Brewers Suddenly Have Pitching Prospect Depth
Over the past decade, the Brewers have shown they can develop plenty of hitters. From first-round picks like Prince Fielder, Ryan Braun and Rickie Weeks to later-round finds such as Corey Hart, the Brewers built a homegrown lineup that paved the way for a 2008 wild-card berth and the 2011 National League Central Division title.
When it comes to pitchers, Milwaukee has largely had to look elsewhere. Yovanni Gallardo is a fixture in the rotation, but he was the only homegrown pitcher to start a game for Milwaukee last season. Manny Parra is the only other homegrown starter to make 10 or more starts for Milwaukee since Ben Sheets left after the 2008 season.
But that trend may be changing. When the Brewers begin the 2012 season, they'll have starting pitching prospects lined up from high Class A to Triple-A.
"We're feeling really good about our pitching," said farm director Reid Nichols, who has held that post since 2002. "It's not been one of our strong suits."
Milwaukee expects to send No. 1 prospect Wily Peralta and Mark Rogers to Triple-A Nashville to start the season. A level below them, fellow righthanders Tyler Thornburg and Cody Scarpetta are expect to begin the season at Double-A Huntsville while last year's pair of first-round picks, Taylor Jungmann and Jed Bradley, will start at high Class A Brevard County.
Add in arms like Jimmy Nelson (expected to join Jungmann and Bradley at Brevard County) and the Brewers are suddenly flush with pitching prospects.
Jungmann and Bradley didn't sign in time to appear in an official game last year, so besides some work in instructional league and Bradley's brief Arizona Fall League stint, they were making their Brewers' debut this spring. Both got a taste of big league camp with a pair of appearances apiece. Neither Jungmann (0-0, 13.50) or Bradley (0-0, 9.00) had much success against big league vets, but that wasn't really the expectation. Consider their two innings apiece to be a sneak peek at their futures.
"It's been really good for them being in major league camp. (Manager Ron Roenicke) made them feel part of everything," Nichols said.
Brevard County fans shouldn't get comfortable with the idea of seeing the two for more than a couple of months. Nichols said the expectation is that the two are talented enough to pitch their way to Double-A Huntsville by midseason.
"We expect them to pitch at two levels this season," he said. Nichols added that either has an outside shot of making it to the big leagues by the end of the season if everything goes well.
While Nelson doesn't get the same attention as his two future Brevard County teammates, the righthander's stuff isn't too far behind. Nelson, a second-round pick out of Alabama in 2010, can run his fastball into the mid-90s when he's not generating groundballs with a two-seamer that has plenty of sink. But this spring he's also showing that he's able to repeat his delivery more consistently.
"He's got the ability and the tools to pitch with those two," Nichols said. "He's commanding his fastball better and his changeup is getting better. Instead of grip it and rip it, he's commanding the ball more."