It's been a busy off-season for the Brewers, as far as their minor league affiliates go. The most major change in the system came at the Triple-A level, where the organization will change their affiliation from the Nashville Sounds to the Colorado Springs Sky Sox. The Double-A team is moving, too, and just found a new nickname as the Biloxi Shuckers.
So it's nice to know that at least one minor league team will remain consistent for the foreseeable future: The Brewers announced Tuesday that they had agreed to a four-year extension on their player development contract with the Class-A Wisconsin Timber Rattlers.
The extension will ensure that the Brewers have a minor league team in Wisconsin through at least 2020. The two began their affiliation in 2008. Before that, the Timber Rattlers had been with the Mariners' organization for 15 years.
Notable players who have spent time with the Rattlers include Felix Hernandez, Adam Jones, Shin-Soo Choo, Asdrubal Cabrera, Alex Rodriguez, David Ortiz and Brett Lawrie. Current Brewers like Khris Davis and Scooter Gennett also spent time there. This past season, top prospects Clint Coulter spent the season in Appleton playing for the Timber Rattlers.
Perhaps sooner than later, the most recent crop of draftees will move up to the Timber Rattlers. That group will hopefully include players like Troy Stokes, Monte Harrison, Jake Gatewood and Kodi Medeiros. Dustin DeMuth, the Brewers 5th round pick in 2014, already saw brief time in Wisconsin.
Having an in-state affiliate is also beneficial to both clubs involved. For the Brewers, they have a close-to-home location to send rehabbing big leaguers. This past season both Aramis Ramirez and Wei-Chung Wang saw action in a few games while working to return from injury. For the Rattlers, they get an attendance boost as home fans will have more of a vested interest in the players. Wisconsin drew over 250,000 fans in 2014, setting a franchise record while finishing with a 72-67 record.
The Timber Rattlers, a community-owned club, have won nine championships since joining the Midwest League in 1962. The most recent, in 2012, ended a 28-year drought.