Milwaukee Brewers Top 10 Prospects
By Tom Haudricourt
1. Nick Neugebauer, rhp
Age: 21. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-3. Wt.: 225. Drafted: HSRiverside, Calif., 1998 (2nd round). Signed by: Bruce Seid.
Background: The Brewers hoped to get Neugebauer to the big leagues in 2001, and that mission was accomplished with a September callup. A wonderful debut was overshadowed, however, by shoulder problems that were diagnosed as slight tears of his labrum and rotator cuff. The injuries were repaired with arthroscopic surgery. Doctors saw no reason Neugebauer would lose his chief assetthe ability to throw very hardbut whether hell be back to 100 percent by spring training is in question. Because Neugebauer is a horse with a solid work ethic, theres every reason to believe hell work to regain the form that made him one of the most feared pitchers in the minors. Neugebauer spun his wheels for a while at Double-A in 2001 but was dominating at Triple-A when the Brewers summoned him.
Strengths: The ability to throw hard cant be taught, and thats what sets Neugebauer apart. He once threw consistently in the high 90s but didnt always know where the ball was going. Instructors taught him the value of throwing 95 mph in the strike zone as opposed to 98 mph to the backstop. He made big strides in that department in 2001, more than doubling his strikeout-walk ratio from the year before. On days when he gets his slurve over the plate, Neugebauer is nearly unhittable. He has the frame of a power pitcher and can be an intimidating presence on the mound.
Weaknesses: Neugebauer doesnt overthrow as often as he once did, but when he does his mechanics get out of whack and leave him prone to injury. Now hell have to prove he can stay healthy and consistent enough to warrant a spot in the Brewers rotation. Health is the only real roadblock to a solid major league career. Hes working to become more consistent with his changeup.
The Future: If Neugebauer is healthy in spring training, look for him to win a spot in Milwaukees rotation. If not, hell have to regroup. One way or the other, Neugebauer should spend most of 2002 in a Brewers uniform. Ben Sheets and Neugebauer would give them a legitimate 1-2 pitching punch.
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