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Top Ten Prospects: Milwaukee Brewers
Complete Index of Top 10s

By John Manuel
November 21, 2005


Chat Wrap: John Manuel took your Brewers questions
Baseball America's Top 10 Prospects lists are based on projections of a player's long-term worth after discussions with scouting and player-development personnel. All players who haven't exceeded the major league rookie standards of 130 at-bats or 50 innings pitched (without regard to service time) are eligible. Ages are as of April 1, 2006.

One more win would have been nice. That way, the Brewers could say they had their first winning season since 1992. Instead, the 2005 team’s 81-81 record meant Milwaukee had its first non-losing season since that club, snapping a tie with the Pirates for baseball’s longest active streak of sub-.500 seasons at 12.

Undeniably, the Brewers made progress. They attained the .500 mark despite a modest $42 million payroll and staff ace Ben Sheets missing 10 starts.

Owner Mark Attanasio, 48, brought a new vibe to the organization, which finally shed its link to commissioner (and former owner) Bud Selig. Attanasio increased payroll from $27 million in 2004, and he thanked fans for their support by giving them free tickets to the season finale.
With success, however modest, comes expectations. The Brewers hope they’re passing .500 on the way up, not just visiting.

“One of the best things about getting to .500 is we don’t have to hear about it anymore,” general manager Doug Melvin told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. “But the biggest thing it creates is new challenges for us. It raises the bar, which I think we all need to do . . . But it’s going to be tougher to get to the next level.”

Because of a farm system still stocked with talent, even after graduating rookie middle infielders J.J. Hardy and Rickie Weeks to Milwaukee in 2005, the Brewers are poised to get better. Top prospect Prince Fielder, versatile Corey Hart and pitchers Jose Capellan and Dana Eveland also got time in the majors and should play larger roles in 2006.

Melvin has some interesting choices to make this offseason. At first base, he can go with Fielder or Lyle Overbay, a consistent hitter who’s arbitration-eligible. Hart is blocked on the outfield corners by all-star Carlos Lee and Geoff Jenkins, but could be in the mix at third base, where Bill Hall broke through. Eveland could slide into the fifth spot in the rotation, unless Melvin pursues a free agent.

They’re all good problems to have. The Brewers have talent at the upper levels of the minors to help now while maintaining some depth. Scouting director Jack Zduriencik continues to execute a simple philosophy of drafting the best player available, and Milwaukee continues to pay the market rate for top talent. The latest example of this came when the Brewers signed Ryan Braun, the fifth overall pick in the 2005 draft, for $2.45 million.

Melvin’s Brewers have excelled at finding talent wherever they can, from independent leagues to Canadian draftees to the waiver wire, which has produced closer Derrick Turnbow and center fielder Brady Clark to name two. Now they’ve decided to become more of a player internationally, and international scouting director Fernando Arango came through by signing Rolando Pascual, the most coveted amateur pitcher in the Dominican Republic, for $710,000.

As the Pascual signing showed, these aren’t the same Brewers anymore. The best evidence yet would be a season over .500.


1. PRINCE FIELDER, 1b      Age: 21 Ht: 6-0 Wt: 260 B-T: L-R
Drafted: HS—Melbourne, Fla., 2002 (1st round)   Signed by: Tom McNamara/Jack Zduriencik

Background: Fielder first came to the attention of BA readers in 1998, our first Baseball For The Ages issue. He wasn’t the top 14-year-old—that honor went to Braves righthander Kyle Davies—but he was featured as the prominent son of a big leaguer. His father Cecil was wrapping up a 319-homer major league career. By then, Prince’s power already was the talk of his father’s clubhouses, thanks to batting-practice displays he had put on at Tiger Stadium. Fielder has since become a major leaguer, like his father, with a June 2005 promotion so he could DH for the Brewers in interleague play. Between being a pudgy, shy 14-year-old and a confident, 21-year-old big leaguer, Fielder has dealt with his share of adversity. Scouts doubted his bulky, overweight body out of high school, but the Brewers didn’t and drafted him seventh overall. He arrived in Double-A as a 19-year-old, only after he had been served with papers stemming from an investigation into his father’s gambling debts, problems that led to the family’s breakup and Prince’s estrangement from his father. He left the Arizona Fall League this offseason when his wife Chanel, whom he wed in June, had medical issues while pregnant with their second child.

Strengths: Through all his travails, Fielder has hit and hit for power. He has as much raw power as any hitter in the minors due to tremendous bat speed and physical, brute strength. He has power to any part of any park and is at his best when he’s using the whole field, letting his strength work for him. He homered in his first two games at Triple-A Nashville before a monthlong slump, and it’s the adjustments he made to get going again that have the Brewers so excited. Fielder knows the strike zone well and started picking up on the steady diet of breaking balls he was seeing. Once he started trusting his hands to hit breaking balls left in the strike zone, he punished them. He was productive in a pinch-hitting role in the big leagues due to his ability to focus during those at-bats, and he carried that improved concentration with him when he returned to the minors, hitting .349 with 13 homers in his final 39 games.

Weaknesses: Fielder can get pull-conscious, opening his shoulder and giving away the outer half of the plate. Defense is perhaps Fielder’s biggest obstacle. He’s more comfortable in the batter’s box than at first base, and he made 12 errors in 101 games in 2005. He has good hands for the position and more quickness than he’s given credit for, but must show more pride in his defense to be rated as average.

The Future: Lyle Overbay has been one of the Brewers’ best hitters the last two seasons. Overbay is arbitration eligible, however, and his power potential is dwarfed by Fielder’s, making it likely general manager Doug Melvin will deal Overbay to make room for Fielder. If Fielder is the Opening Day starter, he’s an instant favorite to be National League rookie of the year.

2005 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS
Nashville (AAA) .291 .388 .569 378 68 110 21 0 28 86 54 93 8 5
Milwaukee .288 .306 .458 59 2 17 4 0 2 10 2 17 0 0


2. MARK ROGERS, rhp        Age: 19 B-T: R-R Ht: 6-2 Wt.: 205
Drafted: HS—Mount Ararat, Maine, 2004 (1st round)   Signed by: Tony Blengino

Background: Rogers had college scholarship offers in hockey (Dartmouth) and soccer (Duke) and had signed with Miami to play baseball before becoming the first Maine high schooler ever drafted in the first round.


Strengths:
Two of Rogers’ pitches could earn 70s on the 20-80 scouting scale. His fastball tops out at 100 mph and sits at 95-97 mph with some late cutting action. Rogers’ breaking ball has improved substantially, as a once-loopy pitch became a hard mid-80s slider that reaches 90. He’s one of the best athletes in the organization.

  

Weaknesses:
Rogers put up ugly numbers in the low Class A South Atlantic League because he’s still trying to control his powerful body and has been unable to repeat his delivery. He throws across his body, though he has toned that down, and still needs to get better extension to keep his pitches down. His fastball straightens out at times.

  

The Future:
Rogers’ stuff, tenacity and Northern background have elicited John Smoltz comparisons from Milwaukee officials. He’ll go to high Class A Brevard County in 2006. When he harnesses his body and can command his stuff, he’ll move rapidly.

2005 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
West Virginia (Lo A) 2 9 5.11 25 20 0 1 99 87 11 70 109 .238


3. RYAN BRAUN, 3b        Age: 22 B-T: R-R Ht: 6-2 Wt.: 200
Drafted: Miami, 2005 (1st round)  Signed by: Larry Pardo

Background: BA’s Freshman of the Year in 2003, Braun helped Miami to a pair of College World Series berths in three seasons. He had an All-America season before the Brewers drafted him fifth overall. An elbow strain ended Braun’s pro debut two weeks early and limited him to DH duty in instructional league.


Strengths:
Braun has all five tools. He works counts waiting for a pitch to hit, then has the bat speed—thanks to very quick hands—to hit for excellent power. His approach and power remind some in the organization of another former Miami third baseman, Pat Burrell. Braun is a plus runner, and his average arm strength should be enough for third base.

  

Weaknesses:
Braun has a less-than-textbook swing. He could use more balance and a more consistent, less exaggerated load. He needs more repetition at third base, where he’ll have to get used to reacting quicker than he did at shortstop, his former position.

  

The Future:
Braun should reach Double-A Huntsville at some point in 2006. He has enough athleticism and bat to move to an outfield corner if he’s not cut out for third base.

2005 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS
Helena (R) .341 .383 .585 41 6 14 2 1 2 10 2 6 2 1
West Virginia (Lo A) .355 .396 .645 152 21 54 16 2 8 35 9 34 2 4


4. YOVANI GALLARDO, rhp        Age: 20 B-T: R-R Ht: 6-2 Wt.: 190
Drafted: HS—Fort Worth, Texas, 2004 (2nd round)  Signed by: Jim Stevenson

Background: Gallardo committed to Texas Christian, which hoped to use him as a two-way player, but the Brewers and a $725,000 bonus persuaded him to sign. He thrived in the tandem-starter system at low Class A West Virginia, winning his final eight decisions (all starts).


Strengths:
Only Rogers has better stuff in the organization. Gallardo pounds the strike zone with an 89-93 mph fastball that touches 96 with boring action and life down in the zone. He repeats his drop-and-drive delivery well, enabling him to command his fastball , and he can throw his curveball, slider and changeup for strikes. His low-80s slider is at times a plus pitch.

  

Weaknesses:
The Brewers describe Gallardo’s demeanor as quietly intense, while others have chided him as too laid-back. Drop-and-drive pitchers tend to elevate their stuff at times, but he has such downward life on his fastball that it hasn’t been a problem.

  

The Future:
Gallardo’s progress in the second half and in instructional league has the Brewers projecting him as a No. 2 starter in the mold of Mike Mussina. He’s more polished than Rogers and will join him in high Class A in 2006.

2005 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
West Virginia (Lo A) 8 3 2.74 26 18 0 1 121 100 5 51 110 .230


5. COREY HART, of/3b        Age: 23 B-T: R-R Ht: 6-6 Wt.: 200
Drafted: HS—Bowling Green, Ky., 2000 (11th round)   Signed by: Mike Gibbons

Background: Hart played first and third base prior to 2004, earning the Double-A Southern League’s MVP award in 2003. He has spent the last two seasons as a Triple-A outfielder, and he made his first big league start as a center fielder.


Strengths:
Hart’s athletic ability lends itself to versatility both offensively and defensively. He can play five positions, and he ranked third in the system in homers and steals in 2005. The organization’s best baserunner also ranks near the top in raw power, as he has good leverage in his swing. He has average range and arm strength on the outfield corners.

  

Weaknesses:
At his size, Hart inevitably has some length to his swing and will have periods where he struggles to make consistent contact. Hart is a below-average defender at third, where his range is limited and his throwing motion has to be adjusted.

  

The Future:
Hart saw a lot of Arizona Fall League time at third base, where he’ll have to contend with Bill Hall. Hart could also be a solid corner outfielder, though he’s blocked by Geoff Jenkins and Carlos Lee, or a utilityman.

2005 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS
Nashville (AAA) .308 .377 .536 429 85 132 29 9 17 69 48 88 31 7
Milwaukee .193 .270 .368 57 9 11 2 1 2 7 6 11 2 0


6. ALCIDES ESCOBAR, ss       Age: 19 B-T: R-R Ht: 6-1 Wt.: 155
Signed: Venezuela, 2003  Signed by: Epy Guerrero

Background: Escobar was flirting with a .300 average in early August, but sagged as he wore down. He was shaken by an Aug. 6 incident when his batting-practice line drive hit pitching coach John Curtis in the head, sending him to the hospital.


Strengths:
Escobar has the tools to be an above-average defender at shortstop, starting with fluid actions, a strong arm and good hands. HIs wiry strong body produces some pop at the plate, enough for Brewers officials to project him to hit 10-15 homers annually, and his swing is sound. He’s a plus runner, getting from home to first in less than 4.2 seconds.

  

Weaknesses:
Escobar’s strike zone is too generous. He improved at recognizing breaking balls in instructional league, and that progress will have to continue for him to make more consistent contact. Escobar’s 41 errors ranked third in the minors, but Milwaukee isn’t worried about his defense.

  

The Future:
While the Brewers have J.J. Hardy in the big leagues, Escobar is gaining ground fast. When Hardy couldn’t play in the Arizona Fall League, Escobar became the league’s youngest player and acquitted himself well. He’ll start 2006 in high Class A.

2005 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS
West Virginia (Lo A) .271 .305 .362 520 80 141 25 8 2 36 20 90 30 13


7. DANA EVELAND , lhp       Age: 22 B-T: L-L Ht: 6-1 Wt.: 240
Drafted: JC of the Canyons (Calif.), D/F 2002 (16th round)   Signed by: Corey Rodriguez

Background: Eveland was a draft-and-follow signee in 2003, one year after the Brewers gave Manny Parra $1.5 million as a draft-and-follow. Eveland joined Parra in the Huntsville rotation in 2005, blew past him as a prospect and spent much of the second half in Milwaukee’s bullpen.


Strengths:
Eveland has a build that evokes David Wells and has some of Wells’ pitchability as well. His fastball sits at 88-90 mph, touching 94. Eveland adds and subtracts off his fastball and commands it well. His slider can be a plus pitch, aided by his deceiving, crossfire delivery. His curveball has good depth.

  

Weaknesses:
Like Wells, Eveland has trouble maintaining his weight. When he became a reliever, his conditioning lagged as he couldn’t maintain a workout schedule between starts. His changeup is his fourth pitch, though at times it is average.

  

The Future:
The Brewers hoped Eveland would get back on a conditioning track in the Arizona Fall League, but a knee injury ended his stint prematurely. If he’s healthy and in shape, he could have the inside track on Milwakee’s fifth starter’s job.

2005 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Huntsville (AA) 10 4 2.72 18 18 0 0 109 96 4 38 98 .237
Milwaukee 1 1 5.97 27 0 0 1 32 40 2 18 23 .317


8. NELSON CRUZ, of      Age: 25 B-T: R-R Ht: 6-3 Wt.: 175
Drafted: Dominican Republic, 1998  Signed by: Eddy Toledo (Mets)

Background: After joining the organization in the offseason Keith Ginter trade with Oakland, Cruz played in the Futures Game and was Milwaukee’s minor league player of the year. He led Nashville to the Pacific Coast League title, winning the championship series MVP award with three homers in a sweep of Tacoma.


Strengths:
Cruz’ calling card is well above average raw power. He uses an aggressive swing, strong wrists and quick hands to generate a buggy-whip swing with violent bat speed. But power isn’t his only plus tool. He also has a plus arm in right field.

  

Weaknesses:
Cruz has holes in his swing. Pitchers use his aggressiveness against him with offspeed stuff in fastball counts. They’ll also climb the ladder on him because he’ll chase high heat. The Brewers say they can live with the strikeouts as long as he makes powerful contact.

  

The Future:
Cruz figures to take another turn through Triple-A in 2006. He’s behind Corey Hart on the depth chart of corner outfielders that already includes Geoff Jenkins and Carlos Lee.

2005 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS
Huntsville (AA) .306 .388 .577 248 45 76 19 0 16 54 31 71 10 3
Nashville (AAA) .269 .382 .490 208 33 56 13 0 11 27 30 62 9 4
Milwaukee .200 .429 .400 5 1 1 1 0 0 0 2 0 0 0


9. JOSE CAPELLAN, rhp       Age: 25 B-T: R-R Ht: 6-4 Wt.: 235
Signed: Dominican Republic, 1998   Signed by: Julian Perez/Rene Francisco (Braves)

Background: After going from Class A to the Braves in 2004, Capellan was the key player in the Dan Kolb trade. While Kolb quickly fizzled in Atlanta, Capellan struggled as a starter in Triple-A before shifting to the bullpen and finishing the season in Milwaukee.


Strengths:
Capellan touched 100 mph with his fastball in 2004, but with the Brewers he worked at 92-94 mph as a starter. His velocity spiked back to 95-97 as a reliever, a role he enthusiastically embraced. He generates excellent arm speed, giving his fastball has late tail and life up in the strike zone.

  

Weaknesses:
Lacking confidence in his loopy downer curveball, Capellan switched to a slider as a reliever. It’s still slurvy but he was able to throw it for strikes with some consistency. His changeup remains a work in progress, and his conditioning remains a concern.

  

The Future:
Capellan could return to a starting role if he rediscovers the bite and command on his curve in winter ball or in spring training. He had a 5.16 ERA as a starter and a 1.44 ERA as a reliever in Triple-A. He’ll probably open 2006 in a setup role in Milwaukee.

2005 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Nashville (AAA) 5 3 3.87 36 12 0 6 91 88 4 42 76 .257
Milwaukee 1 1 2.87 17 0 0 0 16 17 1 5 14 .293


10. WILL INMAN, rhp       Age: 19 B-T: R-R Ht: 6-0 Wt.: 200
Signed: HS—Dry Fork, Va., 2005 (3rd round)   Signed by: Grant Brittain

Background: Inman’s stellar pro debut was a major coup for area scout Grant Brittain, who stayed on Inman after many other scouts backed off. Inman toned down a maximum-effort delivery in the spring, and set the Virginia high school career strikeout record when his fastball crept into the 90s.


Strengths:
Inman’s fastball sits at 92-93 and has big league command of the pitch—rare for a high schooler. His slurvy curveball is a swing-and-miss pitch that Milwaukee wants him to tighten into a slider. The club loves his competitiveness, aptitude and willingness to get better.

  

Weaknesses:
Not much about Inman is typical. His arm action was likened by one club official to that of a javelin thrower—long in the front and the back. The Brewers were able to improve his extension and quiet his delivery. At times he throws too many breaking balls for someone who throws strikes with a live fastball.

  

The Future:
Inman has the polish and stuff to move quickly, but the Brewers want to take it slow to make sure he maintains his improved delivery. He’ll report to low Class A for his first full season.

2005 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
AZL Brewers (R) 0 0 0.00 1 0 0 0 2 0 0 1 1 .000
Helena (R) 6 0 2.00 13 5 0 1 45 29 5 11 58 .182


Photo Credits:
Cruz, Gallardo, Inman: Bill Mitchell
Braun, Escobar: Sports On Film
Rogers: Rodger Wood
Fielder: Andrew Woolley

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