Arizona Fall League preview

Tonight there's a playoff game for the Brewers but today at 2:35 the Arizona Fall League season starts for some of the Brewers' top prospects. Just like during the regular season, we'll have a daily update for you on minor league action.

The players are assigned to the Peoria Javelinas this year, a team shared with prospects from the Cardinals, Mariners, Mets and Padres organizations. I know a lot of people were excited about seeing Jed Bradley for the first time but he's been recently replaced on the roster by Tyler Thornburg. (Familiar face Brandon Kintzler, recovering from a forearm fracture, was originally supposed to be on the roster but was dropped yesterday. As of posting, no reason was given.)

I'll talk about Thornburg first. The righty was drafted in 2010 in the 3rd round. Baseball America is in the process of issuing its yearly league top prospect reports; Thornburg was named both the #18 prospect in the Midwest League and the #14 prospect in the Florida State League in 2011. He started the season with low-A Wisconsin and moved up to high-A Brevard County in late June. He started 12 games for both teams, finishing the year with 136.2 IP. He struck out 76 batters with Wisconsin and 84 with Brevard County; the batters of the FSL were far luckier with scoring runs off Thornburg despite his giving up only 45 hits compared to 49 allowed to Midwest League batters. He did walk 33 in the Florida State League, however, and only 25 in the Midwest League.

Another fast-moving prospect assigned to Peoria is left-handed reliever Daniel Meadows. A 49th-round draft pick in 2008, Meadows split his time in 2011 between AA Huntsville and AAA Nashville, being shuttled between them at various points in the season. He racked up 77.1 IP combined this year. Once again, he performed better at the lower level, but one has to consider that his higher level was in the hitter-friendly PCL. His WHIP jumped from 0.912 to 1.290 just by the change in levels. (He also walked a few more batters.)

Santo Manzanillo has been slowly progressing through the Brewers organization since he was signed as an international free agent out of the Dominican Republic in 2006. He missed all of the 2009 season after having Tommy John surgery. The right-handed reliever played for both high-A Brevard County and AA Huntsville this season, getting the call to Huntsville at the beginning of July. He threw 61.2 innings this year. Like Meadows, he's a strikeout pitcher, but this is a late development for him; his K/9 jumped from 6.8 to 9.0 from 2010 to 2011. Manzanillo also made a great improvement in his BB/9 this year, dropping it from 5.1 to 3.8.

Right-handed starter Cody Scarpetta spent his entire 2011 season at AA Huntsville. An 11th-round draft pick in 2007, Scarpetta's minor league stats have been fairly consistent in terms of his walks and hits allowed. He pitched 117 innings in 2011, a drop from his 2010 innings count, which can largely be attributed to the vast amount of rainouts Huntsville had this season. Scarpetta's final scheduled start of the season didn't happen due to the weather. His strikeout total also dropped from 142 to 98, which can't be attributed to the weather.

Position player preview after the jump...

2B Scooter Gennett had a good year at the plate for A Brevard County, with a .300/.334/.740 line for the 2011 season. A 16th-round draft pick in 2009, Gennett has had 2 good seasons of hitting but his defense is, um, a wee bit suspect right now. Errors of course do not tell the entire story and in terms of games played his error total is down in 2011 from 2010, but prospect writers are still noting that his defensive abilities could be improved.

3B Zelous Wheeler started the 2011 season as AAA Nashville's starting third baseman but sprained his knee two weeks into the season. On one hand, this led to the ascendance of Taylor Green; on the other hand, it didn't do Wheeler any good. Once he was activated from the DL, he was sent to AA Huntsville where he remained for the rest of 2011. Wheeler did improve in his second time around in AA but played 70 fewer games in 2011 than in 2010. He hit for a bit more power this season and took about the same amount of walks per game. I'm assuming he is being sent to the AFL so he can get a bit more playing time under organizational supervision in before 2012.

Despite being a first round draft pick in 2009, there's a perception that OF Kentrail Davis is the less exciting K. Davis in the Brewers organization. A lot of that is his massive offensive dropoff between his 2010 experience with low-A Wisconsin compared to his 2010 and 2011 experience Davis at A Brevard County. Davis had been hitting .335/.421/.939 with Wisconsin in 2010; his 2011 line at Brevard County was far different: .245/.317/.678. The Florida State League does depress offense somewhat but Davis also took less walks in a full season at the higher level than he did in a partial season at the lower one. Davis plays all three outfield positions but spent most of his time in RF this season.

Fans of the major league team saw a bit of CF Logan Schafer this September. It wasn't enough. Schafer didn't get a single start and has 1 hit and 3 innings of outfield play to his MLB name. Schafer, a 3rd-round draft pick in 2008, has had a minor league career plagued by hindering injuries. He broke his foot in 2010, causing him to miss most of the season. He started 2011 at Brevard County once more once being activated from the DL (for a thumb broken during spring training) in May but spent only two weeks there, moving up to Huntsville until the end of July. He spent August with Nashville and then was called up to Milwaukee when rosters expanded in September. Schafer is the only one of these position players I've seen play in person and I was excited by his play in those 2 games. Unfortunately for him, he's a bit poorer defensively than Morgan and Gomez which could prevent him from cracking the major league roster in 2012. Like Wheeler, he's there to make up some of his missed time from 2011.

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