Top prospect Wily Peralta is the early favorite to open the 2013 season as the Brewers' fifth starter.
Although the Milwaukee Brewers have a relatively deep farm system with many players close to the major leagues, it’s devoid of a true impact prospect. Rather, it’s top heavy with numerous high-floor players, many of whom are on pace to reach the major leagues in either 2013 or 2014.
The organization’s prospect pool is highlighted by right-handed pitchers Wily Peralta, Tyler Thornburg and John Hellweg. But after the graduation of Jean Segura to the major leagues in late 2012, the Brewers need one of their young hitters to step up during the 2013 season. They do have a pair of power-hitting prospects in Hunter Morris and outfielder Victor Roache. But beyond those two, power is scarce within their system.
Here’s a look at the Milwaukee Brewers’ top 10 prospects heading into spring training.
DOB: 7/30/1993 (Age: 19)
Height/Weight: 6’3”, 210
Drafted/Signed: First round, 2012 (Union HS, Wash.)
Scouting Notes: Older high-school prospect who turned 19 in July; drafted as a bat-first catcher with tons of physical strength; impressive professional debut in the rookie-level Arizona League; batted .302/.439/.444 with 11 extra-base hits and 40/37 K/BB.
His hit tool already flashes plus potential; plate discipline is highly advanced considering his age and lack of experience; line-drive swing yields loud contact to all fields; legitimate feel for the strike zone; power will come once he adds some loft to his swing and gains experience.
Coulter will be a work-in-progress behind the plate for at least several years; was incredibly raw in pro debut, accumulating 21 passed balls in 26 games and throwing out runners at only a 16 percent clip; has the size and mobility to remain behind the plate; blocking, game-calling and receiving skills require considerable refinement.
Spring Training Forecast: The Brewers will send Coulter to minor league spring training where he’ll work extensively on his defense behind the plate.
2013 Outlook: Due to his raw, inconsistent defense, Coulter will likely open the 2013 season in extended spring training before making a full-season debut at Low-A before the All-Star break.
DOB: 6/12/1990 (Age: 22)
Height/Weight: 6’4”, 225
Drafted/Signed: First round, 2011 (Georgia Tech)
Scouting Notes: Selected three picks after the Brewers drafted Taylor Jungmann in 2011; 6’4”, 225-pound frame calls for little projection; was regarded as the most polished left-hander in the draft class behind Danny Hultzen; mechanics were inconsistent throughout the 2012 season; registered a 5.53 ERA in 107.1 innings in professional debut at High-A.
He rarely missed bats, as evidenced by his pedestrian 5.03 K/9 and 11.4 H/9 rates in the pitcher-friendly Florida State League; missed time in May with a groin injury; shut down in August due to fatigue; something was clearly wrong with Bradley last season but not exactly sure what and if it’ll carry over into 2013.
When he’s at his best, the southpaw’s fastball will sit in the low-to-mid-90s; jumps on hitters, thanks to repeatable mechanics and smooth release; slider will flash above-average potential.
He completes his deep arsenal with a curveball and changeup, though neither is particularly advanced; four-pitch mix and ability to eat innings give him a high floor as a No. 3 starter.
Spring Training Forecast: Invited to major league camp, Bradley will attempt to prove to the organization that his ugly professional debut in 2012 was an anomaly.
2013 Outlook: After battling a host of unexpected mechanical issues last season at High-A, the left-hander may open the year in extended spring training before repeating the level. If he’s able to make the necessary adjustments, Bradley could finish the 2013 season in Double-A.
DOB: 9/17/1991 (Age: 21)
Height/Weight: 6’1”, 225
Drafted/Signed: First round, 2012 (Georgia Southern)
Scouting Notes: As was the case with Lucas Giolito, Roache was a wild card heading into the 2012 draft after missing nearly the entire season with a broken wrist; hit 30 home runs as a college sophomore in 2011 with BBCOR bats.
6'1”, 225-pound outfielder has plus-raw power to all fields; gets weight off his back side and drives through the ball with authority; had significantly reduced his strikeout rate in 2011; some question how the wrist injury and subsequent surgery impacts his bat speed.
Beyond the bat, Roache’s tools are average across the board; has enough range and athleticism to play either corner outfield position; arm is solid-average; if he overcomes the injury and develops as expected, he could turn out to be a steal as a late first-rounder.
Spring Training Forecast: Considering that he’s yet to make his professional debut, Roache will prepare for the 2013 season in the minor league camp.
2013 Outlook: As long as his wrist is good to go, Roache will finally make his pro debut in 2013, likely at Low-A. Once he settles in and regains rhythm at the plate, the 21-year-old could begin to move through the Brewers’ system quickly.
DOB: 5/1/1990 (Age: 22)
Height/Weight: 5’10”, 165
Drafted/Signed: 16th round, 2009 (Sarasota HS, Fla.)
Scouting Notes: Although he’s undersized at 5’10”, 165 pounds, Gennett is as scrappy and hard-nosed as they come; seems like the type of player who takes pride in quieting his skeptics; batted .293/.330/.385 with 37 extra-base hits in 133 games for Double-A Huntsville; has hit at every stop while exceeding expectations.
This left-handed hitter has compact swing and a direct bat path; impressive hand-eye coordination; keeps hands inside the ball and uses the entire field; potential for an above-average hit tool.
He will never showcase more than below-average power but should amass his share of doubles and triples; possesses average speed but has never been an aggressive base stealer.
Gennett was converted to second base in his full-season debut in 2010 and is still learning the position; decent range and hands; arm strength is more than enough for the position; hard to see him as a big-league regular at the position but is a solid backup option up the middle.
Spring Training Forecast: Gennett enters his third spring training with the potential to assert his place on the major league radar.
2013 Outlook: Continuing his one level-per-year ascension through the Brewers' system, Gennett will open the 2013 season at Triple-A, with a September call-up likely. If if he continues to rake as he has throughout his minor league career, the 22-year-old could make Rickie Weeks expendable.
DOB: 6/5/1989 (Age: 23)
Height/Weight: 6’6”, 245
Drafted/Signed: Second round, 2010 (Alabama)
Scouting Notes: At 6’6”, 245 pounds, Nelson is already physically mature and doesn’t require projection; was a reliever in his professional debut but was moved to the rotation in 2011; turned in an impressive first half of the 2012 season with a 2.21 ERA, .216 BAA and 2.27 GO/AO in 81.1 innings for High-A Brevard County.
He received midseason promotion to Double-A, where he lost a feel for his mechanics and release point; registered a 3.91 ERA but saw his walk rate shoot up to 7.2 BB/9; spent time on the disabled list in July with shoulder fatigue.
This right-hander utilizes his height by throwing a heavy sinker that’s difficult to barrel and results in excessive groundouts; uses the pitch to attack both right- and left-handed hitters; slider is a borderline plus offering that’s thrown with tilt and features late break.
His changeup lags behind other pitches but should be at least average after further refinement; if he can improve his overall command without sacrificing either velocity or movement, Nelson has a realistic future as a mid-rotation innings-eater; fallback option as a reliever given fastball-slider combination.
Spring Training Forecast: Entering his first major league camp, Nelson will log innings early in the spring while auditioning for the team’s 2014 rotation.
2013 Outlook: After spending the second half of the 2012 season at Double-A, Nelson will return to the level in 2013 and likely reach Triple-A.
DOB: 10/7/1988 (Age: 24)
Height/Weight: 6’2”, 200
Drafted/Signed: Fourth round, 2010 (Auburn)
Scouting Notes: 6’2”, 200-pounder is physically strong with tons of raw power; was a second-round draft pick out of high school in 2007 but opted to attend Auburn; has moved at a level-per-year pace through the Brewers’ system and improved at each stop.
He had a monster offensive season for Double-A Huntsville, batting .303/.357/.563 with 74 extra-base hits (28 home runs) and 113 RBI in 136 games.
A majority of his power is derived from his sheer strength rather than elite bat speed or efficient swing mechanics; bat path can be long due to slight hitch during load but compensates with his strength and strong top hand.
He understands how to use his lower half to maximize power; doesn’t project to hit for average in the major leagues but should still showcase power; holes in swing may be exploited at more advanced levels.
First-base-only prospect who’s only average defensively; worked hard to improve his defense last season after committing 19 errors in 2011; upward mobility will always be tied to his production; should open the 2013 season at Triple-A Nashville, with a chance to reach the majors if he continues to mash.
Spring Training Forecast: In the wake of Mat Gamel’s season-ending knee injury (again), Morris is suddenly a candidate to open the 2013 season as the Brewers' first baseman.
2013 Outlook: With only one full season at Double-A under his belt, Morris is a long shot to win the job—but definitely in the mix. It’s a safer bet that he’ll open the year at Triple-A, with the chance for a call-up during the first half of the season.
DOB: 12/18/1989 (Age: 23)
Height/Weight: 6’6”, 210
Drafted/Signed: First round, 2011 (Texas)
Scouting Notes: A 6’6” right-hander, Jungmann was regarded as one of the more advanced arms available in the 2011 draft class; turned in disappointing professional debut and spent the entire season at High-A Brevard County in the pitcher-friendly Florida State League;
He registered a 3.53 ERA and 1.94 GO/AO in 153 innings; inability to miss bats is concerning, as he fanned only 99 batters (5.82 K/9) compared to 46 walks; understands how to get outs but lacks front-of-the-rotation stuff; mechanics can inhibit overall explosiveness of his arsenal.
This University of Texas alumnus boasts a plus fastball that routinely touches 92-95 mph, but it’s his only above-average offering; throws the pitch on solid downward plane and relies on inducing groundouts.
His curveball has potential with a solid shape and two-plane break, but he lacks a feel for it; struggled to throw it for a strike early in counts; release point varies; changeup is fringy; lacks fade and is thrown with too much velocity; more of a high-floor arm with the upside of a No. 3 or 4 starter in the major leagues.
Spring Training Forecast: Entering his second big league camp with the Brewers, Jungmann will presumably be auditioning for a spot in the 2014 rotation.
2013 Outlook: After spending the entire 2012 season at High-A, Jungmann will move up to the Double-A, with a chance to reach Triple-A by the end of the year.
DOB: 10/29/1988 (Age: 24)
Height/Weight: 6’9”, 210
Drafted/Signed: 16th round, 2008 Angels (Florida Community College)
ETA: 2013 (reliever) / 2014 (starter)
Scouting Notes: 6’9” right-hander made the transition to full-time starter this past season while making the jump to Double-A; was traded late in the season to the Brewers as part of prospect package for Zack Greinke.
Hellweg started setting up on the first-base side of the rubber; control continues to be an issue, though he did post a career-best 4.8 BB/9 rate in 139.2 innings; strikeout rate was down; uses height to advantage and induces tons of ground-ball outs (1.55 GO/AO).
Power arm produces four-seam fastballs that sit at 95-98 mph and scrape triple digits in shorter stints; two-seam fastball comes in a few ticks slower but has late arm-side life that induces weak ground-ball outs.
His breaking ball is a second plus pitch with sharp break; legitimate swing-and-miss offering; if his changeup continues to develop and his control/command improves, Hellweg could be a front-line starter; if not, the lanky right-hander still has a bright future as a late-inning guy.
Spring Training Forecast: In his first spring training with the Brewers, Hellweg will see his share of innings as the organization evaluates his future as both a starter and reliever.
2013 Outlook: As part of his ongoing development as a starter, Hellweg appears ticketed for Triple-A to begin the 2013 season. However, due to his size and plus-plus fastball, there’s an outside chance that the right-hander will break camp as part of the Brewers’ bullpen.
DOB: 9/29/1988 (Age: 24)
Height/Weight: 6’0", 190
Drafted/Signed: Third round, 2010 (Charleston Southern)
Scouting Notes: Undersized (6’0", 190 pounds) right-hander ascended the organizational ladder last season, opening the year at Double-A (3.00 ERA, .212 BAA), making a stop at Triple-A (3.58 ERA) and registering a 4.50 ERA over three stints in the major leagues.
He employs considerable torque in his delivery, making him deceptive and gives his pitches tilt; above-average fastball is supplemented by a sharp breaking ball and fading changeup; induces a healthy mix of strikeouts and weakly hit outs; arsenal, stature and delivery could make him a highly effective late-inning guy.
He can lose the pace of his delivery and arm speed which causes his pitches to flatten and linger up in the zone; can get hit hard when fastball remains elevated; being rushed from Double-A hasn’t allowed him to refine his command; catches too much plate with secondary pitches.
Spring Training Forecast: After reaching the major leagues last season—including three starts—Thornburg will likely compete for the final spot in the Brewers’ starting rotation.
2013 Outlook: The right-hander is long shot to break camp with the Brewers as either a starter or reliever, and will likely open the 2013 season at Triple-A before returning to the majors later in the year.
DOB: 5/8/1989 (Age: 23)
Height/Weight: 6’2”, 240
Drafted/Signed: November 2005 (Dominican Republic)
Scouting Notes: 6’2”, 240-pound right-hander has a thick, durable frame built for a heavy workload; struggled in 2012 in the Pacific Coast League (4.66 ERA, 143/78 K/BB in 146.2 innings); pitched well as a starter in the major leagues as a September call-up.
He throws a weighted fastball in the low-to-mid-90s that generates lots of ground-ball outs; slider can be a borderline plus offering with a late diving action; changeup is solid-average with room to add more feel; secondary offerings play up when he’s locating his heater down in the zone; both can still be inconsistent and need further refinement; needs to sharpen three-pitch mix and eliminate some of the free passes.
Spring Training Forecast: After a successful audition last September in the major leagues, Peralta should be able to solidify a spot in the Opening Day rotation with a strong spring.
2013 Outlook: Peralta should break camp as the Brewers’ fifth starter, and could even emerge as one of the top rookies in the National League over the course of the season.