Sign Up! Join our newsletters, get a FREE e-Edition
Legendary scout Epy Guerrero's tenure with the Brewers wasn't as long or distinguished as his time with the Astros, Yankees and Blue Jays. But he may have added another all-star to his résumé when he signed Escobar for a mere $33,000 out of Venezuela in 2003. He quickly established himself as the best defensive infielder in the system, but it took Escobar a while to answer questions about his bat. He put those to rest when he hit a career-high .306 while reaching Double-A in 2007, and he had an even better season when he returned to Huntsville in 2008. He batted .328, led the Southern League with 179 hits and managers rated him the most exciting player, best defensive shortstop and strongest infield arm in the circuit. Summoned to Milwaukee in September to add depth for the stretch drive, he singled off Scott Schoeneweis in his first big league at-bat. Escobar makes playing shortstop look easy. He gobbles up ground with long strides, getting to balls that other shortstops can't come close to reaching. He has a true shortstop's arm, making strong, accurate throws even while on the move. He has soft hands, a good feel for the position and long arms that allow him to scoop up balls that initially appear beyond his grasp. Escobar has made tremendous strides as a hitter in the last two seasons. He was noticeably stronger in 2008, and pitchers no longer can just knock the bat out of his hands. His eight homers exceeded his previous career total of seven over four seasons, and he projects to hit 10-15 longballs annually in the majors. He also did a better job of adapting to breaking pitches and understanding what pitchers were trying to do to him. Escobar improved on the bases as well, using his plus speed to steal 34 bases in 42 attempts--an 81 percent success rate that exceeded his previous career mark of 70 percent. At times, Escobar is too aggressive at the plate. He doesn't draw many walks, which hurts his chances of batting near the top of the lineup. His focus should be on getting on base, though at 22 he still has plenty of time to mature as a hitter. At times he tries to make plays in the field that can't be made, resulting in needless errors. But it's difficult to tell Escobar to dial down his effort because he also pulls off plays that look impossible. There's no question that Escobar could play defense in the big leagues right now. Whether he could handle the jump offensively is another matter. The Brewers already have a solid shortstop in J.J. Hardy, but he can't do the things at the position that Escobar can do. Hardy eventually will move to second or third base, or perhaps be used in a trade for some much-needed pitching. If management stands pat for now, Escobar probably will open 2009 at Triple-A Nashville so he can get regular time. It's going to be tough to hold him back much longer.
Gamel was the best hitter in the minor leagues in the first half of the 2008 season, batting .375/.433/.612 in Double-A. His emergence as a legitimate force made it easier for the Brewers to include 2007 first-round pick Matt LaPorta in the C.C. Sabathia trade. Gamel's production plummeted dramatically in the second half, and he later revealed that his right elbow had been bothering much of the time. Gamel uses the entire field, drives balls to the gaps and has enough pop in his bat to hit for high average with at least 20 homers per year in the majors. He knows the strike zone--he reached base in 53 consecutive games last year--and has a quick, compact swing. He hangs in well against lefthanders because of his willingness to take the ball the other way. He's mentally tough and doesn't give away many at-bats. He's an average runner with solid arm strength. The Brewers insist Gamel will have to play his way off third base, and he just might do that. A year after leading the minors with 53 errors, he committed 32 in 131 games. Poor footwork still leads to some atrocious throws, and his errors often come in bunches when his mechanics fall apart. He has worked hard to improve but still is far short of being ready to play defense in the majors. Gamel's bat will get him to the big leagues but it's difficult to project where he'll fit defensively. He could take over at first base if the Brewers decide to trade Prince Fielder, while others think he should move to the outfield. Gamel will open 2009 at the hot corner, most likely in Triple-A.
The Brewers made Lawrie the highest drafted position player ever out of Canada when they selected him 16th overall last June. He had committed to playing for his country at the World Junior Championships in July, then unexpectedly was added to the Olympic roster as well. Signed for $1.7 million, he has yet to make his pro debut. Lawrie is an exceptional hitter, especially for his age, with a quick bat, aggressive nature and burgeoning power. The fact that he used wood bats while touring with Canada's national teams made his offensive exploits all the more impressive. He has committed to the idea of catching, where his bat would stand out the most and he could take advantage of his arm strength. His agility and drive to succeed will help him behind the plate. His speed and athleticism are above-average. Lawrie has no clear position, having seen time at catcher, third base and the outfield. He had a reputation for being disinterested in the defensive side of the game as an amateur, but he has risen to the challenge of catching. Brewers scouts still talk about the day Lawrie belted five home runs in a doubleheader against Seattle's Dominican extended spring training team. His bat is advanced enough for him to make his debut at Milwaukee's new low Class A Wisconsin affiliate, but the progress he makes defensively will dictate how quickly he advances. He should hit enough to be a big league regular at any position.
A 2006 first-rounder who signed for $1.55 million, Jeffress began last season serving the remainder of a 50-game suspension for testing positive for marijuana near the end of 2007. He returned in mid-May and earned a second-half promotion to Double-A, a move made so he could qualify for extra work in the Arizona Fall League. With a fastball that often approaches 100 mph, Jeffress is one of the hardest throwers in the minors. His heater doesn't have much movement but he delivers it with a free and easy motion that makes the ball explode on hitters. He throws from a high three-quarters angle that makes his 11-to-5 curveball particularly tough to hit when he gets it over the plate. It's easy to see why, but Jeffress falls in love with the radar gun at times. When he's having trouble commanding his curve, he becomes a one-pitch pitcher. He has worked on his changeup but it's not consistent enough for hitters to worry about it. His control is shaky, leaving him prone to big innings when he can't find the plate. He failed multiple drug tests in the past but has promised the Brewers there will be no relapses. Some scouts think Jeffress would fit nicely as an overpowering closer, but the Brewers still hope he can add enough polish to remain a starter. He left the AFL early with a shoulder strain, but with a big spring, he could open the season in Triple-A.
Salome has hit at every level and took that to new heights in 2008, when he ran away with the Southern League batting title with a .360 average. After he made his big league debut in September, the Brewers sent him to the Arizona Fall League to hone his defense, but he played only one game before shoulder soreness shut him down. Salome often steps in the bucket and flies open with his swing, but his great hand-eye coordination and his upper-body strength make it work. He stays on the ball and drives it to all fields, and he can even handle pitches on the outer half despite his unorthodox style. His pure arm strength rates a 65 or 70 on the 20-80 scouting scale and he does a good job of blocking pitches. Salome often gets his footwork messed up behind the plate, resulting in inaccurate throws and stolen bases. He threw out 26 percent of basestealers while allowing 90 swipes in 78 games last year. He still needs to work on his game-calling. He's a well below-average runner. He was suspended for 50 games in 2007 after testing positive for performanceenhancing drugs, but the Brewers don't believe that will be an issue again. Whether Salome will improve enough behind the plate to become a big league starter remains to be seen. He certainly looks like he'll hit, but his short stature makes it difficult to project him playing anywhere but catcher. He'll open 2009 in Triple-A.
After they included Matt LaPorta in the C.C. Sabathia trade in July, the Brewers promoted Cain to replace him in Huntsville. He performed so well that Milwaukee moved him on to Triple-A and the Arizona Fall League. They also committed to playing him in center field after he primarily played in right in the past. Cain is an impressive athlete. He runs well, giving him the range for center field and making him a threat on the basepaths. He has the potential to hit 20 homers per year, though most of his power comes to the gaps now. He owns solid arm strength as well. Cain's power wasn't ideal for a corner outfielder, but it's less of an issue in center field. He's still learning to be patient at the plate, though he's not terribly aggressive. He didn't start playing baseball until high school, so he's not the most instinctive player. Cain might have to go back to Huntsville to open 2009, but the Brewers hope he'll be ready for Triple-A at some point during the season. With Michael Brantley going to Cleveland as part of the Sabathia deal, Cain is easily the most advanced center-field prospect in the system.
Dykstra is a chip off the old block, the son of former all-star and agitator Lenny Dykstra. The major difference is that Cutter bats righthanded and played shortstop until moving to center field at the end of his high school career. He was slowed by a groin injury after signing for $737,000 as a second-rounder in June. A terrific athlete, Dykstra finished first in the SPARQ performance testing at the 2007 Area Code Games. He has excellent bat speed and some loft in his swing, giving him surprising power for his size. He has good balance and a compact stroke, hitting the ball mostly to left and center field. He has plus-plus speed and is very aggressive on the bases. Dykstra has fringy arm strength, which is why he couldn't have played shortstop in pro ball. His arm will be tested in center field, and he's still in the early stages of learning the position. He doesn't project to grow physically but can get by with his athleticism and aggressiveness, much like his father. His move to center is good for both him and the Brewers, who are a bit thin at that position after trading Brantley and Darren Ford last season. Dykstra could move through the system quickly and will start 2009 in low Class A.
The Brewers' 2007 minor league player of the year, Green spent the second half of last season wondering where he'd be in 2009. He was a potential player to be named in the C.C. Sabathia trade with the Indians, who ultimately opted to take Brantley. Green missed the last three weeks of the regular season after a pitch hit him on the left wrist, then had his nose broken by a bad-hop grounder in the AFL. His tools aren't overly impressive, but Green has good instincts and a feel for the game. As one scout put it, "He's just a baseball player." Though not big in stature, he has good balance and bat speed and generates decent power. He has a good eye at the plate and makes consistent contact. He draws high marks for his makeup and work ethic. Taylor doesn't have the power associated with third base. He'd profile better offensively at second base, but he may lack the quickness for the position. He's a below-average runner with decent range and a merely adequate arm at the hot corner. Green played second base earlier in his career, but the Brewers seem committed to keeping him at third. He has a better chance of sticking at third base than Gamel, and he'll move up to Double-A in 2009.
Gillespie has been an organization favorite since signing shortly after leading Oregon State to the 2006 College World Series title. Overshadowed by a roster full of top prospects at Huntsville last season and battling a toe injury that required surgery after the season, he nonetheless made the Southern League all-star team. Gillespie lived up to his reputation as a gap hitter by pounding out 38 doubles last season, second in the SL. He has just average power but shows a keen eye at the plate and knows how to lay off strikes he can't do much with. He moves well in left field and also has played in right, showing an accurate arm. His speed and athleticism are average, and he shows good instincts on the bases. While Gillespie doesn't have a glaring shortcoming, he also doesn't have a standout tool that will carry him to regular playing time in the majors. He's a solid hitter but not an offensive force. He's a decent defender but fits best in left field, which puts more pressure on his bat. It's difficult to project Gillespie supplanting corner outfielders Ryan Braun and Corey Hart in Milwaukee. He could be a valuable fourth outfielder after spending some time in Triple-A.
The Brewers were thrilled to get Lucroy in the third round of the 2007 draft after giving up their second-rounder as compensation for free agent Jeff Suppan. They knew Lucroy was more advanced offensively than defensively, and he has lived up to that reputation while advancing to high Class A in his first full pro season. Lucroy is an advanced hitter with a very good eye at the plate. He covers both sides of the dish, limiting his strikeouts. He has pop in his bat and proved it by hitting 20 homers to rank second in the system in 2008. He has quick hands and uses the whole field, which is why he hits for a high average. His quick release allowed him to throw out 45 percent of basestealers last season, and he's a leader behind the plate. While he gets rid of the ball in a hurry, Lucroy's arm strength is fringy. He still needs to work on the intricacies of catching, such as blocking balls, framing pitches and calling games. He has below-average speed but runs better than most catchers. The Brewers have yearned to develop a catcher who can both contribute offensively and handle himself behind the plate, and Lucroy just might prove to be their man. He'll open 2009 in Double-A and advance as his defensive progress dictates.
A fantastic athlete, Odorizzi also was a star shortstop for his high school team with a good bat, as well as an all-league wide receiver in football. Some teams rated him as the best prep pitcher in the 2008 draft, but the Brewers were able to get him with the No. 32 overall pick. They signed him away from a Louisville commitment for $1.06 million. Odorizzi pitched at 92-95 mph as a high school senior but didn't show that velocity in his pro debut. The Brewers attributed the dropoff to a dead-arm stage, and they limited him to 21 innings. He has a clean, repeatable delivery, which bodes well for his command going forward, and the ball seems to explode out of his hand, making his fastball even tougher to hit. Odorizzi's second pitch is a slider that still needs refinement. He also throws a curveball and has been working on his changeup. Concentrating solely on pitching should accelerate his progress, and he'll open his first full pro season in low Class A. His poise and drive may allow him to move quickly for a high school pitcher. With a plus fastball and potential for four solid pitches, he has the raw material to be a frontline starter.
Braddock's ability makes him one of the most intriguing pitching prospects in the system. Now, if the Brewers could only keep him on the mound. Elbow tenderness limited him to 71 innings last season, and he worked only in short relief in August after sitting out more than three weeks. He had Tommy John surgery in high school, so the elbow problems last year were a source of concern. He also worked just 47 innings in 2007 because of shoulder soreness. When healthy, Braddock profiles as a starter with three quality pitches: a 90-93 mph fastball, a sharp slider and an improving changeup. Despite the elbow problems, he normally pitches with a fluid delivery that makes his fastball get on hitters quicker than they expect. His command wasn't as sharp last year as it had been in 2007, in part because of the elbow problems, yet he still missed a lot of bats. With the combination of the sore elbow and emotional issues that required medication in the past, Braddock's maturity and determination have been tested. He has moved up through the system even though he hasn't pitched much, and the Brewers believe if they can keep him on the mound for a full season, he'll blossom quickly. He'll get a chance to earn a job in Double-A during spring training.
Periard is taking a slow, steady path through the system, which seemingly parallels his game. He's not a flashy strikeout pitcher, rather a dependable source of groundouts who touches 95 mph with his fastball at times. He pitches regularly at 91-92 mph with good sink. His slider is an out pitch and his changeup is average, though he needs to be more consistent with both. Periard also throws a curveball that needs work. He struggled after being promoted to Double-A in the second half of 2008, but he was just 21 and his performance didn't concern the Brewers. When he moved up, he learned that he'll have to pitch to both sides or the plate or he'll get hit. He has a strong lower half that allows him to drop and drive and keep the ball down. An aggressive, confident pitcher, he pounds the strike zone and lets his infield defense work for him, though it's clear he still needs to refine his command. The Brewers will send Periard back to Huntsville to start 2009 and hope he earns another midseason promotion.
A year after winning the batting title in the Rookie-level Pioneer League during his pro debut, Gindl finished among the leaders in several offensive categories in the low Class A South Atlantic League as a 19-year-old. He went to Hawaii Winter Baseball to get more work after the season and hit .281/.361/.438 in 96 at-bats. Gindl's individual tools don't grade out impressively, but he gets the job done, especially at the plate. Built a bit like Brian Giles, he's very aggressive at the plate, has good hand-eye coordination and can put a charge into the ball despite his short, stocky frame. He has mostly gap power and runs well enough to pile up doubles. The Brewers like his makeup and maturity, particularly for his age. He was also a lefthanded pitcher in high school, so he'll have plenty of arm for left field, where he'll likely end up because he's only an average defender at best. Gindl can get too aggressive at the plate and accumulated a lot of strikeouts last season, though his 63 walks and .388 on-base percentage show he does have an idea of the strike zone. He just needs to be more disciplined. Gindl's challenge going forward will be whether he'll hit for enough power to play left field in the majors. He'll continue his steady climb this year at high Class A Brevard County.
Milwaukee drafted Scarpetta's father Dan in the third round in 1982, and Cody would have factored in a similar area in the 2007 draft if he hadn't torn the flexor tendon at the base of his right index figure in late April. He had surgery in late May, and the Brewers knew he wouldn't pitch any more that year when they took him in the 11th round. They initially signed him away from a Creighton scholarship for $325,000, but when he needed a second surgery, the club voided that deal and swiftly re-signed him for $125,000. Scarpetta stayed in extended spring training last year before making his pro debut in June. Big and strong, he throws a heavy sinker in the low to mid-90s and backs it up with a 12-to-6 curveball that can also be a plus pitch. He's improving his changeup and also throws a decent slider. With a power arm, Scarpetta is aggressive on the mound, pounding strikes at hitters and seldom falling behind in the count. Now that he's past the finger injury, Scarpetta could move quickly through the system. With a thick build, he'll have to watch his conditioning, though that bulk helps produce his power. He's also working to clean up his delivery. Scarpetta was a late addition to Hawaii Winter Baseball but got knocked around, compiling an 8.03 ERA in 12 innings. He'll likely open 2009 in low Class A.
The Brewers believe Haydel is just beginning to scratch the surface of his potential, and his production has already been pretty good for his experience level. Milwaukee signed him for $624,000 as one of the last draftand- follows in 2007, after he had decided to attend Delgado (La.) CC instead of Louisiana State out of high school. Haydel has exceptional speed but hasn't been selective enough at the plate to take full advantage of his best tool. He has little power so he needs to bunt more, draw walks and get on base. With a .289 career average, all he has to do is boost his OBP. He also needs to work on getting better jumps and reading pitchers because he gets caught stealing too often. He has a ceiling as a legitimate leadoff hitter, which the Brewers lack at present. Haydel has good range in center and chases down balls in the gaps, and his arm is solid for the position. He'll need time to fully develop, but the potential is there to become a player comparable to Jacoby Ellsbury. Haydel will continue his step-by-step progress by moving up to high Class A in 2009.
No one questions the athleticism of Brewer, who turned down a scholarship to play wide receiver and shortstop at Florida State after the Brewers gave him a $600,000 bonus in 2006. He has tremendous range at short, getting to balls that many players have no chance to field, and he has the strong arm a big league shortstop needs. He also runs well and has good strength, which should result in more homers as he gains experience. But here's the rub: Brewer just doesn't make contact often enough. In 449 at-bats at two Class A stops last season, he struck out 111 times. That's better than the 170 whiffs he accumulated the previous season, but Brewer still needs to improve his pitch recognition and stop swinging at pitches he can't hit. He also sacrificed power to make better contact, hitting nine fewer home runs. His defensive consistency has improved, with 35 errors in 2008, down from 48 the year before, but he still gets careless with his throws and must continue to work on the fundamentals. The Brewers actually were encouraged that he went from batting .213 at West Virginia to .251 at Brevard County, but he still has to prove that he can put his impressive tools to good use. Milwaukee hopes that will come as he gets more repetitions. He's a hard worker with strong leadership qualities, which will help, and he'll return to high Class A to improve on last year's performance.
Seidel is still young and developing, so the Brewers expect him to have ups and downs. That's exactly what happened last season in low Class A, where he slumped in the second half. Though he didn't get to pitch a lot as a high schooler in Wisconsin, Seidel has a good feel for pitching, in part because his father Dick pitched in the Yankees system in the early 1980s. He's not overpowering with an 89-92 mph fastball, but Seidel has allowed just 12 homers in 163 innings in hitter-friendly environments, reflecting his pitchability. His curveball continues to be inconsistent, but he has an advanced changeup for his experience level. After missing time with biceps tendinitis in 2007, Seidel stayed healthy and took a regular turn last year, which was encouraging, though he seemed a bit worn out by season's end. He has a great pitcher's frame and is still filling out, so he should get stronger and add velocity. With his stuff, savvy, frame and bloodlines, he has a ceiling as a middle-of-the-rotation starter.
In his first season in the Rays organization after coming over from the Twins the Delmon Young/Matt Garza trade, Morlan wasn't as overpowering as he had been in the past. He did appear in the Futures Game, where he caught the eye of Brewers special assistant Dick Groch. That led to Milwaukee selecting Morlan in the major league Rule 5 draft at the Winter Meetings. He cost the club $50,000, and he has to stay on the big league roster throughout 2009 or else be place on waivers and offered back to Tampa Bay for half the draft price. It's not that the Rays didn't him value as a prospect, but with a World Series club and a deep farm system, they didn't have room for him on their 40-man roster. Morlan regularly throws in the low 90s and touches 94 mph. His slider wasn't as crisp last season as it was in the past, but it's a strikeout pitch with two-plane depth when it's on. He does a good job of throwing strikes and his stuff was sharper in the Puerto Rican League this winter. That gives the Brewers hope that Morlan can fill the seventh- or eighth-inning role Guillermo Mota handled for them last season.
Lintz's draft stock shot up after a growth spurt and increased strength boosted his lively fastball from the high 80s into the low 90s last spring. He graduated second in his high school class and was committed to Kentucky, but the Brewers were able to sign him for an above-slot $900,000 in the second round. They limited Lintz to 18 innings in the Rookie-level Arizona League, in part because he's still growing into his body. He struggled with his command but still struck out 26 hitters. Lintz relies primarily on his fastball, which has touched 94 mph, and has a power 12-to-6 curveball that's very effective when he gets it over the plate. It could become a plus pitch. He also throws a slider and changeup, both of which are inconsistent. He shows good makeup and the Brewers like the way he competes, so he just needs to throw more strikes and get innings. Because of his age and the need to get bigger and stronger, Lintz will start on a slow track to the majors and might begin 2009 extended spring training.
An eighth-round selection of the Giants in 2004, Aguilar was the highest pick in that draft to enroll at a junior college. He touched 98 mph that fall at Merced (Calif.) JC and seemed poised for a big payday in the spring. But he came down with a sore elbow and barely pitched before the draft, causing San Francisco to back off and Aguilar to drop to the Brewers in the 30th round. He had Tommy John surgery after signing, which meant that his career didn't really get going until 2007. He made big strides as a closer in 2008, earning a promotion to Huntsville. He has a power arm, with a 94-96 mph fastball and an 85-87 slider. Double-A hitters pounded him when he used his fastball too much, so Aguilar began using his secondary pitches more, including an improving changeup that he can throw for strikes. He also throws cutters, burying them in on the hands of lefthanders. His fastball doesn't have a lot of movement but it gets in on hitters fast. Command is a problem for Aguilar at times, but he made strides in that department last season. Though he has closed in the minors, Aguilar projects as a setup man in the majors. He has the temperament and stuff to handle the late innings, and could get his first big league callup at the end of 2009.
Peralta was a breakthrough international signing for the Brewers, who gave him $450,000 in 2005, but he had Tommy John surgery after debuting in 2006 and missed all of the next season. He bounced back in a big way in 2008, showing off what some scouts thought was the best arm in the Pioneer League. Peralta regularly threw his fastball in the mid-90s, sometimes reaching 97-98 mph, and mixed in an improved slider that could be a big pitch for him down the road. Used exclusively in relief to protect his elbow last year, he seldom threw his changeup. Peralta still fights command issues at times, and with a thick build he'll have to stay on top of his conditioning. He's still young and figures to be even better two years removed from surgery. He could sail through the system if his secondary pitches continue to improve. He has reestablished himself as one of the top power pitchers in the organization and could become a late-inning reliever or perhaps a closer.
When the Brewers drafted Nieves as a 17-year-old out of the Puerto Rico Baseball Academy in 2007, his fastball topped out at 88 mph. Bigger and stronger last season, he added a couple of ticks to his fastball. An advanced pitcher for his age, Nieves should be able to add even more velocity as he matures. He already has an out pitch in his consistent changeup. He also throws a nice curve and has worked on improving his slider, which is tough on lefties. He pounds the strike zone, seldom issuing walks. Nieves has some deception in his delivery, which allows him to sneak his fastball in on righthanders. He'll give up hits because he's around the strike zone a lot, but it also works to his advantage when he gets ahead of hitters and leaves them susceptible to his breaking stuff. Showing great composure on the mound for a youngster, Nieves just needs innings to polish his repertoire. He'll move up to full-season ball at Wisconsin in 2009.
Frederickson moved dramatically up the Brewers' draft board after he attended a workout in Milwaukee a few days before the draft and stunned the scouts on hand by throwing in the high 90s with regularity and ease. Figuring he might be a late bloomer, they grabbed him with the 35th overall pick and signed him for $1.01 million. After he got to low Class A, they soon were reminded why he wasn't rated as highly before that workout. He has a tendency to be wild--very wild, in fact. Frederickson went through a dead-arm period and totally lost the strike zone at times, walking 26 hitters and throwing 10 wild pitches in 20 innings. He struggled though similar issues at Virginia Tech for two years before transferring to San Francisco. The big-bodied Frederickson's mechanics elude him at times. He's at his best when commanding his breaking ball, a slurve thrown from a three-quarters arm angle in the low 80s. When he throws it for strikes, lefthanders have no chance. It's too early to determine a role for Frederickson, because everything depends on his control. He's the classic boom-or-bust pitcher. If he conquers his command issues, he'll move dramatically up this list.
Pena threw the ball so well in the first half of the 2008 season, that he seemed on the verge of getting a call to the big leagues at any time. But following a poor outing in the Triple-A all-star game, he started to lose his control and began walking hitters in bunches. He never got his act together, blowing any shot at even a September callup. It was a far cry from the previous season, when Pena made great strides and earned a spot on the 40-man roster after bouncing back from shoulder surgery that held him back in 2005 and '06. He not only lost command of his mid-90s fastball in 2008, but he also couldn't get his slider over the plate and his confidence waned. Focus was a problem as well, as he converted save opportunities but struggled in other situations. Pena still has a great pitcher's body and live arm, so he can return to good graces by showing up in spring training and throwing strikes. When he gets his fastball over the plate, his slider can be a devastating weapon and he has the stuff to pitch at the back of a bullpen.
Rivas had Tommy John surgery in December 2006 but quickly worked himself back to full strength last season, and it showed. After a solid showing in low Class A, the first real challenge of his career, he earned a lateseason bump up to Brevard County. Rivas' fastball remains his best pitch, sitting regularly at 91-92 mph while reaching 95 at times. It also features good movement. Once just a thrower with a good arm, he has begun to develop his slider and changeup, becoming more of a pitcher. His slider shows plus potential, while his changeup is a work in progress. He shows confidence and a bulldog approach on the mound. Rivas needs to continue to work on command of his secondary pitches to remain a starting pitcher. Otherwise, he might project as a setup man down the road. He'll return to high Class A to start the season.
Farris grows on observers the more they watch him. Scouts first noticed him in the Cape Cod League after his sophomore season at Loyola Marymount, and he has been consistently productive wherever he has been. Farris has little pop in his bat and doesn't project to develop much, though he will drive the ball into the gaps on occasion. He excels at making contact but needs to draw more walks to boost his on-base percentage. Once he reaches base, Farris is a threat to steal. He's not a blazing runner but gets good breaks and reads pitchers well. He's very athletic and could probably play shortstop if needed. He has above-average defensive skills at second base, with range both to his left and right, good instincts, sure hands and a strong arm. Farris handles himself well on the field and could profile as a super utility player down the road, a la Chone Figgins--though without that much speed and less pop. For now, the Brewers want to keep Farris at second base and see how he develops.
Adams pitched a lot at Southern Illinois last spring, having a disappointing spring and costing himself a chance to go in the first round. After winning 10 games in 2007 for the Salukis, he went just 6-4 and was much more hittable as a junior. The Brewers got him with their sixth selection and signed him for $653,000 as a second-rounder. Considering Adams' college workload, the Brewers weren't surprised when he got off to a slow start in pro ball. They took it easy with him, keeping him on a tight pitch limit. He's mostly a fastball/slider pitcher, throwing consistently in the low 90s and topping out at 95-96 mph. Used as both a starter and reliever at Helena, he was encouraged to throw his changeup more and made progress with the pitch. Prone at times to mechanical problems in college--he would overstride and get under his pitches--he showed better command as a pro. Adams is more of a pitch-to-contact pitcher than a strikeout guy, and he's an intelligent, tough competitor. He needs to continue to work on sharpening his slider to complement his fastball. When pitching in shorter bursts in relief, his velocity stayed at his top range, but he has enough in his arsenal to remain as a starter for now. Adams will open his first full pro season in low Class A.
Schafer spent his freshman season at Cuesta (Calif.) JC before transferring to Cal Poly, where he led the team in homers as a junior. He played his way into the Brewers' plans with a strong predraft workout, so they took him the third round last June and signed him for $404,000. One of the better athletes in the Brewers' draft class, Schafer has average tools across the board and already is a solid defender in center, reminding some of Steve Finley at the same age. He also draws comparisons to Mark Kotsay for getting the most out of his ability. Promoted to low Class A soon after signing, Schafer impressed more in the field than at the plate. He also got in 86 at-bats in Hawaii Winter Baseball, batting .244/.347/.337. He has a good swing with raw power, but he'll have to improve his strike-zone discipline to tap into it. He's an average runner but must work on getting better jumps after he was caught on eight of his 13 steal attempts in his pro debut. Because he already can hold his own in center, Schafer could move steadily through the system if he can produce at the plate. Milwaukee considers him a real sleeper and will send him back to low Class A in 2009.
A former starter working his second season in relief in 2008, Dillard showed a better grasp of pitching in short spurts and earned his first taste of big league action. He's the second member of his family to reach the majors, following in the footsteps of his father Steve. Dillard isn't overpowering but has good command of a heavy 89-93 mph sinker. He mixes in sliders and changeups to give hitters something else to consider, but the sinker remains his bread-and-butter pitch. Dillard is a classic pitch-to-contact pitcher who relies on dependable infield defense. He lives in the strike zone, so he gives up his share of hits. Dillard is a smart, dedicated pitcher who's learning the nuances of setting up hitters. He profiles as a resilient middle reliever who can handle multiple innings in an outing. After making a decent impression with the Brewers last season, he'll get his chance to earn a spot in the bullpen in the spring.