Wednesday, June 15, 2005

State of the Minors Report

I figured I'd take a look at how the top minor league prospects have performed up to this point for the Milwaukee Brewers. With the departures of Rickie Weeks last week and Prince Fielder earlier this week, there isn't a whole lot to get excited about, at least statistically wise. The two heads of the player development, Jack Z and Reid Nichols, have notoriously been known for pushing the development of players by placing them in leagues that are higher than most other players their age. With that in mind, it was expected that most players would get off to a slow start and eventually be able to make the necessary adjustments to excel during the second half of the season. I have highlighted the top 50 or so top prospects in bold below for emphasis.

At Low-A West Virginia, there definitely is not much to be excited about from a hitting aspect. 2B Hernan Irribaren is leading the way offensively with above average numbers and was named to the Sally League All Star Game. Besides SS Alcides Escobar and Utilityman Will Lewis, the offensive production has been anemic. The pitching staff is loaded with talent and potential and has performed about as well as expected for the three top draft picks from last year's draft. Mark Rogers has 48 K's in only 35 innings, but has also walked 23 batters. Both Josh Wahpepah and Yo Gallardo both have respectable ERA's in the 3.20 to 3.60 range, respectively.

The Brevard County team in Florida is underachieving about as much as possible. The hitting is unbearable. The two players that are showing up at the plate are 3B Adam Heether and LF Drew Anderson, both considered to be fringe prospects at best. Catcher Lou Palmisano, MVP of the Pioneer rookie league in 2003, has been struggling all season long with an OPS of .638. As is with West Virginia, the pitching has been the most pleasant surprise on this team. Although it should be noted that the Florida State League is perhaps the most pitcher-friendly in all the minors. Four pitchers have stood out for this team: Ty Taubenheim, Carlos Villanueva, Tim Dillard, and Ryan Anderson. Taubenheim and Villanueva have been selected as All-Stars, and Anderson is regaining his form after sitting out for three years with arm injuries.

The Huntsville team has also underachieved, thus continuing the trend. The player who has played the best thus far outside of Weeks, is OF Nelson Cruz. Cruz has torn up the Southern League to the tune of a .950 OPS and is tied for the league lead in home runs. With that said, he still is striking out at an alarming rate and is considered to be rather old for his league. Outside of Cruz, his two outfield teammates, Kennard Bibbs and Tony Gwynn Jr., have also had above average years so far. And continuing the trend, the pitching is far superior to the batting on this team as well. The best of the bunch is Dennis Sarfate, followed by Dana Eveland and Manny Parra. Left-handed relief specialist Mitch Stetter has also been lights out from the bullpen.

The best team in the minors affiliated w/the Brewers has been the Nashville Sounds -- they are not hovering around last place. With the recent call-ups of Weeks and Fielder, there isn't as much to get excited about on this team anymore (even though Prince will be back shortly). Corey Hart has been on a tear as of late at the plate, but other prospects like Dave Krynzel and Brad Nelson have cooled off drastically from their early season successes. Pitching has also been pretty mediocre as well. Jose Capellan has recently been demoted to the bullpen, and Ben Hendrickson has put up run-of-the-mill numbers all season while working on new mechanics. The most pleasant surprises have been relievers Chad Paranto and Justin Lehr.


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