Tagged: Jorge Lopez

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

Updating Brewers’ Top 25 Prospects at the 2012 All-Star Break

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.

23. Cody Scarpetta

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.

22. Gregory Hopkins

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.

21. Kyle Heckathorn

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.

19. Kentrail Davis

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

2012 Stats

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.

17. Yadiel Rivera

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

2012 Stats

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.

15. Khris Davis

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.

13. Mitch Haniger

Complete Scouting Report

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.

10. Scooter Gennett

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.

8. Clint Coulter

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.

7. Victor Roache

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.

5. Jimmy Nelson

2012 Stats

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

Complete Scouting Report

2012 Stats

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.

3. Taylor Jungmann

Complete Scouting Report

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.

2. Jed Bradley

Complete Scouting Report

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.

1. Wily Peralta

Complete Scouting Report

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.

Milwaukee Brewers: Bold Predictions for Brewers’ Top 25 Prospects in 2012

The dawn of a new season is almost upon us, and for as much attention as the Brewers will get as opening day draws nearer, there are plenty of reasons to be excited for minor leauge baseball’s 2012 season.  Let’s break down Milwaukee’s top 25 prospects heading into this season with a bold prediction for each player.

25. RHP David Goforth

Relatively unknown throughout the system, David Goforth is a sleeper prospect who could scoot through the system.  Selected in the seventh round of last summer’s draft, scouts have taken notice to his concise two-pitch repertoire composed of a high-90s fastball and plus-average cutter.  He found limited success as a starter in college, but his stuff suggests he should develop into an effective late-inning reliever.  Last season in rookie ball, Goforth appeared in 19 games and posted a 4.43 ERA, struck out 42 in 40.1 innings of work and walked just 10.  If there’s one knock on his game, it’s his command, but that should be cleared up as he moves his way through the system.

Prediction: I like what Goforth has to offer and see him developing into a solid reliever at the big league level.  In regards to this season, though, I think he spends all of 2012 in low-A ball.

24. SS Yadiel Rivera

The Brewers thought they had their shortstop of the future in Alcides Escobar, but since he now resides in Kansas City, there’s suddenly a window of opportunity for 19-year-old Yadiel Rivera.  A ninth-round selection out of Manuela Toro High School in Puerto Rico, Rivera has a tremendous amount of athleticism on the diamond.  Through two professional seasons, the youngster carries an unimpressive .939 fielding percentage but made up for his inconsistencies with a 4.59 range factor.  His bat remains in question after posting a combined .236 BA and .372 slugging percentage between rookie and low-A ball last season.  He’ll also need to cut down on his strikeouts and discipline at the plate moving forward.

Prediction: Clearly, Rivera has a special gift when it comes to playing defense.  His range is ridiculous given his time in the league but his inconsistencies are a question mark also.  I look for him to start 2012 in low-A ball and get promoted to high-A ball by season’s end.

23. UTIL Zelous Wheeler

There’s always a high demand for players who can play multiple positions as the big league level, and Zelous Wheeler fits the bill as being a genuine utility-man for years to come.  Since his rookie season in 2007, Wheeler has bounced his way around the diamond, getting playing time at shortstop, second-base and third base, carrying a .944 fielding percentage and 3.09 range.  He’s been modest with the bat, as well, holding true to a career .271 BA and .408 slugging percentage.  Wheeler’s game and journey to the majors is comparable to former Brewer utility man Jerry Hairston Jr.  He’s got a great passion for the game and has the intangibles managers love.

Prediction: Having spent a considerable amount of time in double-A over the past two years, Wheeler could use some time in triple-A to refine his game, though he’s just about ready to contribute as an off-the-bench type player for the Brewers.  I look for him to start 2012 in triple-A and earn a September call-up this fall.

22. 1B Brock Kjeldgaard

At 26 years old, Brock Kjeldgaard barely qualifies as being a legitimate prospect.  Taken by Milwaukee in the 34th round of the 2005 draft, Kjeldgaard has spent five professional seasons in the system, garnering a reputation for being a true slugger every step of the way.  His career .464 slugging percentage .801 OPS stacks up nicely against the competition.  Last season, Kjeldgaard blasted 24 home runs and 76 RBI to go with a .495 slugging percentage that ranked third best among all prospects in Milwaukee’s system.

Prediction: Though he may have power, I wouldn’t read too much into his future with the organization.  Sure, the Brewers added him to their 40-man roster to start spring training, but I ultimately look for him to spend 2012 in triple-A.

21. RHP Mike Fiers

Another late-bloomer, 26-year-old Mike Fiers has spent just two seasons in the system.  What he’s done in his time in the minors, though, has been truly impressive.  In 290-plus career innings (37 GS), Fiers boasts a 2.50 ERA and 0.98 WHIP, striking out 321 while walking just 73 (4.40 K/BB).  Last year, he went 13-3 with a 1.86 ERA and was named Milwaukee’s minor league pitcher of the year for his efforts.  If he was a couple years younger, we might be talking about a top-caliber prospect.

Prediction: Fiers will come into spring training fully expecting to make the opening day roster, and I think he will do just that.  I look for him to be a key contributor out of the ‘pen for the Brewers all season long.

20. RHP Nick Bucci

An 18th-round draft pick by the Brewers in 2008, Nick Bucci’s career up to this point has been anything but extraordinary.  But after a solid 2011 season in high-A Brevard County where he went 8-11 with a 3.84 ERA, things could be looking up for the youngster.  After struggling with command issues that led to an abysmal 5.07 BB/9 IP in 2010, Bucci recovered in 2011, lowering his his BB/9 IP to a wholesome 3.06.  While his ERA will need to be lowered a tad in the coming season, there’s no doubt Bucci has quality stuff.  His fastball tops out anywhere from 89-93 MPH and often flashes a plus-average curveball that could present itself as a real weapon in the coming years.

Prediction: The way I and many scouts see it, Bucci has the makings of a quality relief pitcher at the major league level, though that could still be a ways off at this point.  He has the ideal frame to be a solid arm out of the bullpen and has a slightly plus-average fastball that should serve him well.  I predict Bucci to come out the gates strong to start this season and eventually find his way to triple-A.

19. LHP Dan Meadows

The Brewers are markedly devoid of talented left-handed pitching down on the farm, but Dan Meadows has a decent chance to break through to the majors sometime in the near future.  At 24 years old, Meadows has four seasons of professional ball under his belt and has performed well in each.  In 2009, he started 11 games for low-A Wisconsin and went 13-6 with a 4.01 ERA, showing the ability to be an innings-eater as a starter though he really shined in his role as a middle-innings reliever.  Last season in triple-A, Meadows pitched 35.2 innings, striking out 35 while holding batters to a .248 BA.  He’s flashed solid control throughout his career and is able to make up for his lack of velocity with a lethal slider, his go-to pitch in tough jams.

Prediction: It’s already a given that Meadows will start in triple-A, though what he does in his time there will determine how fast he reaches the majors.  I look for him to spend all of 2012 down in Nashville to prime himself for a promotion in 2013.

18. RHP Santo Manzanillo

Santo Manzanillo found his way into the system as a non-draft pick free agent in 2006, but has only recently tapped into his capabilities as a premium reliever.  Last season, the 6’0″, 190-pounder made his way through high-A Brevard County as well as double-A Huntsville, garnering a combined 1.75 ERA with 62 strikeouts (9.0 K/9 IP), 1.14 WHIP and .194 BAA.  Manzanillo has a plus-fastball that has allowed him to materialize into one of the Brewers’ top strikeouts prospects, topping out at 99 and regularly sitting in the 94-97 range.  If he’s able to limit batters in the fashion he’s shown thus far, he could be placed on the fast-track to reach the majors sometime in 2013.

Prediction: After separating his right shoulder in a car accident last December, the Brewers will obviously err on the side of caution with Manzanillo moving forward.  With that in mind, I think he spends his entire 2012 campaign in double-A.

17. RHP Kyle Heckathorn

Once upon a time, Kyle Heckathorn was arguably Milwaukee’s top evolving starter and looked to push for the big leagues by 2013.  In 2010, the big right-hander was awarded as the Brewers’ top pitching prospect in the entire system, going 10-6 with a 2.98 ERA and walking just 33 batters in 124 innings between low-A and high-A ball.  His success curtailed in 2011, though, posting an unsightly 7.18 ERA in seven starts in double-A.  While there’s certainly some cause for concern after such an abhorrent preview to double-A ball, we must not forget what Heckathorn brings to the table.  At 6’6″, 225 pounds, Heckathorn has the physical makings of a mid-rotation innings-eater at the big league level.  His fastball ranges anywhere from 97-93 MPH and he also features a hard slider and changeup that has, at times, garnered a considerable amount of attention from scouts.

Prediction: I tend to be a bit more optimistic about Heckathorn than many scouts.  His physical makeup screams future starter at the big league level.  I expect him to re-dedicate himself and eventually move his way up to triple-A before the end of next season.

16. CF, RF Kentrail Davis

Admittedly, watching Kentrail Davis play is a bit aggravating.  While has the speed, plate discipline, and physical makeup that would allow him to be an excellent leadoff hitter at the major league level, he has yet to develop and tap-into his power potential at the plate, one of the prevailing reasons why he has yet to break through to the upper minors.  Last season at high-A Brevard County, Davis batted .245 with eight home runs, 46 RBI, 76 runs scored while also notching 33 stolen bases.  He only managed a .317 on-base percentage and .361 slugging percentage, though, making it rather apparent that he still has a while to develop.

Prediction: This will be a defining year for Davis in his quest for the majors.  He’s now spent two seasons in high-A ball and is still looking for a promotion double-A.  After a solid showing at the Arizona Fall League, I think he starts 2012 in high-A and merits an early promotion, spending the remainder of his season in double-A Huntsville.

15. RHP Austin Ross

One of the key elements from the Brewers’ exceptionally successful 2010 draft, Austin Ross has the makings of a solid back-of-the-rotation starter at the major league level.  After a solid rookie campaign in Helena, Ross worked his way through the lower-portion of the system in 2011.  Going 10-7 with a 5.28 ERA in 25 starts between low-A and high-A ball, he’s shown to be ready to break through to double-A in the very near future, and it wouldn’t surprise me if he’s promoted early on in 2012.  Unlike most of the pitchers featured on this list, Ross’ game is predicated on working his way around batters with above-average control as well as his ability to limit his mistakes.  I like what he has to offer and find his game comparable to Jeff Suppan.

Prediction: The fact that Ross is already on the cusp of breaking through to double-A ball after just two professional seasons speaks volumes to his game.  I look for him to start 2012 in high-A ball but quickly get promoted to double-A.

14. RHP Amaury Rivas

At this stage of his once very promising career, Amaury Rivas barely qualifies as a prospect.  He’s now 26 years old and has just stumbled his way through the system thus far.  Signing as a non-draft pick back in 2005, Rivas’ game was a pedestrian as you can imagine.  However, after a promotion to high-A ball in 2009, his production took off, going 13-7 with a 2.98 ERA, 123 strikeouts (8.3 K/9 IP) and .218 BAA.  Last season in triple-A ball, Rivas went 7-12 with a repulsive 4.72 ERA.  However, that was the least of his worries, as he managed to strike out just 16 percent of his batters, which was at one point one of the staples to his game.  He should probably be higher on this list, but such an ugly 2011 campaign has reignited my doubts about his future.

Prediction: In my mind, 2012 will prove to be either Rivas’ breakout year to the majors or the year he puts himself in the same category as Mark Rogers as being an utter disappointment.  Unfortunately, I just don’t see him getting out of triple-A this year; possibly a September call-up with minimal opportunities at best.

13. 2B Eric Farris

Just two years ago, Eric Farris was the toast of the entire Brewers organization.  Hoarding an unprecedented 70 stolen bases in just 124 games at high-A Brevard County, he was seemingly on the cusp of breaking through to the majors after just his third minor league season.  However, knee injury early in 2010 derailed his momentum, setting him back a few years as management continues to err on the side of caution.  Last year at triple-A, Farris got back into the swing of things and managed a .271 BA with six home runs, 55 RBI, 70 runs scored and 21 stolen bases.  He’ll turn 26 in March, and his time in the minors would be well past him if not for Rickie Weeks holding things down at second base.

Prediction: In almost any other farm system, Farris would be considered a top prospect — and deservedly so.  His speed is overwhelming and, as I see it, will manifest itself in the form of a September call-up next fall.

12. RHP Cody Scarpetta

There have been few prospects that have come through Milwaukee’s system with as much upside as Cody Scarpetta.  An 11th round draft pick in 2007, he’s posted some truly impressive numbers thus far in his professional career.  In high-A ball in 2010, Scarpetta went the distance by administering 128 innings with a 3.87 ERA, striking out 142 (10 K/9 IP) while holding batters to a .241 BA.  Thanks to a fastball that ranges from 90-94 MPH with what many scouts deem the system’s best curveball, Scarpetta has tremendous strikeout abilities.  His command is in question, though, as his SO/BB ratio fell to an abysmal 1.61 last year in double-A.

Prediction: Scarpetta’s prowess on the mound was supposed to make him a top-tier prospect a few years back.  His production has diminished, clearly, but I still see a ton of potential.  I look for him to start 2012 in double-A and ultimately reach triple-A sometime in mid-summer.

11. 1B Hunter Morris

With Prince Fielder gone, there’s never been a better time to be a first-base prospect in the Brewers’ system.  Consequently, things could (and will) be looking up for Hunter Morris.  In just two professional seasons, Morris has managed to tear his way through the system thanks in large part to his undeniable amount of power.  The Auburn product lit up opposing pitching in high-A ball early on in 2011 to the tune of 20 home runs, 69 RBI and a .461 slugging percentage, prompting a late-season promotion to double-A ball.  It should be interesting to see how Morris’ game translates to the upper levels of the minors, as pitching will become much more polished.

Prediction: If Mat Gamel struggles to replace Fielder this season, I think management will push Morris up to triple-A by the end of 2012.  Regardless, I look for him to end up in triple-A at season’s end.

10. RF 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.

Prediction: Gindl will come into spring training with a legitimate chance at making the opening-day 25-man roster.  And though nothing is for certain even in early February, I expect him to start his 2012 campaign in triple-A and wind up as a September call-up.

9. RHP Jorge Lopez

The Brewers were hell-bent on stockpiling young arms in last summer’s draft, and they managed to nab Jorge Lopez in the second-round.  He was the top rated prospect coming out of Puerto Rico and Milwaukee certainly liked what the youngster has to offer.  At 6’4″, 165 pounds, the 18-year-old right-hander has the size to be a durable mid-rotation starter at the big league level, though there’s no doubting he’ll need to pack on some strength as he moves his way through the organization.  His fastball tops out at the mid to low 90s and has a curveball that may develop into a plus-pitch.  Lopez does have command issues but that should be clear up in a timely fashion.  Last year in rookie ball he started four games and garnered a 2.25 ERA, striking out 10 and walking three in 12 innings.

Prediction: From what I’ve gathered, scouts are surprisingly high on Lopez and I anticipate him moving through the system swiftly.  I’ve had limited opportunities to watch highlights of his game, but when I’ve been able to break down his stuff, I think he’s got a tremendous amount of potential.  That said, I think he winds up in low-A ball for the entirety of 2012.

8. RHP Jimmy Nelson

Ever wondered what scouts mean by the “ideal frame” when talking about young pitchers?  One look at Jimmy Nelson will explain everything.  One of the cornerstone’s to Milwaukee’s 2010 draft, Nelson weighs in at 6’6″, 245 pounds and uses every ounce of his prototypical frame to his advantage.  He features a mid-90s four-seam fastball and a slider that’s arguably the best in the system, as well as a solid changeup that’s improved leaps and bounds over the past year.  Nelson spent his entire 2011 campaign in low-A ball, going 8-9 with a 4.38 ERA, 120 strikeouts in 146 innings.  He stumbled with walks, managing a 1.85 SO/BB ratio, however he held batters to a .260 BA.

Prediction:   It remains to be seen where he’ll start 2012, but my gut feeling tells me he’ll stay put.  Having said that, though, I have great confidence in Nelson to move his way up to double-A ball by the end of 2012, as he’s simply one of the most surefire pitching prospects the Brewers have seen in a while.

7. CF Logan Schafer

At 25 years old, Logan Scafer has been knocking on door to the majors for a while now.  And with Milwaukee’s current outfield situation, now will be his time to make an impression on the organization.  Drafted by the Brewers back in 2008, Schafer has proved to be the closest there is to a five-tool player in the system.  Last season, he batted .315 with five home runs, 43 RBI, 66 runs scored and 16 stolen bases.  He’s been a defensive wiz in the outfield, garnering a career .988 fielding percentage while commiting just seven errors.  Schafer’s capabilities merited a September call-up last fall, though he remained solely an off-the-bench player and was only allowed three plate appearances.

Prediction: Ryan Braun’s absence presents a perfect situation for Schafer to strut his stuff early on this season.  If he can impress Ron Roenicke during spring training, I think he could get a considerable amount of playing time.

6. 2B Scooter Gennett

Smaller players will always be subject to great amounts of skepticism, but Scooter Gennett has been able to prove his doubters wrong up to this point in his career.  In his first two professional seasons, the 21-year-old Florida State product has averaged a .304 BA, nine home runs, 53 RBI, 13 stolen bases and 81 runs scored per season through low-A and high-A ball. And while his stature would lead you to believe otherwise, he does have gap power, managing 59 total doubles and a .433 slugging percentage.  Originally drafted as a shortstop, Gennett now resides at second base, where he does have work to do, garnering a career .964 fielding percentage.

Prediction: Coming off a stellar Arizona Fall League showcase, Gennett’s stock is currently soaring.  Nevertheless, I still expect him to start 2012 in high-A ball and make the hardest jump to double-A ball sometime in June.

5. 3B Taylor Green

Taylor Green was one of the best hitters in the minors leagues last season, and there’s really not much more you need to know than that.  In 120 games at the triple-A level, Green dominated the Pacific Coast league to the tune of a .336 BA, 22 home runs and 88 RBI.  He led the organization in BA, on-base percentage (.412) and slugging percentage (.580), and was named the Brewers’ top positional prospect for 2011.  Thanks to Casey McGehee’s struggles, Green earned a September call-up last fall and found his way onto the field, amassing 10 hits in 37 at-bats during his time with the Brewers.

Prediction: The signing of Aramis Ramirez doesn’t bode well for Green, who was hoping for a shot at the starting position coming into the offseason.  I look for him to become an off-the-bench type player in his first full season with Milwaukee.

4. RHP Tyler Thornburg

In a farm system devoid of top-tier pitching talent, Tyler Thornburg has transformed into the complete pitcher the Brewers recognized when they took him 96th overall in the 2010 draft.  In his first two professional seasons, Thornburg has been a strikeout machine, punching out 198 batters in 160 innings, enough for a rather impressive 11.1 K/9 ratio.  He can run his fastball up to the mid-90s and has a curveball that has developed into his strikeout pitch.  Last season at high-A Brevard County, he went 3-6 with a 3.57 ERA and 1.14 WHIP.  However, what’s most impressive is how he held batters to a remarkable .186 BA and .256 BABIP.

Prediction: In my eyes, Thornburg is in for a huge year.  He’s already proven to be competent at just about every facet of his craft, and he’s now ready to sprint through the system.  If he can cut down his walks — as I expect him to — I see him pushing for triple-A by season’s end.

3. LHP Jed Bradley

Jed Bradley was high on many teams’ draft boards last June, and needless to say, the Brewers were ecstatic that the exemplary left-hander fell to them at 15th overall.  In his junior season at Georgia Tech, Bradley went 7-3 with a 3.49 ERA, striking out 106 batters in just 98 innings.  He also held batters to a feeble .239 BA and, believe it or not, conceded just one home run to the opposition all season.  The 21-year-old southpaw has three credible pitches at his disposal and uses each to his liking.  He touched 94 MPH with his fastball, 83-84 MPH with his changeup at the Arizona Fall League last fall and also worked on polishing his low 80s slider.  He’s got a fluid throwing motion that needs little to no refinement,

Prediction: Rumor has it that Bradley will start 2012 at high-A Brevard County as he looks to speed through the system in the coming year(s).  I used parentheses because there’s some speculation that says he could see playing time in triple-A this season, though that doesn’t seem likely.  I look for him to strut his stuff at high-A ball and take his talents to double-A late next season.

2. RHP Taylor Jungmann

College baseball’s top player from a season ago will come into spring training with a surplus of hype, and deservedly so.  In his last season at Texas, Taylor Jungmann dominated the Big 12 and the rest of the country to the tune of a 13-3 record, minuscule 1.60 ERA, .165 BAA while striking out 126 batters in 141 innings of work.  He also posted a 0.83 WHIP and allowed just four home runs all season.  When the Brewers took him 12th overall in last June’s draft, it’s safe to say they found they’re ace of the future behind Yovani Gallardo.  Jungmann’s MLB ceiling is incredibly high and as we visited last month, I believe he has the most potential among all Brewers prospects.  His thin yet sustainable body has enabled his fastball to reach the 95-97 MPH range with great command.

Prediction: Word on the street says Jungmann will start 2012 in high-A ball, and all signs are pointing to him racing through the system.  If that’s the case, I think we could see him in double-A by season’s end.

1. RHP Wily Peralta

Wily Peralta’s journey through Milwaukee’s system has been well-documented, signing at the ripe age of 16.  Now at 22 years old and six professional seasons under his belt, he’s ready to contribute at the major league level.  Last season between double-A and triple-A ball, the 6’2″, 240-pound right-hander went a combined 11-7 with a solid 3.17 ERA.  He also struck out 157 in 150.2 innings, holding batters to a .233 BA in the meantime thanks to his mid-90s fastball and plus-average slider and changeup.  Brewers fans have awaited Peralta’s big-league debut for a while now, and all indications are that he’ll be on the opening day roster, most likely contributing out of the bullpen.

Prediction: While Peralta’s minor league days may be behind him, I don’t think we should expect him be a big contributor right out of the gates.  Nevertheless, I look for him to make at least one start for the Brewers by the end of 2012.

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

Top Milwaukee Brewers Prospects in Low Minors for 2012

Brewers outfield prospect Kentrail Davis could be in for a breakthrough season in 2012

Many of Major League Baseball’s top  prospects can be found at or near the top of many club’s minor league affiliates.  Double and Triple-A affiliates generally bear many of the most seasoned young talents down on the farm, and are consequentially much more likely to be promoted to the majors.

While that is largely the case with most organizations, a quantity of less developed prospects dwell in the lower ranks of minor-league systems.  Rookie, single-A and advanced-A affiliates can additionally garner any number of top prospects.  And even though these prospects are typically less tried, they are still of great importance to a major league club’s future.

Here are the Milwaukee Brewers’ top low (class-A, class-A advanced) minor league prospects for 2012.

RHP Jimmy Nelson

A second-round pick back in 2010, Nelson burst onto the scene in impressive fashion.  He posted a 3.71 ERA while striking out 33 in just 12 appearances (26.1 IP) with Helena in rookie ball.  He then followed up his first professional season by being promoted to single-A, where he went 8-9 while accruing a 4.38 ERA in 25 starts.  The power right-hander also managed 120 SO in 146.0 innings to go with an impressive 0.55 HR/9.

With the clear lack of pitching depth in Milwaukee’s system, Nelson has the opportunity to make massive strides next season, and could even make a double-A start by the end of 2012.

Baseball America ranks Nelson as the Brewers’ 10th overall prospect heading into next season, and additionally boasts the best slider among all pitchers in Milwaukee’s system.  I had the opportunity to speak with Nelson back in October.  You can view our entire conversation by clicking here.

RF Kentrail Davis

One of the more athletically gifted prospects in Milwaukee’s system, Davis has an undeniable amount of upside to his game.  He has not, however, proved to be as consistent as most would like to see in the batter’s box.

Taken with the 39th overall pick in 2009, Davis skipped rookie ball and went straight to single-A where he torched opposing pitching to the tune of a .335 BA, 3 HR and 46 RBI. Promoted to class-A advanced, the speedster finished out his 2010 campaign by batting .244 with no home runs and 17 RBI.

Last season, Davis flashed his struggles at the plate, batting just .245 in 132 games with Brevard County. However, his 33 stolen bases and 76 runs scored caught the eyes of many scouts.  He was able to reconcile his past woes at the 2011 Arizona Fall League, batting .325 with 12 RBI and a .429 OBP in 23 games.  If he’s able to carry that momentum into next season, he’ll be in triple-A in no time.

RHP Jorge Lopez

Overshadowed by Milwaukee’s two first-round sensations from last June’s draft — Taylor Jungmann and Jed Bradley –  the 18-year-old Lopez, a third-round pickup, put together an outstanding inaugural season.

In four starts in rookie ball, the third-round selection from last June garnered a 2.25 ERA, struck out 10 and held batters to a .265 BA in 12 innings of work.  Not a particularly rigorous test in his first taste of minor league ball, but it was enough for Baseball America to rank him as Milwaukee’s ninth overall prospect heading into this offseason.

Expect him to start 2012 in single-A and work his way up from there.  He clearly has all the potential in the world, now it’s time to see if he can put it all together in a full season of work

RHP Tyler Thornburg

Thornburg may be the closest there is to a sure thing in Milwaukee’s system — which isn’t saying much — making leaps and bounds down on the farm in less than two complete minor-league seasons.

With Helena back in 2010, the 5’11” 176-pound righty started six games, managing a 1.93 ERA while punching out 38 in 23.1 innings.

Management didn’t hesitate to promote the youngster to class-A at the beginning of last season, and it turned out to be the 23-year-old’s coming-out party. In 12 starts, Thornburg posted a staggering 1.57 ERA while holding batters to a .200 BA, striking out 76 in the meantime.

He struggled somewhat in 12 class-A advanced starts toward the end of last season (3-6, 3.57 ERA, 33 BB), but there’s no questioning his raw talent.  Look for the Tim Lincecum-esque youngster to start next season in class-A advanced and attempt to move up to double-A by the end of the season.

RHP Taylor Jungmann

The Brewers nabbed college baseball’s top player from last season with the 12th overall selection in last June’s draft, and the good news is, he’s ready to make an immediate impact.

Last season, Jungmann cruised to a 13-3 overall record while hoarding a 1.60 ERA, .165 BAA and amassing 126 strikeouts in 141 innings of work with Texas. He’s shown the ability to consistently go deep into games throughout his collegiate career thanks to an outstanding fastball-curve-changeup combination.

There’s an outside chance the 21-year-old sensation could start his 2012 campaign in double-A, but at the very least he’s set to begin his season in class-A advanced ball.  Ideally, the Brewers would like to keep youngster in the minors for no more than three seasons, best-case scenario being a September call-up in 2014.

LHP Jed Bradley

The fact that Bradley has yet to make a professional appearance is already a top prospect speaks volumes about his skill-set.

Last June’s 15th overall selection went 7-3 in 16 starts with Georgia Tech, collecting 106 strikeouts and an outstanding 0.09 HR/9 in 98.0 inning of work. He got some experience under his belt in this fall’s Arizona Fall League but is still extremely raw and will need time to get acclimated with the minor-league pace.  Many expect him to make the transition in a timely fashion.

The Brewers have announced he will start his 2012 campaign in class-A advanced ball.

SS Yadiel Rivera

Not many 19-year-old prospects garner reputations as an organization’s top defensive infielder. Then again, not many prospects are like Rivera.

Drafted fresh out of high school in 2010, Rivera’s exceptional glove aptitude and skill-set were enough for Baseball American to rank the youngster as Milwaukee’s top overall infielder heading into this offseason. Keep in mind he’s spent his entire professional career in rookie and single-A ball.

While his glove is a once-in-a-lifetime asset, his bat has yet to approach its potential.

His debut in 2010 consisted of a .209 BA, no home runs, 22 runs scored and 23 RBI in rookie ball. He followed that up by batting a combined .236, 9 HR, 43 RBI and seven stolen bases between rookie and class-A last season.  Plate discipline will be a stressing point for Rivera moving forward. If he can clean up his act there, we could see him in a Brewer uniform by 2014.

Follow Alec Dopp on Twitter @alecdopp.