It's become common knowledge that the Brewers' minor league system is, and has been for some time now, one of baseball's most shallow. The acquisitions of Zack Greinke and Shaun Marcum in 2010 put the big league club over the top, nearly to the World Series in 2011, but the handful of top prospects relinquished between both deals dealt a colossal blow to the system -- and its effects still linger to this day in the form of very little pro-ready talent and a relatively scarce amount of high-ceiling youngsters.
But if this season, and August, in particular, has told me anything, it's that Milwaukee's pipeline is well on its way to being one of the deepest in baseball. Having two first-round draft selections in two consecutive years certainly helps, but it's primarily been the emergence of a handful of late-round selections that has added intrigue to the organization, and may eventually yield the most return, whether that's in the form of everyday contributors to the big league roster or valuable trade chips who can help bring in veteran talent down the road.
Let's take a look at how a handful of those future big leaguers performed in the season's final month.
**Stay tuned for our updated top 25 prospects list on Monday, October 7, as well as various scouting reports throughout the offseason**
Previous Reports: April | May | June | July
Hot: D'Vontrey Richardson, OF, advanced-A Brevard County Manatees
August Line: .336/.376/.464, 12 XBH, 4 SB, 7 BB/25 K (133 PA, 29 G)
Rejoining the system late in June after taking a year off from baseball in 2012, Richardson's brief stint in high-A ball this season has provided many reasons to believe he still has big league potential. In July, the 25-year-old hit .317 but with very limited power, primarily from the leadoff spot in the order. This month, his power became a legitimate aspect of his game, raking up 12 extra-base hits en route to a .369 weighted on base average, a career-high at any level he's reached to this juncture of his career. He posted a 18.8 percent strikeout rate this past month, which is somewhat of a concern, but when you consider the 16.5% major league average for leadoff hitters this season, it isn't ridiculously high. Patience at the plate has always been an issue, as well as his ability to make quality contact on non-fastballs, but his raw athleticism could be of value in the not too distant future.
Not: Tucker Neuhaus, INF, AZL Brewers
August Line: .167/.259/.208, 3 XBH, 9 BB/24 K (81 PA, 18 G)
Along with fellow second-round 2013 draftee Devin Williams, Neuhaus provided a rush of excitement to the system after signing on midway through June, though his statistical output thus far doesn't warrant the same type of excitement -- especially this past month. In 18 games, Neuhaus struck out at a 29.6 percent rate and recorded just eight hits, only three of which went for extra-bases. Still, he doesn't turn 19 until next June and is still very raw developmentally, but he'll need to work heavily on his pitch identification skills this winter so he's ready for improving competition ahead of him.
Hot: Jason Rogers, 1B, double-A Huntsville Stars
August Line: .333/.432/.520, 9 XBH, 4 SB, 20 BB/ 13 K (125 PA, 30 G)
A slow start to the season headlined by a .126/.236/.147 slash line over 27 June games, Rogers' chances at breaking through to the big league roster seemed bleak at best. But since the start of July, he's been the best hitter in the organization, posting a .335/.436/.548 line since July 1. And while his power numbers in August (.520 SLG) were slightly lower than July (.676 SLG), his plate discipline was never better than this past month, drawing 20 walks while striking out just 13 times over 30 games. With that kind of production, Rogers has put himself in ideal position to battle for a bench spot on Milwaukee's roster to start next season.
Hot: Michael Ratterree, OF, rookie level Helena Brewers
August Line: .297/.378/.653, 16 XBH (9 HR), 11 BB/31 K (119 PA, 26 G)
Recently named the Pioneer League's most valuable player for the 2013 season, Ratterree's month of August was much akin to his month of June and July, mainly in that he continued pounding the baseball at an impressive rate. Over 26 games this past month, Milwaukee's 10th-round pick this past June slugged his way to a .423 wOBA and Pioneer League-best .298 isolated power rating for the season. He did strike out at an elevated rate (26.1%) this past month, but his explosive, quick-to-contact approach should allow for him to make the necessary adjustments as he moves up the minor league ladder.
Not: Hunter Morris, 1B, triple-A Nashville Sounds
August Line: .277/.306/.437, 11 XBH, 5 BB/35 K (124 PA, 29 G)
Though he finished out August in impressive fashion, including a seven-game hit streak in which he batted .467 toward the end of the month, Morris' early struggles are enough for me to consider his final full month of the season a disappointment. While a .437 slugging percentage is nothing scoff at, even for Morris' standards, the fact that he drew just five walks over 29 games shows that the most lagging portion of his game isn't improving, and that could be enough to delay his progression to the big league roster. Strikeouts (28.2 K% in August) are also a concern, but it wouldn't be such a problem if his patience early in the count showed signs of improvement. He'll need to start become more selective at the plate if he's to have a legitimate chance at becoming Milwaukee's everyday starting first baseman down the road.
Hot: Juan De Los Santos, OF, DSL Brewers
August Line: .329/.407/.457, 5 XBH, 5 SB, 8 BB/16 K (81 PA, 20 G)
The Brewers' Dominican Summer League team finished the summer with one of the worst records in the league, but that didn't slow the impressive offensive production put forth by De Los Santos, who has stepped forward as potentially the most talented youngster on the roster. Now in his third season as a minor leaguer and first in Milwaukee's organization, the Venezuela native posted a .384 wOBA over 20 August games and finished the season with the team's highest on-base percentage (.384). Still just 19 years old, De Los Santos has a ways to go before he fills out his current 5-foot-11, 170-pound frame, so it's certainly within the realm of possibility that he can generate more bat speed and subsequently hit for more power in the future. He's definitely a name to watch for over the winter and early next season.
Hot: Tyler Wagner, RHP, low-A Wisconsin Timber Rattlers
August Line: 2.29 ERA (4.34 FIP), 1.17 WHIP, 27 K/11 BB, .545 oppOPS (6 GS, 35.1 IP)
No pitching prospect in the system below the double-A level has had a more impressive season than Wagner, who finished with a 3.21 ERA and 1.24 WHIP following his final start of 2013 last Saturday, and his month of August really brought his success to the forefront. Over six starts this past month, Wagner allowed just one extra-base hit and posted a 2.32 ground-ball-to-fly-ball ratio thanks to his heavy-sinking two-seam fastball that he commanded exceptionally to the lower portion of the zone. I was able to see him pitch twice this season, once in April and once in August, and can tell his changeup has improved and is consistently throwing hitters off balance. I believe he easily has the makeup of a future back-end starter at best, and could be an above-average late-inning reliever if the organization so chooses to shift his development to that area.
Not: Taylor Jungmann, RHP, double-A Huntsville Stars
August Line: 6.44 ERA (5.75 FIP), 1.78 WHIP, 13 K/18 BB, .826 oppOPS (6 GS, 29.1 IP)
After a lackluster rookie campaign in the Florida State League last season, the Brewers probably realized that Jungmann wasn't the strikeout-hoarding front-line starter prospect they -- and everyone else -- thought he would blossom into prior to the 2011 draft. But I don't think they expected him to put up the porous numbers he has lately, particularly in the month of August. In six starts, Jungmann posted a monthly career-worst 1.78 WHIP, walked (18) significantly more men than he struck out (13) and lasted an average of only 4.85 innings per outing. If he's had one thing going for him, it's been his ability to generate ground balls (2.11 GO/AO) at a respectable rate. But all in all, it was a disappointing final month of the season for the Texas product.
Hot: Tyler Cravy, RHP, advanced-A Brevard County Manatees
August Line: 0.77 ERA (1.13 FIP), 1.00 WHIP, 28 K/4 BB, .514 oppOPS (4 GS, 23.1 IP)
A reliever for a chunk of the season with high-A Brevard County, all four of Cravy's appearances in August came as a starter and he performed exceptionally well out of that role. The former 17th-round pick back in 2009 struck out nearly 30 percent of his competition and allowed just two extra-base hits over 23.1 innings of work. Looking at his numbers as a starter this season (1.29 ERA, 1.06 WHIP, 24.6% K%, 5.6% BB%), Cravy seems to have a good idea of what he's doing on the mound. If he impresses in instructionals this offseason, whether as a starter or reliever, it's hard to imagine him not moving up to double-A ball to start 2014.
Not: Johnny Hellweg, RHP, triple-A Nashville Sounds
August Line: 5.74 ERA (5.21 FIP), 2.10 WHIP, 26 K/25 BB, .939 oppOPS (6 GS, 31.3 IP)
Adding to the list of top pitching prospects in the system who can't seem to figure things out lately, Hellweg's month of August offered little reason to believe he will find much success with the big league roster in September. Over six starts against Pacific Coast League batters, Hellweg put nearly as many men on base via walk (25) as he did strike out (26) and posted a ridiculously high 2.10 WHIP. Opponents teed off against his stuff when located over the plate, shown by a .510 slugging percentage. Of course, there are some positives worth noting. Specifically, his 3.08 ground-out-to-air-out ratio is impressive and a likely product of his tailing fastball, and opponents hit line drives at just a 10 percent rate against him. Considering everything, though, Hellweg's August was as bad as it could get, especially when you take into account that the organization feels he's a future mid-rotation starter. PCL pitcher of the year or not, he has a lot to prove this month with the big league club and this fall in the Arizona Fall League.
Hot: Devin Williams, RHP, AZL Brewers
August Line: 2.76 ERA (2.29 FIP), 1.30 WHIP, 21 K/8 BB, .652 oppOPS (6 G, 16.1 IP)
Director of amateur scouting Bruce Seid had his eye on Williams long before he took him with the 54th overall pick in this past June's draft, and his August campaign showed why. Over six appearances, Williams posted a 2.29 FIP, struck out opponents at a 29 percent clip and garnered a 4.2 GO/AO ratio. The 18-year-old Missouri native works out of a slender, athletic 6-foot-4, 165-pound frame with plenty of room to fill out, and employs a raw three-pitch mix that includes an arm-side sinking mid to low 90s fastball, fading but inconsistent changeup and sharp slider. If he continues to mature physically and work on his stuff diligently in the offseason, he may be in for a promotion to the low-A Midwest League by the end of next season.