The Milwaukee Brewers tried to acquire a big name, front of the rotation pitcher at the trade deadline this year with no success. Teams wanted either Alcides Escobar or Mat Gamel in return; something Brewers General Manager Doug Melvin wasn't willing to do.
The Brewers lacked top-pitching prospects to include in any deal that would entice a potential partner to send a top pitcher Milwaukee's way. While the Brewers may not have many top pitching prospects in Double or Triple A, their low minor league levels are filled with pitchers that could have an impact with the team in a couple seasons. Cody Scarpetta is one of those pitchers, and he's on the fast track to a bright career.
Scarpetta currently plays for the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers, the Brewers Class-A affiliate located in Appleton, Wisconsin. He was drafted in the 11th round by the Brewers in the 2007 draft.
Despite an injured finger that required surgery, Scarpetta signed with the Brewers and bypassed a scholarship with Creighton University. It was known before the draft that he would not be able to pitch at all that season, but when a second surgery was needed, the Brewers voided his original deal and signed him for less.
Scarpetta started 2008 in extended spring training before making his debut with the Helena Brewers in June. He showed he was worth the draft gamble, finishing with a 1-0 record and a 3.48 ERA in 20 2/3 innings. He struck out 31 while walking only eight. Opponents hit only .237 off of him.
The Brewers sent Scarpetta to play in the Hawaiian League last winter. He didn't have nearly as much success, finishing with an 8.03 ERA in 12 innings. Although the numbers weren't as good as he may have liked, he used it as a learning experience.
"I was facing other team's top prospects," Scarpetta said when asked about his time in Hawaii. "Guys like Yonder Alonso and Buster Posey; they are going to hit good pitches. I knew I could pitch there, I just had to adjust to their abilities.
Entering 2009, Scarpetta was ranked by Baseball America as the Brewers' fifth best pitching prospect and 15th overall prospect. He was also voted as having the best curveball in the organization, a weapon that serves multiple uses in games.
"That's the good thing about a 12-6 curveball; you can start it at the knees and land it in the dirt. It's very deceptive. For me, early in the count I try and throw it for a strike. Once you get ahead, you don't want to hang it or anything, so you throw it for an out pitch. Land it at the ankles so they can't hit it or hit it on the ground."
The 6'3", 240-pound Scarpetta is a typical power pitcher. Along with the great curveball, he can throw a 4-seam and 2-seam fastball, a slider, and a changeup. Having such a wide array of pitches will serve him well as he progresses against better competition, but it will be his dominant curve ball that will put him in the majors at some point.
He has used that pitch for great success this season, despite not having the win-loss record to show for it. He is 3-9 this year but has a very good 3.63 ERA in 89 1/3 innings. He has struck out 102 batters while only walking 49, a great sign for a young pitcher.
The Scarpetta family is no stranger to the Brewers organization. Cody's father, Dan, was drafted in the third round by the Brewers in 1982 and was with the organization until 1989.
"He taught me out to 'pitch' pitch," the younger Scarpetta said of his father, "how to set up batters. In high school it's easy to blow the ball by batters. Now you have to work on your change-ups and off-speed pitches."
The Brewers are fortunate that they can take their time promoting Scarpetta through their system. He doesn't turn 21 for two weeks, so time is on his side as long as he can continue to stay healthy.
Win-loss records are not a good indication of a starting pitcher, especially at the lower levels on minor league baseball. Scarpetta has shown all the tools of a good young pitcher that is ready for the next level. Expect him to be promoted to Double-A Huntsville for the 2010 season.
While Jeremy Jeffress has issues with substances away from the field and Mark Rogers has arm problems, Scarpetta has only dealt with a finger issue that seems to be completely resolved.
The Brewers may have a weakness in their minor leagues for top quality pitching, but that will change drastically over the next few years. Cody Scarpetta will be at the top of that list. A successful and prolonged major league career is only a few, short years away.
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