The Brewers are one of four organizations to station its top two prospects at Triple-A to begin the season. Milwaukee’s duo of Ryan Braun, 23, and Yovani Gallardo, 21, though, are younger than all the other tandems. The challengers: Ryan Sweeney and Josh Fields (White Sox), Adam Jones and Jeff Clement (Mariners) and Matt Garza, Glen Perkins and Kevin Slowey (Twins).
Braun, a third baseman drafted fifth overall out of Miami in 2005, began ripping the ball in spring training (.353/.405/.912 in 34 at-bats) and hasn’t yet stopped. Because incumbent third baseman Corey Koskie is out with post-concussion syndrome, Braun had a very real shot at the big league job, but shaky fielding undermined his impressive hitting. Encouragingly, he’s made just one error thus far with Nashville, and he’ll push veterans Craig Counsell and Tony Graffanino aside when he’s ready.
Gallardo got a major league spring training invitation after his breakout 2006, but a 7.27 ERA in five games earned him a ticket to minor league camp. Like Braun, he’ll get his chance this year if he performs with Nashville–and he’s off to a good start. Gallardo, a second round pick in 2004 out of a Texas high school, would seem to be at a disadvantage if the solid Brewers rotation remains healthy.
Outfielder Drew Anderson, 25, played on two Nebraska teams that made it to the College World Series, and his pro career has been marked by steady progress. A 24th-round pick in 2003, Anderson hit .300 or better with strong on-base skills in each of his first three pro seasons, though it should be noted that he spent one full season at each Class A stop. A solid 2006 season, in which he hit .291/.359/.415 in 402 at-bats for Double-A Huntsville, impressed the Brewers and earned Anderson a nine-game major leauge last September.
Anderson offers a lot of things clubs look for in a reserve outfielder–versatility, a lefthanded bat, solid contact skills, some speed–and that figures to be his future role. He’ll have to wait for the dust to settle in Milwaukee, though, as outfield depth is not an area where the Brewers are lacking.
The Brewers’ professional scouting department has a strong track record of finding value among freely available players, e.g. Derrick Turnbow and Brady Clark were all waiver claims, making their signing of Joe Dillon all the more intriguing. The 31-year-old outfielder/third baseman spent the 2006 season with the Yomiuri Giants of the Japanese Central League, and opted out of his contract with the Marlins in spring training.
Dillon enjoyed two huge seasons while in the Marlins organization in 2004 and 2005, winning the Pacific Coast League’s slugging percentage (.665) crown in the former and its on-base percentage (.459) title in the latter. He had career averages of .294/.382/.514 in 782 minor league games entering the season.