Milwaukee Brewers: Updating Top 25 Prospects at the 2012 All-Star Break
Courtesy of BrewersRumors.com
With the All-Star break now upon us and Major League Baseball’s 2012 first-year player draft in the rear-view mirror, the natural inkling of many baseball fans is to check up on how well things are going down in the minors. If you’re a fan of the Milwaukee Brewers, it would behoove you to know that things are going very well this season down on the farm—at least, much better than what was expected.
Coming into the season, the Brewers were noticeably dry on the farm despite a talented flock of youngsters from the 2011 draft itching to get their feet wet in professional ball. But after a strong 2012 class that saw general manager Doug Melvin add a few power bats early on, the Brewers are yet again proving that their scouting department is among the best in baseball. They've nearly recovered from the trade that put Zack Greinke in blue and gold back in the winter of 2010.
So in an effort to help satisfy your crave for Milwaukee’s top minor league youngsters while Ron Roenicke and company reboot for a second-half run, here is my updated top 25 prospects at mid-season.
25. Amaury Rivas
Rich Pilling/Getty Images
Height/Weight: 6'2", 215 lbs
Drafted/Signed: 2005, UDFA
2012 Stats (Triple-A): 31 G, 5.95 ERA, 5.37 FIP, 30 K/25 BB, .282 BAA (42.1 IP)
Overview: Signing on as a non-draft pick free agent way back in 2005, Rivas has now spent upwards of eight seasons in Milwaukee's system.Having gone through Tommy John surgery, demotion and now conversion from starter to reliever all during that timespan, Rivas has had both extreme highs and lows thus far in his career.
Once thought to have the stuff of a back-line starter in the bigs following a stellar 2009 campaign, the now 26-year-old Dominican Republic native pitches exclusively out of the bullpen in Triple-A, and he hasn't exactly flourished. He's walked nearly as many batters as he's struck out, posting a groundout-to-airout ratio of just 1.28 and a WHIP of 1.70.
Rivas throws a low-90s two-seam fastball that gets good movement and a mid-90s four-seamer that straightens out and gets crushed by opponents when left in the zone. His slider has been anything but a swing-and-miss pitch, as he's struggled his whole career to command it. Rivas' best pitch is his changeup, which Baseball America rated as the best pitch in the system after the 2009 and 2010 season. If he has any intention of sniffing the majors, he'll need to develop his slider.
24. Santo Manzanillo
Rich Pilling/Getty Images
Height/Weight: 6'0", 205 lbs
Drafted/Signed: 2006, UDFA
2012 Stats (Double-A): 12 G, 6.08 ERA, 5.90 FIP, 10 K/10 BB, .255 BAA (13.1 IP)
Overview: Brought into the organization as an extremely raw 16-year-old from the Dominican ranks in 2006, Manzanillo struggled mightily with his command, walking a wholesome 47 batters over 16.1 innings in the Arizona Rookie League. His next two seasons in rookie ball were almost as unsightly, posting a WHIP of 1.97 over 27 appearances during that span.
Manzanillo then blew out his elbow prior to the 2009 season and underwent Tommy John surgery that cast a serious shadow of doubt over his career. However, he came back in 2010 and saw massive improvements with his command in low-A ball. He then proceeded to crack Huntsville's bullpen in Double-A by the end of last season. Last year, he overpowered hitters with a strikeout rate of over 23 percent and notched 17 saves out of the closer role.
Stuff-wise, Manzanillo has what it takes to flourish out of a setup role. He utilizes a four-seam fastball that tops out in the mid-90s and has reportedly hit triple-digits on a few occasions. He complements it with an effective changeup and power slide to get hitters off balance. If he can continue to hone his pitches and ward off injury, he'll have a bright future in Milwaukee for years to come.
23. Cody Scarpetta
Courtesy of scout.com
Height/Weight: 6'3", 240 lbs
Drafted/Signed: 2007, 11th round (Guilford HS, IL.)
2012 Stats: N/A
Overview: Once a glistening prospect considered to be on the cusp of a big-league promotion at the end of last season, Scarpetta put on an abhorrent showing at the Arizona Fall League where he posted an ERA of 19.43 over just 7.1 innings of work. Things would only get worse from there, when doctors told him he would miss his entire 2012 season due to Tommy John surgery on his right elbow.
Still, Scarpetta is only 23 years old and has the stuff of a back-line MLB starter in a best-case scenario. He features a low to mid 90s fastball with some sink to it, a hard-breaking curveball that was nearly plus-average before his surgery and a changeup that improved massively as he progressed through the system. He generated a lot of strikeouts with these three pitches but was also markedly inconsistent command-wise, walking nearly five batters per nine innings pitched over the course of his professional career.
With the physique of a big-league innings eater and a determination to break through soon after his surgery, Scarpetta could still definitely offer value as a bullpen type for Milwaukee down the road. His future will rest heavily on his recovery from surgery and a refinement of his control.
22. Gregory Hopkins
Courtesy of MiLB.com
Height/Weight: 6'1", 200 lbs
Drafted/Signed: 2010, 24th round (St. John's University)
2012 Stats (Low-A): 286 PA, .300/.323/.453, 24 XBH, 112 wRC+ (71 G)
Overview: A lifetime .339/.409/.515 hitter during his three seasons at St. John's University, Hopkins was especially impressive during his 2010 junior campaign with the Red Storm, where his .358 BA topped that of Big East rivals George Springer and Mike Olt, both of whom are now considered consensus top-50 prospects in all of baseball.
The Brewers got him as a mid-round pick that year, and it's now looking like another huge steal for general manager Doug Melvin.
While he posted adequate numbers in rookie ball and the following season in low-A ball, he has been fairly impressive this season in low-A. With a .300/.323/.453 line though the first half, Hopkins has an outside shot to finish atop the organization in those three categories. If he could perpetuate those numbers in subsequent seasons, he would profile nicely at third base sometime down the road.
Right now, Hopkins simply needs to make sure his batting average stays above at least .285. He has the defensive skills and hard-working demeanor to play third base. His bat is the only thing keeping him from cracking Triple-A (yes, I said it) by the end of next season.
21. Kyle Heckathorn
Courtesy of nooga.com
Height/Weight: 6'6", 223 lbs
Drafted/Signed: 2009, 47th overall (Kennesaw State)
2012 Stats (Double-A): 17 GS, 5.18 ERA, 3.58 FIP, 72 K/27 BB, .282 BAA (92 IP)
Overview: A three-year contributor to the Kennesaw State rotation, Heckathorn was heralded as one of the better right-handers of the 2009 draft class. He was a strikeout machine in college and that was a big reason the Brewers took him at 47th overall that year. Since then, however, he's been anything but what Milwaukee drafted him for.
Finally making his way to Double-A ball this season, Heckathorn has harbored a K/9 ratio of just 6.77 during his professional career. His sometimes plus-average control can compensate for his lack of strikeouts, which is what you would hope for considering he doesn't have a true swing-and-miss pitch. His offerings include a rather flat fastball that sits in the 92-94 MPH range, a hard slider with some projection left on it and a changeup that's fringe-average at this point.
Looking the part of a big league innings-eater at 6'6", 223 lbs, Heckathorn's career will ultimately be determined by his ability to spot his pitches. A lack of a strikeout pitch coupled with the fact that he leaves the ball over the plate at a high rate (he has a H/9 ratio of 10.1 this season) shows that he's still a ways off from a big-league appearance.
20. Eric Farris
Rich Pilling/Getty Images
Height/Weight: 5'9", 190 lbs
Drafted/Signed: 2007, fourth round (Loyola Marymount University)
2012 Stats (Triple-A): 314 PA, .263/.310/.305, 10 XBH, 63 wRC+ (83 G)
Overview: Once thought to challenge Rickie Weeks for the full-time role at second base, Farris is now in the midst of his third consecutive season in Triple-A ball. The difference between this season and his past two seasons, however, seems to be his production at the plate; he's garnered just a .304 slugging percentage this season compared to a .372 last season.
Knocking on the door of 27 years old, Farris' power decline at the plate will likely keep him from a starting job with the Brewers. He's an above-average defender at second base and can hold his own at shortstop and the outfield, but the fact that his bat has been lagging so much this season says that he just doesn't have the capacity to be an effective all-around big leaguer. It's a shame, too, because he possesses top-tier speed that Ron Roenicke would love to utilize on the bases.
19. Kentrail Davis
Courtesy of MiLB.com
Height/Weight: 5'9", 195 lbs
Drafted/Signed: 2009, 39th overall (Tennessee)
2012 Stats (Double-A): 302 PA, .252/.336/.350, 19 XBH, 100 wRC+ (72 G)
Overview: After putting up tremendous numbers across the board against tough SEC competition at Tennessee, Davis fell to the Brewers at 39th overall in the 2009 draft and was considered one of the bigger steals of that year's draft. The athletic outfielder was considered to have the ingredients necessary to be a future five-tool player at the next level. Now, he's lucky if to sniff the majors in the next two seasons.
After tearing up the Midwest league to the tune of a .335/.421/.518 line during his rookie 2010 season, Davis was promoted to high-A Brevard County, where he batted just .244 in 150 plate appearances and witnessed a palpable spike in strikeouts. He spent his entire 2011 season in high-A again, and now resides in Double-A, where his ability to hit for power has actually gotten worse.
Right now, the only thing keeping him in our top 25 rankings is his speed tool. Davis has tallied 55 career stolen bases to go with a 6.3 SPD rating this season, according to FanGraphs. Of course, his ability to steal bases is severely limited since his below-average bat has almost no projection left on it. Consequently, if Davis has any shot at the bigs, his bat will need major refinement.
18. Drew Gagnon
Photo courtesy of Long Beach State via thepress.net
Height/Weight: 6'4", 195 lbs
Drafted/Signed: 2011, third round (Cal State Long Beach)
Low-A: 14 GS, 2.83 ERA, 3.37 FIP, 65 K/19 BB, .217 BAA (82.2 IP)
High-A: 2 GS, 2.25 ERA, 2.45 FIP, 12 K/3 BB, .227 BAA (12 IP)
Overview: A third round pick from last summer's draft, Gagnon came into this season overshadowed by the likes of fellow draftees Taylor Jungmann and Jed Bradley. While he is still pitching a full level lower than each, you could make the argument that he's outperformed both.
After blowing through the rookie ranks in seven starts last season, the Long Beach State product has witnessed his strikeout rates diminish noticeably against Midwest League hitters. However, that's the only area that's witnessed regression, as he's been able to hold batters in check to the tune of a .213 BA and a .254 BABIP. He's looked even better over his first two starts in the Florida State league since his promotion.
With a four-pitch mix that includes a low-90s fastball and developing slider, curveball and changeup, Gagnon has the potential to be a quick-riser to the bigs with a chance to be a back-line starter.
17. Yadiel Rivera
Courtesy of postcrescent.com
Height/Weight: 6'2", 175 lbs
Drafted/Signed: 2009, 39th overall (Manuela Toro HS, PR)
2012 Stats (Low-A): 317 PA, .226/.260/.401, 29 XBH, 82 wRC+ (78 G)
Overview: A late-round pickup out of Puerto Rico in the 2009 draft, it's taken Rivera just over two years to be named the consensus best overall shortstop in Milwaukee's system. Mind you, there isn't much competition for the title, however, there are some positives to take away from his game.
First and foremost, Rivera is an exceptional defender at shortstop.
While he doesn't have elite speed by any stretch of the imagination, he does have great athleticism that allows him to cover a lot of ground in the infield. Baseball Reference cites that he's harbored a career range factor of 4.48 over 223 professional games. For comparison's sake, that not too far off from what former Brewers shortstop J.J. Hardy has posted this season.
Yet while Rivera could probably play a decent shortstop in the bigs right now, it's his bat that's held him back from shooting through the system. He's an aggressive hitter, rarely drawing walks and striking out at a concerning clip. If he can continue to make his swing more compact and continue to work on hitting off-speed offerings, he could see a spike in his offensive yield. Until then, though, he likely won't see Double-A for a few more seasons, which isn't all that troubling since he's still very young.
16. Hiram Burgos
Courtesy of MiLB.com
Height/Weight: 6'1", 210 lbs
Drafted/Signed: 2009, sixth round (Bethune-Cookman College)
High-A: 6 GS, 0.87 ERA, 2.04 FIP, 41 K/6 BB, .147 BAA (41.1 IP)
Double-A: 10 GS, 2.05 ERA, 2.96 FIP, 61 K/24 BB, .234 BAA (61.1 IP)
Overview: The undoubted ace of the small-school Bethune Cookman rotation during his 2009 senior campaign, Burgos fell to Milwaukee in the sixth round of that year's draft. Since then, his value within the organization took a massive beating due to poor performance against competition in the lower-minors. Then this season came around, and the Puerto Rico native flipped the switch on his previously dwindling career.
While he has a bevy of pitches at his disposal that he can throw for strikes, Burgos' main pitches are a low 90s fastball, slider, curveball and changeup. None have much projection left and they don't grade out as plus-average, either, though his command with each has been exceptional. He posted a walk rate of just four percent over six starts in high-A ball to start this season.
Burgos was pushed up to Double-A ball early on this season and while he flashed glimpses of success, he's fallen off a bit. His walk rate has more than doubled and batters have teed off on him due to leaving the ball over the plate. If he's to crack Triple-A or the big-league roster anytime soon, he'll need to polish up his command a bit more.
15. Khris Davis
Courtesy of BrewersRumors.com
Height/Weight: 6'0", 195 lbs
Drafted/Signed: 2009, seventh round (Cal State Fullerton)
2012 Stats (Double-A): 86 PA, .324/.442/.479, 7 XBH, 168 wRC+ (27 G)
Overview: A guy who's arguably outperformed any one player from Milwaukee's abysmal 2009 draft class, Davis has proved to be one of the better bats in a farm system that has been starving for outfield position talent. At 6'0", 195 lbs, Davis doesn't possess any one tool that projects to be plus-average at the next level, however, he doesn't have any known weakness, either.
He's proven to be able to hit for average and little bit of power. He draws a fair number of walks but by that same token has struggled somewhat with strikeouts, most notably posting a strikeout rate of 23.3 percent this season against Double-A Southern League pitching.
Davis was enjoying a tremendous season at the plate until suffering a leg injury back in mid-May, so much so that he currently holds true to a 168 wRC+. If he can get back to his line-drive hitting ways after returning, there's a good chance he starts his 2013 campaign in Triple-A.
14. David Goforth
Photo Source: http://mississippi.scout.com/
Height/Weight: 6'0"/188 lbs
Drafted/Signed: 2011, seventh round (Mississippi)
2012 Stats (Low-A): 17 GS, 5.42 ERA, 5.05 FIP, 49 K/39 BB, .273 BAA (84.2 IP)
Overview: A full-time reliever turned starter by the end of his three-year collegiate stay at Ole Miss, Goforth fell to the Brewers in the seventh round at last year's draft and should be considered a steal because of it. He showed to have good command of his pitches and the ability to strike out a ton of batters.
Strictly out of a relief role with the rookie club in Helena last season, Goforth struck out 42 batters in just 40.2 innings and posted a walk rate of just 5.8 percent. As a reliever in low-A ball this season, his strikeout yield and command have each witnessed regressions similar to what he went through in making the transition from reliever to starter in college. Those declines have a lot to do with Goforth's "overpowering" mentality on the bump; he has a four-seamer that touches the upper 90s and a slider that he gets batters off balance with.
The Brewers love what this kid has to offer and if he doesn't start finding success as a starter, management is convinced he has the makeup of a legitimate big-league setup man/closer once his secondary pitches come around.
13. Mitch Haniger
Courtesy of alumni.mitty.com
Height/Weight: 6'2", 215 lbs
Drafted/Signed: 2012, No. 38 overall (Cal Poly)
2012 Stats (Low-A): 58 PA, .286/.379/.429, 5 XBH, 133 wRC+ (58 G)
Overview: A three-year contributor for head skipper Larry Lee at Cal Poly, Haniger's most productive season came this year, where he was without question one of the best hitters in the country. In 211 at bats, the stocky outfielder retained a .458 wOBA (weighted on-base average), proving that he was more than capable of racking up extra-base hits.
Physically, Haniger has the ideal build of a guy who should hit for some power at the big league level. He's drastically improved his approach at the plate during his junior season and that's consequently helped him to tap into his power stroke that has a real chance to be plus-average. What's more, Haniger also boasts a strong arm that should profile nicely in right field.
12. Hunter Morris
Height/Weight: 6'2", 200 lbs
Drafted/Signed: 2010, fourth round (Auburn)
2012 Stats (Double-A): 348 PA, .309/.362/.525, 42 XBH, 148 wRC+ (84 G)
Overview: While Prince Fielder held down the fort at first base for the past six or so seasons, it was undoubtedly a tough time to be a first baseman in the Brewers’ farm system. Now that he’s gone (and the future of Mat Gamel is also in deep question), an opportunity has risen for a handful of players. Leading that pack by a sizable margin is none other than Hunter Morris.
An unmitigated slugger out of the University of Auburn, Morris agreed to sign on with Milwaukee as a fourth-round pick in 2009, and has since then staked his claim as the top power-hitter in the Brewers’ system. This season, he’s produced career-best numbers in slugging percentage (.525), ISO (.202) and wOBA (.378) in a pitching-friendly Double-A Southern League.
The only cause for concern right now seems to be his approach at the plate. He struggled with strikeouts in college to some extent and has garnered a career-high strikeout rate of 21.5% thus far this season. If he can shore that facet of his game, I believe he could be playing a full-time first base for Ron Roenicke by the end of the 2014 season.
11. Jorge Lopez
Height/Weight: 6'4", 165 lbs
Drafted/Signed: 2011, second round (Caguas Military Academy, PR.)
2012 Stats: 3 GS, 6.61 ERA, 5.28 FIP, 11 K/9 BB, .304 BAA (16.1 IP)
Overview: The general consensus on young talent out of Puerto Rico is that there are plenty of projectable bats to go around, but not a whole lot of arms to speak of. Lopez, Milwaukee's third selection of the 2011 draft, may be one of the very few exceptions to that presumption.
Weighing in at an athletic 6'4", 165 lbs, Lopez is very raw physically, with a ton of room to pack on some muscle in an effort to add more velocity to his pitches. Right now, he features a fastball that sits in the 89-91 MPH range that he's shown to throw to both sides of the plate, a curveball that's already close to big-league ready and a developing changeup.
He'll be a project for Milwaukee to develop, but once he pans out physically, he could be a very, very intriguing prospect.
10. Scooter Gennett
Courtesy of Brewers.com
Height/Weight: 5'9", 180 lbs
Drafted/Signed: 2009, 16th round (Sarasota HS, Fla.)
2012 Stats (Double-A): 370 PA, .289/.333/.389, 26 XBH, 104 wRC+ (86 G)
Overview: One of the most undervalued prospects in Milwaukee's system by many scouts, Gennett continues to get his cuts from the left side of the plate as he rises toward the upper-levels of the minors. The impressive part is that those same cuts have resulted in consistent numbers.
At 5'9", 180 lbs, Gennett doesn't hit for power with much consistency, however, he is able to hit for a high average and knows the importance of getting on base. This season, the former 2009 draft pick has batted an even .300 with a .342 BABIP that's close to his career .344 BABIP.
Representing the Brewers at the 2012 All-Star Futures Game in Kansas City, Gennett had the chance to strut his stuff at the plate in front of many scouts. If he can continue to hit at or above .300 at the Double-A and Triple-A level, the Brewers will have a tough time not giving him a shot at second base.
9. Caleb Gindl
Rich Pilling/Getty Images
Height/Weight: 5'9", 205 lbs
Drafted/Signed: 2007, fifth round (Pace HS, Fla.)
2012 Stats (Triple-A): 299 PA, .242/.299/.385, 24 XBH, 74 wRC+ (79 G)
Overview: The second player taken in the 2007 draft from the traditionally talent-laden Pace High School in Pensacola, Florida, one could argue that Gindl has been Milwaukee's top-performing prospect since his 2008 rookie season. From that year up until the end of last season, Gindl has amassed a fairly high WARP rating of 12.7, according to Baseball Prospectus.
Physically, Gindl is probably a smidge undersized, however, he is able to generate a lot of home runs and gap power with a short, compact swing and strong hands at the plate. While he can run at an adequate rate, speed doesn't really play into his game a whole lot and will be fringe-average at the next level. Moreover, his arm is nothing to write home about, which leads many scouts to believe he profiles as more of a corner outfielder if anything.
Gindl got off to an uncharacteristically slow start this season but has torched the competition this month. Still just 23 years old, the Brewers would love to hang on to him as long as they can; he could have a shot to stick it in the bigs as a platoon type right-fielder by the end of next season.
8. Clint Coulter
Coutesy of sports-at-work.com
Height/Weight: 6'3", 215 lbs
Drafted/Signed: 2012, No. 27 overall (Union HS, Wa.)
2012 Stats (Rookie): 43 PA, .154/.233/.282, 2 XBH, 31 wRC+ (10 G)
Overview: Designated for assignment with Milwaukee's rookie club in Arizona to start his pro career, the 27th overall pick in last month's draft looks to become the fastest-rising high schooler in the Brewers' system since Prince Fielder in 2002. And if his physical tools, high school statistical yield and hard-working demeanor are any indication, he should be able to do just that.
At 6'3", 215 lbs, Coulter is a physical specimen by any standards. Justin Roswell, Senior Director of Team One Baseball, deems the 18-year-old to have "big man strength". That natural strength could turn him into a consistent line-drive power threat at the big league level. He has a balanced approach at the plate and a swing that's quick and has little wasted movement.
In a Brewers farm system that was bereft of any elite bats prior to the draft, Coulter could vie to be Milwaukee's top hitter on the farm with a solid showing at the plate this year.
7. Victor Roache
Courtesy of Brewers.com
Height/Weight: 6'2", 225 lbs
Drafted/Signed: 2012, No. 28 overall (Georgia Southern)
2012 Stats: N/A
Overview: Leading the country in home runs (30) as a sophomore in 2011, Roache was one of the most productive position players in all of college baseball during his stay at Georgia Southern, where he averaged a .289/.423/.621 line as a two-year starter. Had he not suffered a broken wrist just seven games into his junior campaign, he would have surely been a top-10 pick instead of Milwaukee’s final 2012 first-round draftee.
Nevertheless, the Brewers remain staunch in their belief that Roache has a lot of helium, and it’s tough to disagree with that sentiment. At 6’2”, 225 lbs, the Michigan native has enough athleticism to play the outfield with an average arm that would profile nicely at either corner position, though he could ultimately end up in center depending on how well he performs in the next few seasons. He is an absolute force at the plate, moreover, having great pitch-recognition with violently quick-hands that drive the ball to all fields. To me, he looks like a more muscular version of Alfonso Soriano at the dish.
Roache is currently rehabbing in preparation for offseason competition, possibly even the Arizona Fall League. We should be able to gauge how quick he’ll rise to the majors based off his performance in those leagues.
6. Logan Schafer
Rich Pilling/Getty Images
Height/Weight: 6'1", 180 lbs
Drafted/Signed: 2008, third round (Cal Poly)
2012 Stats (Triple-A): 347 PA, .288/.340/.449, 31 XBH (7 HR), 102 wRC+ (83 G)
Overview: One of the better all-around position players in the system, Schafer does just about everything in a proficient manner. His bat has been exceptional since his rookie season in 2008 and has been able to tap into some power with it as well. Moreover, Schafer might just be the best defender down on the farm.
After putting up a combined .315/.385/.439 line last season, Schafer has nearly worked his way back up to those numbers this season despite harboring an uncharacteristic .265 BA in the season's first two months. His power stroke has exhibited itself once more this season, holding true to a .138 ISO in 289 plate appearances.
Possibly his best tool, Schafer's defense in the outfield this season has been arguably the best of his career. Right now, the Cal Poly product maintains a 2.42 range factor at the triple-A level compared to his career 2.27 range factor. Should he break through to the majors, it will be his coveted glove that will carry him.
5. Jimmy Nelson
Courtesy of floridatoday.com
Height/Weight: 6'5", 245 lbs
Drafted/Signed: 2010, second round (Alabama)
High-A: 13 GS, 2.21 ERA, 2.89 FIP, 77 K/25 BB, .210 BAA (81.1 IP)
Double-A: 3 GS, 4.73 ERA, 6.20 FIP, 9 K/14 BB, .245 BAA (13.1 IP)
Overview: Turning down the opportunity to join the Reds’ farm system as a 39th round pick in 2007 out of high school, Nelson was able to hone his pitches and grow into his massive build at the University of Alabama for three seasons before signing on with Milwaukee as a second-rounder in 2010. Since then, Nelson put together two solid seasons of professional ball. Neither, however, has been as impressive as his current campaign.
After working to develop his changeup this past offseason, the 6’6”, 245-pound Florida native was able to thoroughly dominate the competition, posting a 2.21 ERA and 1.08 WHIP in 13 high-A ball starts, striking out just under a batter per inning. His achievement warranted a promotion to Double-A, where he looks to see his improved offerings prompt a promotion to the Pacific Coast league in the near future.
Given his gargantuan yet still prototypical frame, credible three-pitch mix—that includes a low to mid-90s sinker, slider with plus-average movement and drastically improved changeup—and willingness to listen and get better, I’d say Nelson has the chance to reach the bigs possibly by the end of next season with a good chance to stick there by 2014.
4. Tyler Thornburg
Height/Weight: 6'0", 190 lbs
Drafted/Signed: 2010, second round (Charleston Southern)
Double-A: 13 GS, 3.00 ERA, 3.39 FIP, 71 K/24 BB, .203 BAA (75 IP)
Triple-A: GS, 3.60 ERA, 0.80 FIP, 6 K/0 BB, .263 BAA (5 IP)
Overview: In the weeks following up to 2010 draft, there were a handful of scouts who hadn’t made up their minds over what Thornburg best projected to be—a below-average defensive position player with some pop in his swing, a slightly undersized starter who’d eventually struggle to eat innings or a kid who would utilize his hard-throwing nature to flourish out of a bullpen role.
Now just over two years later, scouts know exactly what Thornburg projects to be: a future big-league strikeout machine, no matter the role.
After making a mockery of hitters at the rookie ranks in 2010 to the tune of 38 strikeouts in just 23.1 innings, Thornburg posted almost as gaudy a number his following season between low-A and high-A ball, garnering a 10.5 K/9 ratio in 24 starts. This season, his yield was simply too overwhelming (8.5 K/9 in 13 Double-A starts) to ignore, as he was able to make his first big-league start with Milwaukee on June 19.
While there are still some concerns about Thornburg’s taxing delivery and how well his arm might be able to hold up, there’s no denying that the guy simply knows how to get batters out with his stuff. If he can prove to go deeper into his starts by the end of this season, who knows where he’ll be pitching this time next year.
3. Taylor Jungmann
Courtesy of MiLB.com
Height/Weight: 6'6", 210 lbs
Drafted/Signed: 2011, No. 12 overall (Texas)
2012 Stats (High-A): 17 GS, 3.35 ERA, 3.51 FIP, 64 K/29 BB, .242 BAA (102 IP)
Overview: After putting up ridiculous numbers his junior season with Texas and being Milwaukee's first selection in the 2011 draft, Jungmann faced tremendous expectations coming into the season. While he hasn't been the strikeout machine many have expected, there have been plenty of positive takeaways thus far.
In a Florida State League that houses some of the most advanced hitting prospects in the minors, Jungmann has averaged over six innings per start and has garnered an impressive walk rate of 6.8 percent. Sure, his strikeouts have been down at just six punchouts per nine innings, but the fact that he goes deep into most of his starts (he already has a complete game to his credit) says a lot about the workhorse-type of pitcher the Brewers believe he can be.
Jungmann features three pitches that graded out as plus-average at the draft last summer. His mid-90s four-seam fastball tops out at 98 MPH and his curveball has nice, sweeping bend to it. His changeup complements his fastball nicely and probably has more projection on it than any other of his offerings at this juncture.
2. Jed Bradley
Courtesy of MiLB.com
Height/Weight: 6'4", 225 lbs
Drafted/Signed: 2011, No. 15 overall (Georgia Tech)
2012 Stats (High-A): 16 GS, 4.55 ERA, 3.95 FIP, 54 K/31 BB, .278 BAA (87 IP)
Overview: Leading a shallow crop of left-handers in the 2011 draft, the Brewers were pleasantly surprised that Bradley fell to them at the No. 15 overall slot. After dominating for three seasons at Georgia Tech, in which he fanned over a batter per inning while conceding just one home run over 16 starts in his junior season, many scouts believed Bradley was one of the biggest steals of the draft—it’s easy to see why.
Having four pitches—a fastball that sits around 93-90 MPH, big-bending curveball, slider and changeup—that he has proven to throw strikes and induce a lot of swings-and-misses with, Bradley’s stuff isn’t that far from big-league ready. Moreover, his prototypical 6’4”, 225-pound frame suggests he could be a real innings-eater as a professional. Put that all together, and he’s believed to have the makeup of a solid No. 2 in a five-man big league rotation.
While he’s been fairly inconsistent in high-A ball this season, Bradley has managed to put together a string of solid starts. If he continues that type of production, there’s no doubting he has the chance to fly through the system and make his big-league debut possibly by the end of 2013.
1. Wily Peralta
Courtesy of MiLB.com
Height/Weight: 6'2", 240 lbs
Drafted/Signed: UDFA, 2005
2012 Stats (Triple-A): 18 GS, 5.10 ERA, 3.82 FIP, 79 K/49 BB, .275 BAA (90 IP)
Overview: Beginning his professional career as a undrafted free-agent out of Puerto Rico at just 17 years old in 2006, Peralta's lengthy stay in the minors has him atop many scouts' organization prospect rankings for a multitude of reasons. A big, durable frame to go with three big-league ready offerings are just a few of those aforementioned reasons.
At 6'2", 240 lbs, Peralta has a strong build that should be able to handle 30 or more starts at the big league level. He's averaged roughly six innings per start since pitching exclusively as a starter back in 2010. For comparison's sake, that's about what Yovani Gallardo averaged during his stay in the minors.
Peralta throws a mid-90s fastball and an average changeup with little projection left on it. His best pitch is easily his slider, having great movement that induces a lot of swings-and-misses. The biggest reason for his delayed ETA has to be his command issues, which have been woefully obvious thus far this season, holding true to a walk rate of 13.2 percent over 14 starts.
Despite his struggles of late, Peralta is by my estimation the most well-rounded pitcher in Milwaukee's system.