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Background: Long considered one of the top prospects in the organization, Belliard elevated himself to top status with an across-the-board stellar season at Triple-A Louisville. The Brewers had some concern about Belliard after his lackluster showing in big league spring training, but Belliard quickly refocused and showed the intensity and aggressiveness expected on both offense and defense. He has nothing left to prove in the minors after two seasons in Triple-A. The Brewers wouldn't hesitate to start him in the majors on a regular basis if the situation arises. Strengths: Belliard has great instincts around the bag, something you can't teach. He has soft, quick hands and a strong arm, and isn't afraid to try to make a difficult play. Not only is he lightning quick when turning the double play, Belliard can be acrobatic at times. At the plate, the once undisciplined hitter has learned to work pitchers while still showing impressive pop for a little guy. Belliard runs well and shows natural instincts on the bases. The whole package makes him an attractive leadoff candidate. Weaknesses: Though improved greatly in patience at the plate, Belliard still lapses into a long swing at times, making him vulnerable to breaking balls away. He doesn't have the perfect baseball body, so conditioning is important. Belliard has played some third base in winter ball and has filled in at shortstop there, but is considered basically a one-position player. That position is the one played by the Brewers' lone 1998 all-star, Fernando Vina. The Future: Belliard's future with the Brewers is tied to the fate of the incumbent Vina. Because of the depth provided by Belliard and utility player Mark Loretta, the Brewers were using Vina as trade bait in search of pitching help. Depending on that situation, Belliard could either be the Brewers' starting second baseman, a reserve on the 25-man roster or back in Triple-A.
Background: Barker has knocked in runs at every stop. "He really wants it and he's going to get it," scouting director Ken Califano said of Barker's desire to succeed. An outfielder in college, Barker has shown dramatic improvement defensively since being told first base was his future. Strengths: Beyond his fierce determination and work ethic, Barker has power to all fields and a knack for getting runners in. That RBI prowess has moved him quickly through the system. Weaknesses: Barker still struggles at times against lefthanded pitching. He has a tendency to chase bad pitches and therefore needs to concentrate on his discipline at the plate. He has no speed to speak of. The Future: If Barker batted righthanded, the Brewers may have been willing to give him a shot at making their club this spring because they are extremely challenged for power from the right side. Barker still could force his way into the big league picture before the season is over.
Background: After de los Santos stumbled from the gate as a starter last season, the Brewers reversed course and shifted him to the bullpen, where he prospered. The plan was to let him begin working on a third pitch, but it didn't pan out. Strengths: De los Santos is a power pitcher with a fastball in the 90-95 mph range and a good splitter. His control has improved with each season, and he has been more durable since the switch to the bullpen. The combination of a lean pitcher's body and fluid motion makes him a natural. Weaknesses: At times, de los Santos gets stubborn and tries to throw his fastball past hitters. He needs to work on his slider and gain the confidence to throw it more in fastball counts. His stuff is too good to give in to hitters. The Future: A two-pitch pitcher, de los Santos is destined to be a closer. He'll start the 1999 season in the majors in a middle relief or set-up role, and will slide into his eventual role when he's ready.
Background: The Brewers had no idea Gold would still be available when they drafted 13th overall slot and were thrilled beyond words when he slipped into their hands. He had been No. 1 on their list of prep pitchers all along. They took it easy with Gold's introduction to pro ball. Strengths: Gold is a power pitcher with a fastball in the 94-95 mph range and a hard, sharp-breaking curveball. Combine that with a maturity and poise beyond his years and you begin to understand why the Brewers are so excited. Weaknesses: Gold throws slightly across his body, which is a cause of slight concern. He also has one of those bulky bodies that will need constant diligence to keep toned. Shoulder surgery three years ago does not appear to be a factor. The Future: Gold is so advanced for his age that the Brewers will see how he does in spring camp and decide if he's ready to open the 1999 season at Class A Beloit.
Background: The Brewers hit the jackpot last season with Perez, who was considered something of a throw-in in the Mike Myers-Bryce Florie deal with Detroit. After languishing in Class A with the Tigers, Perez had a breakthrough season in Double-A and earned a promotion to Triple-A. He easily was the surprise of the organization. Strengths: Perez has an above-average arm, good speed and impressive range. He surprised the Brewers with his pop at the plate, though his numbers may have been inflated by playing in hitter-friendly El Paso. Weaknesses: A free swinger at the plate, Perez seldom walks and strikes out a lot. He also is prone to rushing his throws and doing too much in the field, resulting in careless errors (42 in 141 games in 1998). The Future: Perez will return to Louisville to open the 1999 season. The Brewers now consider themselves covered at shortstop should Mark Loretta or Jose Valentin stumble in the big leagues.
Background: An advanced pitcher when drafted, Peterson lived up to that billing in 1998 by zooming through three levels. While it didn't show in his 8-9 record, he showed enough savvy and skill to remain in the organization's fast lane. Strengths: Peterson has three quality pitches--fastball, curveball and a great changeup--and knows when to use them. He understands how to set up hitters, is eager to learn and displays mound presence and poise. Weaknesses: Coaches have worked feverishly to change Peterson's across-the-body pitching mechanics, which they fear could lead to arm trouble down the line. That flaw has prevented him from using both sides of the plates at times, which he must do because he lacks an overpowering fastball. The Future: Peterson's savvy should get him to the majors quickly--possibly sometime in 1999. He doesn't have the stuff to project as a top-of-the-rotation starter and should settle into a No. 4 or No. 5 slot.
Background: Talk about a late bloomer. Buried at Class A in the Mets system, where he went 26-35, 3.97 from 1991-97, Roque signed with the Brewers as a six-year free agent and jumped from Double-A to the majors in one season, pitching better and better with each leap. Strengths: Roque has good movement on a 90-91 mph fastball and throws strikes. He has a long, lean body and a fluid delivery. He mixes in a decent changeup to keep hitters off-balance. Weaknesses: Roque needs to work on his curveball to keep righthanded hitters from leaning over the plate. At times, he catches too much of the plate and gives in to hitters unnecessarily. The Future: Roque is penciled into the Brewers' rotation, something of a gamble considering his underachieving background prior to 1998. But the Brewers are thin in starting pitching and have few alternatives at this point.
Background: Green must work to shed an injury-prone image. He began the '98 season on the disabled list, then sabotaged a midseason promotion to Double-A by going down with a hamstring injury. That nagging ailment nixed plans to send him to the Arizona Fall League. Strengths: Speed is what made Green a prospect and remains his ticket to the majors. He has a good arm and can chase down balls in the gaps. With more discipline at the plate, he has the potential to be prototypical leadoff hitter. Weaknesses: Beyond the leg injuries that have compromised his chief tool, Green gets long with his swing at times--a no-no in the leadoff spot. He must learn to bunt more, hit the ball on the ground and utilize his speed. The Future: Green has shown a willingness to make adjustments and has the tools to be a useful player in the major leagues. First, he must show he can stay on the field.
Background: Levrault was promoted to Stockton despite a dismal 1997 season at Beloit. He responded by dominating the California League before flaming out after a promotion to El Paso. The Brewers rave about Levrault's bulldog mentality and were impressed that he wasn't broken mentally after his poor showing in Double-A. He has one of the best arms in the system. Strengths: Levrault has a fierce determination to succeed. He wants the ball at crunch time. His top pitch is a fastball in the low 90s and he complements it with an excellent changeup. He throws strikes as a matter of routine. Weaknesses: An unreliable curveball has made Levrault a two-pitch pitcher at times. One bad inning, frequently the result of stubborn reliance on his fastball, is often his undoing. The Future: Levrault has a closer's mentality, so the Brewers have decided to go that route for now. This season he will be shifted from starting to finishing games, a role in which the Brewers believe he will flourish.