The Peoria Javelinas finished their season on Thursday with a 13-6 win over Phoenix. They finished 16-22 overall and did not qualify for postseason play. Let's take a look at what we learned about some of the Brewers' hottest prospects in the AFL.
Before we start, it's worth noting that hitters dominated the AFL. The league OPS was .830, compared to .744 in the 2008 NL and .756 in the AL.
Lorenzo Cain, CF
What we knew: Cain turned 22 in April and played in three levels in 2008. At Brevard County, he hit .287/.358/.448 in 80 games. When he was promoted to Huntsville, his numbers got even better: .277/.363/.486 in 40 games. He struggled in a brief promotion to Nashville. Cain is probably the closest thing the Brewers have to a major-league ready center fielder in the minor leagues. He was shut down the last week in August to rehab a hamstring injury, but recovered to play in the AFL. Cain's power is developing nicely: in 2007 he only slugged .344 in 482 ABs at Brevard County.
What we saw in Arizona: Cain only played in 18 of the Javelinas' 38 games, and appeared in at least two of those as a pinch runner. When he played, though, he was an impact player, hitting .333/.382/.635 in 63 at bats. His 5 AFL home runs tied him for 12th with a lot of players who played significantly more than he did. His walk rate was low (4 in 67 plate appearances), but he also only struck out eight times, so apparently aggressiveness was working for him. He also stole four bases in five attempts.
What to take away from it: Cain is closer to being big-league ready than I think most of us expected. Cain hits right handed, but most of his damage at every level has been against right-handed pitching. At 22 years old, Cain was slightly young for the AFL, but did not appear overmatched. His brief struggle in AAA in 2008 was intended to be a wakeup call, and he treated it as one. I'm sure he'll start 2009 in AAA after a cup of coffee in spring training, but he could be an option for a full-time job in center field in 2010.
Lou Palmisano, C
What we knew: Before Angel Salome, Brett Lawrie, Jonathan LuCroy et al, Lou Palmisano was the "catcher of the future" for the Brewers, but Cap'n Lou has been slow developing and at 26 years old, 2008 was his sixth year in the Brewers organization, and he's still never played above AA. Palmisano had surgery to repair a torn meniscus in March, and missed most of the season. He DH'ed in his rehab stint in Arizona and at in 19 games at Brevard County, his only 2008 action. In September, the Brewers were forced to DFA him to make room on the roster for Mike Lamb, but he went unclaimed. His MLB.com bio says he enjoys Italian food.
What we saw in Arizona: Palmisano started off AFL play on loan to the Mesa Solar Sox, who were short a catcher, but got most of his playing time with the Javelinas. Overall, Palmisano appeared in 16 AFL games, batting .370/.404/.630 in 46 at bats.
What to take away from it: Palmisano didn't really play enough for the AFL to be a true evaluation. He might not have been invited to the AFL at all if he wasn't a catcher: at 26 he was the oldest player on the Javelinas roster, and the only position player born in 1982. Cap'n Lou will probably get an invite to spring training in 2009 because he's a catcher, but he's at best a long shot to play in Milwaukee at any point next season.
Brent Brewer, SS
What we knew: Brewer was a 2006 second round pick, and his name would suggest it was destined to be so. His bat regressed a bit in 2008, though, going from .251/.315/.390 in West Virginia in 2007 to .213/.294/.310 in West Virginia and .251/.314/.369 in Brevard County in 2008. He needs a lot of work defensively: He's made 106 errors at shortstop in his first 2 1/2 seasons as a Brewer prospect. His .941 fielding percentage at Brevard County was a career high. Brewer will turn 21 in December.
What we saw in Arizona: Brewer probably would have been a more likely candidate to play winter ball in Hawaii than Arizona, but he was a late addition to the Javelinas' roster when Taylor Green broke (and re-broke) his nose and had to be shut down. In his brief appearance in Arizona, though, Brewer shined, hitting .300/.344/.700 in 30 ABs with three doubles, three home runs and two stolen bases in as many attempts. He did strike out once every 3.3 ABs though, which is less than he struck out in 2007 (170 K's in 518 AB) but more than 2008 (105 in 449 ABs).
What to take away from it: Even though Brewer only played in nine games, there's a lot of positives here. Brewer's three home runs in AFL play were more than he hit all season (2) in West Virginia and Brevard County. At 20 years old, he was the youngest player in the AFL and one of only a handful of players born in 1987, which makes me feel incredibly old. All told, this brief stint (and the success that came from it) can only help a guy who had an otherwise disappointing season. He's still a defensively poor shortstop that strikes out way too much, but at least he showed a flash of brilliance on a stage where he could have looked terribly overmatched.
Taylor Green, 3B
What we knew: By virtue of being included in the rumors surrounding the Sabathia trade, we probably know more about Taylor Green than we do about most Brewer prospects. Green was a 25th round pick in 2005 (signed by new director of amateur scouting Bruce Seid), Brewer organizational player of the year in 2007 at West Virginia, and in 2008 he carried the success over to Brevard County, where he hit .289/.342/.443 in 418 at bats. Green turned 22 in November, and while his stats would suggest he's not likely to become a great defensive third baseman (a .929 career fielding percentage), his hitting will likely allow him to keep moving up the ladder.
What we saw in Arizona: Not nearly enough. Taylor Green only played in nine games in Arizona (24 at bats) before being hit in the face and breaking his nose. Shortly after, he was hit in the face by a ground ball during fielding practice and was shut down for the season. He was hitting .333/.448/.542 at the time of his injury.
What to take away from it: Nothing much, really. Green's nose should be healed enough for spring training, he'll likely start 2009 in AA, and if he doesn't get better defensively at third base then he'll be another corner outfield/first base prospect with high offensive upside but nowhere to play.
Angel Salome, C
What we knew: Arguably the Brewers' best catching prospect, Salome was the Pioneer League MVP in 2005, a mid and postseason All Star in the South Atlantic League in 2006, and following an injury-shortened 2007 season, he was a mid and postseason Southern League All Star for Huntsville in 2008, and was named to the Baseball America AA All Star Team. Salome hit .360/.415/.559 in Huntsville in 2008, and had a cup of coffee with the Brewers in September. Salome turned 22 in June.
What we saw in Arizona: Salome went 0-for-4 with a walk and scored a run in his one game in the AFL. Weeks later, it was revealed that he was suffering from rotator cuff irritation and his return to AFL play was uncertain. He did not return.
What to take away from it: I hope he's seeing a doctor, resting comfortably and will be ready for spring training. Given the Brewers' commitment to Jason Kendall, it seems unlikely he'll spend any prolonged stretch with the Crew this season, but he could be ready for a big role in 2010.
Coming soon: What we learned in Arizona - The Pitchers.