According to Mike Vassallo, senior director of media relations for the Brewers, infielder Taylor Green and right-handed pitcher Mark Rogers have officially been placed on the 15-day disabled list. Green suffered a left hip labral injury on Friday, Mar. 22. Rogers has battled through shoulder instability with his throwing arm this spring.
Brewers assistant general manager Gord Ash told Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that they “don’t expect surgery and hopefully he can strengthen this and get back on the field,” about Green earlier today. “When he is ready he will start his rehab here in Phoenix and move on to (Class AAA) Nashville when ready.”
Green, 26, holds true to a .139/.244/.222 slash line over 15 games (41 PA) for Milwaukee this spring. Rogers, 27, has allowed seven earned runs to cross home over nine innings — four starts — this spring, which includes dishing out 12 walks to just three strikeouts.
UPDATE 3/26, 4:00 PM: The Brewers have announced the signing of shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt this afternoon. The veteran shortstop had been a part of the Phillies’ roster this spring but opted out of the minor league deal he had been under. Monetary figures and length of the contract have not yet been released.
Betancourt, 31, appeared in just 57 games for the Royals last season. He posted a .228/.256/.400 line in 228 plate appearances, yielding a .280 wOBA and 73 wRC+. With Jean Segura holding down the starting job at shortstop and Alex Gonzalez willing and able to fill in if need be, Betancourt will likely serve as a utility infielder off the bench.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
For the better part of the last decade, the Milwaukee Brewers have prided themselves in their outstanding scouting, drafting, and development of young players from minor-league amateurs to MLB talent. Ryan Braun, Rickie Weeks, Corey Hart and, yes, even Prince Fielder (to name a few) are quintessential examples of that efficiency.
Last winter, however, GM Doug Melvin dealt a number of top-tier minor league prospects to furnish deals that would send Zack Greinke and Shaun Marcum to Milwaukee. Though largely successful, the transactions would recede the level of talent in Milwaukee’s minor league system, sparing a handful of pertinent players down on the farm.
Which remaining youngsters have the best opportunity for success in the near future? Let’s take an early look at Milwaukee’s top 15 prospects heading into 2012.
Honorable Mention: RHP Santo Manzanillo
Manzanillo signed with the Brewers as a non-draft pick back in 2005, but has only begun to find his stride down in the minors.
The young power-righthander put together a nice 2011 campaign between high class-A Brevard County and double-A Huntsville. He worked 61.2 innings and posted a combined 1.75 ERA, distinctly in a reliever/closer role. He also punched out 62 in that same time-frame.
He’s been able to find the most success with his upper-90s fastball thus far. If he’s able to stay within himself as far as his command goes, he’ll only continue to work his way through the system.
Dishonorable Mention: RHP Mark Rogers
No matter how disappointing or enigmatic his short-lived career has been up to this point, it would be an outrage not to mention the 25-year-old former prodigy.
Drafted fresh out of high school as the fifth-overall pick in 2004, Rogers was expected to be the next best thing since sliced bread for the Brewers, but quickly found out his arm wasn’t quite ready for prime-time. Suffering a shoulder injury in 2006, Rogers injured his right shoulder and underwent surgery to repair a torn labrum.
He would not pitch until three years later, where in 2009 he would go 1-3 with a 1.67 ERA, 67 SO in 64.2 IP. His 2010, arguably his best, Rogers went 6-8 with a 3.71 ERA while garnering 111 SO in 111.2 IP, prompting a mid-season call-up, where the youngster made his first start as a Brewer.
Then, last March, the right-hander was suspended for 25 games for testing positive for a stimulant. He probably still has a future with the organization, but this certainly isn’t the way we all foresaw it transpiring.
Selected by Milwaukee at 49th overall back in 2009, the lanky right-hander made a solid impression on the organization back in 2010, going a combined 10-6 with a 2.98 ERA between single-A and class-A advanced ball.
Coming off his stellar showing, Baseball America ranked Heckathorn as Milwaukee’s ninth-best overall prospect heading into 2011. He wouldn’t live up to expectations, however, going a lackluster 5-10 with a 4.97 ERA while punching out just 89 in 22 starts.
While there’s no questioning his skill-set, the 23-year-old has yet to strut his best stuff with consistency. The youngster will have that opportunity next spring with double-A Huntsville.
15. RHP Jimmy Nelson
Coming into 2011, the 6’6″, 235-pound power right-hander was ranked as Milwaukee’s eighth overall prospect by Baseball America — and for good reason.
In his first minor league go-around with, Nelson went 2-0 with a 3.71 ERA while punching out 33 in just 26.2 innings of work as a member of the Brewers’ rookie club in Helena. As a starter, the University of Alabama product would go 8-9 with a 4.38 ERA, 120 SO and 146.0 IP in 25 starts with single-A Wisconsin.
He features a four-seam fastball that tops out in the mid-90s with a sinker, along with a slider and developing changeup. Look for him to start with class-A advanced Brevard County in 2012.
14. RHP Austin Ross
Another productive pitcher taken by the Brewers back in 2010, Ross has gone relatively unknown around Milwaukee. That may be about to change.
In five starts with Milwaukee’s rookie club in Helena, the 23-year-old went 2-1 with a 2.70 ERA, 52 SO and walked just six in 46.2 innings of work. He also held the opposition to a .246 BA and allowed just one home run during those starts. Yet, like so many other young pitchers, Ross’ production tapered a bit as he moved up, posting a combined 5.28 ERA and striking out 114 in 133.0 IP between class-A Wisconsin and class-A advanced Brevard County.
By no means is Ross a power pitcher that will strike out a lofty number of batters. However, he’s able to limit mistakes — he conceded just a 1.13 HR/9 in 13 class-A advanced starts last season — making him a near lock to be promoted to Milwaukee within the next few seasons.
There’s no doubting the 24-year-old righty is on the cusp of being a call-up for Milwaukee in the very near future, but his poor execution has led to him dropping out of our top 10.
Signed by the Brewers back in 2005, Rivas has put together a number of splendid minor-league campaigns, most notably in 2010, going 11-6 with a 3.37 ERA and 114 SO in 141.2 IP with double-A Huntsville.
Invited to spring training prior to last season, the youngster had his sights set on another noble effort with triple-A Nashville in 2011. That was not the case, going 7-12 with a less-than-impressive 4.72 ERA in 28 starts. He has the stuff to be a potential No.4 starter for Milwaukee, but he’ll need to put together a complete minor league season before that becomes a reality.
12. LHP Dan Meadows
“Unheralded” doesn’t even begin to describe this 24-year-old southpaw.
A 49th-round selection out of Temple Texas College in 2008, Meadows’ 6’6″, 223-pound frame initially classified him as a future starter in the big-leagues.
Going 13-6 with a 4.07 ERA and 108 SO in his second minor league season in class-A ball, Meadows established himself as a real workhorse in the making. The very next year, his label would change drastically.
Promoted to class-A advanced Brevard County, Meadows registered 2.86 ERA, 92 SO and a .221 BAA in 91.1 IP (42 games) in 2010, strictly in a relief role. He would be called-up to double-A Huntsville to start his 2011 campaign, where he would go 6-2 with a gaudy 1.51 ERA while holding batters to a .185 BAA, evoking yet another promotion to triple-A Nashville later that year.
11. 2B Eric Farris
Calling the 25-year-old Farris “fleet-of-foot” would be a bit of an understatement.
In just five seasons in Milwaukee’s system, the former fourth-round selection out of Loyola Marymount has ripened into a true barn-burner on the basepaths, stockpiling a Brewers record 70 stolen bases in 2009, a year he also batted .298 with 7 HR and 49 RBI.
Like so many other speedsters before him, though, Farris truly lacks power at the plate. The youngster maintained a .792 OPS during his lone year in rookie ball in 2007, but has seen a gradual decrease in OPS ever since.
We had him ranked higher in our preseason rankings last March, but after a pedestrian 2011 campaign with triple-A Nashville (.271 BA, 6 HR, 55 RBI, .689 OPS), Farris will have to prove himself capable once more in 2012.
One of the few classic power-hitters remaining in Milwaukee’s system, Gindl has yet to disappoint in five minor-league seasons.
His inaugural rookie season with the Brewers’ rookie club in Helena, the then 19-year-old outfielder batted .372 with 5 HR and 42 RBI, including a 1.000 OPS in 55 total games (207 AB). His outstanding production was enough for him to be named a Baseball America Rookie All-Star.
Since then, he’s only continued to make strides in the organization. Last season, the now 23-year-old amassed 15 HR, 60 RBI, .307 BA and ranked fourth among all Brewers prospects with a .309 OBP.
The only thing that could hold him back from a big-league promotion is Milwaukee’s lack for talent in the outfield. However, if he continues to generate runs at such a rapid pace, management may have no other choice than to bring him up for an audition.
9. RHP Cody Scarpetta
Blazing his way through rookie ball (2-0, 2.23 ERA, 58 SO) in 2008, Milwaukee’s 11th-round selection back in 2007 seemed intent on making a serious impact in the organization early on.
The very next year, the young Scarpetta worked his way from single-A ball to double-A Hunstville, posting a combined 3.52 ERA while striking out 116 in just 105.0 innings of work. However, the 6’3″, 244-pounder has since gained a reputation of poor command, ultimately leading to punching out just 98 batters in 117.0 innings of work last season in double-A Huntsville.
Despite all the negativity surrounding the youngster, he still has a boatload of potential in the big leauges. A number three spot in Milwaukee’s rotation in 2014 could be in the works if he gets his act together.
8. RHP Mike Fiers
One of the older prospects you’ll ever see — he’s currently 26 years old — Fiers has been an absolute gem in Milwaukee system in each of the past two seasons.
In just his second year in the minors, Fiers attained a 5-9 combined record, 3.53 ERA and 130 SO in 125.0 IP between class-A advanced Brevard County and double-A Huntsville in 2010. This past season, he persevered, going 13-3 with a staggering 1.86 ERA along with striking out 132 in 126.0 innings of work in double-A ball and triple-A Nashville.
He would later be named Milwaukee’s top minor-league pitcher of 2011, and subsequently found himself in a Brewers uniform mid September.
You know your farm system is dry when a player who has yet to make a minor-league start is a top-ten prospect. But that’s exactly the position the Brewers find themselves in.
Bradley, taken with the 15th overall pick in last summer’s 2011 draft, is currently polishing his exceptionally raw game in the MLB Arizona Fall League, where though over three weeks of baseball, has pitched but 2.0 innings.
Nevertheless, his talent and tremendous upside makes him a top-ten prospect by Milwaukee’s standards. Last season with Georgia Tech, the youngster went 7-3 with a 3.49 ERA, struck out 106 and allowed just one home run in 16 starts. Expect him to be pitching with Milwaukee’s rookie club in Helena next spring.
6. RHP Taylor Jungmann
Whatd’ya know, another first-round draft pick from last June’s draft cracks Milwaukee’s top-ten preseason prospect rankings.
The recipient of the 25th annual Dick Howser Award — an award handed out to college baseball’s player of the year — in July, the 6’6″, 220-pound Jungmann has been a portrait of success at the collegiate level. Chances are he’s well on his way toward stardom with the Brewers, as well. Last season, the lanky right-hander went 13-3 with an insane 1.60 ERA, 126 SO in 141.0 IP. He held opponents to a .165 BA, and an otherworldly 0.214 BABIP.
Jungmann signed a $2.525 Million deal with Milwaukee back in mid August. Like Bradley, he’s likely to be designated to the Brewers’ rookie club in Helena next spring.
One of my personal favorites, Ryan “Scooter” Gennett is, unlike many prospects in the system, on the virtual fast-track to the majors. The Florida State product has been nothing short of a sensation in just two full seasons in the minors.
In 2010, the speedy second-baseman batted .309 with 9 HR, 55 RBI, scored 87 runs and stole 14 bases in 118 games with class-A Wisconsin. The very next year, he progressed to class-A advanced Brevard County, amassing a .300 BA, 9 HR, 51 RBI and 11 SB.
This offseason, he’s lighting up opposing pitching in the Arizona Fall League, where through 13 games, he’s batting .357 wih 2 HR and 8 RBI, with a .946 OPS. Talk around the organization estimates he could push to be the full-time starting second baseman as soon as 2014.
4. CF Logan Schafer
An athletically capable outfielder by nature, the 25-year-old Schafer has been bustling his way through the system since his rookie season in 2008, where he batted .272 with 2 HR and 28 RBI in Helena.
He started his 2009 campaign in class-A advanced ball, and would really burst onto the scene shortly thereafter, batting .308 to go with 6 HR and 58 RBI.
A groin injury in spring training shattered his hopes for a productive 2010 season, but he would recover handsomely, amassing 5 HR, 43 RBI and a .315 BA between class-A advanced, double-A and triple-A this past season. His performance would be enough for a September call-up last season, but was specifically limited to a pinch-hitting/running role.
Depending on how management handles their depth chart in center-field, Schafer could be in a starting role by 2013. He’s presently sharpening his skill-set with the Peoria Javelinas in the Arizona Fall League.
Through just one and a half years in the low minors, the 5’11”, 185-pound Thornburg is already drawing comparisons to Tim Lincecum. Its easy to see why.
Milwaukee’s lone third-round pick in the 2010 draft, Thornburg went 1-0 with a gaudy 1.93 ERA, amassing 38 SO in just 23.1 innings of work while holding opponents to a .179 BA with Helena in 2010. He started his 2011 campaign in single-A ball, going 7-0 with a 1.57 ERA, including 76 SO in just 68.2 innings.
Promoted to class-A advanced Brevard County at mid-season, Thornburg went 3-6, but still managed a 3.57 ERA and a .186 BAA. His stature will raise question marks regarding his durability and stamina, but, for now, he looks the part of a future ace.
2. 3B Taylor Green
Working his way up through the ranks of the unknown for quite some time, Green has manifested his big-league potential in admirable fashion, being named Milwaukee’s top minor-league hitter of 2011.
Last season, Green led all Brewers prospects with a .336 BA, amassed 22 HR, 91 RBI, and an organization-best .412 OBP and .580 SLG in triple-A ball. In brief, 2011 was a suptuous one for the rising star.
A September call-up, Green recorded 10 hits in 37 at-bats in his short stint with Ron Roenicke’s crew. It remains to be seen whether or not he’ll be the opening-day starter in 2012, but he’s nonetheless made an exceptional impression on the club thus far.
Peralta, who signed on as a non-draft pick in 2005 at the ripe age of 16, is unquestionably Milwaukee’s top talent down on the farm and will be bound for the majors in the very near future.
His first two seasons in rookie ball were forgettable, but the young right-hander would really start materialize into a top prospect in 2009, where he went 4-4, maintained a 3.47 ERA and, most notably, struck out 118 in 103.2 IP in low-A ball.
In 2010, he went a combined 8-6 with a 3.79 ERA between class-A advanced and double-A, but witnessed his prominent K/BB ratio drop from 2.6:1 in 2009 to 1.6:1. He then took his talents to triple-A Nashville toward the end of 2011, where he would go 2-0 with a 2.03 ERA while garnering 40 strikeouts in just 31.0 innings, also holding opponents to a .193 BA.
There were rumblings about the 22-year-old being promoted to the majors last September, but that obviously didn’t happen. You can count on the youngster making his Brewer debut sometime in 2012, and there’s an outside chance he’ll be on the opening-day roster this March.
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Fully realizing that much of Milwaukee Brewers fans’ attention is fixated on the heroics of Ryan Braun and company, I’ll make this as simple and to-the-point as possible.
September call-ups Taylor Green, Jordan Schaefer and Michael Fiers have been able to become acclimated with the major-league pace during this historic month of September. Odds are they’ll likely take on a whole new role within Ron Roenicke’s lineup, possibly as soon as next season, with a number of contract dilemmas looming for Doug Melvin and company to deal with this offseason.
Let’s take a look at five prospects we can’t wait to see in 2012.
Mat Gamel, 1B
The 27-year-old Gamel has played, up to this point, his entire career in Milwaukee’s minor-league system, excluding his short-lived stint with the club back in the 2008 season. While this may not be appealing to Brewers fans, seen as how Prince Fielder’s exit will leave a colossal hole in Roenicke’s lineup, we should have confidence with what he brings to the table. His left-handed bat will be an ideal replacement for Fielder next season and into the future. Granted, he’ll need to clean up his rather sloppy defensive habits, however there’s no questioning his raw talent and aptitude at the next-level. A quick fact-check for all Gamel doubters: Since his first full minor-league season in the Brewers’ system way back in 2005, Gamel has registered 105 HR, 503 RBI, has a .304 BA while maintaining a .873 OPS. He won’t be anything close to what Fielder has been, but he’ll be good enough.
Wily Peralta, RHP
If there was one surefire September call-up bound to come to fruition last month, it would’ve certainly been Peralta. Finishing 2011 with a combined 3.17 ERA between AA-Hunstville and AAA-Nashville, Peralta, if nothing else, would have been a solid addition to add depth to Milwaukee’s bullpen for the strech run toward the postseason. Yet, for whatever reason, that largely anticipated call-up never happened — leaving us all scratching our heads in amazement. Nevertheless, expect to see the 22-year-old Peralta in a Brewers uniform by the end of 2012. With a number of discouraging contract situations looming, such as LaTroy Hawkins, you could make the case for the young right-hander to be in the bullpen on opening day.
Taylor Green, 3B
Unlike many top-tier prospects that have emerged from Milwaukee’s farm system in year’s past, Green has taken a much more unconventional route to the majors in that he has remained relatively unheard of by most Brewers fans. Spending five surprisingly productive seasons in the minors, Green has suddenly vaulted himself into a part-time role, with a full-time role potentially waiting for him in 2012. All Green has managed to do in his six minor league seasons is amass 71 home runs, 402 RBI, 142 doubles and maintain a .831 OPS. If he can transition that success into an everyday role with the Brewers, he’ll have a chance to become a fan-favorite and All-Star candidate in no time.
Michael Fiers, RHP
If you haven’t already heard of him, you might want to change that. The 26-year-old Fiers was recently named Milwaukee’s minor-league 2011 pitcher of the year, holding true to a combined 1.86 ERA with AA-Hunstville and AAA-Nashville. In 10 starts with the Sounds, Fiers went 10-0 with a stifling 1.11 ERA and 69 SO in 64.2 innings of work. His successes in 2011 were enough for the Brewers to bring him up from the minors, making his MLB debut on September 14, where he struck out two while allowing two hits in an inning of relief. Like Peralta, Fiers will more than likely get his shot at Milwaukee’s bullpen by 2012.
Logan Schaefer, OF
Though you’re probably more likely to recognize him from one of Sports Center’s most bizarre plays than for his on-field productivity, we shouldn’t lose sight of what the 25-year-old center fielder brings to the table. His 6’1″, 180-pound frame has enabled him to roam the outfield with great efficiency for three of Milwaukee’s top minor league affiliates in 2011. His bat isn’t half bad, either. Maintaining a .315 BA while accumulating 5 HR, 43 RBI and 16 SB this season, Shaefer was recalled from AAA-Nashville, adding another left-handed bat to Roenicke’s lineup, not to mention add some much-needed speed on the bases. With Nyjer Morgan’s contract situation yet to be handled, Shaefer could potentially be included in Milwaukee’s opening-day depth chart. We’ll have to wait and see.
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Taylor Green hit a go-ahead, three-run homer in the bottom of the seventh inning to power the Nashville Sounds to a 11-10 victory over the visiting Sacramento River Cats in front of 7,975 screaming kids on Tuesday afternoon at Greer Stadium.
With the win, Nashville (14-24) earned a season-split with Sacramento. All four games of the series were decided by one run.
Four Nashville hitters recorded multiple-hit contests in the victory. Outfielder Brett Carroll continued to stay hot against Sacramento, adding his second three-hit performance in the series while scoring three runs. Carroll, Edwin Maysonet and Taylor Green all drove in three runs on the afternoon.
The Sounds sent all nine hitters to the dish in the bottom of the first inning and plated four runs on Sacramento starter Guillermo Moscoso. The River Cats’ right-hander gave up a leadoff double to Eric Farris and walked the bases loaded before allowing a two-run single to Carroll. Moscoso then balked to put both runners in scoring position before allowing another two-run single to catcher George Kottaras.
Sacramento plated two runs to trim the Nashville lead to 4-2 in the next frame, all with two outs. Josh Butler surrendered a solo homer to catcher Josh Donaldson, his third of the season. Three batters later, the River Cats plated their next run when Jamile Weeks hit an RBI base knock.
The River Cats went ahead 5-4 in the next inning, beginning with Matt Carson hitting his sixth home run just inches above the glove of Jordan Brown in left field. With two outs again in the inning, Sacramento plated two more runs, highlighted by an RBI double from Donaldson and RBI single from Michael Taylor.
Nashville knotted the contest at 5-5 in the next frame. Carroll doubled to left field and later scored when Maysonet knocked a two-out single to right field.
Sacramento scored the last of its run in the top of the six inning, plating five runs to take a 10-5 lead. Outfielder Michael Taylor singled and scored on the ensuing Shane Petersen triple down the left field line. Reliever Jim Henderson came into the contest and allowed Weeks to single home Petersen for the next run. After a walk, Carson belted his second home run of the game, this time a three-run shot over the left field wall.
Nashville went ahead for good in the bottom of the seventh inning, again sending all nine batters to the plate for six runs. Sacramento reliever Jerry Blevins began the inning by hitting Jordan Brown and giving up a double to Brendan Katin, his team-leading 18th extra-base hit of the season. Carroll followed by driving in his third run of the contest with an RBI base hit to right field.
Blevins intentionally walked Kottaras before being replaced by Willie Eyre (3-2), who quickly offered up a base-loaded, two-run single to Maysonet. Green then blasted the first pitch he saw from Eyre over the center field wall and off the clubhouse. Giving Nashville the 11-10 lead, the three-run homer was Green’s fourth of the year and first since April 17.
Both starters took no decisions. Butler gave up a season-high seven runs while scattering 10 hits with two walks in five plus innings. Moscoso lasted three innings for Sacramento, surrendering five runs on six hits with three walks.
Henderson (1-1) backed into the win with two innings. Donovan Hand contributed a scoreless frame while Mark DiFelice converted his fourth save with a perfect ninth.
After an off day on Wednesday, the Sounds travel west to begin an eight-game road trip with the Salt Lake Bees (AAA-Angels) and Tacoma Rainiers (AAA-Mariners) of the Pacific Conference Northern Division, the teams’ only meetings this season. Left-hander Chase Wright (0-3, 7.50) makes the start at 7:35 pm CT on Thursday for Nashville against Salt Lake right-hander Matt Palmer (0-3, 10.67).