It was undoubtedly a year worth looking back on with exuberance for the Milwaukee Brewers’ farm system.
Coming into the season, you would have been hard-pressed to find the Brewers’ collective system placed above of the bottom-five overall in many organizational rankings among big-league ball clubs. Baseball America and Baseball Prospectus followed that trend, with BA ranking Milwaukee at No. 26 overall prior to the season and BP placing Milwaukee at an even worse No. 28 overall.
This shouldn’t come as much of a surprise to anyone with a fundamental knowledge of the Brewers’ minor-league talent, of course. The Zack Greinke trade of two winters ago left the talent-pool excessively thin, consequently leaving 23-year-old right-handed pitcher Wily Peralta with the proverbial “top prospect” moniker prior to the season after a tremendous 2011 campaign. First-round picks from 2011 Taylor Jungmann and Jed Bradley were also seen as guys who could take home top-prospect honors after the season, as well as right-hander Tyler Thornburg. After that, there weren’t many youngsters who looked to be of any relevance anytime soon at the big-league level.
However, after a fruitful 2012 draft class and the trade that made Greinke a Halo, subsequently giving Milwaukee three intriguing prospects to add to the system, things are looking up and fans can now expect a steady influx of talent to the big-league roster as early as the start of next season.
So with the season essentially over, it seems fitting for me to update my end-of-season top-25 prospect rankings.
1. Wily Peralta, RHP – Walks have been up due to control regressions and will need to show more refined control of his heavy fastball. However, pure swing-and-miss ability is certainly there; his slider has great diving action and will be a definite asset down the road. Have no doubt he’ll show signs of potential out of the ‘pen this month and with a good spring training should be the No. 5 starter come April.
2. Taylor Jungmann, RHP – Has been anything but the strikeout hoarder he was in college but has absolutely looked the part of a top prospect in every other aspect. Is always around the plate and hits his spots consistently; knows how to set-up hitters with his secondary offerings and hardly ever gives up the long-ball. A good looking prospect in my book.
3. Tyler Thornburg, RHP – Milwaukee’s prospect darling has been outstanding by all accounts in 2012; the raw statistics are there to support his case to be in the rotation come next April. Still, I have concerns; namely with his pure stuff. His fastball gets crushed when over the plate, is way to reliant on the pitch and furthermore doesn’t induce a lot of ground-balls. His curveball — though having nice movement — is much too inconsistent control-wise. Add on that he still hasn’t developed a good feel for his changeup and his lack of stamina, and, yes, I have my doubts. Will be a reliever when all said and done.
4. Jimmy Nelson, RHP – Got off to a scorching start in high-A but ran into troubles — and shoulder fatigue — upon being promoted to double-A midway through the season. One of my favorite prospects in the system; massive yet prototype 6’6″, 245 build makes him highly durable. Good three-pitch mix with a promising sinker and plus-average slider that’s already MLB ready. The ability to control his fastball will be the key moving forward. Could push for a spot start by the end of next season.
5. Logan Schafer, OF — Knocking on the major-league door for a while now, Schafer should get at least minimal playing time in September. Impress, and he will certainly challenge Carlos Gomez for the starting job in center field next season. Disappoint, and who knows what happens.
6. Hunter Morris, 1B – The lack of a quality approach at the plate dampened his otherwise impressive power numbers from 2010 to 2011, nearly to the point where scouts questioned his ability to grow into a serviceable bat in the bigs. But while his strikeout rate remains somewhat high, he is drawing more walks and is developing a more refined approach. Further improvement in that area could mean he is starts for Milwaukee at first base in 2014.
7. Clint Coulter, C/DH – Milwaukee’s 2012 first-round pick has struggled behind the plate but has thrived at it. With 22 passed balls in just 25 games, catching may not be where he best projects at the next level; maybe a first base or third base. However, his impressive eye at the plate — as evidenced by his .429 OBP — is a great sign for the organization.
8. Jed Bradley, LHP – It was a season filled with disappointment and injury for the 22-year-old southpaw. Missed a stretch of time due to a groin strain and has not pitched since August 8 due to arm soreness. Still believe the stuff is there to be a future No. 3, but will need to refine his command before he becomes what scouts project him to be.
9. Johnny Hellweg, RHP – Second piece received in the Greinke deal, Hellweg stands in at a healthy 6’9″, 205 pounds. Has very good raw stuff including a mid-90s fastball that induces ground balls. Doesn’t have much control over his secondary offerings and has walked nearly as many as he’s struck out in his short stint in the system. I believe he would be an excellent late-inning reliever down the road.
10. Khris Davis, OF – Scouts aren’t high on his toolset but his statistics are tough to ignore. Slugged his way to a .383/.484/.641 line in 44 double-A games and got the call to Nashville, where he ran into troubles but is still boasting a nice 119 wRC+ through roughly 30 games. Not entirely sure he has a position to play on the big-league roster; may ultimately wind up as trade bait.
11. Ariel Pena, RHP – The final piece in the Greinke trade, Pena also has the stuff to suggest he could be a backline starter in the bigs. His devastating changeup gets hitters off his fastball, but lacks a quality breaking pitch. Doesn’t induce a lot of ground-balls and control issues are troubling. A strong spring training could put him on an early call-up list next season.
12. Scooter Gennett, 2B – Has thrived off his ability to hit for singles and pound the outfield gaps with well below-average power. Pushing to hit over .300 for his third consecutive season. Sees the ball well and has good knowledge of the strikezone, still developing as a defensive second-baseman. His diminutive 5’9″, 185 pound frame still concerns scouts.
13. Victor Roache, OF – Selected with their second first-round pick this past June, Roache’s broken right wrist suffered during his final year at Georgia Southern has kept him from playing time this summer, as he’s rehabbed in Arizona in preparation for fall and winter instructional leagues. Athletic build with a ton of pop in his bat, could end up as a corner outfielder.
14. Hiram Burgos, RHP – Started in high-A and moved all the way up to triple-A, where his stuff has stacked up well against the competition. Won’t blow batters away but shows a good feel for each of his pitches. Much more of a fly-ball pitcher than a ground-out pitcher. Will have the chance to be on the opening day roster with a strong 2013 preseason.
15. Caleb Gindl, OF – The stocky 5’9″ outfielder has been waiting to burst onto the big league scene for two seasons now and should get the call this September as a depth-adding corner arm. Got off to an abysmally slow start but has since found his stroke; put up a .319/.370/.527 line in July and furthermore managed to raise his slugging percentage up to a respectable .429. Unfortunately, there doesn’t look to be anywhere on the roster for him to play next season.
16. Kentrail Davis, OF – I’ve always loved Davis’ tools; is extremely athletic with plus-speed on the bases and in the outfield. His bat has been in question for his entire playing career, but has shown great signs of improvement this season. Displaying good discipline at the plate and improved power during his stay in double-A this season.
17. Drew Gagnon, RHP – The Brewers’ fourth-round pick in the 2011 draft has produced well above what many had anticipated to this juncture of his career. Posted a very nice 2.83 ERA over six starts with low-A Appleton and got the call to Brevard County this summer. While he’s struggled to produce ground outs consistently, his credible fastball-curve-changeup repertoire has worked splendidly against the competition. Could turn out to be a future No. 5 in a best-case scenario.
18. Jorge Lopez, RHP – A youngster who still has a ways before he fills out physically, Lopez has racked up the strikeouts during his second season in the system but at the same has struggled to control his fastball-curve-changeup mix. Scouts love his overall upside and its tough to disagree. Could become a mid-rotation arm in at his very best — a middle-inning reliever at his very worst.
19. Mitch Haniger, OF – Found immediate success in low-A Appleton after becoming the Brewers’ third and final first-round pick in last June’s draft, however an untimely PCL tear ended his rookie stint. Has a very well-rounded game without any noticeable weakness. Has gap power to all fields; solid defender with plus-arm, good work ethic and makeup. Really like his game. Will be interesting to see how his bounces back from injury next season.
20. Yadiel Rivera, SS – A defensive whiz at shortstop, no one will argue that his glove doesn’t project to be plus-average at the next level — his bat, however, is an entirely different story. Still learning to repeat his mechanics and overall plate discipline, Rivera’s hit tool still remains in question. The good part is that time is on his side; at just 20 years old, he should finish next season in high-A and with improvements there could skyrocket to the upper minors. Definitely a name worth watching next season.
21. Tyrone Taylor, OF – Exceeded expectations in rookie ball after being taken in the second round of last June’s draft, especially with his bat; posted a .387/.434/.667 line in 83 trips to the plate this season before injury sidelined him on July 22. His bat will need some mechanical tune-ups as he continues to move up the ladder. Could be a lethal base-stealer down the road.
22. David Goforth, RHP – The Mississippi State product blew past hitters in rookie ball last season out of the bullpen, striking out over a batter per inning. This season, that has been anything but the same in low-A ball — strictly as a starter, Goforth punched out a very average 5.7 batters per nine innings over 27 starts. I’m not too high on his overall arsenal of pitches but his slider certainly looks the part of a big-league swing-and-miss pitch.
23. Jose Pena, OF – After two full seasons in the Dominican Summer League, the raw 19-year-old earned a promotion to Helena after putting up a scintillating .877 OPS in the rookie Arizona League. He now boasts a .309/.316/.582 line in 57 plate appearances and looks like a very intriguing youngster in the system.
24. Eric Farris, 2B – The once highly-touted second baseman began his 2012 campaign ridiculously slow at the plate but he’s recovered to boast a very nice .286/.328/.378 line. His haste on the bases has been far from what it was during his early days in the organization but still nabbed 33 bases in 129 games. Nevertheless, would be a nice depth-providing roster addition this September.
25. Nick Ramirez, 1B – A defensively cumbersome first-baseman with plus raw power at the dish, Ramirez has witnessed massive declines in his offensive production this season juxtaposed to his rookie 2011 campaign, most notably with respect to his plate discipline. A great fastball hitter, the Cal State Fullerton product just can’t seem to stay on breaking offerings and that has in turn led to a strikeout rate of 34 percent this season. His capacity to become a more disciplined hitter will determine his big-league ceiling.
Player Not Mentioned Worth Watching in 2013: Chris McFarland, 2B
Taken in the 18th round of the 2011 draft out of Lufkin (TX.) High School as a groomed middle-infield defender, McFarland made a permanent transition to second base this season — his rookie season — and has flourished. His above-average athleticism enabled him to post a range factor of 4.36 and turn 37 double plays in just 59 games with the rookie club in Helena, though he certainly won’t be limited to that position moving forward. He showed scouts during his high school days that he is a very capable outfielder with a strong arm and quick release to stick at nearly any position on the diamond.
Offensively, McFarland has also impressed. A quick bat that produces natural gap-power to all fields has allowed him to post a .299/.355/.420 line over 292 plate appearances this season to go with a .398 BABIP and .354 wOBA. Like many raw youngsters, though, McFarland struggles somewhat to repeat his mechanics and remained disciplined on off-speed and breaking offerings, as evidenced by a concerning 0.28 BB/K ratio.
Given his impressive showing this season in rookie ball, I would be shocked to see him remain there next season. It looks like he’s ready to move up to low-A Appleton.
Coming off three straight starts in which he allowed just two earned runs over 19 innings to go with 21 strikeouts, 23-year-old Brewers pitching prospect Wily Peralta took to the mound Sunday night in Round Rock hoping to perpetuate his success of late against some of the better lineups the Pacific Coast League has to offer. Peralta also hoped that his 27th start of the 2012 season would be his final in a Nashville Sounds lineup. With big-league rosters set to expand from 25 to 40 on September 1, it was already a foregone conclusion that the young hurler would be in a Brewers uniform for the final month of season, whether it be as a starter or a specialist out of the bullpen.
Unfortunately for Peralta, his latest outing was one to forget. He labored to get through five innings against the triple-A affiliate of the Texas Rangers and may have altogether cast a shadow of doubt on his big-league prospects for next season.
Here are a few scouting notes on Peralta’s latest start.
5.0 IP, 6 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 5 BB, 5 K
Total pitches thrown: 94
Strikes: 50 (53%)
Balls: 44 (47%)
What did he throw?
Fastball: 54 (57%)
Slider: 32 (34%)
Changeup: 8 (9%)
General Game Notes:
- Though his final line would lead you to believe otherwise, Peralta got off to a great start. He pounded the strike zone and attacked hitters with his fastball — topping out at 97 MPH — which early on he spotted very well and induced a number of ground-ball outs. However, that wouldn’t last long; as soon as hitters would reach base, Peralta started to slow his delivery out of the stretch and consequently witnessed mechanical regressions. He then struggled mightily to even put his fastball over the plate and it really went downhill from then on.
- Unlike his exceptional outing from August 21, Peralta didn’t have much command over his slider. While the pitch has MLB-caliber movement, Peralta induced minimal swings-and-misses with the pitch on Sunday and also struggled to throw it for plain strikes. An unfavorable strike-zone from the home plate umpire didn’t help much, either.
- Mixed in his changeup much more so than his last few outings, but the pitch is noticeably inconsistent and will need refinement in all areas.
- Control Issues Persist — On a night where he was supposed to strut his refined command for the final time before September call-ups, Peralta was literally all over the place (OK, maybe that was a bit harsh). Seldom would his fastball hit the intended target and even his bread-and-butter slider was unpredictable. Definitely not the way a top prospect would want to finish up what could be his final minor league outing.
Somewhat shocking news coming in this morning from Miller Park — the Brewers have reportedly released left hander Randy Wolf. The news was made public via the Brewers’ team Twitter page this morning.
BREAKING NEWS: #Brewers release LHP Randy Wolf, INF Jeff Bianchi has been recalled from Triple-A Nashville—
Milwaukee Brewers (@Brewers) August 22, 2012
Wolf, 36, was in the midst of his 14th major league season and third consecutive with Milwaukee. Over 142.1 total innings of work, Wolf held true to a 3-10 record with an unsightly 5.69 ERA, 4.74 FIP and 1.57 WHIP. Opponents batted .308 against him and maintained a BABIP of .340 against the left-hander.
The Brewers had a team option on Wolf worth $10 Million for next season with a buyout of $1.5 Million. However, the release of Wolf means GM Doug Melvin will no longer have to decided whether or not to keep the veteran next season.
Shortstop Jeff Bianchi has been recalled from triple-A Nashville to take Wolf’s roster spot.
On Tuesday night, Milwaukee Brewers top pitching prospect Wily Peralta took to the mound for the Nashville Sounds in the finale of a four-game set against their Pacific Coast League rivals Omaha Storm Chasers.
Looking to punch his ticket to the big leagues as a September roster expansion call-up, Peralta put on a terrific showing in his 26th start of the season against the prospect-laden lineup that Omaha had to offer.
Here are a few scouting notes on Peralta’s latest outing.
5.0 IP, 0 R, 0 ER, 6 H, 3 BB, 8 K
Total Pitches Thrown: 93
Strikes: 55 (59%)
Balls: 38 (41%)
What did he throw?
Fastball: 60 (65%)
Slider: 29 (31%)
Changeup: 4 (4%)
General Game Notes:
- Command was near non-existent in the first inning, especially with respect to his fastball. Labored to place the pitch over the plate in the first frame and had a tendency to keep it up and out of the zone to left-handed hitters. Control issues subsided after the third frame, whereupon he started to get a better feel for his fastball — which topped out at 97 MPH and sat comfortably in the 94-96 range — and subsequently found himself getting ahead of hitters and inducing a good number of swings and misses with the offering.
- Peralta’s hallowed slider was the real-deal in this outing. Had excellent command of the pitch and threw it virtually wherever he pleased. Hitters had a difficult time even fouling off the pitch; it had tremendous late-break to it and he had enough confidence with it to throw it in almost every situation.
- Didn’t flash his changeup much in this outing; he only threw the pitch four times by my count and his command of the pitch was spotty.
- Staying Balanced – I’m a big fan of pitchers who stay balanced throughout their throwing motion. Pitchers who fade toward first base after their release points often tend to have spotty command; pitchers who stay balanced (see Zack Greinke) seem to have better command. Peralta falls under the former category, especially from the stretch. He tends to overthrow with runners on base and almost falls toward first-base, and his control diminishes significantly as a consequence. I believe staying more balanced post-release point would do wonders for him with respect to his overall control.
- Destined for the ‘Pen — Peralta has been rumored to be a lock for a September call-up for a while now, and with the way he’s pitched since the beginning of July, all signs point to him getting the call next month. His command may still be a bit of concern at this juncture, but his slider will without question be a strikeout pitch at the next level. All that’s left for him is to spot his fastball at a slightly more frequent rate. A chance to talk over his stuff with pitching coach Rick Kranitz next month might just do the trick.
This past offseason, while the Detroit Tigers (see Prince Fielder) and Anaheim Angels (see Albert Pujols, C.J. Wilson) of the baseball world saught to improve their respective rosters through the traditional free-agent route, Oakland Athletics general manager Billy Beane took a much more unconventional free agency route when he signed 26-year-old Cuban-born outfield prospect Yoenis Cespedes to a lucrative four-year, $36 Million contract.
Upon signing with Oakland, Cespedes, who defected from his home country to the Dominican Republic last summer to become eligible for free agency, instantly became one of the most alluring and enticing prospects in all of Major League Baseball. Having put up ridiculous numbers — including a .333/.424/.667 slash line with 33 home runs in 90 games during his 2010-2011 season — as a young phenom in Cuba and a viral workout video that would make even Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton jealous, scouts didn’t hesitate to tag him as the best Cuban defector prospect since right-hander Aroldis Chapman made his way to Cincinnati back in 2010. To that end, Baseball Prospectus’ Kevin Goldstein took that a step further when he dubbed him “arguably the best all-around player to come out of Cuba in a generation” last November.
However, there is an argument to be made that Cespedes — despite the fact he is more or less no longer considered a prospect — is already only the second-best Cuban prospect currently featured in the minors, and the man who’s seemingly surpassed him is none other than 20-year-old Jorge Soler.
Rumors, speculation and tremendous hype surrounding the adolescent prodigy ran rampant this past offseason and well into the current season, however were put to bed on June 30 when it was announced that the Chicago Cubs had reached an agreement with Soler on a not-so-minor-league-typical nine-year, $30 Million contract. First-year Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer are in the midst of youth-movement on the south-side, and all signs point to Soler becoming a staple in their lineup for years to come.
I had the chance to see Soler play a few days back with the Cubs’ low-A minor league affiliate Peoria Chiefs and got at unbelievable look at what he has to offer. Here is my own scouting report and evaluation of the 20-year-old Cuban.
BLUF: Has literally every tool in the toolbox without a noticeable weakness to his game. Projects to be a highly productive middle-of-the-order bat with versatility on the bases and as a corner outfield glove.
Body (6-3, 225): Tall and lanky but still very much a physical specimen by any standard. Long limbs really separate him physically from other players his age. Looks as though he could still put on some more muscle, possibly in his lower body, but overall a very developed player from a physicality standpoint.
Hit: Phenomenally skilled hitter in all areas. Sound mechanics at the plate; good placement of the hands pre-pitch with very little movement, allowing him to have straight and fairly accentuated path to the ball. Incredibly strong and quick wrists that allow him to generate exceptionally hard contact on just about all offerings. Good approach at the plate with good pitch recognition, plate discipline and overall coverage. Goes into each at-bat with a plan and hits every pitch where it’s located. Hit-tool grades out as plus-average right now and has a chance to be plus-plus with more experience. Grade – 55/60
Power: Scouts are most intrigued with this aspect of his game, and understandably so. Long arms coupled with plus bat speed and strong wrists allow him to put massive amounts of torque behind his swing. Absolutely crushes fastballs over the heart of the plate with a swing that doesn’t have a whole lot of loft to it; struggles at times to put the same amount of contact on breaking pitches and will need to shore up that area of his game. Definitely has the potential to hit 25 or more home runs per season, possibly could reach the 30/35 home run plateau in a best-case scenario. Grade – 60/70
Arm: Very strong arm with consistent accuracy on long throws to third base. Had a chance to see him in pre-game warmups and was wowed by his arm strength and carry to the ball on longer throws. Grades out as solid-average right now without much room to grow. Grade – 60/60.
Fielding: Solid overall defender. Speed allows him to cover a decent amount of real estate in right field. Reads the ball well at the point of contact and moreover takes good routes to the ball. Aggressive in nature but rarely if ever makes mistakes. Grade – 50/55
Speed: Natural athleticism is off the charts, but his speed isn’t necessarily. Gets out of the box quickly and looks to turn singles into doubles and doubles into triples. Doesn’t get elite jumps when trying to steal bases but still adequate in that area. Long strides will hold him back from becoming a formidable base-stealer. Could steal anywhere from 10-15 bases annually in the big leagues. Grade – 50/50
Summation: Exceptional overall talent with almost every tool in the toolbox. Good plate discipline and plate coverage allow him to drive the ball to all fields. Elite bat speed gives him plus raw power with even more room to grow. Aggressive but goes into every at-bat with a plan. Solid-average defensive tools; strong arm with good instincts make him a projectable right-fielder down the road. Won’t be much of a base stealer but enough so that opponents will have to respect that facet of his game.
Relative Risk: High-risk/high-reward youngster who the Cubs had better hope is worth the $30 Million allotted to him. In other words, yes; there’s some risk involved here.
Future: The Cubs should be in no rush to push Soler through the system. Though extraordinarily talented with many tools, he is still very raw and will need time to figure his swing out in the minors. He rushed through rookie ball and is on a tear in low-A ball at the moment, which likely suggests a promotion to high-A at the beginning of next season. I think there’s a good chance we could see him as a September call-up in 2014.
Continuing to delve into detail with scouting reports on some of the more intriguing prospects in the Brewers’ system, I’ve decided to take a break on the pitching side of things and begin focusing more on position players.
My first positional scouting report came back a few weeks ago when I took a somewhat brief look at 2012 supplemental first-round — 38th overall — pick and current low-A Appleton outfielder Mitch Haniger. Following that same geographical trend, I’ve decided to break down the game of 20-year-old Timber Rattlers shortstop Yadiel Rivera, whom the following handful of paragraphs will be thoroughly dedicated to.
BLUF: Has the ceiling of a plus-average defensive shortstop with a below average hit tool and fringe-average power.
Player Overview: Drafted by Milwaukee in the ninth round of the 2010 draft with an $85,000 signing bonus. Designated to rookie club in Helena after signing, struggled with plate discipline and posted just a .209/.243/.257 line over 49 games. Was promoted to single-A Appleton to start 2011 but actually regressed at the plate, batting .194/.224/.262 with an isolated power of .068 in 111 plate appearances. Was demoted back to rookie ball midway through that season and saw immediate improvements, most notably in his power-hitting abilities. Has spent entire 2012 season in low-A and has batted .218/.265/.382.
Body (6-2, 175): A thin, lanky and somewhat narrow build with long limbs, Rivera has superb natural athleticism that serves him well. Looks as though he’s still growing into his frame and has room to pack on a few more pounds. Will look the part of a big league shortstop once that happens.
Hit: Quiet and mechanically sound with good hand position pre-pitch, Rivera’s bat has solid-average overall speed but has strong and quick wrists that make his swing deceptively fast. Loads with a subtle front leg raise that induces very little movement from his core to his limbs, and keeps his hands high and in an almost identical position to his pre-pitch. Has decent plate coverage but loves to pull the ball which leads to mechanical breakdowns at times and subsequently elevated strikeout rates. Could develop into fringe-average hitter with more consistent approach over time. Grade — 35/45
Power: Not a whole lot of power to speak of but more than many scouts give him credit for. Struggles to put breaking pitches over the fence but from what I’ve seen has very good gap power with fastballs and changeups in the zone. Low-torque swing induces solid line-drive contact without much loft. Probably has the ability to hit anywhere from 20-25 doubles per season with improved approach, home run projection still a ways off. Grade — 35/45
Arm: Without a doubt the best infield arm the system has to offer. Makes consistent throws to every bag in the infield with great accuracy and very good velocity. I don’t think it has much projection left to it. Grade — 60/60.
Fielding: Plus-defender right now and scary to think he has room to improve. Very good instincts at shortstop with plus-plus range to his glove and arm-side. Fluid mechanics from his base up through his core and upper-body. Quick feet give him hasty reaction time on hard-hit grounders. Turns double-plays with ease. Grade: 65/75.
Speed: Fringe-average to average overall speed. Very good base-runner but doesn’t try to be too aggressive in stealing bases, though he most certainly could; has good first-step quickness and doesn’t take much time to get from first to second thanks to long strides. May have enough for double-digit steals per season in big leagues one day. Grade — 50/50
Summation: Very raw, and still developing a sense for the game, Rivera has some intriguing tools. His best can be found in the field, where he is an exceptional defender at shortstop with tremendous range and an outstanding throwing arm. Still very unpolished as a hitter and will need to improve approach. Has some natural power that he will need to tap into and will also need to improve on breaking pitches. Speed can be found more so in the field than on the bases. Hard worker, good makeup and character, likeable personality.
Relative Risk: Somewhat high. Defensive ceiling is through the roof but plate discipline leaves something to be desired.
Future: Has moved slowly through the system and all signs point to it staying that way. Will finish out this season in low-A and will in all likelihood wind up back in Appleton in 2013, with a chance to move up to high-A Brevard at mid-season with improvements at the plate. May be another three seasons before he challenges for a September roster spot.
In his second start since being demoted from the big league roster on July 30, Brewers right-handed pitching prospect Tyler Thornburg took to the mound Tuesday night for the Nashville Sounds on the road against the Sacramento River Cats, the triple-A minor league affiliate of the Oakland Athletics.
Here are a few of my own observations on Thornburg’s performance.
5.0 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 4 BB, 6 SO
Total Pitches: 78
Strikes: 44 (56%)
Balls: 34 (44%)
What did he throw?
Fastball: 57 (73%)
Curveball: 18 (23%)
Changeup: 3 (4%)
Fly ball-outs/Line drive-outs: 6
Swings and misses: 7
Foul balls: 13
- Thornburg struggled to command his pitches right from the get-go, walking the first hitter of the game and getting himself into trouble by loading the bases in the top of the first. His fastball was very sporadic early on, struggling to get the pitch near the vicinity of the plate and seldom hitting his spots. The same goes for his curveball, which he strayed away from in a few key situations; the pitch was even more inconsistent than his fastball to the point where he spiked the pitch in the dirt three straight times in one at-bat. His changeup was almost nowhere to be found through the first few frames and he struggled to set hitters up because of it.
- After getting his feet under him, Thornburg seemed to settle down. His four-seam fastball that hitters have been known to make solid contact with was suddenly inducing a few swings and misses and a number of ground-balls in the later frames. The same can be said about his curveball, though not quite to the same extent; the pitch had nice bending action to it however I could hardly tell where the pitch would end up.
- All in all, it was a pretty mediocre start by Thornburg’s standards.
- Command — Thornburg’s command has witnessed massive improvements from his early days in the minors, but it still appears he has a ways to go in that respect. Above all else, he’ll need to show signs of confidence and control of his curveball.
- Lack of a third pitch – Thornburg has thrived off his two-pitch mid-90s fastball and big-bending cuveball combination for a while now, and while it worked in the lower minors, odds are it won’t skate in the big leagues. If he has any intention of joining Milwaukee’s rotation for the long-haul, he’ll need to develop his changeup.
Just days following the Zack Greinke trade, the Brewers made yet another roster splash when it was announced they had recalled 22-year-old and newly acquired shortstop Jean Segura from double-A Huntsville to take over the starting job at shortstop on Monday night. Segura, the centerpiece to the aforementioned trade, held a stifling .433/.500/.533 line in his first eight games with the organization and apparently received a vote of confidence from management having been recalled to the big-league roster just days after being dealt.
The transaction may have seemed a bit abrupt to some, but it should come as no surprise to most that the Brewers are in somewhat of a rush to indoctrinate many of their top prospects to the big-leagues. General manager Doug Melvin and owner Mark Attanasio remain staunch in their believe that Milwaukee will have the pieces necessary to compete for a division title in 2013, and its tough to argue with that notion when you consider the fact that A.) The Brewers have witnessed significant improvements down on the farm this season, B.) They [should] be at full health by the start of next season and also that C.) Rickie Weeks’ god-awful offensive yield this season can’t possibly replicate itself over 162 or some odd games next season.
In all seriousness, though, there should be no reason to believe Milwaukee won’t have those essential pieces to make a run at the playoffs next season. However, as this season begins to wind down, there are a few things that have yet to be checked off the “to-do” list, and it all begins on September 1 when rosters expand from 25 to 40.
Which Brewers prospects have the best odds of being recalled to Ron Roenicke’s 40-man September roster? Let’s start our list by ranking the five most plausible:
1.) Tyler Thornburg, RHP (stats)
Making mince meat of double-A Southern League hitters in the first half of the season, Thornburg became the darling of Brewers fans everywhere when he made his first big-league start on June 19. Since then, he’s seen limited time, making just one other start to go with three separate relief appearances for Ron Roenicke. Consequently, management demoted back to triple-A Nashville on July 30 for him to regain his rhythm as a starter, and he’s performed well ever since.
In a system that’s been yearning for a young player to step up and fill at the very least a somewhat important role this season, Thornburg has made his name known. For that reason, you can wager your mortgage that he’ll be on the 40-man September roster.
2.) Wily Peralta, RHP (stats)
Command issues plagued the early stages of what looked to be his final season in the minors, but after making his big-league debut in late April, he’s come around quite nicely. This past month, Peralta, 23, posted a 2.78 ERA and 1.31 WHIP over six starts, held batters to a .275 batting average and struck out over a batter per inning. His first August start was one to forget (3.2 IP, 5 ER, 6 BB, 6 K), but his swing-and miss stuff that has made him Milwaukee’s top hurler on the farm still remains.
With such a blatant shortage of arms out of the bullpen, it’s tough to imagine a scenario where Peralta isn’t on the 40-man roster come September; the Brewers have questions to answer regarding their starting-five next season, and they’ll need to determine if he’s the mid-to-backline starter scouts project him becoming in the near future.
3.) Logan Schafer, OF (stats)
My top-rated Brewers position prospect when the season started, Schafer’s entire 2012 campaign has been spent in triple-A Nashville where he’s strove to return to the big-league roster as he did last September. But after a strong spring training, Schafer struggled to hit the ball where defenders were not, resulting in an uncharacteristically low .266 average between April and May. Schafer regathered himself to hit a scintillating .354/.385/.521 in June but was equally as abhorrent in July where he posted an on-base percentage of .197 — yes, 1.97. To make matters worse, Schafer was placed on the 7-day disabled list on July 30 where he was reported to have a sore left knee and hasn’t suited up since.
Seen as a player with a chance to see legitimate playing time in 2013, things just haven’t gone Schafer’s way this season and his odds of making the 40-man roster next month have consequently taken a beating. I still think there’s a very good chance he’s recalled, as Roenicke could use his base-running prowess on a few occasions, but not to the extent of which we all previously thought.
4.) Taylor Green, 2B/3B (stats)
Receiving a decent amount of playing time after his recall from triple-A in early May, Green’s offensive output just wasn’t up to snuff and he was demoted back to Nashville early on in July, where the Brewers hoped he’d return to his slugging ways just in case Aramis Ramirez was dealt (it didn’t happen) at the trade deadline.
Unfortunately, Green hasn’t been able to tap into his power stroke, garnering just a .372 slugging percentage between July and August. He’s still a serviceable defender at third but all signs point to Ramirez sticking there for the remainder of the season as his own statistics continue to climb. Expect Green on the 40-man roster but as a pinch-hitter/runner almost exclusively.
5.) Caleb Gindl, OF (stats)
Coming off one heck of a 2011 season in triple-A where he hit .307/.390/.472 with a .357 BABIP, Gindl too seemed on the cusp of getting some real playing time by the beginning of 2013. A disciplined hitter with a very good approach at the plate, the stocky outfielder impressed Ron Roenicke this past spring. Since then, he’s been anything but impressive (at least up to his standards). With a career-worst .246/.302/.392 line to go with a heightened amount of strikeouts and diminished walks, Gindl’s big-league future has been put in serious doubt and his odds at making the 40-man roster have also taken a blow.
The Brewers are and will be heavy in outfielders, so there’s a slim chance he gets any substantial playing time should he make the September roster. Right now I’d say he has a 50/50 shot at making it.
Others (in no particular order)
Johnny Hellweg, RHP — A bit of a stretch considering he’s still in double-A ball, but its tough to ignore a guy who throws upwards of 100 MPH and has future strikeout machine written all over him. Will need to work on control issues but some big-league experience next month would do him wonders.
Jeff Bianchi, SS — Despite Segura and Cody Ransom already on the roster, the Brewers simply cannot get enough infield help so they might as well consider promoting him next month.
Tim Dillard, RHP — I don’t necessarily care for his stuff, but he can be good.
Hiram Burgos, RHP — The starting rotation is in disarray anyways, so why not try out one of Milwaukee’s top pitcher-of-the-year candidates a few times?
Fautino De Los Santos, RHP — Melvin might as well see what he got in return for Kottaras.
Mitch Stetter, LHP — Why not recall a southpaw reliever?
Edwin Maysonet, SS — Is it possible to have too many shortstops on this roster? There is a limit, but it has yet to be reached even with Maysonet.
Eric Farris, 2B — Elite speed could be utilized on the bases and, hey, maybe he shows he can hit at a mediocre level after all.
Ariel Pena, RHP — Like Hellweg, Pena has back-line starter material and has performed well thus far in double-A. Might as well see how he fairs against big-league hitting, right?
With their 14th-round pick in the 2011 Major League Baseball first-year player draft, the Milwaukee Brewers took right-handed pitcher Jacob Barnes out of Florida Gulf Coast University. A three-year contributor with the Eagles, the 6’2″, 230-pound hurler’s best collegiate season came as a junior in 2011, where over 20 total appearances and five starts he posted a 4.58 ERA, 1.26 WHIP and struck out roughly 11 batters per nine innings pitched.
Quick to sign on with the organization, Barnes began his professional career with Milwaukee’s rookie club in Arizona, where over 18 relief appearances he posted a feeble 2.18 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, .225 BAA to go with a strikeout rate of 36.1 percent, showing he was ready to move up the minor league-ladder.
Finishing out his rookie season in Arizona, Barnes was promoted to single-A Appleton to start his 2012 campaign. Primarily utilized as an extended-inning bullpen arm through the first few months of the season, head skipper Matt Erickson decided to put Barnes in the starting rotation after right-handed starter Chad Thompson was placed on the seven-day disabled list. His decision would prove to be a very intriguing one, as Barnes has now proven over his past three starts that he has some strengths to his game and that he could be an under-the-radar prospect worth watching next season.
I had the chance to see the first of his past three starts on July 23 and have been able to break down his other starts thanks to MiLB.TV. The following is my own scouting report on Barnes.
Body (6-2, 230): A power-pitcher’s frame with a bit more weight to him than other pitchers his height, Barnes has a strong, almost stocky build to him. Not an above-average athlete but is solid in that respect. Has good coordination with controlled body movements, nothing out of the ordinary in terms of his physical tools.
Delivery/Mechanics: Slow and calculated, Barnes’ delivery from the windup is smooth and lacks any noticeable quirk or hitch. Working over the top, he is able to repeat his delivery well; arm slots are duplicated well and release points are consistent. Working on a downward plane and throwing body weight into his pitches, Barnes’ delivery has some effort to it.
Fastball (FB) Velocity (Wind-up): High — 93, Low — 88, Average — 92-90, Grade — 40/45
Fastball (FB) Velocity (Stretch): High — 92, Low — 88, Average — 91-88, Grade — 40/45
Fastball (FB) Movement: Not a whole lot of movement to speak of. Barnes’ four-seamer is extremely flat and doesn’t have much life on it. Can occasionally flash a trace of arm-side run but not enough to the extent of which it should be considered even fringe-average. Grade — 35/40.
Overall Fastball: Lacking any plus-average feature to it, Barnes’ fastball should probably be considered below fringe-average at this juncture. The pitch is extremely flat and lacks any type of run or dive to it, and when he can’t spot it effectively, batters have a natural tendency to hit line drives off it. Can over-use it too much in many situations, doesn’t look to have much projection left on it, either. Grade — 40/45.
Curveball (CU): Doesn’t use the pitch a whole lot and command can be rather spotty as a consequence. Has decent 12-to-5 break to it from the batter’s perspective with very little horizontal movement. Seems as though he could put some more spin on it and generate the “falling off the table” effect with more coaching, as right now it shows more of an immediate bend rather than a delayed one. Will need to refine his command of the pitch before he intends on reaching the upper minors. Grade — 35/45.
Control: Showed very good control in rookie ball last year, walking just under two batters per nine innings pitched. Has run into some control issues this season but is generally always around the plate. Seems to have more control of his offerings out of the stretch than from the windup. Grade — 45/50.
Command: If there’s one big asset to Barnes’ game, it would be the command he has of his fastball. While his curveball lags behind in terms of movement and placement, he’s shown to be able to spot his four-seamer with a ton of consistency; probably a product of his sound mechanics and the fact that he doesn’t overthrow.
Summation: Having just two pitches that he throws with any consistency at this juncture of his career, it will be difficult for scouts to label Barnes as anything more than a solid right-handed relief specialist in a best-case scenario. While he has solid-average command of his four-seamer, it’s still very hittable due to the fact that it lacks life and movement. Add in that his curveball is still below-average right now, and it looks as though he may not break through to the big leagues until his late 20s. From there, my best guess is that he could be that aforementioned middle-inning right-handed specialist out of the bullpen.
Future: His stay in rookie ball was brief, but all signs point to him remaining in the low minors for a while.
– Alec Dopp
The month of July is a very important one for many top minor league prospects. More or less the midway juncture of the regular season, prospects who wowed early in the season and perpetuated their success into June are now enjoying the fruits of their labor in the form of a promotion to the next level of the minors. For comparison’s sake, July is essentially the baseball equivalent of Saturdays on the PGA Tour: Moving days.
For many of the Milwaukee Brewers’ top prospects, July 2012 was one we’ll never forget. Following a month where we witnessed a few noteworthy promotions and a colossal and unexpected one in Tyler Thornburg, the July dog-days also produced a number of headlines and superb performances. More specifically, a number of players within the system found an acute amount of success during July, putting up gaudy numbers at a prolific rate and moreover raising their respective stocks within the organization.
The following 10 prospects depict those aforementioned players.
Hunter Morris, 1B (stats)
July Line: 106 AB, .340/.393/.736, 20 XBH (10 HR), 24 K/10 BB (28 G)
There are few players in the system who’s power rivals that of Morris, and that was never more evident than in his stellar July showing. This month, he managed to raise his 2012 isolated power (ISO) rating to a career-best .255. His approach will still need refinement before he challenges for the starting first-base job, though is yield at the plate this month is still nonetheless impressive.
Caleb Gindl, OF (stats)
July Line: 91 AB, .319/.370/.527, 11 XBH (4 HR), 18 K/8 BB (25 G)
Gindl’s otherwise impressive power was nowhere to be found early on in 2012, though he turned things around in a big way in July. The 23-year-old hoarded four round-trippers to go with seven two-baggers this past month, raising his slugging percentage back above the .400 mark for the first time this season. A solid finish to his season could put him in prime position to battle for a roster spot this September.
Wily Peralta, RHP (stats)
July Line: 6 GS, 2.78 ERA, 1.38 WHIP, 42 K/8 BB, .275 BAA (35.2 IP)
Peralta got off to a miserably slow start to his season, struggling to command his pitches and keep batters at bay through 2012′s first two months, so anything better than that would have been viewed as a successful July. However, he turned things around in the big way this past month; he effectively commanded his breaking pitches, striking out well over a batter per inning with a mere eight base-on-balls over six starts. This month could be a big reason he’s called up to the 40-man September roster in a few weeks.
Jose Pena, OF (stats)
July Line: 90 AB, .333/.413/.511, 8 XBH (5 3B), 22 K/13 BB (22 G)
Pena, a non-draft pick free agent who signed in 2010, finds himself with the rookie club in Arizona for the third straight; the only difference between 2012 and the two years previous have been his power at the plate, and that was extremely noticeable this month. With plus-speed at 6’2″, 195 pounds, the Dominican native collected three triples on his way to eight total extra-base hits, raising his wOBA to .422, his ISO to .242 through 30 games this season. Still very raw, this could be a major sign of maturity from Pena and may just cause management to scoot him along through the system.
Nick Ramirez, 1B (stats)
July line: 104 AB, .287/.306/.611, 18 XBH (8 HR), 41 K/2 BB (25 G)
Nearly a consensus top-25 prospect at the beginning of the season, Ramirez performed well below expectations in the season’s first two months, struggling with strikeouts and a power shortage at the plate.
While the former was still of clear concern in July, posting a strikeout rate of 37 percent in 25 games, the latter seems to have improved drastically. Belting eight home runs and 11 doubles this past month, Ramirez raised his season wOBA to .344 and his ISO to .224. While both of those numbers are still well below what management had expected entering the season (his power is his only big-league projectable tool at this juncture), such a profound improvement at the plate this past month should offer up some optimism heading into the season’s final stretch.