Thursday, November 03, 2005

Minor League Recap

In the 2005 organization preview of the Brewers, the following words ended the introduction to the report:

The days of the Brewers trolling at the bottom of the division should be numbered.

Well, whaddaya know? The Brewers finished out of last place for the first time since 2001 and ended with a .500 record for the first time since 1992. Contributions from Milwaukee's very rich farm system played a large part in the renaissance, giving hope that perhaps this is only the beginning.

The Rickie Weeks era began, and while it was up-and-down, the second baseman did hit 13 homers and steal 15 bases in 96 games. Shortstop J.J. Hardy overcame an extremely slow start and hit .308 after the All-Star break. Other Minor Leaguers, like Prince Fielder and Jose Capellan, made brief appearances during the season and late in September, giving a glimpse of a farm system ready to start funneling players to Milwaukee for years to come.

 

2005 Organizational Record
LEVEL
AAA
AA
A (Adv)
A
R
R
 
LEAGUE
PCL
SOU
FSL
SAL
PIO
AZL
 
TEAM
Nashville*
Huntsville
Brevard County
West Virginia
Helena
Brewers
 

TOTAL:

W
75
60
63
60
46
22
 

326

L
69
79
73
78
30
34
 

363

PCT
.521
.432
.463
.435
.605
.393
 

.473

* Won the Pacific Coast League Championship
2005 Organizational Leaders
Average
Home Runs
RBIs
Stolen Bases
ERA
Wins
Strikeouts
Saves
 
.372
28
86
38
1.91
12
138
14
 
Kenneth Holmberg
Prince Fielder
Prince Fielder
Hernan Iribarren
William Inman
T. Dillard, T. Taubenheim
Carlos Villanueva
Robert Hinton
 
Complete MiLB statistics

Five Faves

At the start of the season, MLB.com identified five prospects to keep an eye on. Here's how they fared in 2005:

Rickie Weeks, 2B
After hitting .320 with a .435 OBP and .655 in 203 at-bats with Triple-A Nashville, it was clear the 2003 first-rounder had nothing left to prove at the Minor League level. The start of the Weeks era in Milwaukee was understandably up-and-down, but the positives outweighed the negatives. He showed good power -- 13 homers and 13 doubles in 360 at-bats -- and good speed (15-for-17 in stolen base attempts), but hit just .239 and struck out 96 times in as many games. He also made 21 errors in the field, eight coming in September when he also hit .224. Much of that slide might be attributed to a torn thumb ligament that required surgery, though that was never used as an excuse by Weeks or the Brewers. He should be ready to go next spring.
Weeks hits his first Triple-A longball>
Another Weeks home run, "yadda yadda yadda"

Prince Fielder, 1B
Things didn't start so well for the slugging first baseman, who had some difficulty adjusting to Triple-A pitching at age 21. He hit just .241 with two homers and eight RBIs in April, but rebounded with eight homers and 27 RBIs in May. In June, he received his first callup to the bigs and responded by hitting .321 in 28 sporadic at-bats. After a decent July back in Nashville, Fielder was arguably the hottest hitter in Minor League Baseball in August, hitting .459 with seven homers and 21 RBIs in 16 games before getting called back up to Milwaukee, where he continued to get his feet wet as a part-timer/pinch-hitter. Considering he led all Brewers Minor Leaguers in homers (28) and RBIs (86) in just 378 at-bats, management is going to have to find a spot for his power bat in the big league lineup in 2006.
Fielder turns around a 3-1 fastball for a grand slam>
Prince makes it a two-homer game and a seven-homer week>

J.J. Hardy, SS
It was a tale of two rookie seasons for Hardy in Milwaukee. The first season, before the All-Star break, is one he'd like to forget. Hardy was hitting just .187 in the first half of the season and had lost considerable playing time to Bill Hall. But he turned it on in the second half, hititng .308 with eight homers and 31 RBIs (posting an .866 OPS along the way), all while continuing to play outstanding defense. The turn-around and increased playing time, along with some nagging injuries, made the Brewers rethink their original plan to send Hardy to the Arizona Fall League. Look for him to be the Brewers' Opening Day shortstop in 2006.

Corey Hart, OF
Hart continued to show the tools the Brewers have coveted for some time. This year, he added some more plate discipline and earned his first prolonged callup to the bigs in August. In Triple-A Nashville, Hart hit .308 with 17 homers, 69 RBIs and 31 steals in 113 games. More impressive may have been his .377 OBP (giving him a .913 OPS when added to his .536 slugging). He headed to the AFL to work on an old position -- third base -- with an eye toward the 2006 lineup at that spot or as a jack-of-all-trades.
Audio: Hart goes deep for home run No. 14
Listen to Hart drive in the game-winning run in AFL action

Dana Eveland, LHP
Talk about jumping on the fast track. In 2004, Eveland went from low-A up to Double-A. This season, the lefty made the leap from Double-A to the big leagues. With Huntsville, Eveland went 10-4 with a 2.72 ERA in 109 IP. In the bigs, he was used in a relief role only, appearing in 27 games spanning 31 2/3 innings. He went 1-1 with one save and a team-high 5.97 ERA.
Audio: Eveland gets Larry Broadway looking in the Arizona Fall League

Cinderella Story

Vinny Rottino, Util
At first glance, Rottino's overall numbers for 2005 -- a .299 average, .408 SLG, .354 OBP, seven HR and 54 RBIs -- seem OK, but not overwhelming. But consider that Rottino was an undrafted free agent in 2003, then jumped from Low-A up to Double-A this season, and they seem a bit better. Then ponder the fact he hit .345 in nine games when he moved up to Triple-A Nashville to help their playoff push (the Sounds eventually won the PCL title) and you have to be impressed. And it hasn't even been mentioned that he spent time defensively at five positions -- catcher, first, third, left and right.

He'll be 26 next April, so what you see is probably what you get. But guys who are willing to play all over the field and can swing the stick a little bit don't grow on trees ... especially ones passed over by all 30 organizations for 50 rounds.
Audio: Rottino hits a two-run double in the Arizona Fall League

Breakout year

Quick hits on players who made more of a name for themselves with a big 2005 seasons.

Nelson Cruz, OF
It's hard to imagine that Cruz has been traded twice, first from the Mets to the A's for Jorge Velandia back in 2000, then this past offseason from the A's to the Brewers for Keith Ginter. Perhaps a "late bloomer" -- though he's still just 24 -- Cruz hit a combined .289 with 27 homers and 81 RBIs in Double- and Triple-A in 2005, finishing with a .385 OBP and .527 SLG. He then hit four homers and drove in 11 during the Nashville Sounds' march to the PCL title before finishing up with his first taste of the big leagues.
Audio: Cruz touches 'em all

Carlos Villanueva, RHP
Acquired by the Brewers from the Giants in the 'huge' Wayne Franklin deal just prior to the 2004 season, the 21-year-old Villanueva hadn't done much to distinguish himself before this year. With the Giants, he spent two consecutive seasons in the rookie-level Arizona League. In his first season with the Brewers, he posted a 3.78 ERA in the Midwest League. Then, this year, things came together in the FSL. Villanueva went 8-1 with a 2.33 ERA, holding hitters to a .195 average while striking out 124 and walking just 32 in 112 1/3 IP. That earned him a late promotion to Double-A Huntsville, his likely home in 2006.

Tony Gwynn Jr., OF
Looks like the second time was the charm. The 2003 second-rounder was sent to Double-A in his first full season, in 2004, and he struggled for much of it. Gwynn seemed to learn from his experience and even though he slowed down after a scorching start, he still hit .271 with a .370 OBP and 34 steals while playing a big-league caliber center field.
Video: Gwynn, Jr. puts the North on top in the SL All-Star Game

Tim Dillard, RHP
Prior to the 2005 season, Dillard had primarily been a reliever since being taken in the 34th round of the 2002 draft, saving 10 games in that role in the Midwest League in 2004. This year, the 22-year-old right-hander became a full-time starter in the FSL and proved to be a workhorse, leading the league with 185 1/3 IP while finishing second to Villnueva with his 2.48 ERA. Dillard struck out 128 and walked 31 while holding hitters to a .219 batting average.

2005 draft recap

1. Ryan Braun, 3B
Braun's hitting ability was as good as advertised, at least in his pro debut. The No. 5 overall pick began with short-season Helena and finished with West Virginia, posting a combined .352 average and 1.025 OPS. Whether he can stay at third remains to be seen, but there's little doubt about his bat being able to carry him.

2. Will Inman, RHP
Pitching almost entirely for Helena in the Pioneer League (he tossed two innings in the Arizona League), Inman posted a 1.91 ERA in 47 IP. The Virginia high school product struck out 59 and walked 12 while keeping hitters to a .176 batting average.

3. Matthew Gamel, 3B
The JUCO All-American headed to Helena, where he proceeded to hit .375 in 199 at-bats with five homers and 37 RBIs in 50 games. The performance earned him a brief promotion (eight games) to West Virgnia at the end of the season.

4. Kevin Roberts, RHP
A two-way player at the University of Houston, Roberts is now a pitcher only. With Helena, he posted a 2.82 ERA, striking out 34 and walking eight in 22 1/3 IP. From there, he moved up to West Virginia, which proved to be a stiffer challenge (4.94 ERA in 27 1/3 IP). Many see Roberts as a future bullpen guy like Houston alumns Ryan Wagner and Jesse Crain. He was much better in a relief role at both levels (especially with the Power) than he was when given a start.

5. Steve Hammond, LHP
The Long Beach State product pitched at three levels after signing, beginning in Helena and ending with Brevard County. Combined, the southpaw had a 2.27 ERA in 67 1/3 IP, walking 14 and striking out 64 while holding hitters to a .233 batting average.

2004 draft recap

1. Mark Rogers, RHP
The overall numbers -- 2-9 with a 5.11 ERA -- may not suggest a succesful first full season for the No. 5 pick in the 2004 draft, but there were signs of progress. Pitching out of a tandem system he perhaps never adjusted to, Rogers revamped his delivery and still managed to strike out 109 in 98 2/3 IP. Although, it should be noted that he also walked 70. South Atlantic League hitters managed just a .238 batting average agaisnt the Maine high school product and Rogers was throwing just as hard in September as he was in April.

2. Yovani Gallardo, RHP
Gallardo's campaign with the Power went a little more smoothly than Rogers'. The high school right-hander finished sixth in the league with a 2.74 ERA, striking out 110 in 121 1/3 IP. He yielded just 100 hits for a .230 batting average against and got better as the year progressed, posting a 1.80 ERA from July 1 through the end of the season.

 

3. Josh Wahpepah, RHP
The big right-hander joined Rogers and Gallardo on the Power staff, and he spent more time as a traditional starter than in the tandem, with 100 of his 116 1/3 IP coming in that role. Overall, Wahpepah had a 3.95 ERA with a low walk rate (just 25 BB), though he struck out just 79.

 

Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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