Thursday, June 23, 2005 Article by Alan Schwarz

This is an article that I somehow missed from a couple of days ago by Senior writer Alan Schwarz from Baseball America. He goes into detail about our three top prospects -- Weeks, Fielder, and Hardy.

Young trio injecting life into Brewers
By Alan Schwarz
Special to

TORONTO – For at least a few days, the talk has turned to reality.

We've been hearing for several years now about the Brewers' farm system, about how several of its impact players will soon help turn around this atrophied franchise. We could be forgiven our skepticism: It wasn't that long ago that this same city had bragged about Braggs, and regaled us with Robidoux, with little to show for it – except, perhaps, atonement for Antone Williamson.

But as Doug Melvin and Ned Yost looked at their Milwaukee batting order on June 13, they could be forgiven an excitement that might, just might, spread past the Wisconsin borders. J.J. Hardy was at shortstop. Rickie Weeks, freshly minted from Triple-A Nashville, was at second base. And Prince Fielder, another prospect oozing with legitimacy, was at DH.

They are all age 21 or 22. They are all among the top young talents in baseball. They never had played a regular-season game together, majors or otherwise. But there they were, starting for the Brewers, infusing the club with a youthful hopefulness that could break a legacy of losing that stretches back to the days of Bill Wegman and Mike Boddicker.

These are not your commissioner's Brewers.

"The previous two years, we've talked about prospects a lot," said Melvin, the club's third-year general manager. "This year we have a chance to see some of them."

Or as Hardy put it: "Now that it's come together, it's pretty exciting. It's what they've been talking about since we were drafted."

It is amazing how fast these three players – the best triumvirate of rookie talent on any club today – have come through the system, one stuffed to the gills by scouting director Jack Zduriencik. Hardy, 22, was a second-round high school pick in 2001, and broke camp this spring as the starting shortstop. Weeks, also 22, was the No. 2 overall pick in the 2003 draft out of Southern University, and was tearing up Triple-A Nashville before being summoned June 10. And Fielder, a 2002 high school first-rounder who recently turned 21, showed such terrifying power at Nashville in a three week period that he was called up June 12 to DH in the Brewers' interleague games – and showed enough talent to stick around.

Until now, the Brewers have for years been the dullest team in the major leagues, with boring players, boring management and boring results – heck, even the Devil Rays have developed some Rocco Baldellis and Carl Crawfords to keep them mildly intriguing. But these three prospects showing up at once are a big shot of adrenaline into the Brewer bloodstream, and make Milwaukee relevant again.

"It's good to finally see the guys make the jump," said right fielder Geoff Jenkins, the most tenured Brewer, around since 1998.

Added Yost, the third-year manager, "These kids are here to help us. There's a line between development and winning, but I see no reason why we can't do both."

Fielder is as powerful from the left side as his father, Cecil, was from the right – and proved it following a tepid start at Nashville. In his final 20 games, he mashed 12 home runs – 18 of his final 20 hits were for extra bases – while driving in 28 runs.

With series coming up at Tampa Bay and Toronto, the Brewers needed a DH and were so confident Fielder was their man, they added him to the 40-man roster. (The Brewers stood 13th in the league in runs at the time.) With a 6-foot, 260-pound frame that would make a tank jealous, Fielder has excellent power to all fields and proved it with a laser double to left-center in his second game against the Rays.

"That's more my type of hit – I try to drive the ball in the gaps," said Fielder, who entered Tuesday's games 5-for-17 with three doubles. As for his first week in the majors, he added, "It's the same thing – I grew up around it. The only thing different now is I get to play."

But for how long, and where? Both Fielder and Lyle Overbay, the Brewers' most productive regular, play only first base, with moves to the outfield unlikely. Teams have already started calling about Overbay – you can bet the Mets will be interested – as Melvin's decision marches toward him.

Fielder was supposed to return to Nashville following the Blue Jays series, but was enticing enough to stick around for a few more days as a left-handed bat off the Milwaukee bench.

"It's something we'll have to make a call on," Melvin said. "But for now we'll let them go out and perform. This team has not had talent depth in a while. We're starting to get a little bit of that. We're not motivated to move either one."

Weeks was called up a few days before Fielder to replace the traded Junior Spivey, though in reality Spivey was dealt (to Washington) to make room for the blistering Weeks. The right-handed hitter had been batting .320-12-48 in 55 games at Nashville and leading all minor leaguers with nine triples.

Weeks can be a three-hole impact hitter; he has some Gary Sheffield in him, from his phenomenal bat speed to the chopping twitch that triggers it.

"Rickie has as quick hands as I've ever seen – sometimes he gets too quick and starts chopping balls to the right side," Brewers hitting coach Butch Wynegar said.

Weeks has held his own offensively since the recall, batting 8-for-28 (.286) with five walks and 10 strikeouts.

"I'm trying to get accommodated to big-league life," said Weeks, who was called up briefly in September 2003 as part of his draft contract. "It hasn't been too hard, really."

Defense has been another matter. His two errors last Wednesday, first an errant throw and then a muffed ground ball, led directly to the Brewers' 5-3 loss to Tampa Bay. (He also erred on the bases, getting doubled off first on a lineout.) On Sunday, Weeks again displayed his rawness by botching a double play, but he also turned two nice twin-killings to show that his early work with coach (and former second baseman) Rich Dauer was taking hold.

"Of course I felt bad about it, but it's something I have to deal with," Weeks said of the miscues. "It's baseball – it's coming right back at you. I want the ball to come back at me."

Said Yost, "He just has to learn the nuances of the position. Rickie plays the position now on raw talent. He already has the quickness and range. He has to learn to stay smooth."

Hardy is plenty smooth with the glove – but not with the bat, at least yet. After missing most of last season with a shoulder injury, Hardy hasn't hit a lick this year, batting .183 with a .549 OPS that only Christian Guzman's .547 keeps from being the worst among major-league shortstops with 140 plate appearances.

The Brewers expect Hardy's numbers to improve markedly soon, though: He not only has a great approach at the plate, striking out just 14 times with 21 walks, but they know that many talented young infielders, like Robin Ventura in 1989, hit in the high .100s their first two months before turning it around.

"I'll bet a lot that J.J.'s going to be a .280 hitter with 10-15 homers and 80 RBIs, and play spectacular defense in the next couple of years," Yost said. "I don't think it'll take five years. He's a smart kid with tremendous makeup."

Hardy is known for great defense, but it's hard to know if it has been evident yet. He has just two errors, yes, but he also has made only 3.6 plays per game, by far the worst among all big-league shortstops. Given that the Brewers have a groundball-oriented pitching staff with two lefty starters, that's something to watch in the coming months.

But hey, at least the Brewers are finally something to watch as a whole. They're only 31-38, yet they have scored more runs than they've allowed, suggesting that they're better than their record indicates. (Though they were 45-41 last year before finishing a ghastly 22-53, in last place yet again.) The 2005 Brewers will have a chance to prove themselves before this year's All-Star break, with almost all of their games against the Cubs, Twins, Marlins and Braves.

OK, not all of their games. Some games will still be played between Weeks and Fielder, as they duel in MVP Baseball on their traveling Sony Playstation.

"I want to be the Brewers," Fielder lamented, "but Rickie always wants to be the Brewers."

If these guys play up to their potential, they won't be the only ones.

Softball Stats

I've played on three softball teams so far this year, excluding my intramural team at UW-La Crosse. I thought it would be cool to keep track of my stats for an entire summer for once in order to see how well, or pathetic I really am. After last night's game, I feel I need to gripe about something. What does a guy have to do to show that he does not deserve to hit in the bottom of the lineup?? The highest I've ever been this year, or any year for that matter, is sixth. I actually like the six hole because there are a ton of rbi's to be driven in, as was the case tonight (I had 5). I'm not saying that I should bat in spots 1 - 4 because I'm not the fastest guy in the world (picture Chad Moeller towing a piano), but I seem to think I have a little pop in my bat. By my count, I've gone deep 4 times so far. Excluding one guy, I can count on one finger the number of homeruns that were not hit by him or myself. Yet, when I get to the park for tonight's game, I'll find myself penciled in at the 11th spot and will most likely get just 2 at-bats because our team has only 4 or 5 consistent hitters who don't pop up. And what's even more frustrating is when you have no talent, ass clowns and rummies that show up with knee braces on both legs and in full uniform with wrist bands and all who can't even make contact with a pitch and cannot catch a ball thrown to them also batting in front of you. THAT pisses me off.

56 30 .536 1 .544 13 8 5 4 31 1.071 1.615

Top Prospect Grades

Since we are at the mid-way point for most of the minor league teams, I figured I would compile a list of the top prospects in the Brewers organization.  The players are listed in order of how highly they are regarded first, w/Weeks, Fielder, Hardy, etc. being at the top.  After each name, I have given them a grade which represents how well they have performed on their respective affiliates so far this season. 


  1. 2B Rickie Weeks A-
    • Lit the Pacific Coast League on fire, earned his call up, but has loads of improvement in order to become an adequate 2B defensively
  2. 1B Prince Fielder B+
    • Temporarily called up to Milwaukee after catching on fire with the bat in Nashville
  3. SS J.J. Hardy B-
    • Struggling to find an identity at the plate in Milwaukee while still providing his trademark D at shortstop
  4. CL Jose Capellan C
    • Walking too many and not striking out enough while working on two new pitchers equals a move to the bullpen
  5. CF Dave Krynzel C+
    • Striking out a lot and only 6 SB’s, average continues to plummet after a hot start but still plays well in the field
  6. RF Corey Hart B
    • Tearing the cover off the ball the last month to raise avg. over .280 instead of near the Chad Moeller-line
  7. RP Mike Adams B+
    • Didn’t deserve demotion to AAA, but continues to pitch well and looks to have regained his velocity
  8. SP Ben Hendrickson C
    • Still working out the kinks with new mechanics, yet to regain his form from last year while winning International League Pitcher of the Year honors
  9. RP Jorge de la Rosa B-
    • Not seeing regular work out of the ‘pen in Milwaukee doesn’t help when one naturally has control issues
  10. SP Mark Rogers B
    • Peripheral stats are extremely good and reports are that he has touched 99 on radar guns recently
  11. RP Justin Lehr B
    • Recently moved to starting rotation in AAA and has pitched very well, also opening eyes with his bat as well
  12. SP Dennis Sarfate A
    • Not sure what else he needs to prove in Huntsville; should be the first of the Big 3 to be called up to AAA
  13. SP Dana Eveland A
    • Pitching as well as Sarfate in Huntsville
  14. SP Manny Parra A
    • Pitching as well as both Sarfate and Eveland in Huntsville, completing the Big Three
  15. 2B Hernan Irribaren A
    • Named to the Futures Game, is tearing up Sally League pitching, but has recorded 14 errors already at 2B
  16. RF Nelson Cruz A
    • Also named to the Futures Game, sporting a nifty .969 OPS, but is striking out too much and is knocking on the door for a call-up to Nashville
  17. LF Brad Nelson B-
    • Cooled off after hot start, but appears to have drastically increased his plate discipline by taking a walk every 6.6 AB’s
  18. 3B Ryan Braun DNQ
    • #1 pick will begin in Helena and move to either West Virginia or Brevard County after several weeks.
  19. SP Yo Gallardo A
    • Striking out 1 per inning is a good indicator of future success
  20. RP Jeff Bennett B
    • Performing about as expected in Nashville in a setup/closer role
  21. C Lou Palmisano C
    • Appears to have hit a wall in A+ offensively, but is not striking out at such a high rate as last year
  22. C Angel Salome DNQ
    • Went 3 – 5 with a homerun in his debut for Helena last night; expected to be the #1 catcher
  23. SP William Inman DNQ
    • Will will most likely begin the year with the Baby Brewers in Arizona
  24. SP Ryan Anderson A
    • Small sample alert, but the Lil’ Unit has 16 K’s in 9.2 innings while only allowing 1 walk; should be moved up to Huntsville shortly
  25. UT Vinny Rottino B-
    • Struggling to adjust to playing 3B and at Catcher while continuing his utility role; maintaining a rather pedestrian-like .713 OPS
  26. SP Josh Wahpepah B
    • K/BB ratio of 5:1 is certainly good, but no other numbers are truly dominant, but also are not horrible either
  27. CF Tony Gwynn, Jr. B+
    • TGJ is an on-base machine, not hitting for much power, but is stealing a lot of bases and playing solid defense
  28. CF Steve Moss B
    • Named an All Star for the Florida State League, is finally healthy and is putting up solid numbers for Brevard County
  29. SP Carlos Villanueva A
    • Starting pitcher in FSL All Star Game; 75 K’s in 58.1 innings and a WHIP of 0.86, but must learn to limit number of HR’s given up
  30. SP Ty Taubenheim A-
    • FSL All Star, also having a dominant pitching prospect turning heads in Brevard County
  31. SP Tim Dillard A-
    • See: Taubenheim, Ty
  32. SP Roque Mercedes DNQ
    • Highly touted Latin American signee will begin season with Helena
  33. SP Luis Pena C+
    • Been injured most of the year; stats were nothing special when healthy either
  34. SS Alcides Escobar B
    • The only other offensive force in WV besides Hurricane Hernan, but already has 21 errors at shortstop
  35. SP Mike Jones DNQ
    • Injured and will most likely miss the entire 2005 season
  36. 2B Callix Crabbe C-
    • Struggling mightily is an understatement
  37. SS Enrique Cruz B
    • .780 OPS, but has committed 21 errors at shortstop as well
  38. SP Jeff Housman C+
    • It might be time to start considering Jeff as a left-handed relief specialist from here on out; appears hitters have adjusted to Jeff at the plate
  39. 3B Adam Heether B
    • Injured for part of season, but playing good defense while serving as one of the offensive leaders at Brevard County – which isn’t saying much
  40. SP Glenn Woolard C-
    • Not performing like he did last year with Huntsville
  41. C John Vanden Berg C
  42. 2B Will Lewis B+
  43. SP Justin Barnes B
  44. CF Darren Ford DNQ
  45. 3B Matt Gamel DNQ
  46. 1B Grant Richardson D-
  47. LF Kennard Bibbs C
  48. LF Drew Anderson C+
  49. SP Josh Baker D+
  50. RP Mitch Stetter A
  51. RP Robbie Wooley C
  52. SP Ryan Costello B
  53. RP John Novinsky DNQ
  54. 2B Steve Sollmann C-
  55. OF Alexandre Periard DNQ
  56. RP Jerome Gamble C
  57. CF Charlie Fermaint DNQ
  58. CL Robert Hinton B+
  59. 1B Josh Brady D
  60. 1B Ben Diggins DNQ


Wednesday, June 22, 2005

All Star Futures Game

It was announced today that 2B Hernan Irribaren of Low-A West Virginia and OF Nelson Cruz of Double-A Huntsville were selected to play in the Futures Game during the All Star break next month. I would have liked to have seen one of the trio of pitchers from Huntsville be selected, but I'm sure roster composition played a large part in why the two aforementioned players were selected. Both players will suit up for the World Team.