Milwaukee Brewers: Top 10 Prospects With Scouting Reports

Milwaukee Brewers: Scouting Reports




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, 2009.

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The Brewers farm system already had provided the big league club with three-fourths of an infield (Prince Fielder, Rickie Weeks, J.J. Hardy), a pair of slugging corner outfielders (Ryan Braun, Corey Hart) and an ace in the making (Yovani Gallardo). It kept on giving in 2008, providing the ammunition for Milwaukee to acquire C.C. Sabathia.

Not many clubs would trade their top prospect for a rental, but that's exactly what the Brewers did in early July. They included outfielder Matt LaPorta, their 2007 first-round pick who was tearing up Double-A, with lefty Zach Jackson, righty Rob Bryson and a player to be named (outfielder Michael Brantley) to get Sabathia, a pending free agent.

The Brewers figured Sabathia was just the pitcher to get them over the top and into the postseason for the first time since 1982. He was everything Milwaukee hoped for and more, going 11-2, 1.65 and pitching a four-hitter against the Cubs on the final day of the season to clinch a wild-card berth.

Though Sabathia lost his lone playoff start as the Phillies eliminated the Brewers in the National League Division Series and later left for a $161 million contract from the Yankees, general manager Doug Melvin said he'd make the trade again.

"We have no regrets," Melvin said. "C.C. got us to the playoffs. We wouldn't have gotten there without him. The fact that we were able to make the deal is a tribute to the depth of talent in our farm system."

Even after all the recent graduations to the majors and the Sabathia deal, the system continues to churn out talent. Manny Parra won 10 games as a rookie, and in a preview of coming attractions, shortstop Alcides Escobar, third baseman Mat Gamel and catcher Angel Salome made their big league debuts in September.

Milwaukee was able to restock through the draft, where compensation for the loss of free agents Francisco Cordero and Scott Linebrink gave the club six of the first 62 selections in June. After popping Canadian high school slugger Brett Lawrie in the first round, the Brewers focused on pitching.

The Brewers may have a similar bonanza in 2009, when they'll get two early picks for Sabathia and as many as three more if both Ben Sheets and Brian Shouse also leave via free agency. But for the first time in nine years, Jack Zduriencik won't be running their draft.

The Mariners hired Zduriencik, the scouting director whose astute draft picks are the prime reason Milwaukee has finished .500 or better in three of the last four years after 12 straight losing seasons, as their general manager in October. Zduriencik took assistant scouting director Tony Blengino and Eastern crosschecker Tom McNamara with him to Seattle. The Brewers promoted Western crosschecker Bruce Seid to replace Zduriencik and tabbed Midwest crosschecker Ray Montgomery as Seid's assistant.

Milwaukee will enter 2009 with a new manager as well. Owner Mark Attanasio made the decision to fire Ned Yost after a September swoon, and interim manager Dale Sveum wasn't retained. The Brewers then turned to Ken Macha, who had a .568 winning percentage and captured two division titles in four years with the Athletics from 2003-06.

1.  Alcides Escobar, ss   Born: Dec. 16, 1986B-T: R-RHt: 6-1Wt: 175
 Signed: Venezuela, 2003Signed by: Epy Guerrero
Alcides EscobarBackground: Latin American scout Epy Guerrero has had a distinguished career, though his tenure with the Brewers wasn't as long or productive as his time with the Astros, Yankees and Blue Jays. But he may have added another all-star to his résumé when he signed Escobar for a mere $33,000 out of Venezuela in 2003. He quickly established himself as the best defensive infielder in the system, but it took Escobar a while to answer questions about his bat. He put those to rest when he hit a career-high .306 while reaching Double-A in 2007, and he had an even better season when he returned to Huntsville in 2008. He batted .328, led the Southern League with 179 hits and managers rated him the most exciting player, best defensive shortstop and strongest infield arm in the circuit. Summoned to Milwaukee in September to add depth for the stretch drive, he singled off Scott Schoeneweis in his first big league at-bat. The Indians asked about Escobar during trade negotiations for C.C. Sabathia, but the Brewers quickly let them know that he was off limits.

Strengths: Escobar makes playing shortstop look easy. He gobbles up ground with long strides, getting to balls that other shortstops can't come close to reaching. He has a true shortstop's arm, making strong, accurate throws even while on the move. He has soft hands, a good feel for the position and long arms that allow him to scoop up balls that initially appear beyond his grasp. Escobar has made tremendous strides as a hitter in the last two seasons. He was noticeably stronger in 2008, and pitchers no longer can just knock the bat out of his hands. His eight homers exceeded his previous career total of seven over four seasons, and he projects to hit 10-15 longballs annually in the majors. He also did a better job of adapting to breaking pitches and understanding what pitchers were trying to do to him. Escobar improved on the bases as well, using his plus speed to steal 34 bases in 42 attempts—an 81 percent success rate that exceeded his previous career mark of 70 percent.

Weaknesses: At times, Escobar is too aggressive at the plate. He doesn't draw many walks, which hurts his chances of batting near the top of the lineup. His focus should be on getting on base, though at 22 he still has plenty of time to mature as a hitter. At times he tries to make plays in the field that can't be made, resulting in needless errors. But with all of his ability, it's difficult to tell Escobar to dial down his effort because he also pulls off plays that look impossible.

The Future: There's no question that Escobar could play defense in the big leagues right now. Whether he could handle the jump offensively is another matter. The Brewers already have a solid shortstop in J.J. Hardy, but he can't do the things at the position that Escobar can do. Hardy eventually will move to second or third base, or perhaps be used in a trade for some much-needed pitching. If management stands pat for now, Escobar probably will open 2009 at Triple-A Nashville so he can get regular time. It's going to be tough to hold him back much longer.
 
2008 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Huntsville (AA)
.328
.363
.434
546
95
179
24
5
8
76
31
82
34
Milwaukee
.500
.500
.500
4
2
2
0
0
0
0
0
1
0
 
2.  Mat Gamel, 3b   Born: July 26, 1985. B-T: L-R. Ht.: 6-0. Wt.: 200.
 Drafted: Chipola (Fla.) JC, 2005 (4th round). Signed by: Doug Reynolds.
Mat GamelBackground: Gamel was the best hitter in the minor leagues in the first half of 2008, batting .375/.433/.612 in Double-A. His emergence made it easier for the Brewers to include 2007 first-round pick Matt LaPorta in the C.C. Sabathia trade. Gamel's production plummeted dramatically in the second half, and he later revealed that his right elbow had been bothering him much of the time.

Strengths: Gamel uses the entire field, drives balls to the gaps and has enough pop in his bat to hit for high average with at least 20 homers per year in the majors. He knows the strike zone—he reached base in 53 consecutive games last year—and has a quick, compact swing. He hangs in well against lefthanders because of his willingness to take the ball the other way. He's mentally tough and doesn't give away many at-bats. He's an average runner with solid average arm strength.

Weaknesses: Gamel is far short of being ready to play defense in the majors. A year after leading the minors with 53 errors, he committed 32 in 131 games. Poor footwork still leads to some atrocious throws, and his errors often come in bunches when his mechanics fall apart.

The Future: Gamel could take over at first base if the Brewers decide to trade Prince Fielder, while others think he should move to the outfield. He will open 2009 at Triple-A.
 
2008 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Hunstville (AA)
.329
.395
.537
508
96
167
35
7
19
96
55
111
6
Nashville (AAA)
.238
.304
.381
21
3
5
0
0
1
3
2
10
0
Milwaukee
.500
.500
1.000
2
0
1
1
0
0
0
0
1
0
 
3.  Brett Lawrie, c/3b   Born: Jan. 18, 1990. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 5-11. Wt.: 200.
 Drafted: HS—Langley, B.C., 2008 (1st round). Signed by: Marty Lehn.
Brett LawrieBackground: The Brewers made Lawrie the highest drafted position player ever out of Canada when they selected him 16th overall last June. He played for his country at the World Junior Championships in July, then was added to the Olympic roster. Signed for $1.7 million, he has yet to make his pro debut.

Strengths: Brewers scouts still talk about the day Lawrie belted five home runs in a doubleheader against the Mariners' Dominican extended spring training team. Lawrie is an exceptional hitter, especially for his age, with a quick bat, aggressive nature and burgeoning power. The fact that he used wood bats while touring with Canada's national teams made his offensive exploits all the more impressive. He has committed to the idea of catching, where his bat would stand out the most and he could take advantage of his arm strength. His agility and drive to succeed will help him behind the plate. He has above-average speed and athleticism.

Weaknesses: Lawrie has no clear position, having seen time at catcher, third base and the outfield. He had a reputation for being disinterested in the defensive side of the game as an amateur, but he has risen to the challenge of catching since trying that position.

The Future: His bat is advanced enough for him to make his debut at Milwaukee's new low Class A Wisconsin affiliate, but the progress he makes defensively will dictate how quickly he advances. He should hit enough to be  a big league regular at any position.
 
2008 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Did Not Play—Participated in Olympics
 
4.  Jeremy Jeffress, rhp   Born: Sept. 21, 1987. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-1. Wt.: 185
 Drafted: HS—South Boston, Va., 2006 (1st round). Signed by: Tim McIlvaine.
Jeremy JeffressBackground: Jeffress began last season serving the remainder of a 50-game suspension for testing positive for marijuana near the end of 2007. He returned in mid-May and earned a second-half promotion to Double-A, a move made so he could qualify for extra work in the Arizona Fall League.

Strengths: With a fastball that often approaches 100 mph, Jeffress is one of the hardest throwers in the minors. His heater doesn't have much movement, but he delivers it with a free and easy motion that makes the ball explode on hitters. He throws from a high three-quarters angle that makes his 11-to-5 curveball tough to hit when he gets it over the plate.

Weaknesses: It's easy to see why, but Jeffress falls in love with the radar gun at times. When he's having trouble commanding his curve, he becomes a one-pitch pitcher. He has worked on his changeup, but it's not consistent enough for hitters to worry about it. His control is shaky, leaving him prone to big innings when he can't find the plate. He failed multiple drug tests in the past but has promised the Brewers there will be no relapses.

The Future: Some scouts think Jeffress would fit nicely as an overpowering closer, but the Brewers still hope he can add enough polish to remain a starter. He left the AFL early with a shoulder strain, but with a big spring, he could open the season in Triple-A.
 
2008 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Brevard County (HiA)
4
6
4.08
15
14
1
0
79.1
65
5
41
102
.226
Huntsville (AA)
2
1
5.52
4
4
0
0
14.2
17
2
11
13
.298
 
5.  Angel Salome, c   Born: Oct. 11, 1985. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 5-7. Wt.: 199.
 Drafted: HS—New York, 2004 (5th round). Signed by: Tony Blengino.
Angel SalomeBackground: Salome has hit at every level and took that to new heights in 2008, when he ran away with the Southern League batting title. After he made his big league debut in September, the Brewers sent him to the Arizona Fall League to hone his defense, but shoulder soreness shut him down after one game.

Strengths: Salome often steps in the bucket and flies open with his swing, but his great hand-eye coordination and his upper-body strength make it work. He stays on the ball and drives it to all fields, and he can even handle pitches on the outer half despite his unorthodox style. His pure arm strength rates a 65 or 70 on the 20-80 scouting scale and he does a good job of blocking pitches.

Weaknesses: Salome often gets his footwork messed up behind the plate, resulting in inaccurate throws and stolen bases. He threw out 26 percent of basestealers while allowing 90 swipes in 78 games last year. He still needs to work on his game-calling. He's a well below-average runner. He was suspended for 50 games in 2007 after testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs, but the Brewers don't believe that will be an issue again.

The Future: Whether Salome will improve enough behind the plate to become a big league starter remains to be seen. He certainly looks like he'll hit, but his short stature makes it difficult to project him playing anywhere but catcher. He'll open 2009 in Triple-A.
 
2008 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Hunstville (AA)
.360
.415
.559
367
67
132
30
2
13
83
33
57
3
Milwaukee
.000
.000
.000
3
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
1
0
 
6.  Lorenzo Cain, of   Born: April 13, 1986. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 180.
 Drafted: Tallahassee (Fla.) CC, D/F 2004 (17th round). Signed by: Doug Reynolds.
Lorenzo CainBackground: After they included Matt LaPorta in the C.C. Sabathia trade in July, the Brewers promoted Cain to replace him in Huntsville. He performed so well that Milwaukee moved him on to Triple-A and the Arizona Fall League. They also committed to playing him in center field after he primarily played in right in the past.

Strengths: Cain is an impressive athlete. He runs well, giving him the range for center field and making him a threat on the basepaths. He has the potential to hit 20 homers per year, though most of his power comes to the gaps now. He owns solid arm strength as well.

Weaknesses: Cain's power wasn't ideal for a corner outfielder, but it's less of an issue in center field. He's still learning to be patient at the plate, though he's not terribly aggressive. He didn't start playing baseball until high school, so he's not the most instinctive player.

The Future: Cain might have to go back to Huntsville to open 2009, but the Brewers hope he'll be ready for Triple-A at some point during the season. With Michael Brantley going to Cleveland as part of the Sabathia deal, Cain is easily the most advance center-field prospect in the system.
 
2008 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Brevard County (HiA)
.287
.358
.448
317
50
91
22
4
7
41
29
68
19
Nashville (AAA)
.158
.273
.158
19
0
3
0
0
0
2
3
6
0
Huntsville (AA)
.277
.363
.486
148
21
41
9
5
4
17
19
41
6
 
7.  Cutter Dykstra, of   Born: June 29, 1989. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 5-11. Wt.: 180.
 Drafted: HS—Westlake Village, Calif., 2008 (2nd round). Signed by: Corey Rodriguez.
Cutter DykstraBackground: Dykstra is a chip off the old block, the son of former all-star and agitator Lenny Dykstra. The major difference is that Cutter bats righthanded and played shortstop until moving to center field at the end of his high school career. He was slowed by a groin injury after signing for $737,000 as a second-rounder in June.

Strengths: A terrific athlete, Dykstra finished first in the SPARQ performance testing at the 2007 Area Code Games. He has excellent bat speed and some loft in his swing, giving him surprising power for his size. He has good balance and a compact stroke, hitting the ball mostly to left and center field. He has plus-plus speed and is very aggressive on the bases.

Weaknesses: Dykstra has fringy arm strength, which is why he couldn't have played shortstop in pro ball. His arm will be tested in center field, and he's still in the early stages of learning the position. He doesn't project to grow physically but can get by with his athleticism and aggressiveness, much like his father.

The Future: His move to center is good for both him and the Brewers, who are a bit thin at that position after trading Michael Brantley and Darren Ford last season. Dykstra could move through the system quickly and will start 2009 in low Class A.
 
2008 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Helena (R)
.271
.367
.438
144
24
39
9
0
5
17
21
30
4
Brewers (R)
269
.406
.269
26
5
7
0
0
0
0
5
7
0
 
8.  Taylor Green, 3b   Born: Nov. 2, 1986. B-T: L-R. Ht.: 5-10. Wt.: 185.
 Drafted: Cypress (Calif.) CC, D/F 2005 (25th round). Signed by: Bruce Seid.
Taylor GreenBackground: The Brewers' 2007 minor league player of the year, Green spent the second half of last season wondering where he'd be in 2009. He was a potential player to be named in the C.C. Sabathia trade with the Indians, who ultimately opted to take Michael Brantley. Green missed the last three weeks of the regular season after a pitch hit him on the left wrist, then had his nose broken by a bad-hop grounder in the Arizona Fall League.

Strengths: His tools aren't overly impressive, but Green has good instincts and a feel for the game. As one scout put it, "He's just a baseball player." Though not big in stature, he has good balance and bat speed and generates decent power. He has a good eye at the plate and makes consistent contact. He draws high marks for his makeup and work ethic.

Weaknesses: Taylor doesn't have the power associated with third base. He'd profile better offensively at second base, but he may lack the quickness for the position. He's a below-average runner with decent range and a merely adequate arm at the hot corner.

The Future: Green played second base earlier in his career, but the Brewers seem committed to keeping him at third. He has a better chance of sticking at third base than Mat Gamel, and he'll move up to Double-A in 2009.
 
2008 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Brevard County (HiA)
.289
.382
.443
418
46
121
19
0
15
73
61
59
4
 
9.  Cole Gillespie, of   Born: June 20, 1984. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-1. Wt.: 205.
 Drafted: Oregon State, 2006 (3rd round). Signed by: Brandon Newell.
Cole GillespieBackground: Gillespie has been an organization favorite since signing shortly after leading Oregon State to the 2006 College World Series title. Overshadowed by a roster full of top prospects at Huntsville last season and battling a toe injury that required surgery after the season, he nonetheless made the Southern League all-star team.

Strengths: Gillespie lived up to his reputation as a gap hitter by pounding out team-high 38 doubles last season. He has average but not great power, but he shows a keen eye at the plate and knows how to lay off strikes he can't do much with. He moves well in left field and also has played in right, showing an accurate arm. His speed and athleticism are average, and he shows good instincts on the bases.

Weaknesses: While Gillespie doesn't have a glaring shortcoming, he also doesn't have a standout tool that will carry him to regular playing time in the majors. He's a solid hitter but not an offensive force. He's a decent defender but fits best in left field, which puts more pressure on his bat.

The Future: It's difficult to project Gillespie supplanting corner outfielders Ryan Braun and Corey Hart in Milwaukee. He could be a valuable fourth outfielder after spending some time in Triple-A.
 
2008 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Huntsville (AA)
.281
.386
.472
462
73
130
38
4
14
79
75
102
17
 
10.  Jonathan Lucroy, c   Born: June 13, 1986. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-1. Wt.: 206.
 Drafted: Louisiana-Lafayette, 2007 (3rd round). Signed by: Brian Sankey.
Jonathan LuCroyBackground: The Brewers were thrilled to get Lucroy in the third round of the 2007 draft after giving up their second-rounder as compensation for free agent Jeff Suppan. They knew Lucroy was more advanced offensively than defensively, and he has lived up to that reputation while advancing to high Class A in his first full pro season.

Strengths: Lucroy is an advanced hitter with a very good eye at the plate. He covers both sides of the dish, limiting his strikeouts. He has pop in his bat and proved it by hitting 20 homers to rank second in the system in 2008. He has quick hands and uses the whole field, which is why he hits for a high average. His quick release allowed him to throw out 45 percent of basestealers last season, and he's a leader behind the plate.

Weaknesses: While he gets rid of the ball in a hurry, Lucroy's arm strength is fringy. He still needs to work on the intricacies of catching, such as blocking balls, framing pitches and calling games. He has below-average speed but runs better than most catchers.

The Future: The Brewers have yearned to develop a catcher who can both contribute offensively and handle himself behind the plate, and Lucroy just might prove to be their man. He'll open 2009 in Double-A and advance as his defensive progress dictates.
 
2008 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
West Virginia (LoA)
.310
.391
.510
239
45
74
16
1
10
33
30
39
8
Brevard County (HiA)
.292
.364
.479
236
31
69
12
1
10
44
28
45
1

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Photo Credits: Sports On Film (Escobar)
Bill Mitchell (Lawrie, Dykstra)