Milwaukee Brewers Top 10 Prospects With 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, 2011.

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When the Brewers reached the playoffs in 2008—their lone postseason appearance in the last 28 years—they had their farm system to thank. It produced a largely homegrown lineup led by Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder, a pair of double-digit winners in Ben Sheets and Manny Parra and enough trade fodder to land C.C. Sabathia at midseason. Sabathia went 11-2, 1.65 after the deal and won the game that put Milwaukee in the playoffs.

However, Sabathia left for a $161 million free-agent contract from the Yankees, Sheets got hurt again and also departed, and the Brewers' pitching subsequently fell apart. They have ranked 15th and 14th in the National League in runs allowed the last two seasons, finishing in third place in the NL Central and far short of the playoffs on both occasions.

Milwaukee has been much more successful developing hitters than pitchers over the last decade. In addition to Braun and Fielder, the system also produced lineup mainstays Corey Hart and Rickie Weeks as well as Lorenzo Cain, Alcides Escobar and Jonathan Lucroy, who all took over starting jobs as rookies last year. But outside of Yovani Gallardo and two more 2010 rookies, relievers John Axford and Zach Braddock, the Brewers have come up short on the mound.

That led general manager Doug Melvin to revamp his rotation with a pair of bold moves in December. The night before the Winter Meetings started, Melvin sent sweet-swinging Brett Lawrie, a 2008 first-round choice who had become the system's top prospect, to the Blue Jays for Shaun Marcum. That was a mere prelude to blockbuster deal two weeks later, in which Milwaukee grabbed Zack Greinke (and Yuniesky Betancourt) from the Royals in exchange for Cain, Escobar and two of its best remaining prospects, righthanders Jake Odorizzi and Jeremy Jeffress.

The deals put the Brewers right back in contention in the NL Central, though they also left them with a farm system that Baseball America ranked as the thinnest in the game in the upcoming 2011 Prospect Handbook. With the exception of righthander Mark Rogers, who has made a stunning comeback after missing all of 2007 and 2008 recovering from a pair of shoulder surgeries, Milwaukee has no potential impact talent in the upper levels of the minors.

What the Brewers do have are some interesting arms at the lower levels, and they helped win a pair of Rookie-level championships in the Arizona and Pioneer leagues last summer. Kyle Heckathorn, a 2009 supplemental first-rounder, reached high Class A in his first full pro season. Fellow righthanders Tyler Thornburg, Jimmy Nelson and Matt Miller, all 2010 choices, were overpowering at times in their pro debuts.

Milwaukee might have found more pitching help if their last two first-round picks hadn't backfired. Righthander Eric Arnett, the 26th overall pick in 2009 out of Indiana, saw his stuff and control take an alarming step backward last summer.

And high school righthander Dylan Covey, the 14th overall choice last June, declined to turn pro after learning he Type 1 diabetes just days before the Aug. 16 signing deadline. The Brewers will recoup the No. 15 selection in the 2011 draft for not signing Covey.

1.  Mark Rogers, rhp   Born: Jan. 30, 1986B-T: R-RHt: 6-2Wt: 225
 Drafted: HS—Topsham, Maine, 2004 (1st round)Signed by: Tony Blengino
Mark RogersBackground: Rogers was a three-sport standout at Mount Ararat High (Topsham, Maine), earning all-state honors as a pitcher, showing NHL potential as a hockey forward and also starring as a soccer midfielder. He had scholarship offers in all three sports—Miami for baseball, Dartmouth for hockey and Duke for soccer—before the Brewers made him the first Maine high schooler ever drafted in the first round, selecting him fifth overall and signing him for $2.2 million in 2004. His Northern background, stuff, athleticism and tenacity drew John Smoltz comparisons, but Rogers seemed unlikely to fulfill that promise when he missed the entire 2007 and 2008 seasons while recovering from a pair of shoulder surgeries, the first to repair a torn labrum in January 2007 and the second to clean out scar tissue in June 2008. He showed tremendous mental toughness in sticking with a long, tedious rehabilitation program and finally got back on the mound in 2009. Milwaukee has protected him with strict pitch counts and he hasn't missed a start in the last two seasons. As a reward for his determination and diligence, the Brewers rewarded him with an unexpected September callup in 2010. He made two perfect one-inning relief appearances and two brief starts, allowing only two hits and three walks while striking out 11 in 10 innings.

Scouting Report: Rogers doesn't quite touch 100 mph like he used to, but he still has plenty of fastball. He regularly operates in the mid-90s and touches 97 at times. He throws both two-seamers and four-seamers, generating a lot of life on his fastball. His command has improved from earlier in his pro career, but it's still erratic. He's difficult to hit but issues too many walks and runs up high pitch counts quickly, preventing him from working deep into games. He has averaged just four innings per start since returning. When Rogers throws his 12-to-6 curveball for strikes, he can be devastating. He also has a hard slider with good bite, but his changeup remains below average. He has improved his delivery, using his legs more and throwing across his body less in order to take stress off his shoulder. He reinforced Milwaukee's belief in his competitive makeup with his perseverance in coming back from his shoulder injuries.

The Future: Now that Rogers has proven he can stay on the mound, the Brewers must decide whether he can be consistent enough with his command and keep his pitch counts low enough to remain a starter. Even after acquiring Zack Greinke and Shaun Marcum in offseason trades, they still need rotation help and aren't anxious to move Rogers to the bullpen. He set a career high with 126 innings last year, so he probably isn't ready to handle a full workload of major league starts. The most likely scenario is that he'll begin 2011 at Triple-A Nashville to make some more refinements and join Milwaukee's rotation at some point during the season. Unless he improves his command and secondary pitches, his ceiling is limited to that of a No. 3 starter.
2010 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Huntsville (AA) 6 8 3.71 24 24 0 0 112 86 3 69 111 .210
Nashville (AAA) 0 0 2.08 1 1 0 0 4 3 0 3 3 .188
Milwaukee 0 0 1.80 4 2 0 0 10 2 0 3 11 .067
2.  Cody Scarpetta, rhp   Born: Aug. 25, 1988B-T: R-RHt: 6-3Wt: 242
 Drafted: HS—Guilford, Ill., 2007 (11th round)Signed by: Harvey Kuenn Jr.
Cody ScarpettaBackground: Scarpetta, whose father Dan was a 1982 third-round pick by the Brewers, dropped in the 2007 draft because of a torn flexor tendon in his right index finger. He had surgery before the draft and signed for $325,000 as an 11th-rounder, but that deal was voided when he needed a second operation. He re-signed for $125,000, but to keep his rights Milwaukee had to place him on its 40-man roster.

Scouting Report: Scarpetta's fastball ranges from 90-94 mph, at times with boring action, and he backs it up with the best curveball in the system. His improved changeup gives him a dependable third pitch. He has enough stuff to start, but his command is a work in progress. Scarpetta had a tendency to freeze his front hip and land too hard in his delivery, affecting his ability to locate his pitches. Brevard County pitching coach Fred Dabney worked with him last season to smooth out his lower half, and his mechanical improvements helped his command.

The Future: Because Scarpetta went on the 40-man roster so early, the Brewers will use their final minor-league option on him in 2011. They'll try to advance him as far as possible, probably starting him in Double-A Huntsville and trying to get him to Triple-A by the end of the season. He's a potential No. 3 starter but not there yet.
2010 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Brevard County (Hi A) 7 12 3.87 27 27 1 0 128 120 4 67 142 .247
3.  Wily Peralta, rhp   Born: May 8, 1989B-T: R-RHt: 6-2Wt: 225
 Signed: Dominican Republic, 2005Signed by: Fausto Sosa Pena/Fernando Arango
Wily PeraltaBackground: Peralta has made steady progress since missing the entire 2007 season following Tommy John surgery. After never pitching more than 104 innings in a season and totaling just 176 in his first four years as a pro, he worked a career-high 147 frames in 2010 and held his own after reaching Double-A. Milwaukee added him to its 40-man roster in November.

Scouting Report: Peralta already has three dependable pitches in place, starting with a 92-94 mph fastball that touches 96. He throws his fastball with little effort, though the pitch lacks life and doesn't induce a lot of swings and misses. Both of his secondary pitches—a low-80s slider with good tilt and a changeup—are average to slightly above average. He simply needs to hone his pitches and command them on a more consistent basis. Peralta has a simple, repeatable delivery and a strong body, ingredients for becoming a workhorse starter. He's a focused worker with a confident demeanor.

The Future: With his maturity and work ethic, the Brewers think Peralta's isn't far from pitching in the majors. He'll return to Double-A to begin 2011, with a good chance for a midseason promotion. He could join Milwaukee's rotation by the end of 2012.
2010 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Brevard County (Hi A) 6 3 3.86 19 17 0 0 105 102 5 40 75 .253
Huntsville (AA) 2 3 3.61 8 8 0 0 42 43 5 24 29 .269
4.  Scooter Gennett, 2b/ss   Born: May 1, 1990B-T: L-RHt: 5-9Wt: 165
 Drafted: HS—Sarasota, Fla., 2009 (16th round)Signed by: Tim McIlvaine
Scooter GennettBackground: Gennett had a polished bat for a prep middle infielder, but his commitment to Florida State caused him to slip to the 16th round of the 2009 draft. After he signed for $260,000, the Brewers planned to send him to Rookie ball last summer. But he performed so well in minor league camp last spring that he earned an assignment to the low Class A Midwest League, where he finished seventh in hitting (.309) and earned postseason all-star honors.

Scouting Report: He may look like a bat boy, but Gennett is an advanced hitter with surprising pop, as evidenced by his 52 extra-base hits in his pro debut. He has an open stance and the ball jumps off his bat. Sometimes he gets too long with his swing, leading to strike outs, and he could use some more plate discipline. He has average speed that plays up on the bases because he has good instincts. A shortstop in high school, Gennett moved to second base as a pro and has average defensive tools. He led MWL second basemen with 21 errors in 107 games, but he should get smoother with more experience.

The Future: The best-case scenario for Gennett is that he keeps hitting and proves he can stay at second base. At worst, he profiles as a gritty, offensive-minded utility man. He'll advance to high Class A Brevard County in 2011.
2010 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Wisconsin (Lo A) .309 .354 .463 482 87 149 39 4 9 55 31 91 14
5.  Kentrail Davis, of   Born: June 29, 1988B-T: L-RHt: 5-9Wt: 195
 Drafted: Tennessee, 2009 (1st round supplemental)Signed by: Joe Mason
Kentrail DavisBackground: He entered 2009 as one of the best college hitters available in the draft, but a rough season and his extra leverage as a sophomore-eligible allowed Davis to last until the 39th overall pick. Signed for $1.2 million, he went to high Class A last April for his pro debut. He had hamstring problems and didn't hit, prompting a demotion to low Class A Wisconsin, where he flourished.

Scouting Report: Davis has a short swing with plenty of bat speed and solid plate discipline. He should hit for average, but scouts aren't sold that he has the power desired on an outfield corner. He got too pull-conscious when he struggled last year, and did a better job of using the whole field in low Class A. He has plus speed, though his hamstring issues forced him to shut down his running game for most of 2010. Despite his quickness, Davis lacks the instincts to play center field. He played in center at Brevard County and in right at Wisconsin, but he has a fringy arm and probably will wind up in left. He plays with confidence.

The Future: Davis will get another chance to conquer high Class A in 2011 and could reach Double-A by the end of the season. His bat is calling card, but he has to work on his outfield play and keep his legs healthy.
2010 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Brevard County (Hi A) .244 .380 .341 123 20 30 2 5 0 17 17 28 8
Wisconsin (Lo A) .335 .421 .518 245 44 82 26 5 3 46 31 36 3
6.  Tyler Thornburg, rhp   Born: Sept. 29, 1988B-T: R-RHt: 5-11Wt: 185
 Drafted: Charleston Southern, 2010 (3rd round)Signed by: Ryan Robinson
Tyler ThornburgBackground: Thornburg has drawn comparisons to Tim Lincecum for his height and his delivery. He impressed scouts as a closer in the Cape Cod League in the summer of 2009, then continued to throw well last spring —including a win against eventual College World Series participant Florida—while pulling double duty as a starter and outfielder at Charleston Southern. After signing for $351,900 as a third-round pick, he was hampered by an oblique strain in his pro debut but still had 38 strikeouts in 23 innings.

Scouting Report: Thornburg's fastball sits at 93-95 mph and tops out at 98, though it doesn't feature much of life. Some scouts think his power curveball is his best pitch. He flashed an improved changeup in pro ball, so he may have the requisite three pitches to remain a starter. He'll need to improve his command, however. His aggressive nature on the mound would serve him well if the Brewers decide to make him a reliever.

The Future: As a potential closer, Thornburg might offer more upside coming out of the bullpen. Milwaukee will continue to develop him as a starter for now, giving him time to work on his changeup and command. He'll probably begin his first full pro season in low Class A, but he could make a push for Brevard County with a strong spring.
2010 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Helena (R) 1 0 1.93 9 6 0 1 23 15 2 11 38 .179
7.  Eric Farris, 2b   Born: March 3, 1986B-T: R-RHt: 5-10Wt: 170
 Drafted: Loyola Marymount, 2007 (4th round)Signed by: Corey Rodriguez
Eric FarrisBackground: After Farris hit .298 and stole 70 bases at Brevard County in 2009, the Brewers jumped him all the way to Nashville last year, in part to allow since-traded Brett Lawrie to play in Double-A. Farris hit .288 in April before hurting his right knee in a collision at the plate. He missed two months and his speed and quickness were diminished when he returned, though he did look better in the Arizona Fall League, where he batted .351.

Scouting Report: Farris puts the ball in play with a consistent, easy stroke and then makes things happen on the bases. He's not a blazer, but he has plus speed and excellent instincts on the bases. He doesn't contribute much offensively besides singles and steals, because he doesn't walk a lot and has little power. His skill at bunting enhances his ability to get on base. Farris is a major league-ready defender who committed just four errors in 66 games last year. He has solid range, soft hands and a fringy arm. Milwaukee loves his competitiveness.

The Future: Some scouts believe Farris projects as a utility player, but the Brewers believe in his instincts and drive and placed him on the 40-man roster in November. The trade of Lawrie to the Blue Jays removed one obstacle, but Rickie Weeks still blocks him in Milwaukee.
2010 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Nashville (AAA) .274 .311 .348 230 28 63 9 1 2 15 9 25 14
AZL Brewers (R) .250 .257 .500 32 5 8 5 0 1 9 1 3 1
8.  Jimmy Nelson, rhp   Born: June 5, 1989B-T: R-RHt: 6-6Wt: 245
 Drafted: Alabama, 2010 (2nd round)Signed by: Joe Mason
Jimmy NelsonBackground: The Brewers have focused on drafting big-bodied, hard-throwing pitchers in recent years, and Nelson fit the bill. A second-round pick, he became their top signee from the 2010 draft when first-rounder Dylan Covey was diagnosed with diabetes and opted to attend college. After landing him for $570,600, Milwaukee used Nelson strictly as a reliever because he had pitched 110 innings at Alabama in the spring, his first extended stint as a starter.

Scouting Report: Nelson can hit 96 mph with his fastball, but he has learned that he's more effective when he throws a two-seamer in the low 90s with heavy sink. He complements his fastball with a hard 84-86 mph slider that will give him a second plus pitch if he gains more consistency. He occasionally mixes in a slow curveball to keep hitters guessing. His changeup is below average and needs work. Nelson loses his release point at times and becomes inconsistent with his control. He sometimes lands hard on a stiff front leg and must clean up his mechanics. If he does, he has the body to be a workhorse.

The Future: While some teams projected Nelson as a closer, the Brewers believe he can be an innings-eating, middle-of-the-rotation starter. They'll turn him loose in low Class A this year.
2010 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Helena (R) 2 0 3.71 12 0 0 3 27 30 2 13 33 .268
9.  Kyle Heckathorn, rhp   Born: June 17, 1988B-T: R-RHt: 6-6Wt: 235
 Drafted: Kennesaw State, 2009 (1st round supplemental)Signed by: Ryan Robinson
Kyle HeckathornBackground: The Brewers drafted Heckathorn 47th overall in 2009, which would have made him the highest pick in Kennesaw State history if the Blue Jays hadn't taken teammate Chad Jenkins 27 choices earlier. Heckathorn reached high Class A in his first full pro season, leading Milwaukee farmhands with a 2.98 ERA.

Scouting Report: Heckathorn uses his tall frame to throw downhill and does a good job of keeping the ball in the park with his best pitch, a sinker. He mostly throws his two-seam fastball in the low 90s, topping out at 94, and he reached the upper 90s with a four-seamer in college. His best secondary offering is a changeup that's solid at times, and he does a better job of commanding it than he does with his fastball. His mid-80s slider lacks consistency. Heckathorn has effort in his high three-quarters delivery, and he lacks the athleticism to repeat it. He still throws strikes but his lack of command makes him more hittable than he should be. The Brewers had him work on smoothing out his lower half in 2010.

The Future: Unless Heckathorn improves his secondary pitches and command, he'll probably wind up in the bullpen. The Brewers will keep him in a starting role for now, and he'll probably return to high Class A to begin 2011.
2010 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Wisconsin (Lo A) 6 6 2.96 17 13 1 0 85 82 2 23 67 .246
Brevard County (Hi A) 4 0 3.00 8 8 1 0 39 40 1 10 23 .265
10.  Amaury Rivas, rhp   Born: Dec. 20, 1985B-T: R-RHt: 6-2Wt: 204
 Signed: Dominican Republic, 2005Signed by: Fernando Arango/Fausto Sosa Pena
Amaury RivasBackground: Rivas shows no after-effects from having Tommy John surgery in December 2006, and he showed his doggedness by returning to the mound eight months after having his elbow reconstructed. He was Milwaukee's minor league pitcher of the year in 2009 and followed up by successfully making the jump to Double-A last season, when he led the system in wins (11) and ranked second in ERA (3.37).

Scouting Report: Rivas' individual pitches don't blow hitters or scouts away, but he knows how to pitch and how to set up hitters. He understands the importance of location and works both sides of the plate. Rivas throws his fastball in the low 90s with some boring life and sink. His fastball can reach 95 but straightens out at higher velocities. He developed a feel for a changeup at a young age, and it grades out as his best pitch. His slider is average at best, though he throws it with power in the mid-80s at times. The Brewers like his knack for making pitches and the way he aggressively goes after hitters.

The Future: Milwaukee projects Rivas as a middle-of-the-rotation starter, though he'll need to continue to refine his secondary pitches and command to fill that role. He'll begin 2011 in the Nashville rotation and could make his big league debut in the second half.
2010 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Huntsville (AA) 11 6 3.37 25 25 2 0 142 130 7 55 114 .253

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