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The Brewers thought they had something special when they made Gallardo a second round pick and signed him for $725,000 in 2004, but he has exceeded expectations with his meteoric rise through the system. In 2006, he established himself as one of the game's elite pitching prospects. He began the season in the high Class A Florida State League and spent the second half dealing in the Double-A Southern League, ranking as the No. 2 prospect in both circuits behind Reds righthander Homer Bailey. Gallardo led the minor leagues in strikeouts (188), finished third in ERA (1.86) and strikeouts per nine innings (10.9) and pitched a scoreless inning for the World Team in the Futures Game. Gallardo has Mexican ancestry but grew up in Texas and signed out of Trimble Tech High in Fort Worth. He struck out 25 in an 11-inning game as a senior, and scouts weren't happy that his coach left him in for 148 pitches, but he has been healthy and durable in pro ball. With so many of their best pitching prospects breaking down or failing in the majors in recent years, Gallardo gives the Brewers something to get excited about. Gallardo features a fastball that he consistently throws at 90-94 mph with armside run and sink, and he can reach back and get a little extra juice when he needs it. His sharp-breaking curveball is the best in the system, and his 85-89 mph slide became a plus pitch in 2006. His changeup has cutting action and continues to improve, and he'll throw it in any count. Beyond his impressive pure stuff, Gallardo shows savvy by adding and subtracting from his pitches and varying their looks to keep hitters off balance. He'll change arm slots at times to give hitters yet something else to think about and repeats his delivery easily, giving him strong command of his pitches. His poise on and off the field is something that can't be taught, especially considering his youth. There's not much not to like about Gallardo. His frame might look a little soft, but he has a loose, easy delivery. Some observers think he can be too laid-back, but the Brewers say he's just quiet by nature and competes well without making a big show of it. Pitchers who use a drop-and-drive delivery like Gallardo does can elevate their pitches if they don't stay on top of them, but that's not an issue with him. He keeps the ball down in the zone and gave up just six homers in 155 innings last year. After Gallardo moved up to Double-A Huntsville and had no problems making the adjustment, the Brewers began speculating about his arrival in the majors. He's likely to start 2007 with Triple-A Nashville, though it's not completely out of the question that he could make the big league rotation with a strong showing in spring training. Already ahead of schedule, he's young enough to allow more time to mature. Barring injury, it's going to be difficult to hold him back for long. Gallardo will challenge Ben Sheets for the designation as Milwaukee's No. 1 starter in the near future.
Like Yovani Gallardo, Braun earned a trip to the Futures Game and a promotion to Double-A, where he stepped up his performance in the second half. The fifth overall pick in the 2005 draft, he rated as the top position prospect in the Florida State League. A rare five-tool corner infielder, Braun has tremendous bat speed and profiles as an impact hitter for average and power. He stays back on offspeed pitches and uses the entire field. His speed and arm strength are plus tools as well. He took yoga classes with Mike Lieberthal last offseason to improve his balance. After making 31 errors last season, Braun must improve his footwork at third base. Some scouts believe he'll eventually need to move to the outfield, but Milwaukee believes he'll be a sound defender at the hot corner. He doesn't have the most textbook swing, but it works for him. After hitting .326 in the Arizona Fall League, Braun definitely is ready for Triple-A. The Brewers expect him to complete their homegrown infield by 2008, though he could arrive by the all-star break.
After leading Tunstall High to back-to-back Virginia state titles and setting the state record for strikeouts, Inman spurned an Auburn commitment to sign for $500,000. He followed a strong pro debut in 2005 by posting the second-best ERA in the minors. Inman isn't overpowering, but he can consistently command his 89-92 mph fastball for strikes in any part of the zone. He stays ahead in the count and complements his fastball with a two-plane slurve that he's trying to develop into a more conventional curveball. He began using his changeup more last season. He is a fiery competitor. Inman missed a month last season with a sore shoulder, perhaps because he three too many breaking balls. He has eliminated much of the effort in his delivery and stayed on a straighter line to the plate, mechanical adjustments the Brewers hope will relieve stress on his arm. He's not projectable and needs to refine his secondary pitches. Any worries Milwaukee had about Inman's sore shoulder were quieted when he didn't allow an earned run in his first five outings after coming off the disabled list. He has the stuff and aggressiveness to move quickly, and he'll pitch at high Class A Brevard County as a 20-year-old.
Jeffress had more sheer velocity than any pitcher in the 2006 draft. The Brewers hoped for a quality college arm with the 16th overall pick, but changed gears and took Jeffress, who signed for $1.55 million. Despite control struggles in his pro debut, he rated as the top pitching prospect in the Rookie-level Arizona League. Jeffress regularly throws his fastball in the high 90s, hit 98 mph throughout 2006 and topped out at 102. He's an excellent athlete with smooth mechanics and utilizes his lower half well. He flashes a hard slider, but the pitch is a work in progress. He showed encouraging signs of progress with his offspeed stuff in instructional league. It's hard to succeed as a one-pitch pitcher, and Jeffress will have to refine his slider and changeup. His control is erratic and he wore down by the end of the summer. He's a project, but the long-term payoff could be huge, as scouts compare Jeffress to Dwight Gooden for his velocity, athleticism and easy delivery. He should see low Class A at some point this season.
Two years after selecting Rogers with the fifth overall pick ahead of Jeremy Sowers and Homer Bailey, the Brewers still aren't quite sure what they have. Injuries and control issues have plagued Maine's first-ever high school first-rounder, yet he has averaged 11.0 strikeouts per nine innings as a pro. Rogers has two pitches that make him devastating when he commands them: a mid- to high-90s fastball and a 12-to-6 curveball. He's working on a changeup, and it can be effective because hitters have to watch out for his fastball and curve. A standout hockey and soccer player in high school, he has tremendous athleticism. The Brewers altered Rogers' mechanics because he threw across his body in high school. He still struggles at times to repeat his delivery, which leads to control and command difficulties. The inability to smooth out his mechanics led to shoulder problems in July, effectively ending his season. Rogers' shoulder continued to bother him during the offseason, and he was slated for arthroscopic surgery to pinpoint the cause. If he has surgery, he'll miss the start of the season. He remains a classic high-risk, high-reward player with the raw stuff to be a No. 1 starter or a closer.
After signing as a draft-and-follow in 2005, Cain claimed Arizona League MVP honors in his pro debut. He followed up by leading the low Class A South Atlantic League in hits in 2006. As his wiry frame continues to fill out, Cain shows flashes of five-tool potential. He has a quick bat with projectable power potential, though his pop primarily comes to the gaps right now. He's a plus runner and a solid defensive outfielder with average arm strength. He shifted from center to right field last year. A bit of a free swinger, Cain is prone to strikeouts at times and still is learning the nuances of hitting. He tends to be pull-conscious and has worked with West Virginia hitting coach Mike Lum to use the whole field. Cain didn't play baseball until he was in high school and remains raw in all phases of the game. Once Cain develops physically and gains experience, the Brewers believe he could be something special. He'll move up to high Class A in 2007.
Hammond began his college career at Sacramento CC in 2001, but had bone spurs removed from his elbow and didn't pitch for Sac City again until 2004. He worked just 24 innings after transferring to Long Beach State in 2005, but he caught the eye of the Brewers, who signed him for $30,000 as a sixth-rounder. Put in the rotation to get innings, he has thrived as a starter, reaching Double-A in his first full season. Hammond's fastball sits at 88-92 mph and tops out at 94, and he has maintained his velocity while moving from reliever to starter. He spots his fastball well and complements it with an improving changeup. He throws strikes and pitches with poise. Hammond's slider is average at best. Milwaukee wants him to continue starting, so he'll need three reliable pitches to continue to move through the system. He got a late start by signing at age 23, though concerns about his age were mitigated when he pitched well in Double-A. Hammond will continue to work out of the rotation this year in Triple-A and projects as a No. 4 starter. He also could be an asset in the bullpen, which would get him to the majors more quickly. He could make his big league debut late in 2007.
Undrafted as a sophomore-eligible in 2005, Gillespie won a College World Series championship and the Pacific-10 Conference player of the year award last spring. After signing for $417,500 as a third-round pick, he led the Rookie-level Pioneer League in on-base percentage. Gillespie is an advanced hitter with bat speed and tremendous balance at the plate. He exercises patience in working the count and makes adjustments easily. He should hit for average, and Milwaukee thinks he can produce 15-20 homers per year. He's a good athlete, with solid-average speed and outfield range as well as the instincts to steal bases. He also exhibits strong leadership skills. Gillespie missed time with shoulder problems during his college career, leaving the former pitching recruit with a below-average arm. He's limited to left field and doesn't quite fit the power profile for that position. The Brewers believe they got a steal with Gillespie as a third-rounder. His advanced hitting approach and strong makeup will allow him to skip a level and start his first full season in high Class A. His emergence and that of Lorenzo Cain bolsters the outfield depth the system had lacked.
The youngest regular in the Florida State League last season, Escobar broke his finger in mid-April. He missed three weeks and it continued to bother him after he returned. A rough year at the plate got worse in the final two months, when he hit .234 with just four extra-base hits. Escobar's defensive tools are far ahead of his bat at this point. He boats fluid actions, soft hands and a plus arm. As he continues to fill out and gain strength, he has a chance to grow into gap power. He makes contact with a slashing line-drive swing. He's an above-average runner with basestealing potential. Lean and wiry, Escobar lacks strength in his game, especially at the plate. He doesn't drive the ball and is overaggressive. His injury didn't help, but he didn't make many strides or adjustments after a promising 2005. Escobar was impressive in instructional league, and the Brewers were toying with the idea of promoting him to Double-A in 2007. Considering how much he struggled offensively last year, returning him to high Class A might make more sense. He'll have to hit if he's going to challenge J.J. Hardy for Milwaukee's shortstop job in the future.
Undrafted out of high school, Gamel spent a year Daytona Beach (Fla.) Community College before transferring to Chipola (Fla.) Junior College, where the Brewers spotted him while scouting teammate Darren Ford, a draft-and-follow. In his first full pro season, Gamel was named MVP of the South Atlantic League all-star game. He wowed the crowd by hitting 15 bombs in the second round of the home run derby, which he lost in the finals. Gamel can hit for average and power. He has a sound lefthanded stroke, hits balls from gap to gap and can pull a pitch out of the park if a pitcher challenges him inside. A former pitcher, he has plus arm strength to go with decent speed and agility. His swing can get long at times, but Gamel doesn't strike out excessively. After making 52 errors in 157 pro games at third base, he must improve his footwork to reduce his wayward throws. With Ryan Braun ahead of him, he could move to the outfield in the future. There are no plans to shift Gamel off the hot corner this year. He'll make the jump to high Class A and could be big league-ready by the end of 2008.
Salome was born in the Dominican Republic and though his family moved between there and New York twice, they didn't settle permanently in New York until he was 12. He was leading the South Atlantic League in RBIs last season when he broke his ankle sliding into second in early August. He has compact strength in his short frame, prompting some to call him "Pocket Pudge." Salome has a 70 arm, helping him throw out 37 percent of basestealers despite needing overall work on his defensive mechanics. He drives the ball with a short, powerful stroke. Salome is a tireless, enthusiastic worker and made marked improvement defensively last year. He committed 15 errors and allowed 17 passed balls, however, and is still learning the basic catching fundamentals of shifting his weight, blocking balls and calling games. The Brewers have high hopes for their top catching prospect, who would fill an obvious hole in their lauded homegrown lineup. And while Salome is still at least a couple years away, the path is clear for him, as long as he continues to develop his defensive skills.
Fermaint has progressed steadily while being pushed aggressively, though he's been bothered by hamstring and shoulder issues during his ascent and was benched once in 2006 for not running a groundball out. One of the system's top athletes, he has quick hands and impressive bat speed, but hasn't tapped into his raw power potential. Fermaint is a plus runner who can cover 60 yards in 6.5 seconds as well as showing the makings of a plus center fielder defensively. His arm is solid-average. His instincts aren't helping him on his flyball reads and he was caught on 14 of 41 steal attempts. But club officials remind themselves that Fermaint played the entire season at age 20 in the Florida State League, a tough circuit for any hitter. He must learn to stay on offspeed pitches and stop pulling off. Overall, his strike zone judgment has to improve, and he needs to find consistency at the plate and let his talent take over. He doesn't hit for power and is more valuable at the top of the order, so Fermaint must get on base and make things happen. The Brewers have something of a logjam in center field, with Gwynn at Triple-A, Steve Moss coming off a disappointing turn at Double-A and then Fermaint. All three are likely to repeat their 2006 levels, at least to start.
One of the fastest players in the minor leagues, Ford reached the New Jersey state finals in the 100-meter dash in high school, and he led the South Atlantic League in swipes last year while ranking second in the minors. He uses top-of-the-scale speed to chase down balls in center, making him a prototype center fielder/leadoff hitter. A three-sport star in high school, he's still developing his approach to hitting. He remains undisciplined at the plate, striking out on pitches out of the zone and not drawing enough walks. Ford improved his pitch selection as the year progressed, and he showed flashes of the type of impact player he can be. The Brewers have stressed the importance of bunting and hitting the ball on the ground as often as possible, though Ford does have some sock in his bat. With a strong, solid body type, he's built for both speed and durability. He often beats out routine ground balls, flustering infielders into making poor throws. Ford can be brought along slowly, but needs to cut down on his strikeouts and make more contact to hit atop the order and take full advantage of his speed. He'll continue to develop in high Class A this season.
Perez was one of five Cuban defectors who worked out at the Diamondbacks' complex in the Dominican Republic last summer. Brewers international scouting director Fernando Arango is from Matanzas, Cuba, and Perez' hometown is in the same province. Arango spearheaded the charge to sign Perez for $450,000. Overjoyed at attaining his freedom, Perez broke down crying in his first visit to a U.S. grocery store and is driven to succeed. He has drawn comparisons to Rickie Weeks for his strong wrists and quick hands, and to Yuniesky Betancourt for his overall game. Perez, who hasn't played for two years after defecting, put on some weight during his downtime and should play lighter when he gets back in shape. Before the layoff, Perez was a plus runner, covering 60 yards in 6.4 seconds. He was timed at 6.6 in the tryout. In the field, he has shown good instincts to go with soft hands, a strong arm and outstanding range. The Brewers were unable to get Perez to instructional league in the fall because they had trouble unblocking him with the U.S. Treasury Department, a process all Cuban players must go through. The Brewers invited him to big league camp and envision him starting the 2007 season in Double-A.
Dillard's father Steve was a second-rounder in 1972 and enjoyed parts of eight seasons as an infield reserve for three teams between 1975-82. Tim split his time between catching and pitching as an amateur, and the Brewers twice drafted him as a pitcher, in the 15th round in 2001 out of high school and again as a draft-and-follow in 2002. Dillard was the organization's pitcher of the year in 2005 after leading all full-season pitchers in innings, victories and ERA. Elevated to Double-A last year, he pitched163 innings, again tops in the system. With a big, strong frame, he's a bull on the mound yet pitches with command, staying ahead in the count and issuing few walks. Dillard's fastball sits at 88-92 mph for the most part with good sinking action, resulting in a better than 1.5 groundball-flyball ratio. Because he's around the plate a lot and doesn't possess a blazing fastball, he can be hittable. But Dillard doesn't give in. He is still working on making his slider a consistent pitch and needs to continue developing his changeup. Dillard already has the savvy to succeed. He projects to the back half of the rotation, but that's OK with the Brewers because of his knack for eating innings.
With Prince Fielder ready for the majors, the Brewers traded Lyle Overbay to the Blue Jays for Dave Bush, Gabe Gross and Jackson at the 2005 Winter Meetings. Milwaukee needed help when Ben Sheets and Tomo Ohka were sidelined at the same time last year, and Jackson was one of many rookies who got a chance to earn a permanent spot in the rotation. He showed an effective arsenal, but was inconsistent in seven big league starts. He was inconsistent in Triple-A as well and has never dominated in the upper levels, allowing more hits than innings over the course of his career. With an average 88-91 mph fastball, Jackson has to work his cutter inside on righthanders to be successful. His sweeping curve and average changeup aren't reliable pitches, leaving Jackson to get by with his hard stuff and funky delivery. Because his offspeed pitches were erratic, hitters can figure out his herky-jerky delivery and get better swings the second time through the lineup. Jackson works quickly but sometimes relies on his cutter too much and gives up too many hits. Until he develops more reliable offspeed pitches, it is difficult to project Jackson in the big league rotation. He may eventually slide into a relief role. The fact that he throws strikes and doesn't back down works in his favor.
Gwynn finally broke through to bat .300 in Triple-A last season, becoming the kind of pesky leadoff hitter the Brewers envisioned when they drafted him. No one has doubted his defensive prowess. An above-average runner but not an absolute burner, Gwynn can go get the ball in center field, covering territory gap to gap with excellent instincts. He has a decent arm, certainly enough to play in center. When he was drafted, he was not strong enough physically and pitchers would knock the bat out of his hands. But he has matured physically and understands the importance of hitting the ball on the ground. He offers little by way of extra-base power, though, which has been a knock dating back to San Diego State, where he was coached by his future Hall of Fame father, Tony Sr. Given his first taste of big league action early in the second half, Gwynn was effective off the Brewers' bench. But presented with the chance to play center field regularly for the Brewers as a September callup, he did not perform nearly as well at the plate, swinging at too many pitches early in the count and showing little plate discipline or pop. That audition left doubts about whether Gwynn will hit enough to be a regular in the majors or if he'll have to settle for reserve status. Milwaukee's crowded outfield could prompt a return to Triple-A for Gwynn.
Once considered one of the top pitching prospects in the organization, Parra has suffered ongoing shoulder problems that eventually led to surgery in 2005. He did a better job of staying on the mound last season but is now behind in his development, spending most of 2006 in high Class A after pitching in Double-A two years ago. When healthy, he has excellent stuff, beginning with a two-seam fastball at 88-92 mph. He works up in the zone with a four-seamer that tops out at 94-95 mph and has an average splitter and curveball. Parra is still working on controlling his changeup, which would make him a lot tougher to hit. The Brewers have worked with Parra on smoothing out his delivery and taking pressure off his shoulder. The rust showed last year, as Parra was more erratic with his control, but he still finished with more than a strikeout per inning and returned to Double-A by the end of the season. His control, once a strong suit, has regressed. Before his injuries, the Brewers figured Parra might make it to the majors at some point in 2006. That didn't happen, but he's still a lefty with a quality arm and will pitch in Triple-A this year at age 24.
How could Milwaukee pass on a draft pick with this last name? It was athleticism that sealed the deal to draft the multisport star, who was to play wide receiver and shortstop at Florida State. One of the top wide-receiver recruits in the country, he turned pro and gave up football for $600,000. As might be expected from an athlete sought by Bobby Bowden, Brewer has a long list of physical attributes: speed, strength, a good arm and great range at shortstop. But he's a raw baseball player, as evidenced by his 24 errors in 45 games in the Arizona League. Still maturing physically, Brewer eventually may have to move off shortstop. Scouts believe he could be an outstanding center fielder. The Brewers just want him to play and gain experience after dividing his loyalties during high school between baseball and football. As he matures and gets stronger, the Brewers believe he'll develop power. Brewer tried too many batting stances but finally found a comfortable approach, then continued to make strides in instructional league. He must work hard on his strike-zone discipline, increase his on-base percentage and take advantage of his speed. The Brewers expect this will come from a gifted athlete who will play the entire 2007 season at 19, presumably in low Class A.
Heading into last spring, nobody figured Errecart would last until the fifth round. But Errecart--who never hit .300 in college--had some draftitis as a junior, following his .303-6-22 performance in the 2005 Cape Cod League with a .268-8-30 effort with metal at California. Errecart's swing plays better with wood, though, and after signing for $166,000 he led the Pioneer League in RBIs and finished second in homers during his pro debut. Errecart reestablished himself as an offensive performer with plenty of pop, mainly to the pull side. He hit some legendary homers at Rookie-level Helena, flashing the raw power that the Brewers are lacking throughout their system. At times, he's jumpy at the plate and gets out front on offspeed pitches. He was overly pull-happy during the spring. He has average range and arm strength in the outfield but doesn't run well and probably projects as a first baseman down the road. Errecart played nearly half of his games at that position in his first pro season but is a decent enough athlete to continue seeing time in the outfield as well. The Brewers' outfield situation is crowded at all levels, and Errecart will move faster--perhaps starting at high Class A--if he moves to first.
A .333 career hitter entering the year, Iribarren earned an asterisk next to his numbers last summer when he was caught using a corked bat, drawing suspensions from the Florida State League as well as the Brewers. He was better after the suspension than before, raking at a .344 clip the rest of the way, earning midseason and postseason all-star honors in the FSL. Iribarren has two above-average tools, but his plus speed doesn't play well--he lacks instincts and is a middling basestealer. Irribarren challenges for batting titles with a slashing hitting style that helps him take advantage of his quickness. He's displays the strike-zone discipline and patience to be a useful No. 2 hitter in the lineup despite a somewhat funky approach. His well below-average power makes the improvement of his basestealing ability a must. A solid defensive player in the past, Iribarren fought himself at times in the field last season and got into mental funks. He might have enough ability to make consistent contact and on-base skills to carry him to the big leagues. He is limited to second base, though, limiting his versatility as a role player. He will move up to Double-A in 2007, and likely continuing along the same career path as an above-average hitter.
Sarfate climbed the ladder as a starter, showing durability by averaging 25 starts and more than 130 innings in each of the three seasons after elbow surgery limited him in 2002. His inability to develop a reliable offspeed pitch to complement his 93-96 mph fastball and solid slider finally led him to the bullpen last year in Triple-A. Sarfate was excited about the shift, bought into it and prospered, with some impressive outings for the Brewers in September. He has a free-and-easy arm action and pitches up in the strike zone frequently, and isn't afraid to come inside on hitters and back them off the plate. Still erratic with his fastball command during stretches, Sarfate should benefit from the sharper focus of short relief. He never had much confidence in his changeup and doesn't have to worry about throwing it anymore, leaving his substandard curve, which has its moments, as his second pitch. Scouts thought for a long time that he profiled as a power reliever. Sarfate, who threw well both in the Arizona Fall League and the winter Mexican Pacific League, will compete for a bullpen role in the spring, and likely contribute at some point in 2007. His large physical frame is well equipped for multiple-inning appearances and durable enough to bounce back on consecutive nights.
Thatcher went undrafted after his senior year at Indiana State, when he posted a 4-8, 5.60 mark before signing with independent River City in the Frontier League in 2004. He was closing games for River City and was noticed by scouts at the Frontier League all-star game before signing with the Brewers. He appears to have found his niche as a situational reliever, and despite getting there in roundabout way, he's moving quickly up the organizational ladder. He pitched at three different levels last season, finishing the year in Double-A while making huge strides. Thatcher operates with a cutting 88-91 mph fastball and sweeping slider from a low three-quarters slot. He throws strikes and provides a deceptive look with a funky cross-body delivery. He challenges hitters with his aggressive approach. He is the classic late bloomer who knows how to set up hitters and works ahead in the count with average stuff. He's working to improve his changeup to be more than just a lefty specialist. At 25, he's no kid, but he's so tough on lefthanders (who hit .145 against him in 55 regular season at-bats), he could be knocking on the door in 2007. He dominated Hawaii Winter Baseball (0.73 ERA, .189 opponent average), further speeding his timetable.
Hinton was the Brewers' most significant draft-and-follow from 2003 and signed the next spring for $90,000. His father Rich pitched for five big league clubs over six journeyman big league seasons. Tabbed as a reliever for much of his career, Robert ended 2006 in the high Class A rotation. He opened eyes throughout the season by improving his fastball command. Hinton throws two fastballs--a four-seamer anywhere from 89-93 mph and an 87-90 mph two-seamer with sink. His hard slider, which sits in the mid-80s, grades out as a plus pitch, and at times has sharp, late break. He pitches inside aggressively with his fastball and slider to lefthanders and actually handled them better than righties last season. He needs to learn to spot his fastball better to all quadrants of the zone and to work the outside corner better, away from righthanders' power. He continued to work on fastball command and a changeup during a stellar stint in Hawaii Winter Baseball. Hinton may have a middle reliever's profile, but he's good in that role and is poised to jump to Double-A.
Seidel, whose father Dick pitched in the Yankees system in the early 1980s, ranked as the top prospect in Wisconsin for much of the spring. But he had a strong commitment to Arkansas and when he turned down predraft offers from at least two clubs, he slid to the 16th round. The Brewers evaluated him a bit more during the summer in American Legion ball, then signed him in early August for $415,000--just $2,500 less than third-round pick Cole Gillespie received. Seidel threw his fastball at 85-90 mph most of the spring, but he's so athletic and projectable that some scouts believe his heater eventually will reach the mid- 90s. His curveball should become at least an average pitch, and he already has shown some mastery of a changeup. A three-sport star as a quarterback and basketball forward in high school, Seidel will jump up this list if he responds well to focusing on baseball. The Brewers usually move high school pitchers slowly, and he should begin his pro career in extended spring training before heading to Helena or the Arizona League in June.
A low-round draft pick as a college senior who played most of the year at high Class A, Katin has a strong physique that gives him his one major calling card: raw power. Playing in a stadium in which the wind constantly is in the face of hitters, he managed to finish last season with 34 doubles and 13 homers before a promotion to Double-A. Katin was a college teammate of 2005 first-round pick Ryan Braun and has similar power and mental toughness. He takes an aggressive cut and his swing gets a bit long at times, making him strikeout-prone and especially susceptible to offspeed pitchers. Roving hitting instructor Jim Skaalen worked with Katin at toning down that swing and putting the ball in play more often. At 24, he can't afford to sacrifice any power as he faces the upper levels and must gain better control of the strike zone while doing so. Katin has decent speed for his size and a strong arm that allows him to play right field. With raw power that is missing for the most part in the organization, Katin only needs to continue working on keeping his stroke shorter and swinging at strikes. The Brewers have been impressed with his makeup and aggressive approach to the game. He will return to Double-A to start 2007.
As might be expected from a player who went to the elite Hun School of Princeton in New Jersey, Garrison is a smart, poised, sharp pitcher with an effervescent personality. He slipped to the 10th round in 2005 due to signability questions, because of his commitment to North Carolina. Nevertheless, Garrison signed for $160,000, a bonus commensurate with the middle of the fifth round. Garrison works with a four-pitch repertoire consisting of an 87-89 mph fastball, slider, curveball and changeup, which each rate average to a tick below average presently. The key is, he throws strikes and has an idea of how to attack hitters when he's on the mound. As he matures and gets stronger, he projects to pick up some velocity on his fastball, which has touched 91 from time to time, and slider, his best secondary pitch. He's athletic and has good arm speed. After spending time in extended spring training last year, Garrison pitched the remainder of the season at low Class A. He has a clean, effortless delivery and is a strike thrower who works ahead in the count, and mixes his offerings effectively. Because he doesn't overpower hitters, when Garrison does make a mistake, he can be susceptible to the long ball. The Brewers love the intangibles he brings to the mound, especially at a young age. Already on the fast track, he'll compete for a spot in the high Class A rotation this spring.
Chapman, who was selected to the roster for the inaugural Aflac All-American game in 2003, has scuffled at the plate since opting to sign for $159,000 with the Brewers instead of going to Auburn. On surface, you wouldn't think a player competing at the Rookie-level for a third consecutive year would be considered among a strong organization's top prospects. But, it became evident early that Chapman wasn't going to get regular at-bats in a loaded West Virginia outfield, the Brewers sent him back to Helena for a second season. As might be expected from an experienced player with added confidence, Chapman fared well offensively, and he's a solid defender in center field with an average arm that's good enough for him to fill in in right. He has some pop in his bat--31 of his 84 hits at Helena went for extra bases-and he has plus speed that makes him a threat on the bases. He is a well-rounded player with solid tools across the board. He often struggles with his timing at the plate, however, and gets frustrated, becoming his own worst enemy and striking out in bunches. Chapman remains a work in progress and could be another in a series of late bloomers in their system. The Brewers will find out more about Chapman in 2007 when he's West Virginia's everyday center fielder.
Just over three years ago, Rottino went undrafted despite an all-American D-III career at Wisconsin-LaCrosse and had enrolled at University of Wisconsin's pharmaceutical school while playing in the Land O' Lakes baseball league. He worked out for several teams, before signing with the Brewers. He earned the organization's minor league player of the year in 2004 and parlayed his.303 career minor league average into a major league call-up in September. Rottino's calling card is his bat, though he's more of a gap hitter than a home run threat, which may preclude him from being an everyday player. His versatility, however, virtually assures big league time and he enhances his value in that department last year by being a passable catcher. A former college shortstop, he has seen time at third base, first base and the corner outfield slots. Rottino showed improvement behind the plate, with a strong arm and physique for the position. He threw out eight of 25 basestealers (32 percent) in Triple-A last season but just one of 16 (6 percent) in the Arizona Fall League. His best position is probably third base, where he handles himself well. With a short, smooth stroke and the ability to put the ball in play, he should make a decent utility player at the top level.
The Brewers graded Pascual out as a second-round talent when they signed him for $710,000 out of the Dominican Republic in 2005. They believed he was advanced enough, despite his youth and lack of game experience, to skip past the Rookie-level Dominican Summer League and start his pro career in the Arizona League. Pascual proved to be not ready for that challenge. He had trouble throwing strikes to put it modestly, racking up 20 wild pitches to trail only the epically wild Jason Neighborgall among short-season pitchers. Taking into account the combination of the culture shock and Pascual's inexperience, the Brewers tried not to be alarmed. They knew their new approach of signing young Latin players and bringing them directly to the States would have its pitfalls. With a great pitcher's body, Pascual throws his fastball at 88-93 mph but is still working on commanding his curveball. His changeup also remains a work in progress. With a strong work ethic and willingness to listen to coaches, Pascual should eventually figure things out and be the pitcher the Brewers expect him to be. It certainlyl wasn't the best way to start his career, but not a sign of ultimate doom either. He has a loose, live arm and plenty of projection in his tall, rangy frame. He has plenty of time to develop as well, and won't turn 21 until the 2010 season. A Rookie-ball repeat is on tap for Pascual.
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