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Top Ten Prospects: Milwaukee Brewers
Complete Index of Top 10s
By John Manuel
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.
“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.
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