|Wily Peralta has already earned a spot in Milwaukee's rotation.(USATSI)|
Prior to the start of the season, we'll highlight a few players in each team's minor-league system to let you know which players you should be paying attention to throughout the year. These aren't meant to be comprehensive top-prospect lists, but should provide a look at some key players within each team's organization.
Milwaukee's system is still reeling from the 2011 trades which brought Zack Greinke and Shaun Marcum to the Brewers. It brought them a division championship, but the team seems stuck in mediocrity for now. Even though they have a solid core in place, they'll need to graduate some talent from the minor leagues to get back into playoff contention.
2013 Impact Player
Peralta has been the Brewers' top prospect for a couple years now, and as he approaches the majors his stock just keeps rising. He was impressive in a short major-league stint late last season -- he posted a sharp 2.48 ERA in 29 innings with a 2.1 K/BB.
At times, Peralta struggles with mechanics -- such struggles saw his ERA swell to 6.40 in Triple-A in June. But he fixed the hitch -- his side was flying open, killing his ability to control his mid-to-upper 90s fastball -- and the results through the end of the season were excellent.
Peralta has won a spot in the starting rotation. Milwaukee's lack of activity in the starting pitcher market after losing Zack Greinke and Shaun Marcum last season was somewhat surprising; one would assume they think Peralta will be able to at least partially fill those big shoes.
Morris had the best season of any Brewers minor leaguer last year, as he hit a tremendous .303/.357/.563 with 28 home runs and 40 doubles to earn Southern League (Double-A) MVP honors.
There are still some questions with Morris -- he doesn't have any speed and his range at first base is suspect, and his patience still isn't quite what is desired out of a middle-of-the-order hitter. Morris walked just 40 times (7.0 percent of plate appearances) in 2012, and he'll struggle to post a quality MLB on-base percentage at that rate.
Still, the Brewers don't have anybody approaching his power level in the minors. His .563 slugging trailed just Seattle's Stefen Romero in the Southern League, and Romero played 80 fewer games. With Corey Hart a free agent after the season, the first base job is expected to open up for him in 2014. For now, he'll toil in Triple-A and try to show his breakout 2012 season was for real.
There isn't any question about Thornburg's stuff. Since the Brewers popped him in the third round of the 2010 MLB Draft, Thornburg has dealt in the minors. He owns a 2.77 career ERA in 54 appearances (51 starts) and an impressive 10.3 strikeouts per nine innings, thanks to a fastball that can touch 97 and a sharp curveball.
The question, though, is if he can do it for 200 innings a year. Thornburg is small for a starting pitcher at 5-foot-11 and 185 pounds. Thornburg's body and mechanics earn comparisons to Tim Lincecum, which could be favorable, but Lincecum's recent decline also shows the risks. As such, Thornburg will have to prove he has the endurance to last in the rotation.
The Brewers still think he can be a middle of the rotation pitcher. If not, he has the stuff to hack it as a back-end of the bullpen reliever -- most likely a setup man, but perhaps a closer as well. With the Brewers lacking established starting pitching, though, Milwaukee will try to keep him in a starting role as long as possible.
For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnBaseball on Twitter, subscribe to the RSS feed and "like" us on Facebook. Also, individually interact with us on Twitter: @MattSnyder27, @daynperry and @mikeaxisa.