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Prospect Progress Report

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I like following prospects. It's like having Christmas Eve all the time, every player a wrapped present of infinite promise, each with the potential to be a Red Ryder carbine-action BB gun with a compass in the stock. Sure, sometimes they turn out to be socks, but there's always another present to open. With that in mind, let's see how our Christmas is shaping up:

Nashville Sounds (AAA)

  • Steve Bray, RHRP - 8.25 ERA, 12 IP, 13 H, 11 ER, 5 HR, 5 BB, 13 K
    Not such a great start for one of my favorite sleepers. The ERA is higher than it should be, probably because of all the home runs. He might be another Joe Thatcher, a guy who isn't going to get a shot unless he's traded.
  • Tim Dillard, RHRP - 2.66 ERA, 20.3 IP, 20 H, 6 ER, 3 HR. 5 BB, 15 K
    Has been moved to the bullpen, which is too bad considering he was probably the most durable starter in the system the past couple years. Fringy.
  • Hernan Iribarren, OF/2B (L) - .253/.330/.301/.631
    Impressive in his short call-up, the Hurricane is hitting poorly but has shown a marked improvement in his BB/K ratio, going from 44/109 last year to 10/11 this year. The batting average will probably come up, but don't delude yourself into thinking he's better than Rickie Weeks.
  • Zach Jackson, LHRP - 8.38 ERA, 29 IP, 49 H, 27 ER, 6 HR, 11 BB, 17 K
    Just got moved to the pen, most likely permanently, at least in this system. Time to forget about him unless he really starts lighting it up as a reliever.
  • Brendan Katin, OF (R) - .257/.273/.527/.800
    Serious power from Ryan Braun's college teammate, but he's walked only two times all year and committed four errors in the outfield already. Usually you want the former to be higher than the latter.
  • Chris Narveson, LHSP - 4.11 ERA, 35 IP, 34 H, 16 ER, 2 HR, 17 BB, 25 K
    After almost making the club on the heels of a scintillating spring, Narveson has fallen behind Mark DiFelice and Jeff Weaver on the depth chart with an ugly 25/17 K/BB.
  • Brad Nelson, 1B/OF (L) - .320/.377/.567/.944
    Yeah, he's still around. Hoping to get a look this year after a hot start in his fourth try at AAA. Still only 25, but guys who have repeated their league as much as him should dominate.
  • Luis Pena, RHRP - 7.71 ERA, 9.3 IP, 9 H, 8 ER, 1 HR, 8 BB, 9 K
    ERA is misleading due to a 6-run implosion early on, but hasn't been as dominant as hoped, tallying only two perfect innings. He was looked upon as a future closer coming into the season, but he's gonna have to cut down on the walks.

Huntsville Stars (AA)

  • Mike Bell, 2B (R) - .245/.297/.415/.712
    Bell is a decent sleeper, a power-hitting second baseman who doesn't walk enough. I don't know anything about his defensive reputation, but he's committed six errors already.
  • Michael Brantley - OF/1B (L) - .324/.413/.371/.785
    A contender for this year's most pleasant surprise, Brantley is younger than all but two members of the team a level below him and is hitting with authority while displaying his trademark plate discipline. If he can play CF in the majors, he could provide Luis Castillo-like value even if he doesn't develop any more power.
  • Chris Errecart, 1B/OF (R) - .261/.373/.413/.786
    The walks are way up, but they were at the beginning of last year too before tailing off dramatically. Probably doesn't have enough power to stick.
  • Alcides Escobar, SS (R) - .258/.297/.358/.655
    You all know about the defense, but he doesn't seem to have improved much, if at all, from last year with the bat. Still just 21, so there's a lot of room for growth yet, but it's looking like his ceiling is a league-average hitter with a gold glove.
  • Mat Gamel, 3B (L) - .367/.433/.633/1.066
    Everyone knew he could hit, but no one expected this kind of performance. I'm sure the Brewers would love to have another left-handed power bat, but Gamel still has a long ways to go with the glove after already committing eight errors.
  • Cole Gillespie, OF (R) - .261/.360/.511/.871
    Got off to a really slow start but is coming on strong. There are concerns that he won't have enough power to play corner outfield in the big leagues, but that hasn't been a problem so far.
  • Steve Hammond, LHSP - 3.51 ERA, 33.3 IP, 26 H, 13 ER, 3 HR, 11 BB, 39 K
    Big jump in the K-rate for Hammond in his second season in Huntsville, but he's already 26. I'd imagine he'll get promoted soon if the team sees anything in him.
  • Robert Hinton, RHRP - 5.28 ERA, 15.3 IP, 13 H, 9 ER, 3 HR, 6 BB, 14 K
    Formerly a nice relief prospect, Hinton is beginning to stagnate.
  • Matt LaPorta - .333/.431/.716/1.147
    Yes please.
  • Angel Salome, C (R) - .288/.327/.442/.770
    Pretty much par for the course for Salome: good average and power for a backstop, poor plate discipline, big arm, bad defense. He's the best the Brewers have in the way of catching prospects.
Brevard County Manatees (A+)

  • Omar Aguilar, RHRP - 0.55 ERA, 16.3 IP, 8 H, 1 ER, 0 HR, 7 BB, 19 K
    Aguilar was a nice late-round choice a few years ago, falling because of an arm injury but still possessing a serious fastball. The walks may look a bit high, but he's cut his rate down sharply from last year (36 in 58 IP at West Virginia). It looks like he's blossoming; a promotion to Huntsville may be in order.
  • Zach Braddock, LHSP - 6.00 ERA, 3.0, 3 H, 2 ER, 0 HR, 3 BB, 3 K
    Braddock may be the best pitching prospect in the system, depending on how much you reward him for behind left-handed and penalize Jeremy Jeffress for self-medicating. He absolutely dominated A-ball last year before going down with arm injuries, and showed no signs of having lost anything in two tune-ups at West Virginia this season. His Brevard debut wasn't great, but he's the youngest guy on the team. He's about to blow up (the good kind of blowing up).
  • Josh Butler, RHSP - 2.00 ERA, 9 IP, 8 H, 2 ER, 0 HR, 2 BB, 6 K
    The guy the Rays traded to the Brewers for Gabe Gross, Butler's height (6'5") and pedigree (2nd round draft pick) would lead you to believe he is an elite pitching prospect; he isn't. His numbers in the Tampa Bay system were uninspiring, and he's already 23.
  • Lorenzo Cain, OF (R) - .252/.331/.365/.696
    All-around toolsy outfielder is hitting worse than he did last year at the same level. He used to be young for his leagues, so average production was less of a problem, but he's really going to have to pick it up now that his age is appropriate for his setting.
  • Stephen Chapman, 1B/OF (L) - .243/.315/.486/.801
    Probably the best power bat in the system behind Mat LaPorta, Chapman is struggling to hit for average, but his walk rate has ticked upwards, which is a good sign. He could have a big season in Huntsville next year.
  • Charlie Fermaint, OF (R) - .234/.263/.324/.587
    A total mystery. Fermaint is one of the best athletes in the system and posted a 744 OPS two years ago at hitter-unfriendly Brevard County, but the team apparently didn't like something about his performance (strikeouts?) and kept him there to begin 2007, and he's gone backwards with the bat ever since.
  • Darren Ford, OF (L) - .235/.315/.296/.611
    Just like Cain, struggling in his second season at Brevard County. He's one of the fastest guys in the system and has better plate discipline than you'd expect, plus a little pop in his bat, so there's a lot to like, but nobody on Brevard except Taylor Green is hitting this year.
  • Taylor Green, 3B (L) - .330/.420/.398/.818
    The only third base prospect in the system that can actually play third base, Green broke out in a big way with the bat last year at West Virginia and has kept right on hitting despite being in the pitcher-friendly Florida State League. There's some concern about his power, but the rest of his game seems legit.
  • Jeremy Jeffress, RHSP
    He's suspended for the first 45 games of the season this year for lighting up more than just radar guns, but he still throws 100 MPH. He'll pitch at Brevard County after he's reinstated.
  • Mike Jones, RHSP - 4.85 ERA, 13 IP, 12 H, 7 ER, 1 HR, 11 BB, 7 K
    Sadly, it's probably time to forget about the former first-rounder as a prospect and instead view him as a cautionary tale about drafting high school arms.
  • Alex Periard, RHSP - 3.69, 31.7 IP, 27 H, 13 ER, 0 HR, 9 BB, 23 K
    Periard's never dominated hitters the way a guy with his supposedly wicked stuff should. He's shown signs of breaking out this year and won't be 21 until June 15th, so there's still a lot to like.
  • Mark Rogers, RHSP
    After missing all of 2007 with shoulder surgery, Rogers is on the comeback trail. He'll probably get in some rehab action when the Arizona League opens up before heading back to Brevard County. A move to the bullpen might be in his future.
West Virginia Power (A)

  • Evan Anundsen, RHSP - 4.45 ERA, 30.3 IP, 30 H, 15 ER, 2 HR, 7 BB, 22 K
    A big-time groundball pitcher, Anundsen has shown flashes of being able to strike batters out as well, which can be a lethal combination. As with most of the pitchers at West Virginia, time will tell.
  • Brent Brewer, "SS" (R) - .221/.296/.345/.641
    Ah, the famous Brent Brewer. The Brewers' second-round pick two years ago had a scholarship to play wide receiver at Florida State, so his athleticism isn't in question, but whether he can actually play baseball is still up in the air. He's struggling in pretty much all aspects of the game in his second attempt at A-ball, hitting worse than he did last year and committing a truly impressive 12 errors already. Your stereotypical boom-or-bust prospect.
  • Rob Bryson, RHSP - 17 IP, 21 H, 11 ER, 2 HR, 7 BB, 26 K
    As you can see from the strikeouts, Bryson has some serious stuff. A lot of people see him making the big leagues as a flame-throwing reliever.
  • Caleb Gindl, OF (L) - .259/.319/.380/.699
    The guy nobody can resist comparing to Brian Giles because of his stature (5'9"), Gindl tore up Rookie ball last year and is just starting to get his feet under him in West Virginia. He's only 19, so even if he only progresses a level a year, he'll still reach the big leagues at the same age Ryan Braun did. Needs to improve his walk rate.
  • Lee Haydel, OF (L) - .259/.314/.321/.635
    Darren Ford's competition for speediest guy in the system, Haydel has shown signs of being able to do more than just run fast this year, but he's very raw.
  • Jonathan Lucroy, C (R) - .295/.372/.410/.781
    The Brewers' third-round pick last year, Lucroy is a good hitter for a catcher. Because of his position, he gets a little more leeway with regard to his age than most prospects. After Salome, he's the system's best hope behind the plate.
  • Roque Mercedes, RHSP - 6.59 ERA, 27.3 IP, 34 H, 20 ER, 4 HR, 9 BB, 27 K
    The Dominican signee has cut down on his walk rate and upped his strikeout rate from last year but still isn't getting great results. It's easy to envision him becoming another Luis Pena.
  • Mike Ramlow, LHSP - 3.60 ERA, 25 IP, 29 H, 10 ER, 0 HR, 2 BB, 28 K
    Already 22, Ramlow has caught my eye this year with a 28/2 K/BB rate. He's 6'6" and only 170 pounds, which seems impossible. Another reason to like him: his favorite book is "Moneyball".
  • R.J. Seidel, RHSP - 4.44 ERA, 24.3, 26 H, 12 ER, 1 HR, 10 BB, 15 K
    The La Crosse native is yet another A-ball pitcher struggling to find his identity.
  • Nick Tyson, RHSP - 4.29 ERA, 21 IP, 31 H, 10 ER, 2 HR, 3 BB, 14 K
    Tyson has been way too hittable but has compensating by not walking anyone. A different profile from your usual A-ball pitching prospect (lots of strikeouts, lots of walks) makes him an interesting one to watch.
  • Zelous Wheeler, 2B/3B (R) - .300/.412/.440/.852
    Yes, that is his real name. Wheeler has done nothing but hit since being drafted last year. He'd be a fun guy to follow by virtue of his name alone, but it appears he might really be able to play.
Five More To Watch

  • Hitaniel Arias, OF (R)
    Arias' most important stats are his height (6'5") and his birthdate (9/20/90). He hasn't played professionally yet, so there's not much else to go on. He'll start his Brewers career in Arizona ball.
  • Rolando Pascual, RHSP
    Another extremely young Dominican guy about whom it's going to take some time to learn anything meaningful.
  • Chad Robinson, RHSP
    20 years of age and in possesion of a 95 MPH fastball, Robinson pitched briefly and ineffectively for Helena last year and will get another shot there in 2008 when their season begins in mid-June.
  • Cody Scarpetta, RHSP
    Another guy with a big fastball who fell in the draft because of injury, Scarpetta will begin his Brewers career in the Arizona League this year.
  • Shawn Zarraga, C (R)
    Zarraga, a native Aruban, has serious power and plays catcher but plummeted in the draft last year after asking for too much money. His debut is the one I'm most looking forward to.