Welcome back to part IV in BCB's series examining the top prospects at each position in the Brewers minor league system. In today's post will feature some possible future battery mates as we look at catchers and left-handed pitchers.
Catcher is a position that the Brewers have struggled mightily to develop in their farm system over the last decade or so. Luckily, they didn't miss on Jonathan Lucroy, who seems like he will be at least a league average catcher for the next few years, giving our current crop of defensively-challenged catching prospects plenty of time to develop.
And speaking of a positions the Brewers have struggled to develop, we still actually have quite a few interesting pitching prospects, even without Jeffress and Odorizzi. However, most of them are right handed, so they will get their own post next week. The lefty talent pool isn't nearly as deep, and the players featured this week are of the relatively low-ceiling variety.
So without further ado, we'll start with catchers...
The pre-draft scouting report on Cameron Garfield tabbed him as an advanced defensive catcher with decent offensive skills. Well, the 2009 second round pick only threw out 19% of base runners and barely OPS'd over .600. Still, he was very young for his level last year (18), only had 59 games of rookie ball under his belt, and left to handle the entire pitching staff in Wisconsin, so don't give up on him yet. He probably won't hit for very high average, but the Brewers expect his power to develop as he matures more. Opposing players ran wild on Garfield last year, due in large part to his erratic, yet strong arm. As the season progress he got much better at both receiving and blocking balls and the Brewers expect him to continue to improve on all areas of his game. If he wants to be a real prospect, he'd better work on throwing out runners, and on his plate discipline, because a .287 OBP isn't going to get you anywhere.
2010 line (Wisconsin): .245/.287/.318. 384 AB, 3 HR, 46 RBI, 2 SB (4 CS)
Follow the jump for more!
Garfield is listed as the 22nd best prospect in the Brewers system, and the prospect ranked 23rd is his competition: Tyler Roberts. Roberts has become notorious around these parts for the amount of passed balls he allows, (15 in short-season Helena, compared to the 10 Garfield allowed last year), but there's no denying that he can hit. His ineptitude at blocking balls has also overshadowed the 36% of base runners he threw out; not too shabby for a then 19-year-old. However, after a successful debut in 2009, the Brewers curiously sent him back to Arizona. That extra trip to rookie ball apparently did wonders for Roberts, who dramatically improved all areas of his game. The Georgia native, nicknamed "Country" projects to be a solid catcher at the major league level who can contribute both offensively and defensively. The 2009 10th round pick will hopefully be sent to Wisconsin next season, where we'll see if he can hit above Rookie ball.
2010 line (Arizona and Helena): .283/.352/.503. 159 AB, 6 HR, 23 RBI, 0 SB
Another 10th round pick, this time from 2010, Rafael Neda is seen as an excellent offensive catcher who needs to work on the defensive side of his game. A native of Mexico, Neda signed late and only appeared in 13 games, so there's not much more I can tell you about him. He did however throw out 50% of attempted base stealers. Hooray for small sample sizes!
2010 line (Arizona and Helena): .234/.321/.234. 47 AB, 0 HR, 3 RBI
Moving on to left-handed pitchers...
The Brewers thought they got a steal when they drafted Del Howell in the 15th round of the 2009 draft. Whether that is actually true or not remains to be seen. The 6'3" lefty had a nice debut in 2009, tossing 11.2 innings with a .77 ERA. But that small sample size success didn't make it to Wisconsin. His first few months for the Rattlers were rather rough, but he managed to pull things together towards the end. Still, his peripherals aren't pretty. Pre-draft scouting reports said Howell posesses three potential plus pitches: a 88-92 MPH sinker that can reach 94, a sharp slider, and an effective change up. Hopefully he can bring all three of those plus pitches together and improve on those numbers next season in Brevard Co.
2010 line (Wisconsin): 3-7, 4.68 ERA. 100 IP, 110 H, 61 BB, 66 K. 9.9 H/9, 5.5 BB/9, 1.710 WHIP, 4.87 FIP
Dan Merklinger has consistently put up pretty good numbers since being taken in the 6th round of the 2007 draft. But the Brewers have taken things very slowly with him, and he's now 25 and has only pitched 9.1 innings above A+. He was surprisingly added to the 40-man roster over the winter, so perhaps the Brewers are finally starting to take notice of his good results, and peripherals to match. His arsenal includes a fastball that ranges between the upper-80's and low-90's and a slurveish breaking ball. If he starts the season in AAA, he could be on the short list of call-ups in the case of an injury.
2010 line (Brevard Co, Huntsville, and Nashville): 8-7, 3.65 ERA. 143 IP, 135 H, 45 BB, 148 K. 8.5 H/9, 2.8 BB/9, 9.3 K/9, 1.259 WHIP, 2.95 FIP
Taken in the 9th round of the 2009 draft, Jon Pokorny has been used exclusively in relief. After the promotion of Andre Lamontagne, Pokorny took over the closer's role for the Rattlers where he saved 17 games. Pokorny strikes out a ton of batters, but could stand to walk a few less. He has a three-pitch repertoire which includes an upper-80's fastball that occasionally reaches the low-90's. He's a little old for his level, so hopefully the Brewers will move him through the system fast if he continues his string of success.
2010 line (Wisconsin): 4-6, 3.34 ERA. 60.1 IP, 47 H, 26 BB, 87 K. 7 H/9, 3.9 BB/9, 13 K/9, 1.210 WHIP, 2.84 FIP
Stop by next week for the exciting conclusion!