Milwaukee Brewers 2009 Minor League Review
Overall farm ranking via Baseball America (2009)
2009 (10) | 2008 (21) | 2007 (5) | 2006 (5) | 2005 (3) | 2004 (1)
Record of Major and Minor League Teams
MLB: [80 – 82] NL Central
AAA: [75 – 69] Pacific Coast League
AA: [63 – 75] Southern League
A+: [79 – 48] Florida League
A: [58-81] Midwest League
R: [25 – 31] Arizona League
R: [32 – 44] Pioneer League
The Run Down
In terms of rankings, 2008 was so low because they gave up some top chips to rent CC Sabathia for a couple of months. What’s impressive though, is how they rebounded within a year to jump eleven spots. Honestly, this article was one of the more challenging to write for how many lower level prospects the Brewers have stocked piled. Everyone knows of the Alcides Escobar sleeper post; 2010 shortstop rankings; and Top 300 overall rankings – 186) and Mat Gamel has been mentioned more than enough. Thus, I will withhold comments and analysis about those two players unless asked in the comments. Further, there are several players who are in the low(er) minors that deserve mentioning, but due to space will get a shout out. For example, Wily Peralta (ranked #22), a reliever this past year, had the following rates, 10.2 K/9, 4 BB/9 in 103 IP at Class-A ball. Eric Arnett is one of the Brewers top prospects (just drafted this year) but just finished rookie ball. Cody Scarpetta (ranked #15) has tremendous upside, yet is just finished Class-A.
In short, their farm system is heavy down in the low(er) minors. Most of this talent is going to be moving up another level. I will be mentioning more names in “Honorable Mentions” due to the fact that many won’t see the majors until a couple of years down the road.
Arizona Fall League Players – Peoria Javelinas
Pitchers – (RHP) #19 Omar Aguilar; (LHP) #12 Zach Braddock; (RHP) Josh Butler; (RHP) Robert Wooten
Hitters – (C) #10 Jonathan Lucroy; (3B) #8 Tyler Green; (CF) #6 Lorenzo Cain
Players of Interest 2010
#3 Brett Lawrie | 2B | A | 19 | .274/.348/.454 | 372 AB | 36 XBH | 13 HR | .180 ISO | 19/11 SB/CS | 70:41 K:BB | .308 BABIP | 43.8 GB% | 15.6 LD% | 40.6 FB%
The only question about Lawrie from scouts, farm directors and analysts is “What position should he play?” Drafted as a catcher, suggested to play third or right field, the Brewers placed him at second. Lawrie is the top power hitting prospect for the Brew Crew, even more than Mat Gamel. At the end of the season he was given a call up to Double-A where he struggled, slashing .269/.283/.308 in 52 AB Given his age and small sample size, this brief appearance shouldn’t worry anyone. His stick is solid, with 30 homer potential, he should also hit for decent average (.275 to .290) as he has a good eye at the plate, but does become pull conscious which can cause prolonged slumps. Nevertheless, Lawrie is on the fast track to the majors. As we all know, with Rickie Weeks often injured, this could be sooner rather than later. Still don’t hope for anything more than a September call-up this year or, more likely, a June call-up in 2011.
#5 Angel Salome | C | AAA | 24 | .286/.334/.412 | 283 AB | 22 XBH | 6 HR | .127 ISO | 55:23 K:BB | .328 BABIP | 48 GB% | 23.8 LD% | 28.2 FB%
Prior to the 2009 season, Salome was considered the Brewers catcher of the future. However, after a rather disappointing season – league average OPS and an injury – Lucroy has leapfrogged him on the depth chart. Salome has a plus arm from behind the plate, gap power, strong plate discipline, and hits for decent average. His career slash line is .316/364/.483 and this was his first “poor” year. He may be destined for a backup role in the majors. The skills – good plate discipline, good average and gap power – are in place where he could have value in deep leagues, or two-catcher leagues, in 2011 if he has a starting job. With Lucroy on his heels, the signings of Gregg Zaun and George Kottaras, it seems like the Brewers have given him the finger and told Lucroy to improve upon his great year.
#10 Jonathan Lucroy | C | AA | 23 | .267/.380/.418 | 419 AB | 43 XBH | 9 HR | .150 ISO | 66:79 K:BB | .294 BABIP | 36.7 GB% | 17.3 LD% | 45.6 FB%
Speaking of Lucroy … Although his power was a disappointment this past year (had 20 homers in 2008), his plate discipline and control of the strike zone was impressive as were the 32 doubles. The GB, LD and FB rates correspond well to developing and continuing power trends towards high teen power potential. His arm isn’t as strong as Salome but his defense is better overall (fewer passed balls and errors). Lucroy will need to repeat last year’s overall production to continue as the catcher of the future. One thing to note, his OPS has decreased at each level/promotion besides rookie ball to Class-A (R: .871; A: .897; A+: .846; AA: .800). His ETA is no sooner than a September call-up and a 25 man roster spot in 2011.
#12 Zach Braddock | LHP | A+/AA | 21 | 13.8 K/9 | 1.6 BB/9 | 40 1/3 IP | 1.79 ERA | 2.18 FIP | .87 WHIP | .9 HR/9 | 6.2 H/9 | .300 BABIP | 36.3 GB% | 13.2 LD% | 47.3 FB%
The positive: his walk rates were greatly reduced from his career norms. The negatives: he was pushed to the bullpen, his mechanics predict more injuries in the future, and he’s already had Tommy John surgery to go along with elbow and shoulder problems. Braddock’s fastball is gunned between 90 and 94 mph with decent movement, a hard, biting slider and a decent changeup. However, as a reliever, he is able to use his fastball-slider combo effectively against lefties (.174 average). He was also able to reduce his walk rates from nearly 5 BB/9 in the past to 1.6 BB/9 in 2009. This could be due to a small sample size, or the fact that his new role better suits his talent. If he stays a reliever, his ETA is much higher than as a starter. Nothing to wage a bidding war over, but Braddock could supply a MR. B with some cheap ratios or holds in the future.
Josh Butler | RHP | R/A+/AA/AAA | 24 | 7.3 K/9 | 3.3 BB/9 | 118 1/3 IP | 2.97 ERA | 3.60 FIP | 1.30 WHIP | .3 HR/9 | 8.4 H/9 | .317 BABIP | 45.8 GB% | 25 LD% | 18.8 FB%
Not a ranked prospect by Baseball America in 2009 due to a poor 2008 season. However, after recovering from a few nagging injuries in 2008, Butler pitched well in 2009. He spent most of his time predominately at High-A and Double-A (44 IP at A+ and 50 IP at AA). Although his groundball rate isn’t very high, his GO/AO is 1.9, which is pretty spectacular. Having a 90 to 95 mph sinking fastball is why this rate is so high. Also, he throws a “solid” curve and slider. He projects as a number four starter (upside) or bullpen depth. If he starts the year off well and the Brewers have an injury or two in their rotation — *cough Dave Bush/Jeff Suppan cough* — he could be called upon for a spot start or two. Let’s all forget his terrible Arizona Fall League performance and blame this due to fatigue after a long season.
#4 Jeremy Jeffress | RHP | A+/AA | 21 | 10.4 K/9 | 8.2 BB/9 | 60 1/3 IP | 4.62 ERA | 4.59 FIP | 1.61 WHIP | .4 HR/9 | 6.3 H/9 | .282 BABIP | 55.5 GB% | 8.5 LD% | 24.4 FB%
I am obligated to place Jeffress on this list as he has tremendous amounts of talent but probably won’t make an impact in 2010. However, his high prospect ranking (#4 for the Brewers and #100 overall) and notoriety keep him in the first list.
Having already been suspended twice for an illegal substance (i.e. marijuana), Jeffress is squandering an arm that can easily hit 98 to 100 mph on the radar gun. If Jeffress gets another violation, whether PED’s or drugs, the hits he’ll see will be only from his blunt. Yes, that’s right, he’ll be kicked out of the league after his next violation. Nevertheless, unless he can start to control his pitches (fastball and potential plus-curve) his future in the majors will stall out before then. He threw 33 IP at High-A and 27 IP at Double-A. While at Double-A his rates were as follows; 11.2 K/9 and 10.9 BB/9. His future is definitely in doubt, especially with April twentieth just around the corner.
Rob Wooten | RHP | A+/AA | 23 | 12.2 K/9 | 3.5 BB/9 | 57 1/3 IP | 2.67 ERA | 3.44 FIP | 1.20 WHIP | .5 HR/9 | 7.4 H/9 | .333 BABIP | 41.6 FB% | 13 LD% | 41.6 FB%
Not the most talented guy out there. John Sickels called him a “junk baller” and Baseball America doesn’t even rank him. Wooten may be a lot like Mitch Stetter, gets by on pitching brilliance but is only a reliever at best. Nothing special here, but if injuries in the bullpen becomes an issue, Wooten may get his chance if he pitches well at Triple-A next year.
#27 Eric Farris | 2B | A+ | 23 | .298/.341/.385 | 473 AB | 26 XBH | 7 HR | .087 ISO | 70/6 SB/CS | 46:29 K:BB | .323 BABIP | 54.8 GB% | 17.2 LD% | 27.3 GB%
At this point, Farris is a player that can hit for good average and steal a ton of bases. His walking skills are mediocre at best, but he utilizes his speed by bunting and playing “little ball” well. Defensively, Farris has a solid glove. Oh, and SAGNOF, especially when you steal 70 bases in 76 tries.
#14 Caleb Gindl | RF | A+ | 20 | .277/.363/.459 | 394 AB | 35 XBH | 17 HR | .182 ISO | 18/4 SB/CS | 92:57 K:BB | .329 BABIP | 40.8 GB% | 15.9 LD% | 43 FB%
The men over at The Hardball Times believe Gindl is the Brewers third best prospect going into 2010, behind Alcides Escobar and Brett Lawrie (Mat Gamel has graduated their list). Scouts don’t like his “unathletic” body and his “poor speed,” however, all his numbers (like Total Zone) point towards him playing average right field with an average to above-aveage arm. Baseball America compares his body to Brian Giles. Take that with a grain of salt as current perceptions of Giles don’t elicit greatness or optimism. He may strikeout a lot (274 times in 1109 AB) but he walks at a decent rate (140 walks in 1109 AB) showing pretty good judgment of the strike zone. Not great, but sufficient. His upside is 20 homers with 20 steals. However, the steals are a product of reading the pitchers and not high end speed. His upside could be a Shin-Soo Choo circa 2009. Still a year or two away from the majors.
#29 Logan Schafer | CF | A+ | 22 | .313/.369/.446 | 457 AB | 43 XBH | 6 HR | .133 ISO | 16/8 SB/CS | 53:38 K:BB | .346 BABIP | 47.3 FB% | 15.1 LD% | 37.1 FB%
His defense is Gold-Glove caliber, but his hitting is destined to make him a fourth outfielder. Nothing he does, besides defense, is noteworthy. However, there is time for him to improve enough where he supplies sufficient stats when playing hot.
Evan Anundsen | RHP | A+ | 21 | 8.1 K/9 | 2.8 BB/9 | 130 1/3 IP | 2.69 ERA | 2.91 FIP | 1.09 WHIP | .1 HR/9 | 7 H/9 | .284 BABIP | 51.9 GB% | 13.8 LD% | 28.4 FB%
If his 2010 season is like his 2009, you’ll see him jump up some prospect boards. He is able to eat innings and gobble up batters by inducing an amazing ground ball rate (58.2 GB% for his career – 402 IP). His career numbers don’t look all that impressive (402 IP | 7 K/9 | .312 BABIP | 58.2 GB%), but any pitcher who can keep the ball in the park (.1 HR/9 in 2009) and get outs will eventually make their way to the majors. Think Aaron Cook. Not exciting but serviceable.
Dan Merklinger | LHP | A/A+ | 23 | 9.2 K/9 | 3.2 BB/9 | 91 1/3 IP | 2.56 ERA | 3.32 FIP | 1.14 WHIP | .5 HR/9 | 7.1 H/9 | .287 BABIP | 44.7 GB% | 11.4 LD% | 37 FB%
The strikeout rate is nice as is his homer rate (.5 Hr/9). Double-A will prove whether he’ll be able to develop.
#26 Amaury Rivas | RHP | A+ | 23 | 8.3 K/9 | 2.9 BB/9 | 133 IP | 2.98 ERA | 3.76 FIP | 1.14 WHIP | .7 HR/9 | 7.4 H/9 | .276 BABIP | 51.4 GB% | 12.7 LD% | 31.5 FB%
Rivas projects to be a number three or four starter. His stuff is better than Merklinger’s (90 to 92 mph fastball topping out at 94 to 95, a slider and a change up that isn’t always consistent). Aided by a low BABIP (.276), Rivas will need to keep up his ground ball rate for success at the next level.
Caleb Thielbar | LHP | R | 22 | 9.2 K/9 | 1.5 BB/9 | 47 IP | 1.53 ERA | 2.84 FIP | 1.11 WHIP | .2 HR/9 | 8.4 H/9 | .319 BABIP | 50.3 GB% | 13.1 LD% | 29.7 FB%
As with every Brewers review I’ll do, there will have to be a shout out to my former teammate in high school. Back in August, I wrote a Scouting the Unknown mentioning his drafting by the Brewers in the introduction. I don’t have any specs on his pitches currently. It is important to note that he should be moved up to Low-A and or High-A next year and start down the same path as Amaury Rivas or even Braddock without the injuries. You can never have enough lefties in your farm system. I wish all the best for this small town prospect.