I'm going to follow the format I have the last couple years and rank the prospects based on a percentage formula. The best prospct in baseball would be a 100% and the worst 0%. I have included longer write-ups about each player this year.
1. Alcides Escobar – SS - 80%
Escobar has more than enough defensive skills to cut it in the majors. But he still hasn’t shown enough offensive skill (.762 OPS, though he did have 42 SB) to be an elite shortstop. The thing I don’t like is that he will have no incentive to add power to his game (because fans, etc. will have all they want with his defense, singles and stolen bases) and likely won’t add patience at the plate anytime soon, either. Many would probably disagree, but without power or patience at the plate, Escobar’s ceiling is limited. Still, he seems more likely to immediately impact the Brewers than Gamel and is the player in the system most likely to contribute in the MLB.
2. Mat Gamel – 3B - 79%
After’s Gamel’s sizzling start to the season (1.256 OPS in April), you would have expected his stock to rise. However, he slowed down in May, got a call to the Brewers, where he struggled to get significant playing time, and then went back to Nashville, where he continued to struggle. Thanks to his April, his season will look fine in the end, but his numbers have been heading in the wrong direction. If there’s a positive, it’s that his defense showed significant improvement this year. The downside to that, however, is that he still hasn’t made the switch to the outfield and seems stuck at a position where he probably will never be adequate defensively. And 54 strikeouts in 128 MLB ABs is not a good sign. I can’t imagine him being too great in Milwaukee in 2010.
3. Brett Lawrie – 2B - 79%
Lawrie did pretty much exactly what you would expect this year. As a 19-year-old playing full-season ball, he held his own with an .802 OPS. Reports on his play are expected: great bat speed, natural hitter, unnatural fielder. After being promoted to Double-A, Lawrie struggled a lot. In fact, he was downright overmatched. That’s to be expected of a 19-year-old, but it is the 0:14 BB:K there that keeps him off the top of this list. He has a long, long way to go. However, I expect him to be the top prospect in the system at this point next season.
4. Eric Arnett – SP - 78%
If you’re a college pitcher drafted in the first round of the entry draft, you pretty much are going to be the Brewers top pitching prospect. Arnett’s numbers weren’t remarkable in Rookie ball, but apparently he didn’t throw his slider and took it very easy after a full NCAA season. He will enter 2010 as the top pitching prospect barring injury and should join a pretty talented rotation in Wisconsin or Brevard County.
5. Jonathan Lucroy – C - 72%
Lucroy came on nicely as the season progressed and is now the top catching prospect in the organization. After a slow start, he had a .991 OPS in August, and saw his OPS rise to .798, which isn’t too bad for Huntsville. What’s more impressive is his patience and strikezone judgment. He had a 78:66 BB:K, a very rare positive ratio. He hasn’t shown a ton of power and probably never will, but his on-base skills and average defense at catcher make him a valuable prospect.
6. Cody Scarpetta – SP - 72%
I was higher than most on Scarpetta at the start of the season, so I’m obviously still high on him after his successful campaign in Wisconsin. 105 innings, 55 BB, 116 K, and a positive ground ball ratio. Those a very good numbers from a 20/21-year-old playing in Single-A. He needs to refine his control, but he has the potential to be the top pitching prospect in the system in a year and has the stuff to be a good major leaguer.
7. Zach Braddock – RP - 71%
Pitch-for-pitch, Braddock is the most talented pitcher in the minors (i.e. he has the best stuff). He has a mid-90’s fastball and dirty offspeed pitches. Plus he’s big and left-handed. His raw talent is apparent given his numbers again this season – 40.1 IP, 7 BB, 62K, 1.79 ERA between Brevard County and Huntsville. What’s missing? Innings. Braddock’s injury history has the Brewers very cautious - cautious to the point he’ll probably never be a starter again. Even as a shutdown reliever, which I think Braddock can be, his injury bug is a major concern. Plus, relievers have less value than starters.
8. Wily Peralta – SP - 71%
One of the rarely seen Dominican prospects in the Brewers system. Peralta has a high ceiling thanks to his youth (20 years old), size (6’2” 225 lbs.), and velocity. He is a lot like Scarpetta in that regard and perhaps has an even higher ceiling than him. This season in Wisconsin, he struck out 118 in 103.2 innings compared to 46 walks. The walks are a bit high, but raw talent is clearly there. He will be someone to watch in Brevard County next season.
9. Jacob Odorizzi – SP - 70%
The Brewers were extremely conservative with Odorizzi this season, limiting him to 47 innings in Rookie ball. He has a very good arm and has done fine in his brief stints in MiLB game action. He will be exciting to follow next year in his full-season debut. Like Scarpetta and Peralta, he has a high ceiling but is a long way away from the majors.
10. Caleb Gindl – OF - 67%
Gindl is a classic player in the stats v. scouts debate. On stats alone, he’d be in the top 5 on this list. As a 20-year-old playing in the very pitcher-friendly Florida State League, Gindl hit 17 home runs, had a .822 OPS, 18 SB to 4 CS, and 57 BB with 92 K in 394 AB. If those numbers don’t seem overly impressive, remember that he was 20, and he was second in the league in HR and OPS and very close to being the league leader in both categories. But the problem is that he’s just 5’9” on a good day and 185 lbs. I obviously like his plate approach, but that’s a lot of strikeouts for a player if he doesn’t have typical corner outfield power. The question is can someone Gindl’s size have the power to play RF in the majors? Sure, there are players like Brian Giles, but he had amazing BB:K numbers and hit for a very high average. Even Giles is bigger than him. Kirby Puckett? This coming season in Double-A will be a huge test for him. Despite his shortcomings, I believe he is the best outfield prospect the Brewers have.
Overall, the system is up from last year, but that's mostly the product of not graduating anyone to the majors and having a lot of draft picks. I think the Brewers did pretty well in the 2009 draft, but only time will tell. There is a lot of young potential in the system which we could see developing this season. Yet, a lot of that talent is very raw and a long way away. The system continues to be weak at the top, with no players at this point projecting to be MLB stars. The problem in my opinion continues to be a lack of success in the foreign markets. The Brewers are well behind the curve there and simply don't have the financial ability to impact their farm system. Perhaps that changes when Hall and Suppan come off the books. It ultimately puts a lot of pressure on drafting and trading. Unfortunately, the Brewers don't have much to trade and they lack extra draft picks going forward, which is pretty essential at this point.
I am excited to see what Lawrie and the young pitchers are able to do this year. I'm not expecting great things from Escobar or Gamel in the majors as rookies, but it will be nice to see what they can do as well. If the Brewers start the season very poorly and find themselves out of contention, I think it's definitely time to consider trading Fielder and restocking the shelves a bit.
Feel free to discuss players you believe are overrated or who were snubbed.
Labels: Brewers Prospects