowed him to post a .299/.355/.420 line over 292 plate appearances this season to go with a .398 BABIP and .354 wOBA. Like many raw youngsters, though, McFarland struggles somewhat to repeat his mechanics and remained disciplined on off-speed and breaking offerings, as evidenced by a concerning 0.28 BB/K ratio.

Given his impressive showing this season in rookie ball, I would be shocked to see him remain there next season. It looks like he’s ready to move up to low-A Appleton.

Updating, Evaluating Milwaukee Brewers’ Top 10 Prospects in Low Minors


A lot has transpired since I took a look at Milwaukee’s top lower-level minor league prospects last December.

First and foremost, a number of the players I discussed have moved their respective ways up the minor-league ladder and are no longer considered lower-level prospects. Kentrail Davis, Jimmy Nelson and Tyler Thornburg would fall under this category, with Davis having been promoted to double-A at season’s onset, Nelson also making his way to Huntsville midway through the season, and Thornburg staring in double-A, dominating thoroughly, and promptly making his Major League debut back on June 19.

The same, however, cannot be said about Jorge Lopez, Taylor Jungmann, Jed Bradley and Yadiel Rivera. Lopez still resides with the rookie club in the Dominican Summer League, while Jungmann and Bradley have produced adequately in high-A Brevard County, though not to the extent of which many expected, and Rivera is still very entrenched in the class-A Midwest League.

After a solid 2012 draft class harboring many prospects that are presently in the lower-levels of the minors, I thought it fitting to update and evaluate/re-evaluate Milwaukee’s top youngsters with August already here. Let’s get to it.

*All statistics through July 28, 2012

1.) Taylor Jungmann, RHP (stats)

Taylor Jungmann / MiLB.com

Expectations were enormous for the 6’6″, 225 pound right-hander coming into the season, having been a bonafide strikeout machine his junior season in college, where he rung up roughly a batter per inning. This season, his K/9 ratio is down to an astonishing 5.27. Time for concern? Possibly; however he’s proven to be able to pound the strikezone and induce a whole lot of groundballs, as depicted by an impressive 2.02 groundout-to-airout ratio this season.

Stuff-wise, we all know the story on Jungmann. His mid-90s four-seam fastball, sweeping curve and deadly changeup all grade out as plus-average offerings, with which he can pound the strikezone to his liking whenever needed. Jungmann has toyed with a slider, additionally, and that too could develop into an above-average pitch.

The key for Jungmann on his journey toward the big-leagues will be in shoring up the amount of hits he concedes to opposing hitters. Scouts viewed his impeccable command as both a strength and weakness coming out of Texas University — the latter being because of his propensity to leave the ball over the plate far too often. Once he gets that cleared up, he’ll be ready for Milwaukee’s rotation.

2.) Jed Bradley, LHP (stats)

Viewed as a prototypical southpaw with a whole lot of helium at the 2011 draft, Bradley performed adequately in high-A ball to begin the season, though it seems a nagging groin injury suffered in late May could the cause for his concerning numbers. In 18 starts, Bradley has a 4.93 ERA (4.12 FIP) with a strikeout rate of just 13 percent, allowing hitters to bat .287 and a .324 BABIP against him.

Of course, scouts don’t put too much stock into a player’s big-league potential simply based off numbers alone, much less a slightly banged-up one like Bradley, because the fact is that his has all the ingredients you look for in a future front-line starter. His low 90s four seam fastball can straighten out a bit but his heavy-sinking two-seamer generates a ton of grounders. Furthermore, his big-bending curveball, slider and changeup each grade out as plus-average.

Alluding to my earlier point, the biggest concern for Bradley right now seems to be his tendency to leave the ball over the plate. This was always a strength for him in college; he was able to spot his fastball and use his breaking pitches well enough to generate lots of swings-and-misses, thus allowing less hits to opposing batters. Now, it seems that ability may have diminished; he’s allowed an amazing 10.8 hits per nine innings pitched this season.

Victor Roache / Photo credit: Southern Conference

3.) Victor Roache, OF (stats)

Suffering a broken right wrist early this season with Georgia Southern University, Roache has been rehabbing in Arizona for a while now, and as he told me Thursday, he’s aiming to participate in a few offseason instructional leagues (possibly the Arizona Fall League) in preparation for 2013. So while technically Roache isn’t officially a lower-level prospect, I’m operating under the assumption that he will be once next season comes around.

A physical specimen at 6’2″, 215 pounds, Roache has some tools that will serve him well in the big leagues. An outfielder through his college years, he showed to have enough athleticism to man center-field with efficiency and a solid-average arm to complement it. His power at the plate is easily his most projectable asset right now; his violently quick swing allows him to pound the outfield gaps with consistency and put them over the wall, too.

The Brewers took a calculated risk in drafting Roache, however they seem to believe his wrist injury won’t hold him back from becoming the star talent scouts originally tagged him as prior to injury.

4.) Clint Coulter, C (stats)

The first high-school catcher taken by Milwaukee through the draft since the well-known (not really) annexation of Nick Hernandez in 1978, Coulter could very well turn out to be the first position player of the Brewers’ 2012 crop to reach the majors. A terribly slow start this summer with the rookie club in Arizona put at least some doubt in the minds of many scouts, but Coulter has managed to salvage his rookie campaign, now boasting a superb .370 on-base percentage through 22 games despite owning a batting average that’s slightly below the Mendoza line.

Still, Coulter has a very nice approach at the plate, drawing a good number of walks and going deep into counts. He has a quick and noticeably level swing that produces line-drive power to all fields. His “hit” tool grades out as solid-average right now but has a chance to be plus-average quickly given his keen, disciplined eye. His power is also a solid-average and will likely produce far more doubles than home runs down the road.

Though catching is his natural position and he could definitely stay there, scouts seem to believe he has some versatility, possibly along the lines of switching to first-base or maybe even a right-field given his strong arm. Regardless, Coulter is a very nice overall talent; it should be interesting to see how fast he moves through the system.

5.) Jorge Lopez, RHP (stats)

Deemed the top Puerto Rican pitching talent at the 2011 draft, the Brewers considered Lopez a steal when they took him with their second-round pick, and despite a somewhat rocky start to his professional career, they still do.

A multi-sport standout during his high school days, the lanky 6’4″, 165-pound right-hander has three intriguing pitches at his disposal. The first is a low-90s four-seam fastball that he’s proven to throw to both sides of the plate; the second being a curveball that is big-bending and hard-breaking and grades out as plus-average right now; the third being a changeup that is developing right now but scouts believe Lopez’s athleticism will lead to it becoming a lethal offering.

Still just 19 years old, Lopez is in the midst of his second season in the Rookie Dominican Summer League but has just a 4.31 FIP over 25 innings to show for it. Even so, its easy to see he has tremendous potential; how much he fills out his lanky frame and how well his secondary offerings improve will ultimately determine what kind of big-leaguer he will become.

6.) Tyrone Taylor, OF (stats)

Tyrone Taylor / billmitchell.photoshelter.com

Overshadowed by the likes of fellow prep outfielders Byron Buxton, Albert Almora and Lewis Brinson at last summer’s draft, Taylor was viewed by scouts as a guy with a whole lot of potential but also one who’s extremely raw. Having been a football star for his local high school, Taylor only recently became dedicated to the game of baseball, beginning when the Brewers took him with their second-round pick.

A toolsy outfielder with a whole lot of athleticism, Taylor’s best asset right now is clearly his speed. He covers a good chunk of real-estate from center field, a position where he most likely profiles best down the road thanks to a solid-average arm both in terms of accuracy and strength. His agility also plays well into his base-running; he gets good jumps and has enough stride in him to steal bases at a pretty impressive rate.

However, there are a few drawbacks to his game, first and foremost beginning at the plate. Mechanically speaking, there is work to be done; his pre-swing load is very elongated and his hands (which start out in good position) tend to drift away from his body, making his swing much longer than it should. This could lead to problems with off-speed offerings in the future, but it’s nothing worth losing sleep over right now.

But for as much as scouts may anguish over the projection of his bat, his performance thus far should warrant some credibility. Through 18 professional games, he’s batting .387/.434/.667 with 14 extra-base hits and six stolen bases; a small sample size but nonetheless impressive.

7.) Drew Gagnon, RHP (stats)

A guy who struggled to find consistency during his college years, Gagnon blew past the rookie ranks late in 2011 after being taken with Milwaukee’s third-round pick that summer and scouts immediately began taking notice to his game. Then in 14 starts with the low-A club in Appleton to start his 2012 campaign, the Long Beach State product posted a 2.83 ERA, striking out over seven batters per nine frames and warranted yet another promotion, and currently finds himself in the Florida State league, where he’s also been solid, yielding a 3.68 FIP through five starts.

Just what makes Gagnon so efficient? While he doesn’t have any one offering that grades out as plus-average right now, he does have three solid pitches that he loves to pressure hitters with. He can effectively spot his four-seam fastball that sits in the 90-93 MPH range to both sides of the plate and can dial it up to 95 when needed. His curveball has shown great improvements of recent, inducing more swings-and-misses than earlier in his career and his fringy changeup also has improved.

Speculation says that with an improvement of his secondary offerings, Gagnon has the stuff to be a late-rotation starter in a best-case scenario. At the rate he’s already progressed through the system, it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise if he makes his big-league debut by the end of 2014.

8.) Mitch Haniger, OF (stats)

Milwaukee’s 2012 supplemental first-round pick, Haniger skipped rookie ball and after signing his bonus headed straight to Appleton, where over 14 games he hit .286/.379/.429 with 13 strikeouts to seven walks. Then, tragedy hit when it was announced he would head to the disabled list after tearing the PCL in his left knee, ending what would have otherwise been a very solid rookie season.

I won’t elaborate too much on his game, as I profiled him late last month, so here’s a condensed scouting report: Solid average outfielder with decent range and an exceptional arm, most likely projects to be a right-fielder down the road. Vastly improved approach at the plate; quick hands and good mechanics. His hit-tool looks average right now; his power may be his biggest asset.

9.) Yadiel Rivera, SS (stats)

A ninth-round pickup in 2010, very few minor league infielders are as polished defensively as Rivera. Though his speed grades out as average, his range at shortstop is exceptional; long limbs, good instincts and a strong arm all play into his favor and make him a very intriguing prospect for the Brewers.

The same, however, cannot be said about his offensive tools. An aggressive hitter who loves to pull the ball, Rivera walks rarely, strikes out a lot and furthermore posts diminutive power numbers. His offensive struggles warranted a demotion from low-A to rookie ball last season, and while he’s managed to stay and somewhat improve with the Appleton club for all of 2012, his bat still lags behind. Unless he is able to cut down on his strikeouts and develop a more disciplined eye at the plate, his big-league prospects won’t look all too promising.

10.) Damien Magnifico, RHP (stats)

Damien Magnifico / foxsportssouthwest.com

One of the more intriguing selections from Milwaukee’s 2012 class, very few (if any) pitchers in this summer’s draft were or are capable of lighting up radar guns with as much ease as Magnifico. Not necessarily having a power-pitcher’s frame at just 6’1″, 195 pounds, the Oklahoma product regularly touched triple-digits with his four-seam fastball — a trait that could undoubtedly serve him well as a late-inning reliever in the big leagues.

The problem is, Magnifico’s secondary offerings are noticeably sub-par. Though he’s toyed with a two-seam fastball that shows good dive at times, he struggles to command it; the same goes for his cutter. Moreover, he has trouble throwing his changeup for strikes and consequently doesn’t throw hitters off-balance at the rate it should, especially given the amount of time he spent honing his pitches in college ball.

The fact that Magnifico’s pitches are so far behind is a bit troubling. However, seldom to scouts find a guy who can throw an “easy” 100 MPH, so by that reality alone, he could have a pretty high ceiling as a big-leaguer.

— Alec Dopp

15 Milwaukee Brewers Prospects Who Can Grow into Impact MLB Players


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.

14. LF Khris Davis

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

2012 Line (single-A Wisconsin): .242/.286/.363, HR, 6 RBI, 11 R, SB, .125 ISO, 79 wRC+ (99 PA)

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.

10. RHP Drew Gagnon

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.

8. 1B Hunter Morris

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

2012 Line (AA Huntsville): .275/.290/.400, 3 HR, 14 RBI, 14 R, 3 SB, .130 ISO, 94 wRC+ (124 PA)

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.

Whether he’s a starter or reliever, there’s no doubt Thornburg can and will make an impact at the MLB level.

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.

3. RHP Taylor Jungmann

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.

1. LHP Jed Bradley

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.


Alec Dopp covers the Milwaukee Brewers as a featured columnist at Bleacher Report.  Follow him on Twitter @alecdopp and read his blog.