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While he was undrafted and barely recruited out of a Florida high school, Weeks won consecutive NCAA Division I batting titles at Southern and set an NCAA record with a .473 career average. Baseball America's 2003 College Player of the Year, Weeks went second overall in the draft that June and signed for a club-record $3.6 million bonus, part of a five-year big league contract that guarantees him at least $4.8 million. The Brewers have been very aggressive with his development path. They jumped him to full-season ball at low Class A Beloit after one game in the Rookie-level Arizona League, and last year they sent him to Double-A Huntsville with all of 67 pro at-bats to his credit. As might be expected, he struggled at times, but the Brewers liked the way Weeks competed. He finished 2004 by hitting .382 with six homers in 76 at-bats in the Arizona Fall League, ranking as the league's No. 2 prospect behind Devil Rays outfielder Delmon Young--also the only player picked ahead of him in the 2003 draft. Despite his periodic struggles at the plate in Double-A, Weeks continued to display the skills that made him a No. 2 overall pick. He has a compact swing, and his bat gets through the hitting zone in lightning-quick fashion, giving him surprising pop for his size. He's able to turn on inside heat, while his quick hands also allow him to cover the outer half of the plate. He also has plus speed to go with his power. Weeks has good patience at the plate, though he must continue to work on his strike-zone discipline. As a sign of his mental toughness, he played much of the season with a hamstring strain, refusing to come out of the lineup. Weeks worked hard to improve his defense, which was considered a weakness in college. The Brewers love his drive and determination. He determinedly stands on top of the plate, which is why he ranked third in the minors by getting hit with 28 pitches last year. His combination of athleticism and work ethic makes Weeks a special player. Weeks faced predominantly weak competition at Southern, and given his lack of pro experience, he often was fooled by breaking pitches in Double-A. He sometimes gets impatient and swings at pitcher's pitches, but improved in that regard over the course of his first full season. Despite his plus speed, he still has a lot to learn on the basepaths after getting caught 12 times in 23 steal attempts last year. For all his effort, Weeks still has a lot of work to do with his glove. He led Southern League second basemen with 17 errors. He sometimes makes fundamental mistakes in the field and throws without getting his feet under him. The Brewers knew they were putting a lot of pressure on Weeks by pushing him to Double-A in his first full season but were pleased with the way he handled himself. They feel he's ready to handle an assignment to their new Triple-A Nashville affiliate this year, with hopes of seeing him in a big league uniform for good in 2006, if not before.
Fielder earned low Class A Midwest League MVP honors in 2003. But if there wasn't already enough pressure on the seventh overall pick in 2002 and the son of a former big league home run king, things got more difficult when reports of his father Cecil's seven-figure gambling debts surfaced in October. Fielder has outstanding power to all fields and enhances it by recognizing pitches early. He shows the patience to take a walk and rarely chases bad pitches out of his zone. He employs a compact stroke with tremendous bat speed, making him a constant threat. He has worked hard to control his weight, which was a concern in high school, and must remain diligent in that area. Fielder never will be more than adequate at first base, though he's no longer a liability. He may have limited range, but he has soft hands and good reactions. There is little doubt that he'll rake in the majors. The question is when. With Lyle Overbay busting out last year, there's no immediate need to rush Fielder to the big leagues, even if he'll play in Triple-A as a 21-year-old.
Following a 2003 campaign that put him in place to compete for major league playing time, Hardy's left shoulder popped out of its socket on a swing during spring training. He tore his labrum and tried to play through it before having season-ending surgery in May. Hardy doesn't have overwhelming tools, but his competitiveness and savvy have allowed him to make up for any shortcomings. He displays a natural feel for hitting, rarely striking out while spraying line drives to all fields. For a middle infielder, he has solid gap power. His instincts serve him well defensively, where he has a plus arm, good hands and range. Scouts have questioned Hardy's bat since his amateur days, and his swing sometimes gets out of whack. He's an average runner at best, though he plays above his speed on the bases and in the field. For most players, losing most of a season would be a significant setback, but the Brewers aren't concerned because of Hardy's makeup. He'll get a chance to win the big league shortstop job in spring training, where his main competition will be Bill Hall.
The Brewers wouldn't have traded closer Dan Kolb to the Braves without getting Capellan. While Tommy John surgery limited him to just 80 innings from 2001-03, he dominated at three levels and made his big league debut last year. Capellan not only can hit triple digits with his fastball, but he can maintain his velocity over the course of a game. He's consistently clocked at 94-97 mph with an effortless delivery. He gave up only one home run last year because he keeps his pitches down in the zone. Capellan's spike curveball and changeup still need a lot of work. Despite urging from Atlanta's development staff, he rarely used his changeup. He has become soft around his midsection, so he'll have to watch his conditioning. Because Capellan sometimes has only one consistent pitch, some scouts suggest he's headed for the bullpen. But he'll get a shot at starting in Milwaukee this year.
Rogers surfaced as a prospect when he pumped 96-97 mph fastballs at the 2003 East Coast Showcase. The first Maine high schooler ever to go in the first round, he signed for $2.2 million. He was an all-state performer as a pitcher, a hockey forward with legitimate NHL potential and a soccer midfielder. Rogers has a pure power arm, reaching the mid-90s consistently. Even after pitching all spring and summer, he was throwing 91-94 in instructional league. He also has a knee-buckling hammer curveball and a decent changeup. Rogers also attracted scouts with his strong makeup. He scored higher than any draft prospect on his predraft psychological tests. Rogers has some effort to his delivery and throws slightly across his body, flaws Brewers instructors are trying to correct. He has trouble repeating his mechanics, affecting the quality of his command and pitches. An intense competitor, he'll revert to old habits at times to get outs. Rogers profiles as a frontline starter. He'll begin his first full season at Milwaukee's new low Class A West Virginia affiliate.
After signing as a first baseman and winning the 2003 Southern League MVP award as a third baseman, Hart spent last season learning to play right field. A slight shoulder injury limited him to one at-bat in his first big league callup in September. With a long wingspan that generates leverage, Hart is capable of generating tremendous raw power and has drawn comparisons to Richie Sexson since his high school days. He drives the ball into the alleys and still hasn't tapped into his full home run potential. Hart displays solid average arm strength suitable for right field, and he also has above-average speed for his size. Hart has a tendency to get long with his swing and is prone to striking out. Because of his long frame and arms, he gets challenged inside regularly, and he needs a shorter stroke to cope. He's also susceptible to breaking stuff, and he could afford to be more patient. The move to the outfield was a good one for Hart. He will start 2005 back in Triple-A but isn't far off from forcing his way into Milwaukee's plans.
Despite bouncing back and forth between Triple-A Indianapolis and Milwaukee last season, Hendrickson was the International League pitcher of the year and topped the league in ERA. He lost his first six decisions in a rough major league debut before beating the Reds. Hendrickson relies on spotting his 88-91 mph fastball to set up a sharp 12-to-6 curveball. His changeup was much improved last year and helped him to keep hitters off balance. He has clean arm action and good command, though it wandered during his major league trial. He didn't show any signs of the elbow troubles that hindered him in 2003. Sometimes Hendrickson relies on his curveball too much, allowing hitters to sit on it. Because he doesn't blow the ball by hitters, he can't afford to work behind in the count, which he did too often in the majors. He'll need to continue to hone his changeup. Hendrickson looked more comfortable in his last few starts with the Brewers. It gave him an idea of the adjustments he needs to make in order to make the 2005 rotation in spring training.
Nelson was the organization's top prospect entering 2003 after leading the minors with 49 doubles and 116 RBIs as a 19-year-old. He was shelved for much of that season with a broken hamate bone in his right wrist, but he had a solid Double-A effort last year. A third baseman/pitcher in high school, he began his pro career at first base before moving to left field in 2003. Once he recovered from his wrist injury, Nelson got his smooth, powerful swing back and started driving the ball again. He uses the entire field and hits with power to both gaps. He shows good instincts and an average arm in left field. Everybody, including Nelson, knows what he must do to advance to the majors: improve his plate discipline and cut down on his strikeouts. Though he tries hard and is a smart defender, he has limited range. Nelson is progressing despite missing most of a year of development. He'll head to Triple-A and likely remain there for the entire season to get at-bats.
Iribarren scorched Arizona League pitching in 2004, winning the batting race by 88 points and finishing with the second-highest average in league history. He also led the league in hits, on-base percentage and slugging en route to earning MVP honors. He's a hit machine who batted .329 in two years in the Rookie-level Dominican Summer League and .373 after a late-season promotion to low Class A. Iribarren puts the ball in play with consistent hard contact that belies his lean, wiry frame. He has very strong wrists and turns on inside pitches while taking offerings away to the opposite field. Iribarren projects to develop more power. He's an aggressive baserunner with decent range, good hands and arm strength in the field. Sometimes Iribarren takes bad at-bats into the field with him. He needs to continue to work on his defense, but should be able to make the necessary adjustments. Iribarren didn't miss a beat after his callup and will open 2005 back in low Class A. A natural hitter, he should move through the system quickly.
Krynzel fouled a ball off his right foot in late April last year, forcing him to miss two months. He recovered nicely and earned his first taste of big league action in September. Krynzel is a superb center fielder, combining range, athleticism and arm strength. His greatest asset is pure speed that can create havoc on the basepaths. He has a line-drive stroke, with more raw power than his numbers suggest. Krynzel needs to work counts better and reach base more consistently to hit atop the order. His swing can get long, leading to high strikeout totals. Despite his quickness, he has succeeded on just 66 percent of his pro steal attempts and must learn to read pitchers better. With Scott Podsednik gone to the White Sox in the Carlos Lee trade, Brady Clark is all that stands between Krynzel and the center-field job. He'll get a long look in spring training, but if he doesn't improve his plate discipline soon, he could get pigeon-holed into reserve-outfielder status.
After signing for $1.55 million as a draft-and-follow in 2002, Parra blossomed in his first full season and was poised to move quickly in 2004. That didn't happen, because he experienced shoulder problems that cost him all of April, six months late in the season and an assignment to the Arizona Fall League. When healthy, Parra features an exciting combination of power pitching and control. His fastball sits in the low 90s and touches 95 with good movement, and his curveball can be devastating at times. He has improved his changeup. He aggressively attacks the strike zone, getting ahead of hitters and making them swing at his pitches. However, health has become an issue. Parra missed time in 2003 with a strained pectoral muscle before he began feeling weakness in his shoulder during last spring training. He must refine his mechanics to take stress off his arm and avoid future breakdowns. If Parra proves he's 100 percent in spring training, he'll be sent to Double-A. He can still move fast and has considerable upside as a starter--if he can stay healthy.
Like Manny Parra, a draft-and-follow originally taken in 2002, Eveland dominated as a closer in his pro debut before making a transition to the rotation last year. Though he's projected as a reliever in the long term, the Brewers wanted him to start so he could hone his entire four-pitch repertoire. Eveland throws an 89-92 mph fastball and runs it up to 94 mph. His curveball and slider are average at times but inconsistent, and he also has a changeup. He displays good poise on the mound and has some deception as well as a feel for setting hitters up. He pounds the strike zone and usually works ahead in the count. Only one thing about Eveland scares the Brewers: his stocky frame. He's built a bit too much like David Wells for their liking, though he hired a personal trainer and vowed to spend more time on conditioning. If he can keep his weight in control, he should move quickly. Milwaukee won't hesitate to keep him in Double-A, where he jumped after spending most of last season in low Class A, if he arrives in shape and performs well in spring training.
The Brewers were pleased to acquire de la Rosa as one of six players from Arizona in the blockbuster Richie Sexson deal last offseason. Just days earlier, he had been traded by the Red Sox to the Diamondbacks in the Curt Schilling deal. Milwaukee thought de la Rosa was further along in his development than he turned out to be, however. He first fought command problems in Triple-A, then experienced elbow discomfort, which likely contributed to his difficulties finding the strike zone. He was shut down for a month before returning to the rotation and eventually making it to Milwaukee for a late-season cup of coffee. De la Rosa gets his fastball to the plate at 90-93 mph and has reached 95 in the past. He also shows a solid curveball with sweeping action and depth, along with a much-improved changeup. Control continues to be a major concern. When he throws strikes, he looks the part of a top pitching prospect. With a decent camp, he could start knocking at the door of the Brewers rotation. Some scouts say he could eventually evolve into a late-inning reliever.
With the A's looking to improve their depth at second base, the Brewers were able to get Cruz and reliever Justin Lehr for Keith Ginter in December. Cruz, whom Oakland stole from the Mets in a 2000 deal for Jorge Velandia, improved his stock significantly in 2004, when he was one of five hitters in the minors to reach 300 total bases. He's a legitimate five-tool talent. He has power to all fields and made tremendous strides in his pitch recognition last year, learning to lay off high fastballs and take pitches the other way. He has a plus arm, runs well and is an asset in right field. Despite the progress he made in his approach, Cruz still has a tendency to overswing. He tries to hit every ball farther than the last, leaving him slow out of the box. He'll open 2005 in Triple-A and should be ready for the majors by 2006, though Geoff Jenkins and newly acquired Carlos Lee have a firm hold on the corner-outfield spots in Milwaukee. Cruz also will have to contend with Corey Hart and Brad Nelson for playing time.
Palmisano's reputation as a leader took something of a hit in low Class A last year, when he was involved in a curfew violation on a road trip. The Brewers believe that was an isolated incident, however, and still rank Palmisano as their top catching prospect. He won Rookie-level Pioneer League MVP honors in his 2003 pro debut after he led the league in hitting, on-base percentage and slugging. Palmisano has a quick bat and hits to all fields, and he could develop more power as he matures. He sometimes gets too aggressive at the plate and chases pitches out of the strike zone. He does draw walks, however, and he runs well for a catcher. Palmisano is athletic behind the plate and has soft hands, a quick release and a strong arm. His throwing mechanics got out of whack in low Class A, where he erased 30 percent of basestealers, prompting the club to bring him to Milwaukee for a refresher course on defense. He also worked with instructor Charlie Greene during instructional league. After those sessions, he seemed back on track. Short of catching at the top levels of the organization, the Brewers would like to keep pushing Palmisano. He could open the 2005 season in Double-A.
The Brewers were excited that Gallardo, who rang up 25 strikeouts in an 11-inning high school game in March, was still on the board in the second round last June. A talented athlete who was a terrific soccer player in high school, Gallardo attracted scouts with a live arm and athleticism. Signed for $725,000, he has a 91-94 mph fastball that already reaches 96, a power curveball and an improving change. Scouts also love his strong, projectable frame and the poise he shows on the mound. The Brewers were so impressed with his performance in his debut that they promoted him to low Class A as an 18-year-old. Gallardo was invited to instructional league to work on his mechanics and sharpen his delivery, but he couldn't stay for the duration because of an illness in his family. Though he'll still be a teenager, he should be able to earn a full-season assignment with a good spring training.
Housman didn't look like much when the Brewers signed him as a 33rd-round pick in 2002. He went 0-4, 4.89 at Cal State Fullerton, then 1-3, 8.07 in Rookie ball during his pro debut. His stuff still doesn't turn heads, as his fringy fastball tops out at 89-90 mph, his changeup is inconsistent and his pitch counts get out of hand on occasion. But Housman knows how to pitch, which qualifies him as a crafty lefty and got him to Double-A in his first full season. His slider is his best pitch, especially against lefthanders, who managed a .225 average against him in Double-A last year. Like many southpaws who rely on location, he's susceptible to giving up a lot of hits. However, he has also been able to pile up strikeouts without walking many hitters. Using deception and location rather than velocity, he makes batters fish for pitches they shouldn't go after. Housman has good size and a consistent delivery but he missed his spots and took a beating when promoted to Triple-A in the final weeks last season. He'll have to continue to be fine in the upper levels to survive, and he'll get another shot at confusing Triple-A hitters this year.
After taking a big step forward in 2003, Sarfate took a big step back last year for one simple reason: He couldn't throw strikes. While his control wasn't sterling in low Class A, it declined in Double-A, and against better hitters he was far more vulnerable when he couldn't locate his pitches. With a heavy fastball in the 91-95 mph range, he became too consumed with radar-gun readings and overthrew, getting his mechanics out of whack. Sarfate finally settled in and pitched better in August. With his above-average fastball, a sharp slider and decent changeup, he has the pitches to succeed. But unlike 2003, when he clicked off 11 victories in a row to end the season, his confidence waned when he struggled. His command was absent again in the Arizona Fall League, where he walked 17 in 22 innings and hit 98 mph with his fastball. Considering Sarfate skipped high Class A, there's no reason to push him to Triple-A yet. If he can't find the strike zone more consistently, he may be converted to a late-inning reliever.
Baker got lost in the shuffle behind Philip Humber, Jeff Niemann and Wade Townsend at Rice--all three went in the top eight picks of the 2004 draft--but scouts were well aware of his arm. Drafted in the fourth round out of high school, he went in the same spot last June and signed for $320,000. If bloodlines count for anything, Baker is in great shape. His father Johnny was an NFL linebacker, his uncle Frank played in the majors and his brother Jacob played in the minors. He even has a big league brother-in-law in Lance Berkman. Baker's fastball resides in the 88-92 mph range, and he also throws a hard slider, a curveball and an improving changeup. He also used a splitter in college. He demonstrates solid command of each pitch. Convinced that he threw too many breaking balls at Rice, the Brewers got Baker to throw more fastballs and work on locating his heater. None of his pitches is exceptional, so Baker must hit his spots and learn to set up hitters. After pitching at an advanced college program, he could move through the system at a rapid pace, depending on his ability to work ahead of hitters and keep his pitch counts in check. At this point, he projects as a bottom-of-the-rotation pitcher in the majors and probably will start 2004 in low Class A.
The Tigers made Wahpepah a priority draft-and-follow after taking him in the 18th round in 2003, but they wouldn't meet his bonus demands after he repeated as a junior college all-American last spring. A full-blooded Native American, he signed with the Brewers for $400,000 as a third-round pick. Wahpepah's fastball has good velocity at 91-93 mph, but the pitch's hard downward sink is what makes him so effective in mowing down hitters. He also throws a slider and changeup, and he impressed Milwaukee by breaking out a nasty curveball in instructional league. In fact, no first-year pitcher was more impressive during the fall program. With a somewhat unorthodox delivery that hitters find deceptive, Wahpepah must stay on top of his mechanics to stay away from arm problems and continue to throw strikes. Some scouts questioned whether his motion would allow him to have consistent control of his secondary pitchers. He'll start 2005 in low Class A.
Lehr spent his first three years in college as a catcher at UC Santa Barbara before transferring to Southern California and becoming a two-way player, serving as the No. 2 starter behind Barry Zito. Acquired in the Keith Ginter trade with Oakland, Lehr had modest success in the minors as a starter, and began to develop more quickly after moving to the bullpen in 2002. Pitching in shorter stints helped his fastball, which has gone from 88-91 mph to 91-95 and features nice run. His main secondary pitch is a slider, and he occasionally will turn to the splitter and changeup he used in his rotation days. The key for Lehr is to throw strikes and stay ahead in the count. When he did that in Triple-A, he was able to put hitters away. He has good but not great stuff, so when his control wavered in the majors, he had trouble getting outs. Lehr also had trouble with lefthanders in the big leagues, so he may need to dust off his changeup more often. The Brewers traded their top two relievers from 2004, Dan Kolb and Luis Vizcaino, so Lehr will get every opportunity to fill a hole in the big league bullpen.
Entering 2003, Jones was the top pitching prospect in the organization and ranked among the best in baseball. But following an outstanding beginning to his season in Double-A, he was shut down for the entire second half of '03 with an ailing elbow. Returning to action last year, Jones overcompensated for the elbow and developed a lesion on the labrum in his shoulder. After surgery, he'll miss all of the 2005 season. The 12th overall pick in 2001 and recipient of a $2.075 million bonus, Jones didn't look like a breakdown candidate coming out of high school. He operated with textbook mechanics, but they deteriorated after he turned pro. Whether Jones recovers his lively low- to mid-90s fastball and sharp-breaking curveball remains to be seen. He still needs to refine his changeup and control when he returns. His work ethic and maturity will be tested with a long rehabilitation program.
After three years in Rookie ball and an unremarkable season in low Class A, Pena returned to Beloit last year and suddenly took off. The velocity on his fastball spiked, and he began to regularly dial it into the low to mid-90s. With a tall, lanky build and fluid arm action, he overpowered hitters at times. Pena also throws a curveball and changeup and is working on a splitter as well. He has good life on his fastball but must continue to develop his breaking stuff. Though some scouts say Pena could be a successful late-inning reliever, the Brewers want him to continue to start so he can develop all of his pitches. Still young at 22, he'll be given plenty of time to develop. A classic example of a pitcher who benefited from repeating levels, Pena probably will move up to Milwaukee's new high Class A Brevard County affiliate this year. The Brewers have been impressed with his intelligence and focused approach on the mound, which they think will allow him to continue to improve.
Though he's not as advanced, Gwynn has been hurried along at the same pace as fellow 2003 draftee Rickie Weeks. The wisdom of that approach is debatable. Unlike his father--future Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn, who coached him at San Diego State--Anthony might not hit enough to be a regular player. Slight of build, Gwynn also wore down at the end of the 2004 season and was overmatched in the Arizona Fall League, where he managed a .167 average and one extra-base hit in 72 at-bats. With little pop in his bat, he must get stronger and prove he can handle himself at the plate on a regular basis. He sometimes thinks too much at the plate and gets himself in trouble. His best offensive skill is his outstanding bunting. There are no doubts about Gwynn's defensive capabilities. A superb center fielder with good instincts and speed, he chases down drives in the gaps with the greatest of ease. He reads the ball well off the bat and gets good jumps. Because he can run, steal bases and play outstanding defense, Gwynn will continue to get chances to prove he should be an everyday player. The Brewers need to be more realistic about his development path and allow him to succeed before moving him to Triple-A.
The more the Brewers saw Escobar in his first year of pro ball last year, the harder it was to believe he was only 17 years old. He looked even better in instructional league, where he showed an uncanny knack for putting the ball in play, striking out just two times. Milwaukee scouts liken Escobar to a young Tony Fernandez, with a lean and lanky build and knack for making the plays in the field. He displays good hands, quickness and range on defense. His arm is nothing spectacular but strong enough to keep him at shortstop for now. On the bases, he's a legitimate threat to steal with above-average speed. Primarily a contact hitter at present, the Brewers think Escobar will develop power as he fills out and matures. They plan on teaming him with second- base prospect Hernan Iribarren in low Class A this season, and they're excited about watching that double-play combination in action.
When the Brewers drafted Salome out of the same high school that produced Manny Ramirez--George Washington in the Bronx--they considered him primarily a defensive specialist, though he was able to match Ramirez' production last spring by hitting .720 with 14 homers during his high school season. Salome suffered a broken hamate bone after 20 games in Rookie ball. When he arrived in instructional league, he started whacking the ball all over the park, socking two homers and a double in one game. Should he continue to swing the bat as he did in instructional league, showing good pop and hitting to all fields, Milwaukee will have much more than it bargained for. Salome's throwing arm stands out the most, grading as a 70 on the 20-80 scouting scale. He gets the ball to second in a hurry, drawing comparisons to Pudge Rodriguez at the same age. Salome threw out 32 percent of basestealers in his pro debut. He also has good hands behind the plate, though he needs to work on his receiving. He handles pitchers well and has a great work ethic. With advanced defensive skills for a teenager and the desire to improve, Salome has a lot of upside at a position where the Brewers have struggled to develop prospects. He could make it to low Class A this year, though beginning the season in extended spring is also an option.
Moss has struggled to stay on the field. He slid to the 29th round in 2002 when an ankle injury hampered him as a high school senior (scouts also believed he was intent on attending UCLA). Since signing, he dislocated his left shoulder diving for a ball in the outfield in 2003, then missed time last year with a broken bone in his foot. Moss' bad luck continued when he contracted mononucleosis during instructional league. During the few extended spells when he has been healthy, Moss has shown enough talent to keep the Brewers intrigued. He's an aggressive player with a nice, short stroke, yet he lacks patience at the plate and strikes out too much. He offers power potential as well as speed. He gets good breaks on balls in center field, and has a plus arm for the position. Moss' raw talent could all come together at once and allow him to make up for lost time. He'll jump to high Class A in 2005 and try to show what he's capable of over the course of a full, healthy season.
The Rockies drafted Heether in the 31st round out of high school and the 28th round out of Modesto (Calif.) Junior College, but he didn't sign until the Brewers took him in the 11th round after one season at Long Beach State. His first taste of pro ball wasn't kind to him, but he rebounded to tie for the club lead with 17 homers when he returned to Beloit last year. He was old for low Class A at age 22, but Milwaukee took note of his power potential, which he could unlock further as he develops more plate discipline. He continued to hit balls hard regularly in instructional league. Heether holds his own defensively at third base, with good hands and a strong arm. Before he signed, some scouts thought he projected better at second base and might be an interesting project as a catcher. The Brewers have been impressed with Heether's mature approach to the game and could jump him to Double-A to start 2005.
Rottino hit .410 at Wisconsin-La Crosse to earn NCAA Division III all-America honors in 2002, but that wasn't enough to get him drafted. He enrolled in pharmacy school at Wisconsin and played in the semipro Land O' Lakes League. Signed as a nondrafted free agent before the 2003 season, Rottino was the Brewers' minor league player of the year in 2004. He broke Prince Fielder's Beloit record for RBIs, leading the Midwest League as well, and capped his season by playing all nine positions on the final day of the season. He even pitched a perfect ninth inning. Though at age 24 he was much older than the typical low Class A player, Rottino showed legitimate offensive tools. He has quick hands, good balance and a knack for putting the bat on the ball. He has good pop but is more of a gap hitter than a slugger, and he could stand to draw a few more walks. Rottino's biggest problem is that he hasn't found a position. He spent most of last year at DH, and even before the final day he saw playing time at left field, right field, third base, first base, second base and catcher. Milwaukee brought Rottino to instructional league to try to make a catcher out of him. He looked OK behind the plate, but the club ultimately decided to make him a super utility player. He'll be 25 this season, so he needs to show what he can do in Double-A.
Saenz was minding his own business in Double-A when Milwaukee summoned him for an emergency big league start last April 24. After depleting their bullpen in a 15-inning game and placing Chris Capuano on the disabled list, the Brewers decided Saenz was their best option. Against the Cardinals, the highest-scoring team in the National League, he struck out seven over six shutout innings to earn the victory. Afterward, Saenz returned to Double-A and pitched well--until late June, when he blew out his elbow. Following Tommy John surgery, he'll miss the entire 2005 season. Before he got hurt, Saenz had an 88-94 mph fastball, an improving slider and a changeup. A reliever his first two years in pro ball, he initially struggled as a starter in 2003. Then former roving pitching coordinator Dwight Bernard fixed a glitch in his delivery, allowing Saenz to do a better job of staying on top of his pitches. That improved the sink on his fastball, the depth on his slider and his overall command.
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