On Tuesday, the fate of former Milwaukee Brewers first baseman Prince Fielder was essentially sealed, when news broke over his reported nine-year, $214 Million contract with the Detroit Tigers. The total value of Fielder’s new deal — that will make him a Tiger through 2020 — is said to be the fourth-highest in MLB free-agent history, finishing just behind Albert Pujols’ 10-year, $240 Million offseason deal with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.
While it’s clear that Fielder’s decision not to return to Milwaukee will prove detrimental to the Brewers’ offensive firepower for the prospective future, it should be noted that since Fielder turned down GM Doug Melvin’s arbitration offer last month, the Brewers will receive Detroit’s first-round pick (27th overall) in next June’s draft, as well as compensatory pick sandwiched between the first-round and the second-round.
MLB.com’s Adam McCalvy tweeted earlier today:
Milwaukee had already maintained the 28th overall selection in next summer’s draft, and with Detroit’s pick, they’ll have the unique opportunity to have back-to-back draft picks — an opportunity that should and will not be wasted.
Last June, the Brewers utilized their two first-round selections to pick up Texas RHP Taylor Jungmann at twelfth overall and Georgia Tech LHP Jed Bradley at fifteenth overall, adding much-need young pitching talent to what was arguably Major League Baseball’s worst farm system. Both are highly touted prospects who are expected to skip rookie-ball as well as low-A ball to start their first professional seasons in high-A Brevard County.
So while Fielder’s exit may sting for a while, it shouldn’t take long for Brewers fans to look into the future with great anticipation. Seldom to opportunities to have two first-round draft picks come along, and even fewer chances are there at having back-to-back first-round selections.
Granted, the Brewers do have a ways to go in terms of getting their farm system back on track. However, it’s conceivable that the addition of three more young, reputable pitchers to their system this summer will put the Brewers right back to where they were before selling the farm for Zack Greinke and Shaun Marcum last winter.
Only time will tell how management decides to use their back-to-back selections. Stay tuned to Brewers Rumors in the coming days for potential draft picks this June.
It’s been a rather unpleasant offseason for Milwaukee Brewers left-fielder and 2011 NL MVP Ryan Braun, but if recent indications prove true, it may take a turn for the better.
Last month, news broke over Braun’s positive drug test for a banned substance that earned him a mandatory 50-game suspension to start his 2012 campaign. He has since appealed to the league in order to prove his innocence, but many were skeptical, if not doubtful, over whether or not his case had a legitimate shot of being overturned.
Brewers beat-writer Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel cited earlier today that former ESPN personality Dan Patrick, host of the Dan Patrick radio show, has unearthed from “somebody in the process” that Braun may in fact be an innocent man and that he may indeed be relieved of his suspension.
According to Haudricourt himself:
Patrick said he was told Sunday, again, by “somebody involved in the process” that the MLB test might be at fault and that Braun could be found innocent. The arbitration panel, with independent arbitrator Shyam Das expected to cast the decisive vote, has 25 days to render a verdict but it could come as soon as later this week.
Braun, who officially accepted his National League Most Valuable Player award on Saturday night in front of the Baseball Writers Association of America in New York City, has denied the allegations against him, told USA Today that the charges filed against him were “BS”.
Last season, Braun, along with first-baseman Prince Fielder, shouldered the offensive load for the Brewers to the tune of 33 home runs, 111 RBI and a league-best .994 OPS. He also fell just decimal points behind former Mets shortstop Jose Reyes for the NL batting title.
If found innocent, it will not only clear Braun’s name from the infamous list of players who have failed MLB’s drug-testing policy, but it will give the retooled Brewers an obvious offensive boost toward repeating as NL Central champions in 2012.
Braun’s official appeal took place last Thursday, according to the New York Daily News, but there is no definitive timetable for when an announcement regarding the matter will take place.
In any other off-season, you’d be labeled insane if you believed any player on the Milwaukee Brewers’ roster beyond Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder would have a legitimate shot at taking home the National League’s Most Valuable Player Award.
Then again, this past offseason has been anything but ordinary.
After one of the most forgetful winters in recent memory (Fielder leaving through free-agency and Braun inheriting a 50-game suspension under MLB‘s Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program to start his 2012 campaign) the offensive hierarchy in the Brewers’ lineup has been all but obliterated. This, in turn, will give a number of players an opportunity to make a statement to the franchise and fanbase by leading the team and shoulder the proverbial load to start next season.
But if there’s one player who seems poised to separate himself from the pack, assume the “leader” role of the clubhouse and push for the National League’s Most Valuable Player Award with Braun and Fielder likely out of the picture, you need not look farther than Corey Hart.
At 29 years old (he’ll turn 30 in late March), Hart is widely considered to be one of the better outfield talents in the game today, and he is still very much in the prime of his career as far as production would lead you to believe. Granted, he’s no Albert Pujols by any stretch of the imagination, but there’s something to be said about what Hart has accomplished up to this point in his career.
In four true seasons as a starter (excluding an injury-plagued 2009 campaign), he’s averaged a .283 BA, 25 home runs, 84 RBI, and a .508 slugging percentage per season. Keeping in mind the fact that he’s missed (on average)12 percent of each season do to injury, that’s pretty impressive.
Last season, Hart batted .285 with 26 home runs despite missing all of April due to injury. His 18.92 AB/HR (at-bat per home run) ratio was comparable to Braun’s 17.06 AB/HR, believe it or not, and his .510 slugging percentage ranked fourth among all NL right fielders last season.
Yet his impressive offensive production isn’t where Hart’s game ends, like many of the MVP-caliber players that have come and gone through the years. He also has the ability to be crafty on the base-paths and play solid, if not above-average defense.
In 2008, the year Hart was selected to the All-Star team, he notched 23 stolen bases on his way to a 6.2 SPD (speed score) according to fangraphs, topping 2008 AL MVP Boston Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia’s 5.6 SPD. If not for injury, it’s presumable that Hart would have maintained his success into the seasons following.
Defensively, Hart carries a career .988 fielding percentage and 2.10 range factor. Last season, he committed just two errors on his way to a .992 fielding percentage that ranked fifth among all MLB right-fielders, noticeably better than the likes of Jeff Francoeur and Torii Hunter – two of the most reputable outfield defenders in history.
Seldom do you find a player who excels at every phase of the game quite like Hart (five-tool players aren’t exactly a dime a dozen), and I think that speaks volumes to what he could accomplish in an injury-free season for the Brewers, who even without Braun or Fielder, still have a very capable lineup.
With a healthy start to spring training and the absence of two preeminent sluggers, 2012 may very well turn out to be a breakout, MVP-worthy season for Milwaukee’s 29-year-old right fielder.
Milwaukee Brewers left fielder and 2011 NL MVP winner Ryan Braun officially accepted his Most Valuable Player award last night in front the Baseball Writers Association of America in New York City. Here is a full transcript of what Braun had to say, courtesy of Tom Haudricourt and JSOnline.com:
“Thank, you Mark (Feinsand, the NY BBWAA chapter chairman who introduced him). Before I get started, (Hall of Fame writer) Bob Elliott said he forgot to thank his son, Bob Jr., during his speech and wanted to make sure I did it for him. So, Bob Jr., Bob Elliott truly appreciates you being a great son and supporting him (laughter from audience).
“I’ve really been looking foward to this night for a long time. I first want say thank you to the Baseball Writers Association of America for this incredibly prestigious award. I want to congratulate all of the other award winners and recipients who are here tonight. It’s truly a privilege to be part of this night and be here with all of you guys.
“I want to take a moment to congratulate Matt Kemp, Justin Upton, Prince Fielder, Troy Tulowitzki, Albert Pujols among many others who were also deserving of this award as well. It’s truly an honor for me to be surrounded by so many people in this room who share my deep love and respect for the game of baseball, including those who cover it, all the fans that are here today and all of us who play the game of baseball.
“I’d like to say thank you to the entire Milwaukee Brewers organization for believing in me, for drafting me, for helping to develop me as a baseball player and a person. I specifically want to say thank you to Mark Attanasio and his wife Debbie and their entire ownership group. I want to thank Doug Melvin, Gord Ash and our manager, Ron Roenicke, for all being here tonight and for your incredible support. Thank you, guys.
“I want to thank my teammates and the rest of our coaching staff for putting me in an environment and a position to succeed. For me, tonight is about them and what they have accomplished as much as it is about me. I know that if I didn’t play on an incredible team and I wasn’t a part of a special organization, I wouldn’t be standing here tonight.
“I want to thank my family for their love and support and encouragement. I want to thank them for instilling in me a lot of the values and morals that I live my life by today. I want to thank my dad Joe, my mom Diane, my brother Steve, my grandfather Bob and his wife Liv for all being here tonight and supporting me. I also want to thank my beautiful girlfriend Larisa for being here as well, for being my best friend. I wanted to make sure I didn’t forget you because that would be trouble.
“I want to thank my agency, CAA Sports, Marissa Edler (not sure about that spelling), Terry Prince and my agent, Nez Balelo, for your endless support, for being one of my best friends and for being part of every step of this journey with me. Thank you.
“I also wanted to take a moment to thank the players association for supporting me throughout my career and especially for supporting me through everything I went through over the last couple of months. Thank you, guys.
“Sometimes in life we all deal with challenges we never expected to endure. We have an opportunity to look as those challenges and view them either as obstacles or opportunities. I’ve chosen to view every challenge I’ve ever faced as an opportunity and this will be no different. I’ve always believed that a person’s character is revealed through the way they deal with those moments of adversity.
“I’ve always loved and had so much respect for the game of baseball. Everything I’ve done in my career has been done with that respect and appreciation in mind, and that is why I’m so grateful and humbled to accept this award tonight. Thank you again to everybody and I hope you guys enjoy the rest of your evening.”
At just 42 years old, the Milwaukee Brewers are one of the youngest franchises in all of Major League Baseball. By Chicago Cubs’ standards, they’re still very much in the infancy phase as far as years of experience is concerned.
With only one appearance on the Fall Classic stage — which came as a member of the American League way back in 1982 — the Brewers aren’t known as a terribly successful franchise, truth be told. But that shouldn’t undermine the Hall of Fame-bound talent that the franchise has compassed over the past near half-decade.
Let’s take a look at the top 15 players in Milwaukee Brewers history with a few honorable mentions included for their exceptional play as members of the organization.
Honorable Mention: Bill Hall
Bill Hall was never going to tell you how good he was or how much he meant to the success of the team. He was a hard worker with a great attitude who could play every position other than pitcher and catcher.
During the first half of his seven seasons with the Brewers, Hall was probably Milwaukee’s biggest threat at the plate. Four times he amassed over 55 RBI in a single season (yes, we know that isn’t saying much) but his best season came in 2006 where he batted .270 with 35 home runs and 85 RBI. He has since found his way around the league with a number of teams after his time with the Brewers, but make no mistake: He is absolutely deserving of being on this list.
Honorable Mention: Jim Slaton
Jim Slaton was never known as being a overwhelmingly successful Major-League pitcher. However he deserves to be on this list for no other reason than his statistics alone.
In 12 seasons as a starter for the Brewers, Slaton went 117-121 while posting a 3.86 ERA. Pedestrian numbers, to say the least, however his 117 wins remain a franchise record to this day and his 3.86 ERA also ranks in the top 10 among all Milwaukee starters. What’s most remarkable about his career with Milwaukee, though, was how much of an innings-eater he was. In 1976, Slaton worked 292.2 innings and started 38 games, fifth and fourth among all MLB starters that year, respectively.
Though he may be more well-known throughout the baseball community for his days as a St. Louis Cardinal, there’s simply no getting past how striking his power was in his first few seasons with the Brewers.
Chosen as the fourth overall pick in the 1986 draft, Vaughn made his major league debut in Milwaukee back in 1989. The relentless slugger first truly burst onto the scene in 1991, where he gathered 27 HR, 98 RBI and a .456 slugging percentage. He spent just seven seasons with Milwaukee, but he ranks seventh in home runs (169) and ninth in RBI (566) and runs scored (528).
15. Richie Sexson
Acquired via trade from the Cleveland Indians back in 2000, Sexson spent three and a half unforgettably lasting seasons as a Brewers up until his departure after the 2003 season. From 2001-2003, Sexson managed no fewer than 102 RBI, 29 HR and 159 hits. The two-time all-star finished 12th in the NL MVP voting in 2003 with 45 HR, 124 RBI and a .927 OPS.
Although the slugger was never able to flaunt his power on the postseason stage, he was undoubtedly one of the most accomplished power-hitters in MLB during his stay in Milwaukee.
14. Yovani Gallardo
The 25-year-old right-hander may have only just completed his fourth complete season with Milwaukee, but there’s absolutely no disputing what he’s accomplished.
Since his rookie debut back in 2007, Gallardo has progressively transformed into the ace that GM Doug Melvin recognized when he took him in the second round of the 2004 draft. His career 3.63 ERA ranks second-best all-time behind Teddy Higuera (3.61), and his 9.25 K/9 ranks first. Milwaukee locked up the power righty to a five-year, $30.1 million contract back in March of 2010. If his outstanding production sustains the test of time, he’ll end up as the greatest starter in Brewers history.
If you’re talking about all-time Brewer greats, you simply cannot exclude Jim Gantner. He played 17 steadfast seasons at second base for Milwaukee and was a mainstay in Harvey Kuenn’s wall-banging 1982 championship team.
Never known for his power (he finished with 47 career home runs), Gantner worked through his impotent-ways at the plate by ranking fourth all-time in hits (1,696) and runs (726) and fifth in doubles (345). He was also apt on the bases, notching 137 career stolen bases — enough to rank third all-time.
Gantner was a hard-worker who gave seemingly everything he had, and is certainly deserving of being deemed an all-time Brewer great.
12. Gorman Thomas
Thomas was, believe it or not, Milwaukee’s first ever draft pick, coming back in 1969. He spent over nine seasons in the outfield of old County Stadium, most of which will probably never be forgotten by Brewers fans everywhere.
Milwaukee’s ever-likable center-fielder currently ranks fourth-all time in home runs (208), seventh in RBI (605) and eighth in slugging percentage (.461). He was a true power-threat at the plate but was by no means consistent, posting a career .230 BA as a Brewer.
11. Jeromy Burnitz
During the so-called “dark ages” of the franchise prior to the construction of Miller Park, Jeromy Burnitz galvanized Brewers fans with his power-packed swing.
During his five-and-a-half year stay with Milwaukee, Burnitz totaled 165 home runs and 525 RBI, a .508 slugging percentage with a .362 on-base percentage. He averaged 33 home runs and 102 RBI in each season from 1997-2011 and finished 19th in NL MVP voting in 1998. Burnitz would end up bouncing around the majors after his time with the Brewers, finishing his 14-year career as a member of the Pittsburgh Pirates. However, there’s no doubt his legacy will remain with Milwaukee.
It’s sad to think that Rollie Fingers is more widely known for his extravagant facial hair than his dominating days as a Milwaukee Brewer. Then again, that is one impressive mustache.
Spending his last four professional seasons with Milwaukee, Fingers was able to dispatch every ounce of pitching talent left in his arm. In 1981, he posted a 1.04 ERA with 28 saves and a 0.87 WHIP on his way to the Cy Young Award, and to this day still remains the only pitcher in Brewers history to win the prestigious award. The next two seasons, Fingers averaged 26 saves and a 2.28 ERA, but more importantly aided in Milwaukee’s quest toward the 1982 AL pennant and lone World Series appearance. Long live the ‘stache.
9. Ben Sheets
Boom or bust — whatever you want to call him — there’s simply no denying how dominating Ben Sheets was during his golden days with Milwaukee.
In eight seasons with the Brewers, Sheets went 86-83 and struck out a franchise-best 1,206 batters, boasted a 3.72 ERA and 1.20 WHIP. In 2004, one of the greatest individual seasons in Brewers history, Sheets went 12-14 with a 2.70 ERA, 0.98 WHIP and struck out a ridiculous 270 batters. Sheets had a number of dominating pitches at his disposal, but none were as notorious as his curveball. Thanks in large part to his breaking pitch, he managed a 28.1 K% during his historic 2004 campaign.
In my mind, there has never been a Brewer starter with more pure talent than Sheets. If not for injuries, we could be talking about a future Hall of Famer.
8. Ben Oglivie
Probably one of the most unheralded pure hitters in the history of baseball, Ben Oglivie was an absolute gamer in his nine seasons with the Brewers.
Originally drafted by the Red Sox, Oglivie made his way to Milwaukee prior to the 1978 season. That year, he posted a .303 BA and a .497 slugging percentage. In nine seasons with the Brewers, Oglivie was named to the All-Star team three times and won a silver slugger in 1980, arguably his best season, where he batted .304 with 41 home runs and 118 RBI. He was a mainstay on Harvey Kuenn’s AL championship team in 1982, and will go down as one of the best pure hitters in franchise history.
There was an undefinable likability about Geoff Jenkins among fans in his 10 seasons with Milwaukee. Maybe it was his scrappy demeanor of play, or maybe it was his alarmingly impressive statistics. I think it was both.
In a decade’s worth of play for the Brewers, Jenkins managed to crack the franchise’s top five in career home runs (212), RBI (704), slugging percentage (.496), OPS (.843) and extra-base hits (521). He made the All-Star team in 2003 but unfortunately had just one taste of postseason action with Milwaukee coming in 2008. Jenkins’ big bat helped usher in the post-County Stadium era and was arguably Milwaukee’s premier slugger from 1999 to 2004.
6. Teddy Higuera
The Brewers have never been particularly notorious for their historic pitching talent, but Teddy Higuera is a clear exception to that criterion.
In 10 major league seasons (all spent with Milwaukee), Higuera posted a franchise-best 3.61 ERA and went 94-64, enough for a .595 win percentage. He once amassed 20 wins and four times posted 15-plus win seasons. He wasn’t a strikeout/power pitcher by any means — he garnered just a career 18.8 K% — but he was able to work his way through tough spots and limit his mistakes.
5. Cecil Cooper
Originally drafted by the Boston Red Sox, Cecil Cooper never truly found his way in the major leagues until he was traded to Milwaukee on December 6, 1976. From there on out, he was indeed a superstar.
During his 11 season with the Brewers, Cooper was selected to the AL All Star team five times and hoarded three silver-slugger awards. He also aggregated two gold glove awards, a testament to his superb defensive capabilities while playing first base for Milwaukee.
From 1979 to 1983, Cooper averaged 25 home runs, 107 RBI and a .320 BA. He led the AL in RBI 1980 and 1983 and finished in the top five in hits during that four-year span. If it weren’t for Prince Fielder, Cooper would be the greatest first baseman in Brewers history.
Though Prince Fielder was unable to lead the Brewers to a World Series in his six full seasons with the club, he was able to become one of the greatest players in franchise history. That’s saying something.
Holding down the fort at first base full-time since 2006, Fielder has put together an unprecedented career. He 230 home runs rank second all-time and his 656 RBI are enough to rank sixth. He holds the all-time high with a .390 on-base percentage and his 439 extra-base hits ranks fifth.
Oh, and did we forget to mention he’s a two-time silver slugger, three-time All Star and has participated in three home run derbies? There may never be another left-handed slugger like Fielder in the history of the franchise.
3. Ryan Braun
Unwarranted performance-enhancing drug allegations aside, Ryan Braun will be the greatest player in Milwaukee Brewers history when it’s all said and done. Signing a five year, $105 Million contract extension last April will make him a Brewer until 2020. It’s only inevitable, folks.
Since entering the league May of 2007, Braun has been absolutely remarkable. He’s hoarded 161 home runs, 531 RBI and has set franchise-bests with a .312 BA, .563 slugging percentage and .933 OPS. He’s been, as the kids call it, totally rad.
Last season, Braun stockpiled 33 home runs, 111 RBI and a league-best .597 slugging percentage on his way to winning the franchise’s first MVP award since Robin Yount (more from him later) did it back in 1989. You’d better believe there’s more where that came from for Braun in the coming seasons.
2. Paul Molitor
Paul Molitor could seemingly do it all. He could run, hit for power, hit for average and play defense. When you look up the definition of a “five-tool” player, there’s probably a picture of Molitor.
In 15 illustrious seasons with the Brewers, Molitor put up some truly incredible numbers.
Seven times he posted a batting average over .300 and eight times he notched over 30 stolen bases in a single season. In 1987, easily his greatest season as a Brewer, Molitor batted an amazing .353 but somehow failed to reel-in a the AL batting title. He was a three-time All Star and two-time silver slugger with Milwaukee, was inducted to the baseball Hall of Fame as a Brewer in 2004 and would have been the greatest player in franchise history if not for…
1. Robin Yount
I’m not sure if there’s ever been a more convincing ranking in the history of the franchise.
What Robin Yount accomplished in 20 seasons with the Brewers may never be repeated or surpassed. He holds the all-time lead in hits (3,142), runs scored (1,632), home runs (251), RBI (1406), stolen bases (271) and extra-base hits (960). We could keep going, but I think you get the point.
He was a three-time All Star and remains the only player in MLB history to win an MVP award at two separate positions — one coming as Milwaukee’s shortstop and the other coming as a center-fielder. Yount also compiled three silver slugger awards and one gold glove, and his jersey number, 19, is retired in Milwaukee.
You’d be beating an already lifeless horse if you said that the Milwaukee Brewers have one of the most inept farm systems in all of Major League Baseball. Everyone knows it, and there’s really no other way of putting it.
However, a successful 2011 first-year player draft has officially put the Brewers back on the map in terms of markedly young talent in the minors. The club notched Texas RHP Taylor Jungmann and Georgia Tech LHP Jed Bradley in the first round last June, and both are expected to make leaps and bounds in their first year in the organization.
Outside of Jungmann and Bradley, though, things aren’t particularly saturated in talent. However, there are a number of prospects who may have their sights set on the majors. Let’s rank 10 prospects with the highest MLB ceilings down on the farm.
10. OF Caleb Gindl
There aren’t many true power hitters within the Brewers’ organization, and none of them look to have a very high ceiling at that. Gindl, though, might be an exception to that fact.
At 23 years old and four solid professional seasons under his belt, Gindl is as prepared as he’ll ever be to break through to the majors in 2012, even if it means simply being an off-the-bench type player. He’s amassed at least 13 home runs and 60 RBI in three seasons down in the minors. Not terribly impressive, but it was enough for Milwaukee to add him to their 40-man roster. Last season in triple-A, he maintained a .307/.390/.472 line with 15 home runs and 60 RBI. Couple his slightly above-average power with a competent glove, and he could get a chance to platoon with a number of other players in Ryan Braun’s spot in left field.
9. CF Logan Schafer
Schafer, 25, was at one point a very promising young star but a heated battle with injuries has derailed his development. Last year between high-A, double-A and triple-A ball, Schafer batted .315 with five home runs and 43 RBI. He also notched 16 stolen bases and scored 66 runs. He was promoted to the big leagues as a September call-up last season but only amassed three plate appearances.
At this point, it’s hard to distinguish what Schafer’s future holds in store. If I had to give it my best guess, I’d say he’s bound to be a utility, off-the-bench type player who probably won’t ever get a legitimate shot at a full-time starting role.
Rivera is one prospect that I would advise even the casual fan to keep up on. He’s a very young talent at just 19 years old and has the potential to be a defensive superstar at the major league level. He has extremely quick feet and has great range in the field.
That said, there are some concerns moving forward. In rookie ball in 2010, Rivera batted .209 with no home runs, 23 RBI and just a .257 slugging percentage. Last year between rookie and low-A ball, he batted .236 with nine home runs and 43 RBI, though he did manage to eclipse the 100-hit plateau. He does struggle with strikeouts, and that will be a stressing point moving forward in his development.
Tom Haudricourt projected on Baseball America last November that he expects Rivera to be Milwaukee’s starting shortstop at the beginning of the 2015 season. If that’s the case, who knows how high his ceiling might be.
7. RHP Jorge Lopez
Seldom do the Brewers take chances on unproven players coming out of high school through the draft, but Lopez was one omission to that tendency.
A third-round draft pick in last June’s draft, Lopez posted a 2.25 ERA in four starts in rookie ball last year. And while he only pitched 12.0 innings, there’s a growing sentiment around the organization that, with at least four years in the minors, he could be a back-end of the rotation type pitcher for Milwaukee. There’s still a lot left to be proved on Lopez’s end as his consistency is still in question, but his plus-average curveball is definitely something worth building off of.
6. RHP Jimmy Nelson
Truth be told, Nelson hasn’t yet put up the overwhelming statistics that come with being a “top prospect”. In 2010, Nelson went 2-0 with a 3.71 ERA and struck out 33 in 26.2 innings in rookie ball. He also garnered a 11.1 K/9 IP and a less-than-impressive 1.61 WHIP. Last year, he went 8-9 with a 4.38 ERA in 25 starts in low-A ball.
One thing that scouts take notice to is his big frame, which looks to translate well at the major league level. He’s able to go deep into games thanks to a average-power arm with a fastball topping out in the mid-90s. What separates him from the pack, though, is his plus-slider and improving changeup. Nelson has a ton of potential and at 22 years old, he’s already a seasoned pitcher down on the farm who will challenge to break through to the bullpen by late 2013. He projects to end up as a middle of the rotation starter.
Fans have anxiously awaited the day that Peralta, 22, makes the jump to the big leagues for quite some time now. The Brewers signed him to a minor league contract at the ripe age of 17, and, needless to say, he’s as ready as he’ll ever be.
Last year, the 6’2″, 240-pound right-hander went for 150.2 innings between double-A and triple-A, posting a 3.17 ERA and 9.4 K/9. He’s become notorious for his strikeout abilities but also for his lack of consistency, which will be a stressing point at spring training in February.
His fastball tops out in the low to mid 90s and has a plus slider that has serious potential. He’ll likely start 2012 in the bullpen and will eventually end up as an end-of-the rotation type pitcher in the coming years.
4. 2B Scooter Gennett
In a farm system largely dominated by pitching talent, Gennett has staked his claim as Milwaukee’s top infielding prospect.
At just 21 years old, Gennett already has two professional seasons to his credit. He skipped rookie ball and went straight to low-A ball where he batted .309 with nine home runs, 55 RBI and 87 runs scored. He also notched 14 stolen bases. Last year at Brevard County, he batted an even .300 with nine home runs, 51 RBI and 74 runs scored.
He’s slightly undersized which will clearly limit his power potential at the major league level, but his great work ethic and likability all work in his favor moving forward. His ceiling is limited, though, with Rickie Weeks holding down the fort at second-base. I do expect him to push for a starting role by 2014, nevertheless.
There are many differing opinions about what the future holds in store for Thornburg. Some say he has the stuff to be a No. 2-3 starter in the big leagues, others say his stature (5’11″, 185 pounds) could keep him from being a starter altogether.
The one thing I think we can all agree on, though, is that he’s been impressive thus far.
After posting a 1.93 ERA with 38 strikeouts in 23.1 innings in rookie ball, Thornburg made his way through low-A and high-A ball in 2010. He went 10-6 with a 2.57 ERA and struck out a remarkable 160 batters in just 136.2 innings of work in that time-frame.
Some have made comparisons of his unorthodox windup to that of Tim Lincecum’s in that it generates a considerable amount of torque on his arm. Whether or not that effects his development moving forward remains to be seen, but Thornburg has clearly made himself known throughout the minors. His ceiling is definitely high.
2. LHP Jed Bradley
Bradley may play second-fiddle to Taylor Jungmann once next season gets under way, but you’d be kidding yourself if you think there’s any substantial disparity in how successful their futures might be.
In his senior season at Georgia Tech, Bradley went 7-3 with a 3.49 ERA, struck out 106 in 98.0 innings (9.73 K/9 IP) and allowed just one home run. He held batters to a .239 BA and maintained a 1.22 WHIP.
His left-handed arm was a splendid addition in last June’s draft, and will be a key asset for the organization moving forward. He made his professional debut last fall in the Arizona Fall League, be struggled. Bradley is likely to start his 2012 campaign at the low-A level.
The overwhelming sentiment shared by scouts is that Taylor Jungmann has the potential to be a future star at the major league level for years to come. Please keep in mind he has yet to throw a professional pitch.
Last year at Texas, the tall, lanky right-hander went 13-3 with a remarkable 1.60 ERA. He also struck out 126 in 146.0 innings (8.04 K/9 IP), held opponents to a .165 BA and allowed just four home runs in 18 starts.
Most of his success at the collegiate level can be accredited to his power fastball that tops out at in the mid-90s. Scouts say there’s room for improvement with his secondary pitches, however his location is second-to-none. Jungmann has all the ingredients to be a legitimate No. 2 starter at the major league level, and there’s no doubting he has the highest ceiling of any current Brewer prospect.
To put it lightly, it’s been a rather humdrum off-season for former Milwaukee Brewers first baseman and current superstar free-agent Prince Fielder.
When the bulky veggie-eating first baseman first hit the free-agent market a few months ago, many surmised that he would jockey with Albert Pujols to be this offseason’s top player available in free-agency, and though even with a stubborn agent named Scott Boras, Fielder would ultimately attain his asking price of nearly 10-years at $250 Million.
For Pujols, things went exactly as planned.
Early last month, the Los Angeles Angels came out of nowhere and signed the 31-year-old to a near-record 10-year, $254 Million contract. The deal was exactly what Pujols was looking for through free-agency: A long-term deal that would make him one of the highest payed players in MLB history.
Needless to say, things haven’t gone exactly as planned for Fielder. Now mid-January, the possibility that a team might come forth and offer what he and his agent are looking for seems, well, unlikely at best. Teams such as the Nationals and Rangers have expressed interest in Fielder but are unwilling to meet Fielder’s demands — at least in terms of years of the contract.
The Mariners have always been considered a favorite, but as ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick tweeted earlier this week, they may only have roughly $3-4 Million left to spend this winter — so signing Fielder seems just about out of the question at this point.
With hardly any practical interest from teams, it’s almost a foregone conclusion that Fielder won’t be getting his desired 10-year deal. Or a five-year deal, for that matter. As absurd as it might sound, his best option at this point may actually be re-signing with his former club.
Yes, the Brewers currently have a considerable amount of money invested in starters Zack Greinke and Shaun Marcum, as well as setup-man Francisco Rodriguez, not to mention Ryan Braun. But with each passing day the prospect of Fielder returning to Milwaukee on a one-year deal begins to make a whole lot more sense.
Just think about it.
With such a bleak, uninterested market this winter, it may be Fielder’s best option to re-sign with the Brewers — would are still very much World Series contenders — and re-enter the free-agent market next winter, where he would become undoubtedly the most sought-after talent available
Sure, GM Doug Melvin has affirmed since the signing of Aramis Ramirez last month that the Brewers are likely moving forward without their preeminent slugger of the past half-decade. However, take what general managers say with a grain of salt — the truth of the matter is that they are largely bluffing.
If and when February rolls around and Fielder still has yet to find a new home, it’s hard to imagine owner Mark Attanasio not opening up his checkbook and raising payroll for at least one more season. Milwaukee’s championship window is closing — it might officially be closed after this season — and Attanasio is fully aware of that fact.
We’ve seen it time and time again — a team that nobody expected comes out of nowhere to sign a big-name free-agent. The Angels did it with Pujols; who’s to say the Brewers won’t do it with Fielder?
When Major League Baseball handed down a 50-game suspension to recently named 2011 National League MVP Ryan Braun earlier last month on the grounds of failing a mandatory drug test sometime last October, Milwaukee Brewers GM Doug Melvin had a decision to make — and a fairly important one at that.
Facing the prospect of his club playing out virtually the first third of their 2012 regular season without their preeminent slugger in his usual spot in the lineup, Melvin had to decide whether to replace Braun with internal talent already in place — Nyjer Morgan, Carlos Gomez and/or a bevy of up-and-coming prospects — or to search the free-agent market for a modest replacement.
To the surprise of many, Melvin placed a bid on 30-year-old Japanese outfielder Norichika Aoki, and won negotiating rights to the longtime overseas star. The winning bid was worth approximately $2.5 Million dollars on and the Brewers then had until mid January to negotiate a deal.
This past weekend, Melvin, manager Ron Roenicke and bench coach Jerry Narron took to Maryvale Baseball Park in Phoenix, Arizona to evaluate Aoki’s hitting, fielding, and speed. They must now decide whether or not to pursue signing the 30-year-old outfielder to a contract for this upcoming season.
With Braun’s impending 50-game suspension looming, the Brewers certainly have a need for depth off their bench to start next season. The loss of Jerry Hairston, Mark Kotsay and Josh Wilson this offseason has depleted Milwaukee’s support off the bench. Adding Aoki, who has a considerable amount of speed in the field and on the base-paths, could prove vital.
Aoki has played five seasons in the Japan Central League as a member of the Yakult Swallows, harboring a .329 BA, 68 HR, 295 RBI, 451 runs scored and 93 stolen bases. Only once has he posted an on-base percentage below .400 in a season and he has twice garnered an OPS above .940 from the left side of the plate.
Scouts have classified Aoki as a disciplined, line-drive type hitter who loves using the entire field. He has great range in the outfield but has a below-average arm.
We’ve seen Japanese hitters fail to make the transition to the Major Leagues before. With that in mind, the Brewers would prefer a one-year contract, and then determine if he’s worth bringing back next offseason, according to sources.
The Brewers have until 5 p.m. ET Jan. 17 to complete a deal or their posting fee will be returned. We’ll keep you updated throughout the week as information becomes available.
It’s been a long, difficult, often perplexing offseason for the Milwaukee Brewers and their fanbase. But if recent indications prove valid, things may take another turn for the worse.
Last month, we learned from a report leaked by ESPN that Brewers left fielder and recently named 2011 NL MVP Ryan Braun had reportedly tested positive for either a performance enhancing drug and/or banned substance during Milwaukee’s historic playoff run last October. Major League Baseball subsequently gave Braun a 50-game suspension for his actions, and Braun is currently in the appeal process.
Many fans remained optimistic regarding the future of their beloved left fielder, however, Braun’s appeal to the league doesn’t seem likely to be overturned, as Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel recently wrote. Should Braun not be in Milwaukee’s lineup on opening day against the St. Louis Cardinals, there are dozens of potential directions manager Ron Roenicke might set his starting lineup. Let’s take a look at the most logical approach to how it might look.
1. CF Carlos Gomez
Carlos Gomez is still very much in the prime of his career and with the opportunity to be the everyday starter in center-field to start next season, I expect him to be where he batted on opening day 2011: At the top of Ron Roenicke’s lineup.
Being one of the fastest center fielders in baseball as well as being one of the best bag-stealers (he has a career 78% stolen base percentage), Gomez clearly should be Milwaukee’s lead-off man to start next season. Granted, he’ll need to cut down on his strikeouts and work on getting on base, but I still believe he’s the right man for the job.
2. LF Nyjer Morgan
Nyjer Morgan probably fits the bill to be the Brewers’ leadoff hitter better than anyone on the roster. Based on what he did last year in the No.2 hole, though, he’ll probably stay put — at least for opening day.
In 429 total plate appearances, Morgan spent 352 of them batting second — exactly 82 percent. In that role, he batted .310 with two HR and 31 RBI, 46 runs and a .353 on-base percentage that finished as one of the best OBP in the National League. Without having to split time in center-field with Carlos Gomez to start the season, GM Doug Melvin will be able to adequately judge whether or not Morgan is worth re-signing at season’s end. If he can bat over .300 as he did in 2011, there’s no question he’s worth keeping around.
I have to admit — Rickie Weeks originally came to mind as the best option to take Ryan Braun’s spot in the lineup, but after doing my research, I found Corey Hart is simply the better overall substitute. Not only did Hart’s numbers from a season ago (26 HR, 80 RBI, .510 SLG, .226 ISO) trump Weeks’ (20 HR, 77 RBI, .468 SLG, .199 ISO) from a power standpoint, but their career statistics also marginally favor Hart.
Since entering the league in 2005, Hart has stockpiled 124 home runs, 425 RBI, a .487 slugging percentage and maintains a 19.6 K%. Weeks, who also broke onto the scene in 2005, has 109 home runs, 314 RBI, a .435 slugging percentage and has struck out 22.6 percent of the time. While the raw numbers don’t substantially favor Hart over Weeks, the subtle contrast coupled with how strong he finished his 2011 campaign should give Hart the nod.
4. 3B Aramis Ramirez
After agreeing to terms with Milwaukee to a three-year, $36 Million contract, Aramis Ramirez knew expectations would be high with Prince Fielder on his way out. However, with Braun’s suspension now likely to be upheld, expectations have risen considerably. The pressure on Ramirez to help carry the Brewers through the first 50 games next season is mounting quickly. So, where does he best fit in Milwaukee’s lineup?
Ramirez, 33, has a great deal of experience hitting third and fourth, and his bat seems to be the best possible protection for Corey Hart to start the season. He’ll probably hit behind Braun once his suspension is up, moreover.
5. 2B Rickie Weeks
If Rickie Weeks can stay healthy, for a full season, for the first in his career, there’s no doubt he’ll reach 35 home runs and there’s an outside chance he could hit 40. He has a tremendous amount of power that has concealed itself over the past few seasons, and I’ve gone on record saying that if not for injury last season, he would have been the is the best offensive second baseman in baseball.
I originally had him batting third, but quickly found out Corey Hart would be better suited for the job. That consequently puts Weeks fifth in Roenicke’s lineup and inherent protector of Aramis Ramirez to start next season.
6. 1B Mat Gamel
Mat Gamel has been an exceptional talent at the minor league level for a number of seasons, but there are some concerns over how well his game will translate as a full-time starter in the big leagues. In 171 career at-bats, the 26-year-old holds true to a .222 BA, .309 on-base percentage and in 2009 (his only true taste of the majors) he struck out in 36.5 percent of his plate appearances. He has a lot of upside and potential but he definitely has his work cut out for him at the start of next season.
That said, there isn’t yet a discernible spot for him in Roenicke’s opening-day lineup. He could potentially be placed in a number of spots to start the season. Given how evident his power was in triple-A last season, though, I can’t see him falling any lower than sixth in the order.
One of Melvin’s preeminent goals of the offseason was to upgrade at shortstop. He accomplished just that in signing Alex Gonzalez to a one-year, $4.25 Million deal with a $4 Million 2013 option.
During his 12-year career, Gonzelez has become one of the best defensive shortstops in baseball, harboring a .981 fielding percentage and 5.938 zone rating last season at 33 years of age. His hustle in the field will manifest itself early next season.
Gonzalez’s pop at the plate has diminished, but he will still be held accountable to at least a .250/.270/.390 line next season. He has experience batting just about anywhere in a lineup, which will make Ron Roenicke’s job that much easier. For now, though, batting seventh seems to be the most logical spot for Gonzalez.
8. C Jonathan Lucroy
Jonathan Lucroy isn’t a superstar, and he probably never will be. But that’s okay — he’s exactly what the Brewers need him to be: Dependable.
After splitting time Gregg Zaun in 2010, Lucroy inherited the starting role at the beginning of last season, and boy did he make the most of it. In 430 at-bats, he batted .265 with 12 home runs, 59 RBI and boasted a .391 slugging percentage.
In the field, though, he was a superstar. He committed just seven errors (.993 FPCT) despite having to deal with a staff that administered a league-high 70 wild pitches. Lucroy spent 64 percent of his at-bats out of the eight-hole last season. Expect him to be in familiar scenery on opening day this season.
9. P Yovani Gallardo
Yovani Gallardo is just 25 years old and will enter his third consecutive season as Milwaukee’s No. 1 starter. When it’s all said and done, he’ll easily be the greatest pitcher in franchise history.
Last season, he went 17-10 with a 3.52 ERA while striking out 207 in 207.1 innings (33 GS). He led all Brewers starters in wins, ERA and strikeouts, and finished with a better K/9IP (8.99) than AL MVP Justin Verlander (8.96). Each year Gallardo continues to better every facet of his game and I suspect him to take the next step and lower his ERA to 3.20 or lower in 2012.
For the first time since Major League Baseball’s 2011 season ended last October, the free-agent market for former Milwaukee Brewers first baseman Prince Fielder finally seems to be intensifying.
Based on what an MLB official told Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel over the weekend, the Washington Nationals appear to be emerging as the favorite to land Fielder this winter.
Haudricourt had this to say on Monday:
An MLB official told me over the weekend that word is spreading in the industry that the Washington Nationals have emerged as a favorite to sign free-agent first baseman Prince Fielder.
As with many other teams who have been reported to be in the market for Fielder, the Nationals have downplayed their potential interest in the veggie-eating first baseman. GM Mike Rizzo affirmed recently last month that “unless something extraordinary and out of the ordinary” were to take place, 32-year-old Adam LaRoche was to start at first-base for the Nationals on opening day.
The market for Fielder’s services has been surprisingly slow thus far. Most thought that when Albert Pujols inked his record 10-year, $254 Million contract with the Angels earlier this month that that would be a potential springboard to many teams interested in making a contract offer to Fielder this winter.
Clearly, that hasn’t been the case and if this report proves true, the Nationals may be on the verge of bringing the top free agent available to help bolster their chances in a severely improved NL East division next season and beyond.
Haudricourt would also go on to say that the Nationals may or may not go to Fielder’s desired eight to 10-year deal but that as long as Washington can match Pujols’ $25.4 Million annual salary, the length of the deal may not matter entirely.