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Top Ten Prospects: Milwaukee Brewers
Complete Index of Top 10s
By Tom Haudricourt
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, 2005.
Then disaster struck, at both the big league and minor league levels. After making it to the all-star break with a 45-41 record, Milwaukee suffered baseball’s worst-ever second-half collapse among teams with a winning first half. The Brewers lost 53 of their final 75 games to finish last in the National League for the third straight year. It also was their 12th consecutive losing season, tying the Pirates for the longest streak in baseball.
Meanwhile, injuries ravaged the farm system. The most devastating was a shoulder injury to shortstop J.J. Hardy, whose season ended in early May. He might have emerged as Milwaukee’s shortstop during the summer had he not been hurt.
The most discouraging development involved righthander Mike Jones, a 2001 first-round pick. He was shut down after six Double-A starts and had shoulder surgery that will sideline him for the entire 2005 season. Jones already had endured elbow problems that sidelined him for half of 2003.
Lefthander Manny Parra also came down with a balky shoulder, avoiding surgery but costing him an Arizona Fall League assignment. Lefty Jorge de la Rosa had arm and command problems that left him spinning his wheels in Triple-A. And righty Chris Saenz, who beat the Cardinals in an emergency start in April with six shutout innings, blew out his elbow in June and had Tommy John surgery.
None of the farm teams made the playoffs, a further indication that things didn’t go as expected. The Brewers hoped to foster a winning atmosphere by keeping prospects together in clusters at a couple of levels in 2003, but that tactic didn’t pan out last year.
The Brewers tried to recover from their pitching setbacks with a bold trade, sending all-star closer Dan Kolb to Atlanta for righthanders Jose Capellan, the Braves’ top pitching prospect, and Alec Zumwalt. Capellan will get a shot to make Milwaukee’s rotation in spring training.
GM Doug Melvin made two other promising trades in December. He added punch to an anemic offense by acquiring slugger Carlos Lee from the White Sox for Scott Podsednik, Luis Vizcaino and fringe prospect Travis Hinton. Lee’s righthanded bat will fit nicely between lefty hitters Lyle Overbay and Geoff Jenkins in the middle of the lineup.
Melvin also dealt backup infielder Keith Ginter to the Athletics for promising outfielder Nelson Cruz and righty Justin Lehr, who could make the big league bullpen in 2005.
Other than Ben Hendrickson and Hardy, the Brewers aren’t counting on much help from their farm system in 2005, putting them another year behind schedule on their ongoing rebuilding project. Rickie Weeks and Prince Fielder struggled at times after skipping a level and jumping to Double-A, but both remain among the game’s elite prospects and should reach the majors in 2006.
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