graduated to the majors. While former top prospect Matt LaPorta, along with OF prospect (who I had at number 7 before being named the “player to be named later”) were traded to the Indians as part of the C.C. Sabathia trade. Still, Milwaukee retains one of the better farm systems in baseball. Minor League notations in descending order
*AAA/AA signifies triple A, and Double A respectively… duh
*A+ signifies high A ball
*A- signifies low A ball
*A signifies a prospect played at both high, and low A ball throughout the course of the season
*a signifies short-season A ball
*R signifies rookie league
*MLL signifies minor league level last season
Stats I like to use:
OPS = On-Base % + Slugging %
K:BB = how many times a batter strikes out compared to how often he walks (strikeouts/walks)
Milwaukee Brewers Top 15 Prospects
1. Mat Gamel 3B Age: 23 MLL: AAA/AA
Gamel replaces LaPorta at the top of the Brewers’ list. Gamel is a tremendous hitter, as he hit .325, with a .392 OBP in 2008. He also hit 20 home runs, while collecting 99 RBIs. Despite his high OBP Gamel finished the season with a K:BB ratio of 2:1. Gamel’s bat is ready for the big leagues next year, but the Brewers will have to decide where he fits on defense. Despite being a good athlete, with a strong arm, and good range at third base, he is a terrible fielder – 119 errors in three years, or something like that. The next best place for him, because of his range, and arm may be left field, but was already moved there from third, and I believe the Brewers would be reluctant to move him back to third. Gamel does have the bat to play first, but Prince Fielder is there barring a trade. I would suggest right field, but Corey Hart is there; none of the trio of Hart, Gamel Braun are center fielders, so the three of them should not play the outfield together; which leaves the open spot at third base. I would keep Gamel in AAA next season, at third, and hope he can learn the position. If Gamel cannot stick at third the Brewers will be left with some decisions to make. Obviously Braun is staying, and because Gamel is the youngest, and therefore cheapest I think he makes the eventually cut as well, which means either Fielder, or Hart get traded before the start of the 2010 season, and I have my bets on Fielder since he will be most expensive in the future, and there is no guarantee Gamel can play right – although I think he would be great there in time.
2. Alcides Escobar SS Age: 22 MLL: AA
Admittedly Escobar, Salome, and Jeffress should be 2a, 2b, and 2c, they are all outstanding prospects in their own right, and any of them can slide in the 2-4 slots, it is just a matter of preference. Anyway, about Escobar… Finally! A shortstop who not only will field the position in the major leagues, but excel at it. Escobar is one of the best fielders in the entire minor leagues. He also hits for a high average, but a poor on base percentage, his K:BB ratio is 5:2. Escobar also has great speed, and base-running ability, stealing 32 bases last season. I think he is a Jason Bartlett type player at the big league level - plays the same way that is - but, Escobar is a little better at every facet of the game.
3. Angel Salome C Age: 22 MLL: AA
Salome shook off the 50 game suspension for performance enhancers a couple years ago by putting up another great offensive season in 2008. Salome hit .360, with a .415 OBP. Salome also managed a K:BB of under 2:1, and hit 13 homeruns. Salome is below-average defensively, but should be able to stay behind the plate in the big leagues. He will start 2009 in AAA, but should end the season starting for the Brewers.
4.RHSP Age: 21 MLL: AA/A+
If I were basing my opinion on potential alone Jeffress would top the list. He throws his fastball in the mid-high 90s, and occasionally hits 100 mph. He also throws a sharp curveball. However, Jeffress has some control issues, which seem to be the least of his problems. Jeffress has been suspended for off the field problems – the guy really just has to grow up, and quit smoking pot. Jeffress is still young so, I believe he will end up as a #2 pitcher, or possible ace, but I am going to keep him at “2c” until I see some improvement – his 4.31 ERA was not reassuring, his 115 Ks in 94 innings was.
5. Jonathan Lucroy C Age: 22 MLL: A
Despite being the second catcher on this list, Lucroy is one of the better catching prospects in the minors. Lucroy hit well in 2008, hitting for an average of .301, while getting on base 37.7 percent of the time. He also has an adequate K:BB ratio (84:58), and does hit for some power, 20 HRs in 2008. Lucroy is average defensively, maybe even above-average, and has a nice arm to throw out potential base-stealers. Where he ends up in the future depends a lot on what happens to Salome, but at worst the Brewers have some excellent trade bait. He will play at AA next season.
6. Brett Lawrie C Age: 18 MLL: NA
Lawrie could play C, 3B, or in a corner outfield in the future, but for the time being the Brewers are going to try, and keep him at catcher. Lawrie’s best tool is his power, which scouts before the 2008 draft called raw plus, plus power. “Raw” is bolded because it is the most important word, it is likely Lawrie will never live up to that evaluation, but he could have plus power in the majors. Lawrie is also athletic, with a strong arm, so although, he is new to catching, he has the ability to become a very good fielder at the position, someday. Lawrie will skyrocket to the top of the list, if he can prove he can field the position, and hit for plus power, he has a very high ceiling as a catching prospect.
7. Jake Odorizzi RHSP Age: 18 MLL: R
Odorizzi has four average to above-average pitches, which is impressive for a high schooler. All of which he commands, except his 4-seam fastball, which he throws in the low 90s. His changeup is also behind the other pitches. His 2-seamer gets good movement to both sides of the plate, his curveball grades out as plus, and his slider gets late break. Odorizzi was mostly successful in his 21 innings in 2008, striking out 19, and acquiring an ERA of 3.48.
8. Cole Gillespie OF Age: 24 MLL: AA
Gillespie is a terrific hitter, with all of the tools available there. He can hit for contact, he can hit for power, and he draws loads of walks – in 2008 he has an OBP of .386 despite a BA of only .281. Gillespie is also a good base runner, stealing 14 bases last season. Gillespie, however, lacks range in the outfield, and has a below-average arm, which limits him to left field. His bat is good, but it may not be good enough to start in left field everyday (especially with players like Matt Gamel, and Ryan Braun), so he may profile best as an above-average .
9. Taylor Green 3B/2B Age: 22 MLL: A+
Green has a K:BB ratio of 1:1, which is excellent, but has only average power, and is average at
best defensively. I think he profiles as a good second basemen, but will not make the big leagues
as a starting third basemen.
10. Caleb Gindl OF Age: 20 MLL: A-
Average power, average speed, average arm, average range in the outfield, get the picture? Gindl’s tools are just average, but he plays to his hardest on every play. However, Gindl’s ability to get on base is well above average - .388 OBP – despite the fact he strikes out way to much – 144 times in 2008 – but, he is still young. Gindl could start in a corner outfield spot, or could be an effective fourth outfielder and pinch-hitter in the future.
11. Lorenzo Cain OF Age: 22 MLL: AA/A
I am not as high on Cain as others. True, he has good speed, and is a good fielder that could play center or right field. Cain does not have much power, and does not hit for a high average, or on-base percentage. He also strikes out a little more than you would like, but still not nearly as much as Gindl. He falls into the same category as Gindl, and Gillespie he could start at right, or center, or he could make a good fourth outfielder. The Brewers at the very least have options in the outfield in the near future.
12. Brent Brewer SS Age: 21 MLL: A
Brewer is a terrific athlete with great range, and a good arm, but he has the Matt Gamel syndrome, and manages to rack up errors despite all the physical gifting – a move to center has been considered, but it just may be that Brewer is raw at all facets of the game, and just needs more time. Brewer showed no power last year, and very, very little hitting ability, he did however, steal 34 bases. Red flags surround Brewer, but he may just need time to refine his tools, he certainly has the name to be a Brewer… get it!
13. Cutter Dykstra OF/2B Age: 19 MLL: R
Dykstra played shortstop in high school, but is going to play either second, or in the outfield in the majors – assuming he makes it there. Dykstra has some power, and has the ability to hit for average (although he hit .271 in limited 2008 playing time after being drafted in June). Cutter has plus speed, which leads to considerable range, as well as helping him on the base paths. His range would allow him to cover center, but only if his average to below-average arm does not hinder him. Dykstra also has an advanced batter’s eye. Overall he is a solid prospect, and is probably better than his #13 ranking, the players ahead of him, are just older, Cutter could easily see a big rise next season, after a full season of pro ball.
14. Erik Komatsu OF Age: 21 MLL: R
Do you know what I like? Guys who hit .321/.394 (BA/OBP), while slugging 11 homeruns in 277 ABs, and keeping his K:BB ratio under 2:1 – it also helps when he steals 8 bases in that many ABs. I am interested to see what he does over the course of a full season in A ball, and so should you.
15. Bobby Bramhall LHSP Age: 23 MLL: A+
Bramhall is a left-handed pitcher who had a great 2008 season. In 111 innings he struck out 106, while posting a 2.51 ERA and limited opposing batters to an average of .222. We will all get a better read on him next season in AA.
Strengths: The Brewers have one of the most talented farm systems of any organization. Their position players are particularly impressive. They have a lot of depth in the outfield, and at catcher – their biggest need at the major league level. They also possess one of the few players with the potential to become an ace one day. They had a great 2008 draft taking a player with tremendous upside in Lawrie, and an advanced high school pitcher in Odorizzi. Cutter Dykstra could also start in the majors.
Weaknesses: Ummm… pitching depth. I mentioned three, 3, yes, only three pitching prospects among their top 15, and the two listed in the top ten are three or more years away from being effective in the major leagues. Otherwise their top 15 are phenomenal.Next Up: I finally look to finish off the NL Central with the Pirates, and Cardinals