I am not posting this for any reason other than that I was trying to get to Baseball America's updated Hot Sheet for today, and instead was directed to its June 27, 2008, Hot Sheet. Interestingly, there were 3 Brewers and 2 former Brewers on the list on that date -- out of 13! It is always interesting to go back into the annals and see how prospects were viewed with the benefit of hindsight.
First, the former Brewers, who happened to both be traded away in the same transaction the previous year -- boy was Doug Melvin nervous that day!:
#3 Steve Garrison, a 10th round draft pick by the Brewers in 2005, was never considered a top prospect, but he was off to a nice start, showing good control enough control to slow down Texas League hitters, but not much else. Garrison finally made his mark in the big leagues in 2011 with the Yankees, retiring every batter he has ever faced (2) in the MLB. This year, Garrison is pitching abysmally in relief in independent ball. More interesting was his teammate at San Antonio...
#4 Will Inman, a 3rd round draft pick by the Brewers in 2005, was 21 and dominating the Texas League for San Diego after having been traded by the Brewers the previous year, along with Steve Garrison, for Scott Linebrink. Inman had actually peaked in 2006-2007 at ages 19 and 20. Around the time the Brewers traded him for a so-so 30-year-old middle reliever, Inman was a top 100 prospect according to both Baseball Prospectus (#75) and Baseball America (#91). John Sickels called Inman one of the best pitching prospects in baseball after his 2006 season in A-ball (1.71 ERA, 0.895 WHIP, 134 K / 24 BB). Sickels placed him behind only Gallardo and Braun and ahead of the likes of Lorenzo Cain, Jeremy Jeffress (see below), Manny Parra, Mat Gamel, now-superstar Michael Brantley, and Alcides Escobar. Well, the Brewers got 25 serviceable innings out of Linebrink in 2007 (good for 0.1 WAR), while Inman hasn't yet cracked the majors and is currently unsigned.
And now the prospects who were Brewers at that time:
#11 Mat Gamel, as we all know, never had much of a problem with minor league pitching. Seemingly a steal of 4th round draft pick by the Brewers in 2005, Gamel slashed .300/.378/.472 at A+ in 2007, and improved to .325/.392/.531 between AA and AAA in 2008. Gamel made a solid MLB debut in 2009, slashing .242/.338/.422 in a third of a season. Of course, Gamel was a dreadful defender at 3B (.886 fielding % in the minors at 3B -- compare to Aramis's .951 career mark). And I seem to recall him being a bit blocked at 1B. His offensive production remained solid-to-great in the minors but he hadn't managed to get hot enough to stick in any of his brief stints with the big club, and with his poor defense and Prince never missing a game, his opportunities were limited. With Prince gone, 2012 was Gamel's year. But after a slow start, he tore his ACL and hasn't played a meaningful game since. Gamel amassed -0.1 WAR in a little under half of a cumulative season with the Crew. Hopefully he will manage his way back into a lineup someday, as the offensive talent was always there.
#12 Jeremy Jeffress, 16th overall draft pick by the Brewers in 2006, was a highly touted prospect during his time in the minors. Baseball Prospectus ranked him in their top 100 every year but one between 2007 and 2011. The stuff was electric, with a fastball regularly clocking at 95-98 mph. But the numbers didn't follow until 2010, when Jeffress threw 32.1 innings in relief, recording 12 K/9, 2.23 ERA, and 0.928 WHIP across three minor league levels. Melvin jumped on this chance and shipped Jeffress (-0.1 career WAR), along with Jake Odorizzi (1.0 career WAR), and the aforementioned Escobar (8.4 career WAR) and Cain (9.3 career WAR) for Zack Greinke (3.7 WAR in 1.5 seasons with the Brewers.) It is all but assured at this point that Jeffress was the least valuable piece of that deal -- other than Yuni Betancourt, of course. Yuni gave us -0.5 WAR in his 2011 season. Then, as thanks for bringing him back in 2013, Yuni dropped a deuce on the Brewers (-2.0 WAR). Interestingly, those -2.5 WAR are equal to his career WAR over 9 seasons, meaning he was exactly replacement level for the other 7 seasons of his career.
And, last but the opposite of least:
#13 Jonathan Lucroy was a 3rd round draft pick by the Brewers in 2007. He was moved through the minors a bit slowly, considering he signed as a 21-year-old college junior. He showed excellent contact skills and impeccable understanding of the strike zone, though his power was lacking as a 24- and 25-year-old in the majors, when he slugged .329 and .391, respectively. Melvin wisely did not take this opportunity to trade Lucroy. Of course, since the start of 2012, Lucroy has slashed .303/.363/.485, has accumulated 10.9 WAR (all for the bargain-basement price of $3.25 million), has famously been considered the best pitch-framer in baseball, and has been an all-around good guy. In 2014, he is currently third in the NL in WAR (3.8), behind only Troy Tulowitzki (5.0) and Mike Stanton (4.9), and ahead of 2013 MVP Andrew McCutchen (3.6) and everyone else. Lucroy has placed himself solidly in the conversation for best catcher in baseball, and, perhaps best of all, he is decidedly not a Cardinal.
Inman and Garrison are easily the two least accomplished players in the Hot Sheet that day 6 years ago, with Jeffress only slightly ahead. Melvin was able to get something of value for each of those under-performers. This could be seen as a slight negative for Brewers scouting -- though only Jeffress was drafted in the first two rounds, and he helped land Greinke. Inman's trajectory was not atypical nor particularly disappointing for a 3rd rounder. Gamel had/has a chance to outperform his 4th rounder status. I see this, alternatively, as a strong positive for the Brewers' internal player evaluation. Sometimes it is as valuable to have the guy who appears to be the best player and then trade him for something useful. Funny to think that overvaluing a season of dominant stats from a player like Inman could be one of the new inefficiencies in the market in the post-Moneyball era. Of course, this is one anecdotal day in history and is not enough by itself to make any sweeping judgments.
The other players on the list -- Brett Gardner, David Huff, Jhoulys Chacin, Jordan Schafer, Steve Pearce and Wilmer Flores -- are, incredibly, all currently on 25-man active rosters, while Tommy Hanson and Neftali Feliz have both excelled at times and have been active this season, but have battled injuries.