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.
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.
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.
With their 14th-round pick in the 2011 Major League Baseball first-year player draft, the Milwaukee Brewers took right-handed pitcher Jacob Barnes out of Florida Gulf Coast University. A three-year contributor with the Eagles, the 6’2″, 230-pound hurler’s best collegiate season came as a junior in 2011, where over 20 total appearances and five starts he posted a 4.58 ERA, 1.26 WHIP and struck out roughly 11 batters per nine innings pitched.
Quick to sign on with the organization, Barnes began his professional career with Milwaukee’s rookie club in Arizona, where over 18 relief appearances he posted a feeble 2.18 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, .225 BAA to go with a strikeout rate of 36.1 percent, showing he was ready to move up the minor league-ladder.
Finishing out his rookie season in Arizona, Barnes was promoted to single-A Appleton to start his 2012 campaign. Primarily utilized as an extended-inning bullpen arm through the first few months of the season, head skipper Matt Erickson decided to put Barnes in the starting rotation after right-handed starter Chad Thompson was placed on the seven-day disabled list. His decision would prove to be a very intriguing one, as Barnes has now proven over his past three starts that he has some strengths to his game and that he could be an under-the-radar prospect worth watching next season.
I had the chance to see the first of his past three starts on July 23 and have been able to break down his other starts thanks to MiLB.TV. The following is my own scouting report on Barnes.
Body (6-2, 230): A power-pitcher’s frame with a bit more weight to him than other pitchers his height, Barnes has a strong, almost stocky build to him. Not an above-average athlete but is solid in that respect. Has good coordination with controlled body movements, nothing out of the ordinary in terms of his physical tools.
Delivery/Mechanics: Slow and calculated, Barnes’ delivery from the windup is smooth and lacks any noticeable quirk or hitch. Working over the top, he is able to repeat his delivery well; arm slots are duplicated well and release points are consistent. Working on a downward plane and throwing body weight into his pitches, Barnes’ delivery has some effort to it.
Fastball (FB) Velocity (Wind-up): High — 93, Low — 88, Average — 92-90, Grade — 40/45
Fastball (FB) Velocity (Stretch): High — 92, Low — 88, Average — 91-88, Grade — 40/45
Fastball (FB) Movement: Not a whole lot of movement to speak of. Barnes’ four-seamer is extremely flat and doesn’t have much life on it. Can occasionally flash a trace of arm-side run but not enough to the extent of which it should be considered even fringe-average. Grade — 35/40.
Overall Fastball: Lacking any plus-average feature to it, Barnes’ fastball should probably be considered below fringe-average at this juncture. The pitch is extremely flat and lacks any type of run or dive to it, and when he can’t spot it effectively, batters have a natural tendency to hit line drives off it. Can over-use it too much in many situations, doesn’t look to have much projection left on it, either. Grade — 40/45.
Curveball (CU): Doesn’t use the pitch a whole lot and command can be rather spotty as a consequence. Has decent 12-to-5 break to it from the batter’s perspective with very little horizontal movement. Seems as though he could put some more spin on it and generate the “falling off the table” effect with more coaching, as right now it shows more of an immediate bend rather than a delayed one. Will need to refine his command of the pitch before he intends on reaching the upper minors. Grade — 35/45.
Control: Showed very good control in rookie ball last year, walking just under two batters per nine innings pitched. Has run into some control issues this season but is generally always around the plate. Seems to have more control of his offerings out of the stretch than from the windup. Grade — 45/50.
Command: If there’s one big asset to Barnes’ game, it would be the command he has of his fastball. While his curveball lags behind in terms of movement and placement, he’s shown to be able to spot his four-seamer with a ton of consistency; probably a product of his sound mechanics and the fact that he doesn’t overthrow.
Summation: Having just two pitches that he throws with any consistency at this juncture of his career, it will be difficult for scouts to label Barnes as anything more than a solid right-handed relief specialist in a best-case scenario. While he has solid-average command of his four-seamer, it’s still very hittable due to the fact that it lacks life and movement. Add in that his curveball is still below-average right now, and it looks as though he may not break through to the big leagues until his late 20s. From there, my best guess is that he could be that aforementioned middle-inning right-handed specialist out of the bullpen.
Future: His stay in rookie ball was brief, but all signs point to him remaining in the low minors for a while.
— Alec Dopp