For much of the 1990's, the Milwaukee Brewers had one of the worst farm systems in all of baseball. Things began to turn around with former GM Dean Taylor and continued with the team of current GM Doug Melvin and former director of scouting Jack Zduriencik.
Over the last six years, Baseball America has ranked the Brewers farm system in their top 10 four times, including No. 3 in 2005. The Brewers have done a great job producing young hitters, but they are still waiting on young pitching to add to Yovani Gallardo.
Unlike other lists, you won't see Mat Gamel or Alcides Escobar on this list. Although they still are classified as rookies for the 2010 season, I chose to pick talents who have yet to spend any significant time in Milwaukee.
Jeremy Jeffress was the Brewers first round pick in the 2006 draft out of high school. Baseball America ranks him as the 21st-best prospect in the system.
Based solely on talent, Jeffress is far and away the best pitching prospect in the minors for the Brewers.
So why is a player with so much talent so low on everyone's list? Jeffress is currently serving a 100--game suspension for marijuana use.
It's his second suspension for the drug and one more positive test will result in a lifetime ban. The funny part is that once a player reaches the Majors, marijuana is no longer tested for.
His fastball has reached triple digits and regularly sits in the mid-90s. He also possesses a great curveball, but he's been unable to add a third pitch.
He reached Double-A Huntsville last year but was demoted due to lack of control before being suspended.
The 22-year-old has special talent, enough so that he could quickly rise through the system and be in Milwaukee in 2011 if he can stay clean.
D'Vontrey Richardson was the Brewers fifth round pick from the 2009 draft. Baseball America ranks him as the 18th best prospect in the system.
As you can tell from the picture, Richardson is a former Florida State quarterback.
The two-sport star played baseball sporadically at FSU, but he impressed the Brewers enough in their pre-draft workout to earn a $400,000 bonus.
He is arguably the fastest player in the farm system, but his skills are raw and untapped. He only hit two home runs in college, however he has a body type that is capable of turning into a power-hitting machine.
Richardson may have the highest ceiling of any player on the list, but he could just as easily never catch on in baseball and be out of the game in a couple years.
He has yet to make his pro debut, but expect the Brewers to take their time with Richardson so he can learn as much as possible and be given every opportunity to reach Milwaukee in a few years.
Kyle Heckathorn was a supplemental first round pick by Milwaukee in the 2009 draft. Baseball America ranks him as the 10th-best prospect in the system.
The Brewers focused heavily on pitching in the 2009 draft. Heckathorn lasted longer than the Brewers thought he would, and they were quite happy to get him with the 47th pick.
The 6-6 righty has a fastball that sits in the mid-90s and can top out at 98. He also possesses a slider that registers in the high 80s.
He'll need to come up with a third plus pitch in order to remain a starter as he progresses through the minors.
He already has very good control, but he must learn how to set up hitters to become a great pitcher.
Some feel he could be converted to a closer in the future, but for now he'll likely start games for low Class A Wisconsin in 2010.
The Brewers selected Lorenzo Cain in the 17th round of the 2004 draft. Baseball America ranks Cain as the eighth-best prospect in the system.
Originally, Cain was slated to take over in center field for Mike Cameron in 2010, but a left knee injury caused him to miss half the season last year. He never recovered completely, and struggled once he returned in June.
Cain has great speed and is a superior athlete. He needs to learn plate discipline, and he should grow into his power in the next few years.
Cain will start the year at Triple A, Nashville. Even if he has a banner year, he should remain in the minors all year long.
If Carlos Gomez struggles this year, Cain could challenge him for the starting spot next year.
Otherwise he could become the central figure in a trade this summer if Gomez plays up to his abilities.
Jake Odorizzi was a supplemental first-round pick for the Brewers in the 2008 draft. Baseball America ranks him as the ninth-best prospect in the system.
Odorizzi was ranked by many as the top high school pitcher in the 2008 draft. The Brewers gave him over $1 million as a signing bonus to skip college and begin his pro baseball career.
He won't overpower you with speed, topping out at 93 with his fastball, but he has great movement on his pitches. He has a good curveball but must develop his slider and changeup to move up in the system.
Odorizzi possesses the killer instinct a pitcher needs to succeed, but he must learn to locate his pitches better to get hitters out.
He has thrown just 68 innings as a pro, so the Brewers are taking their time with the 20-year-old. Expect him to start the season for the Class A Wisconsin club with a chance to move up at the end of the year.
The Brewers drafted Zach Braddock in the 18th round of the 2005 draft. Baseball America ranks him as the seventh-best prospect in the system.
Braddock was a dark horse to make the Brewers bullpen this year, but he'll start the year in the minors.
His fastball can reach the mid-90s, and his slider is a devastating weapon against left-handed hitters. Many still feel he could be the eventual replacement for Trevor Hoffman.
Braddock underwent Tommy John surgery in high school as well as ongoing elbow and shoulder issues that forced him to move to the bullpen from a starting role.
He's pitched less than 200 innings in the minors, so more seasoning down there in 2010 will only help his growth. Braddock should be the first one called up if anyone in the bullpen goes on the disabled list.
Kentrail Davis was a supplemental first-round pick by the Brewers in the 2009 draft. Baseball America ranks him as the sixth best prospect in the system.
Davis has been called a left-handed-hitting Kirby Puckett. The Brewers were able to sign him at the signing deadline last Aug. for $1.2 million, despite having a poor season at Tennessee.
Davis is a very impatient hitter and will need to improve that skill above all others. He also needs to learn to use all fields at the plate as well.
Many scouts see him as a potential 20-20 player, but his defense could hold him back in the minors.
His speed doesn't translate into the field, and he has a poor throwing arm, which could cause him to be moved to left field in the future.
Due to signing late, Davis didn't play at all last year in the organization. He could start the season at high Class A Brevard County.
Jonathan Lucroy was a third round pick by the Brewers in the 2007 draft. Baseball America ranks him as the fifth-best prospect in the system.
Lucroy had a great 2009 season, passing Angel Salome as the top catching prospect for the Brewers. He competed for the back-up catching spot but was beat out by George Kottaras.
He is a better defensive player than offensive at the moment, but he could develop into a solid bat in the future. He threw out 41% of base runners last year, and handles a pitching staff very well.
Time is the only thing holding Lucroy back at the moment. Although he'll start the year at Double-A Huntsville, Brewers GM Doug Melvin told him that he can bypass Triple A when the time comes.
He was sent there simply to play every day and prepare for 2011 and beyond.
The Brewers drafted Eric Arnett in the first round of the 2009 draft. Baseball America ranks him as the fourth best prospect in the system.
Arnett is now the prize pupil in a Brewers' farm system that is now focusing on adding as many young arms as possible.
Arnett set single season records for the Indiana Hoosiers in wins (12) and strikeouts (109) last spring. The Brewers were shocked when he was still available at the 26th pick in the draft.
He's reached 97 with his fastball, but it usually hovers between 91-94. His slider is also a plus pitch, but his changeup still needs plenty of work to move up in the system.
The Brewers were cautious with Arnett only allowing him to throw 35 innings last season after throwing a full season at Indiana. He should start the season at Class A, but he could move up very easily at some point in the season.
With his college experience, he should be able to work his way to Milwaukee relatively quickly. 2011 might be a bit soon to hope for his arrival with the Brewers, but fans should see him pitching in Miller Park in 2012 barring any sort of an arm injury.
Brett Lawrie was drafted by the Brewers in the first round of the 2008. Baseball America ranks him as the second best prospect in the system.
Lawrie became the highest drafted Canadian hitter ever when selected by the Brewers, and he has lived up to the high expectations that come with being a top pick.
After spending most of 2009 at low Class A Wisconsin, the Brewers promoted him to Double-A Huntsville to finish the season.
Truth be told, his bat is already for the big league level, but his defense still needs significant improvement before reaching Milwaukee. To be fair, the Brewers drafted him as a catcher, but they moved him to second base before the start of last season.
Second base may not turn out to be his final home either. He can play almost any position in the field, and he could be a future candidate to replace Prince Fielder.
Regardless of his position, his defense will dictate how quickly he moves through the system. A September call-up this year isn't out of the question, and he could compete for a roster spot in 2011.
However, it won't be until 2012 until Lawrie finds a permanent home as an every day player in Milwaukee.