The month of May was about as ugly as it could get for the Milwaukee Brewers, and that's just about all that can be said about how things fared down on the farm, as Jim Goulart (@Mass_Haas) so eloquently stated a few days back.
<blockquote class="twitter-tweet"><p><a href="https://twitter.com/search/%23Brewers">#Brewers</a> Minor League Link Report - another winless night; big league & AAA combined 34 games under, it's still May <a href="http://t.co/2rjNK1GMHc" title="http://bit.ly/115UYjy">bit.ly/115UYjy</a></p>— Jim Goulart (@Mass_Haas) <a href="https://twitter.com/Mass_Haas/status/339696729790238720">May 29, 2013</a></blockquote>
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But for as historically bad as May turned out to be for Milwaukee and its minor league affiliates, there are at least some positives that can be taken away. A handful of prospects within the system took dramatic steps toward mid-season promotions and could now have opportunities to see significant playing time when rosters expand in September, or potentially sooner as today's promotion indicates.
Let's take a look at some of those players as well as those whose stock decreased considerably over this past month by looking at our May minor league report.
Previous Reports: April
Who's Hot: Hunter Morris, 1B, triple-A Nashville Sounds
May line: .311/.402/.653, 11 XBH (6 HR), 12 BB/21 K, .433 wOBA (87 PA)
A dynamic 2012 season in double-A placed high expectations on Morris to start 2013, but he wouldn't live up to them in April, slugging .400 with a walk rate of just 7.4 percent. He turned things around in a big way in May, however, showing an improved approach at the plate and subsequently superior power numbers, highlighted by a sterling .433 wOBA. If he keeps those numbers up, a serious debate over whether he should see playing time at first base for Milwaukee will follow.
Who's Not: Scooter Gennett, 2B, triple-A Nashville Sounds
May line: .244/.298/.336, 7 XBH, 10 BB/19 K, .281 wOBA (132 PA)
The season's first month cause plenty of ruckus among fans who'd clamored for Gennett to be promoted to the big leagues, and with good reason as he hit .403/.425/.468 in April. But those same fans have don't have the same level of argument ammunition, as May was rather unkind to the 23-year-old second baseman. Aside from batting just .244 with a .298 OBP, Gennett's feeble extra-base hit rate of 5.3 percent lowered his season slugging percentage (.376), isolated power rating (.079) and weighted on base average (.326) to career-low marks. Yes, his defensive efficiency and range have improved, but his bat is what will ultimately determine how successful a big leaguer he will become. His promotion to the club's 25-man roster notwithstanding, May was a disappointment for Gennett.
Who's Hot: Orlando Arcia, SS, class-A Wisconsin Timber Rattlers
May line: .326/.414/.395, 4 XBH (3 2B), 12 BB/8 K, .341 wOBA, 5 SB (99 PA)
As raw talent-wise as they come and still growing into his body, Arcia made great strides at the plate and with the glove. With projection left on his hit tool and questions about his approach, the 18-year-old hit .326, reached base safely in 25 of 27 games and walked (12) nearly twice as frequently as his struck out (7), raising his season on-base percentage to a handsome .328. Defensively, he'll need to become more consistent with his mechanics, but there's no denying his superb range, boasting a 4.98 range factor that would rank tops among NL shortstops. The Brewers will be careful with him, no doubt, but a late-season promotion is becoming increasingly likely.
Who's Not: Cameron Garfield, C, class-A advanced Brevard County Manatees
May line: .239/.283/.391, 10 XBH (7 2B), 5 BB/29 K, .292 wOBA (99 PA)
After what can only be described as a scalding month of April for Garfield, who mashed five home runs, posted a .510 slugging percentage and batting average (.275) that's well above his career mark (.260), the former 2009 second-round pick cooled off some in May. First and foremost, his swing-and-miss propensity revealed itself in a big way, posting a strikeout rate of 29 percent over 24 games. To no surprise, his power numbers dropped enough to lower his season wOBA to .326, well below the .402 he posted last season in low-A ball. Still very solid defensively, Garfield's bat remains in serious question and he'll need to shore things up quickly if he's to make the jump to double-A ball anytime soon.
Who's Hot: Mitch Haniger, OF, class-A advanced Brevard County Manatees
May line: .300/.434/.520, 15 XBH (11 2B), 20 BB/20 K, .410 wOBA (125 PA)
Quite possibly no prospect in the system had himself a bigger month than Haniger, who on May 23 was promoted to high-A Brevard County after putting up big league-type numbers during his stay with low-A Wisconsin. Aside from hitting a crisp .300, Haniger showed his advanced approach at the plate all month, walking (20) as often as he struck out (20) while tallying 11 doubles, a category he now leads the organization in. His game has translated well into the Florida State League, and it may not be long before he gets another call up to double-A Huntsville.
Who's Hot: Ariel Pena, RHP, double-A Huntsville Stars
May line: 6 GS, 1.10 ERA (2.34 FIP), 39 K/14 BB, 1.10 WHIP, 0.49 GO/AO (32.1 IP)
Severe control issues have plagued Pena's development since his rookie 2007 season, and that was the root of Pena's struggles in April when he posted a 1.54 WHIP over five double-A starts. However, that was far from the case in May, as his late-breaking stuff missed a ton of bats, his control improved to the tune of just 14 walks in 32.1 innings. He commanded the ball well all month to both sides of the plate and showed a ton of pitchability, giving him the chance to be a mid-season contributor to the Brewers' bullpen.
Who's Not: Tyler Thornburg, RHP, triple-A Nashville Sounds
May line: 6 GS, 8.20 ERA (3.41 FIP), 36 K/12 BB, 2.01 WHIP, 1.33 GO/AO (26.1 IP)
Pitching decent with Milwaukee and finishing out 2012 on a positive note, many believed Thornburg would have an outside chance at the No. 5 spot in the rotation and, if not, would be a surefire contributor out of the bullpen when the season began. Now, he's just hoping to make 40-man September roster. Indeed, May was a disaster for the system's preseason top prospect. Though his curveball produced many strikeouts, hitters pounced on his frequently up-in-the-zone fastball, giving up 41 hits in just 26.1 innings work en route to a .345 batting average against. Whether he's projected to be a future starter or reliever doesn't matter -- right now he simply needs to figure his stuff out before this becomes a regularity.
Who's Hot: Drew Gagnon, RHP, class-A advanced Brevard County Manatees
May line: 5 GS, 3.09 ERA (1.29 FIP), 28 K/4 BB, 0.91 WHIP, 0.48 GO/AO (23.1 IP)
The first month of Gagnon's 2013 campaign was nearly as bad as it could get from a performance standpoint. Over five April starts, the former third round pick conceded 18 earned runs on 19 hits over just 22 innings. He failed to complete six innings in any of those starts, and though his strikeout numbers were there, his control was not, as he walked 4.5 per nine innings pitched. But with the simple flip of the calendar, that all changed for the better. Gagnon rebounded to toss seven perfect innings of 10-strikeout ball in his first May start, and would go on to punch out 28 batters in just 23.1 innings to finish out the month. Granted, injury caused him to exit his last start and placed him on the 15-day disabled list, but all things considered, it was a very good month for the 22-year-old right hander.
Who's Not: Jed Bradley, class-A advanced Brevard County Manatees
May line: 5 GS, 6.17 ERA (5.11 FIP), 22 K/13 BB, 1.91 WHIP, 1.44 GO/AO (23.1 IP)
Two years ago, the Brewers thought Bradley, then the 15th overall selection in the 2011 draft, would be on the fast-track to the big leagues. And two years later, he's in the same place he started after agreeing to his $2 million signing bonus: High-A ball. The month of May was a microcosm of his disappointing pro career. Because his secondary offerings have been inconsistent at best, batters teed off his fastball, a pitch he has good command of but is too over-the-plate and lacks the sink necessary to produce ground ball outs. Consequently, hitters batted .326 off Bradley in May and tattooed four home runs over 23.1 innings.
Who's Hot: Tyler Wagner, RHP, class-A Wisconsin Timber Rattlers
May line: 5 GS, 2.18 ERA (2.58 FIP), 33 K/8 BB, 0.97 WHIP, 3.64 GO/AO (33 IP)
A college closer turned starter after being taken in the fourth round of last summer's draft, Wagner got off to an uneasy start in his first stint in the low-A Midwest League, posting an April ERA of 4.24. His swing-and-miss stuff wasn't all there, his command was spotty at best and he was a fly-ball pitcher, if anything. However, that was not the case in May, as he struck out a batter per inning, put just eight men on base via walk and yielded a tremendous ground-out to fly-out ratio of 3.64. Furthermore, he held batters to a .198 average and proved he has the ability to go deep into games. If he keeps this up, it won't be long before he gets the call to high-A and beyond.
Who to keep an eye on
Kentrail Davis, OF, Huntsville Stars (.269/.384/.452, .369 wOBA, 112 PA) - Continues to see the ball well, hit for power, play an outstanding right field and be a force on the bases.
Johnny Hellweg, RHP, Nashville Sounds (3.86 ERA (4.84 FIP), 17 K/22 BB, 1.88 GO/AO, 32.2 IP) - Rough start to May, though he recovered by throwing two seven-inning outings in which he conceded a total of seven hits and two earned runs. Will become the next call-up if that continues.
Jason Rogers, 1B, Huntsville Stars (.290/.324/.600, .375 wOBA, 112 PA) - Leads the system in slugging percentage is among the system leaders in home runs and extra-base hits. Continues to hit for average and play exceptionally well at first base.
Damien Magnifico, RHP, Wisconsin Timber Rattlers (3.81 ERA (3.71 FIP), 19 K/12 BB, 2.80 GO/AO, 26 IP) - Strikeouts are down and walks are up, but his secondary offerings have only improved. Producing more ground-ball outs than ever before.