What we learned in Arizona - The Pitchers

For my review of the hitters, click here.

Alexandre Periard

What we knew: At 21 years old, Periard split 2008 between Brevard County and Huntsville. In Brevard County, he went 9-6 with a 3.51 ERA in 112.2 innings, but he struggled with the Southern League, posting a 5.68 ERA in 38 innings (8 starts). He was a 16th round pick in 2004. Even though he's only 21, 2009 will be Periard's fifth season as a member of the Brewers organization.

What we saw in Arizona: It was a tale of two seasons for Periard. He started off the AFL season with four scoreless outings in relief, and one rough outing that raised his ERA to 2.84 in 6.1 innings. Then, he finished the AFL season as a starter and got repeatedly shelled, picking up the loss in three of his four starts and giving up 19 runs on 27 hits and nine walks in just 11.2 innings. All told, he had a 10.50 ERA in 18 innings.

What to take away from it: As a 21-year-old who had never pitched effectively above high-A ball, it's really not surprising that Periard was overmatched as a starter in a hitter-friendly advanced prospect league, and it's relatively encouraging that he was able to hold his own as a reliever in that environment. Periard will most likely go back to Huntsville to start 2009, and could be a candidate to contribute to the Brewers as soon as late 2010, when he would still only be 23.

David Welch

What we knew: A 25-year-old Australian lefty, Welch had a nice, if unspectacular, season in Huntsville in 2008, going 11-4 with a 3.90 ERA in 147.2 innings (26 starts). He doesn't do anything spectacularly well, but he gets outs. His WHIP (.97 to 1.33) and ERA (2.41 to 3.90) have both gotten significantly higher each of the last two seasons as he climbed from West Virginia to Huntsville.

What we saw in Arizona: Welch appeared exclusively in relief in the AFL, and despite getting off to a bit of a slow start, he allowed just one earned run over his final seven outings (11.2 innings) to bring his ERA down to 4.24. He typically pitched full innings but fared much better against left-handed hitters, holding lefties to a .200 batting average while allowing righties to hit at a .333 clip. His minor league splits show that he actually fared better against righties in 2008.

What to take away from it: We're most likely not talking about a future superstar here, but Welch is left handed and throws strikes (just 51 walks in 147.2 2008 innings, 4 in 17 AFL innings). The possible return of Brian Shouse along with the continued presence of Mitch Stetter, Chris Narveson and Sam Narron (plus yesterday's signing of R.J. Swindle) means Welch probably won't bang on the door of the big leagues anytime soon, but he may get a shot at some point.

Omar Aguilar

What we knew: Aguilar is 23 years old and climbing the ladder in the Brewer organization as a reliever. Aguilar was absolutely dominant at Brevard County this season (0.35 ERA in 25.2 IP), but came back to earth a bit at Huntsville, where he posted a 3.08 ERA in 38 innings. This was Aguilar's second run in winter ball: He pitched in Hawaii after the 2007 season.

What we saw in Arizona: Aguilar only pitched 11.2 innings in 11 appearances in Arizona, but it would be hard to be much more impressive. Aguilar did not allow a single earned run in Arizona until his final appearance, a scoreless streak of 10.1 innings. He struck out 12 and walked just four in his 11.2 innings, and was the only Brewer prospect to appear in the AFL Rising Stars game.

What to take away from it: The Brewers must feel that someone might have wanted Aguilar on their 2009 roster, as they've added him to their 40 man roster to protect him from the Rule 5 Draft. True pitching prospects who don't start in the minors are rare, but Aguilar is one: He hasn't started a game since starting for the Brewers' Arizona Rookie League affiliate in 2006. Aguilar gives up a lot of fly balls (.83 groundouts per air out in the AFL, .90 for the 2008 season), but so far what he's got seems to be working. He could feasibly start 2009 in Nashville, but spending the first half in Huntsville probably wouldn't hurt either.

Brae Wright

What we knew: Wright turned 25 in November and was a sixth round pick in 2006. In 2007, he gave up a lot of runs in West Virginia (5.87 ERA in 110.1 IP) but improved after a promotion to Brevard County, where he posted a 2.84 ERA in 38 innings. In 2008, Wright spent the entire season in Huntsville, going 6-10 with a 3.59 ERA in 170.2 innings, striking out 120 and walking 60.

What we saw in Arizona: Wright was used exclusively as a reliever and only appeared in seven games. He had thrown 5.1 scoreless innings before his last two appearances, where he gave up five runs on six hits in 2.1 innings.

What to take away from it: Not a lot to analyze in Wright's 7.2 AFL innings. He did not seem to struggle with the move to the bullpen after only making one relief appearance over the 2007 and 2008 seasons. In fact, if not for a disastrous final outing (4 runs on 4 hits in .1 inning), his AFL numbers would be much more encouraging. He probably showed enough in Huntsville in 2008 to earn a spot in the Nashville rotation in 2009, but 2010 is probably the earliest he could hope to contribute to the Brewers.

Jeremy Jeffress

What we knew: Jeffress is widely considered the top pitching prospect in the Brewers organization. The Brewers first round pick in 2006, Jeffress has accelerated through the Brewers system pretty quickly, and at age 20 he split the season between Brevard County (4.08 ERA in 79.1 IP) and Huntsville (5.52 ERA in 14.2 IP), despite missing much of the early season after being suspended for testing positive for marijuana.

What we saw in Arizona: Cause for concern sums it up in three words. Jeffress struggled through three starts in Arizona, posting a 12.86 ERA in 7 innings, and after the third outing he complained of shoulder discomfort. The Brewers downplayed the concerns and called them "shoulder fatigue," going so far as to suggest he could return to AFL action. He did not return.

What to take away from it: Jeffress has been young for every level he's competed at, including four starts in Huntsville before his 21st birthday. However, Jeffress recently finished his second full season as a Brewer prospect and his career high for innings pitched is still just 94 and his career low ERA is still only 3.13 (West Virginia, 2007). Jeffress will likely return to Huntsville to start the 2009 season, and a big season there could do a lot to cement his status as an elite prospect.

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