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In an organization that focused for years on procuring offensive players, Escobar quickly established himself as a defensive whiz while climbing the ranks of the farm system. Signed by legendary scout Epy Guerrero out of Venezuela for a mere $33,000 in 2003, Escobar wowed scouts with eye-popping web gems. As his bat caught up to his glove, he switched jobs with slumping shortstop J.J. Hardy last August, when Hardy was demoted to Triple-A Nashville. While making some rookie mistakes in the field, Escobar showed why he's considered a special defender by making several remarkable plays. He also handled himself quite nicely at the plate while coming within two at-bats of losing his rookie eligibility. Much of Escobar's game revolves around his legs. He uses them for quickness and amazing range to both sides in the field, allowing him to get to balls out of the grasp of most shortstops. At the plate, his speed makes him a threat for a hit every time he smacks a ball on the ground. When he tops a slow roller, even right at an infielder, he's almost impossible to throw out. He's a constant threat to steal bases, swiping 42 in 52 attempts at Nashville, though the Brewers seldom run under manager Ken Macha. Beyond his legs, Escobar owes his defensive prowess to long arms, soft hands, arm strength and natural instincts. In short, he was born to play shortstop. As a hitter, he covers the plate well and generally uses the whole field. Though he won't hit for power, he has some bat speed and leverage in his stroke. Escobar sometimes gets lazy with throws on routine grounders and makes sloppy errors. He has exercised more patience at the plate in recent seasons but still has a long way to go in that department. He drew just four walks in 134 big league plate appearances last season, and getting on base needs to be his primary offensive goal. Though he has more pop than his thin frame might suggest, hitting the ball in the air does no good for him. He'll go through bouts where he becomes pull-conscious and tries to hit for power. The transition from Hardy to Escobar took place ahead of schedule. Though Hardy had been one of the Brewers' core players during their resurgence, it was evident that Escobar's time had come, prompting a trade of Hardy to the Twins for Carlos Gomez in November. The youngster will start at shortstop for Milwaukee in 2010 and be a prime Rookie of the Year candidate , with the hope that he'll develop into the club's leadoff man of the future.
After the Brewers signed him for $1.7 million as the 16th pick in the 2008 draft--making him the highest-drafted Canadian hitter ever--Lawrie planned on becoming a fulltime catcher. He later changed his mind and asked to move to second base. He didn't make his pro debut in 2008 because he saw action with Canada's junior and Olympic teams. He returned to international play at the World Cup in 2009. Lawrie is an aggressive hitter with good pop. He made the adjustment to pro ball easily because he used wood bats regularly as an amateur. With strong hands and the quickest bat in the system, he drives the ball to all fields. He's more athletic than his stocky build would indicate, which is why Milwaukee agreed to let him play second base. He has average speed and good arm strength. He needs to show more interest in defense if he's going to stay at second base and become a player in the mold of Jeff Kent. Lawrie improved as the season progressed but will have to work to make his hands softer and his footwork smoother. Lawrie will get to the big leagues quicker now than he would have as a catcher, but some scouts think he's destined for an outfield corner. He has a potent bat that should profile at just about any position. Though he jumped to Double-A Huntsville last summer to prepare for the World Cup, he could open 2010 in high Class A.
The Brewers figured both they and Gamel would profit from a midseason promotion to the majors, with his primary role as DH in interleague road games. But he had trouble adjusting to irregular playing time, lost his stroke and never got going again, even after returning to Triple-A. He batted .267 in 2009, down 39 points from his previous career average. When he's on his game, Gamel uses a compact stroke to spray the ball to all fields, mainly from gap to gap. He has enough pop in his bat to hit 20 homers annually in the majors. He normally hangs in well against lefties, taking breaking balls the other way. He has average speed and plenty of arm strength at third base. Gamel made strides defensively in 2009, but scouts still doubt his ability to handle the hot corner in the majors. He's not as bad as he was when he led the minors with 53 errors in 2007, but he still has flawed footwork that leads to erratic throws. He needs a better two-strike approach after whiffing a career-high 143 times last season. In an attempt to recapture his stroke, Gamel played winter ball in Venezuela. The Brewers have no plans to move him to first base or the outfield, but his status as their third baseman of the future became clouded when Casey McGehee turned in a strong rookie season in 2009. The 2010 season will determine where Gamel fits in Milwaukee.
Needing to bolster their stock of pitching prospects, the Brewers were pleasantly surprised Arnett was available with the No. 26 overall pick in June. Just the second firstrounder ever from Indiana University, he came out of nowhere to set Hoosiers records for wins (12) and strikeouts (109) last spring. He signed for $1.197 million. After battling command problems earlier in his college career, Arnett put it all together as a junior. He threw his fastball at 91-94 mph and touched 97, and he tightened a mid-80s slider to give him a second out pitch. He got better at using his big frame to throw on a downhill plane. He showed his athleticism by suiting up for Indiana's basketball practice squad but didn't play in regular games. At times, Arnett loses his arm slot and his command. He needs to refine his below-average changeup to give him an offspeed pitch that will keep hitters off balance. His fastball dipped into the high 80s at the end of his short pro outings, though he may just have been tired after a heavy college workload. The Brewers would love to move Arnett through their system as quickly as possible, which may mean that he'll start his first full season in high Class A. They want to be careful not to get too ambitious, but they'd be thrilled if he could get to Milwaukee before the end of 2011.
In his third pro season, Lucroy bypassed Angel Salome as the Brewers' top catching prospect. Lucroy ranked second in the Double-A Southern League in walks (78) and throwing out basestealers (41 percent), then headed to the Arizona Fall League to expedite his development. Lucroy's offense has been more advanced than his defense since he turned pro. He has a good approach and a short swing, squares the ball up and has solid gap power. He has a career .380 on-base percentage and walked more than he struck out in 2009. He bolsters his average arm strength with a quick release and has recorded pop times as low as 1.8 seconds. Lucroy sometimes struggles behind the plate, boxing balls and losing his release point on throws, causing them to sail. He also needs to improve his game-calling skills. His batting average (.267) and slugging percentage (.418) in 2009 were easily career lows, though he still projects as a good offensive threat for a catcher. He has below-average speed but doesn't clog the bases. Scouts are divided over whether Lucroy projects as a regular or backup in the majors. He should hit enough but must continue to polish his overall defensive skills. He'll move up to Triple-A to start 2010 and could see his first big league action later in the year.
Davis entered 2009 as a potential top 10 draft pick, but he had a rough sophomore season while trying to do too much for a poor Tennessee team. Remembering his standout play for Team USA the previous summer, the Brewers took him with the 39th overall pick in June and signed him at the Aug. 17 deadline for $1.2 million. Davis' combination of hitting ability, power and speed, not to mention his stocky frame, have drawn comparisons to a lefthanded-hitting Kirby Puckett. He has a short swing with plenty of bat speed. He has plus speed and the potential to become at least a 20-20 player. At times, Davis gets pull-happy, his swing gets long and his strikeouts pile up. When he got pitched around with the Volunteers, he got frustrated and chased pitches out of the strike zone. He can run the 60-yard dash in 6.6 seconds, though he has yet to translate that quickness into stolen bases. Though his speed gives him average range in center field, he lacks top-notch instincts and ultimately may fit better in left field. His arm strength is fringe-average. The Brewers felt even better about Davis after watching him excel in instructional league. He could make his pro debut in high Class A and prove to be one of the steals of the 2009 draft.
Braddock had Tommy John surgery in high school, and repeated elbow and shoulder issues made it a struggle for the Brewers to keep him on the mound as a starter. So they moved him to the bullpen in 2009. While he had two monthlong stints on the disabled list, he was dominant when healthy, posting a 62-7 strikeout-walk ratio in 40 innings. Braddock has a live arm, consistently throwing at 91-94 mph while topping out at 96. He also features a sharp slider that gives lefthanders nightmares, and he has dabbled with an improving cutter. He pounds the strike zone, using his size to throw on a steep downward plane. He has an effective changeup, though he doesn't throw it much, especially as a reliever. The biggest issue with Braddock is his health. Aside from his surgery in high school, he has pitched just 198 innings in four pro seasons. He also has dealt with emotional issues that required medication, though he seems to have those under control. To continue Braddock's transition from starter to reliever and to get him more innings, the Brewers sent him to the Arizona Fall League. If he can avoid more physical setbacks, he could join Milwaukee's bullpen at some point in 2010. It's tempting to think of what he might do as a starter, but he hasn't proven he can hold up in that role.
The Brewers had hoped that Cain would put himself in position to take over from Mike Cameron in center field in 2010. But Cain seriously sprained his left knee diving for a fly ball in April and missed half the 2009 season. He wasn't the same, at the plate or in the field, when he returned in late June. Cain stands out most with his athleticism and speed. Moved from right field to center in 2008, he uses his quickness and long legs to gobble up ground in the field and on the basepaths. Still filling out and getting stronger, he shows flashes of power but is mostly a gap hitter. He has a strong arm, especially for a center fielder. Cain still has to work on his plate discipline, though it has improved. He didn't play baseball until high school and therefore lacks advanced instincts, but his athletic ability helps cover him. He could be a more prolific and successful basestealer. Cain's lost season left the Brewers in a quandary about what to do in center field for 2010, one they addressed by trading J.J. Hardy to the Twins for Carlos Gomez. Cain has yet to prove himself in Triple-A, and now Gomez could block him for the long term.
The Brewers liked Odorizzi's athleticism--which he put on display as a pitcher, shortstop and all-league wide receiver in high school--before signing him for $1.06 million as the 32nd overall pick in the 2008 draft. Some clubs rated him the best high school pitcher in that draft. Milwaukee has brought him along slowly, limiting him to 68 innings in two years of Rookie ball. Milwaukee believes Odorizzi will fill out and gain velocity as he matures. He currently pitches at 88-91 mph and touches 93 with his fastball, maintaining that zip throughout his outings. His free and easy delivery and good extension allow his heater to get in on hitters quickly, and it features good sink and armside run. He also features a curveball that's a plus pitch at times. He throws strikes and shows good poise and competitiveness. Odorizzi needs to continue refining his secondary pitches. His curveball is inconsistent, and his slider and changeup are less reliable. While he's consistently around the plate, he needs to do a better job of locating his pitches in the strike zone. If he adds velocity and improves his secondary offerings, Odorizzi could become a No. 2 or 3 starter. He'll probably begin 2010 at low Class A Wisconsin, with a chance for a midseason promotion.
After selecting Eric Arnett in the first round of the 2009 draft, the Brewers tabbed another big-bodied power pitcher in Heckathorn with the 47th overall choice. He would have been the highest pick in Kennesaw State history if the Blue Jays hadn't taken teammate Chad Jenkins 27 selections earlier. After signing for $776,000, Heckathorn worked on tight pitch counts in his pro debut. His raw stuff is outstanding and rivaled anyone's in the 2009 draft. His fastball sits at 91-94 mph and peaks at 98. His slider also can be devastating, registering in the high 80s. Even with his live arm and big frame, Heckathorn doesn't have any problems throwing strikes. Heckathorn is learning how to use his stuff. He doesn't know how to set up batters and actually throws too many hittable strikes at times. He must come up with a reliable changeup so hitters can't sit on his hard stuff, and he'll have to locate his pitches better in the strike zone. He won just 12 games in three college seasons, when he had limited exposure to top-level competition, and got hit hard in his brief introduction to pro ball. The Brewers will keep Heckathorn in a starting role for now, though some scouts project him as an overpowering closer. He'll likely begin his first full season in low Class A.
After not throwing a pitch for two seasons while recovering from multiple shoulder surgeries, Rogers resurfaced with a healthy, productive 2009 season in high Class A. The Brewers were understandably cautious with Rogers, who signed for $2.2 million as the fifth overall pick in the 2004 draft, limiting his workload to a few innings at a time and resisting the urge to promote him. They emphasized the importance of using his legs more in his delivery to take stress off his shoulder, and he accomplished that mission. Rogers, who touched the upper 90s with his fastball before he got hurt, sat at 93-96 mph last year, with the ball coming out of his hand easily. He also showed a sharp-breaking curveball and a deceptive changeup, which were good pitches when he threw them for strikes. Working in short stints, he didn't need to rely on his secondary pitches as much as if he pitched deep into games. Rogers still throws across his body, which compromises his command. He walked 4.0 batters per nine innings in 2009, a marked improvement from his previous career rate of 6.2. Given his difficulty staying healthy and throwing multiple pitches for strikes, Rogers fits best as a reliever and could move quickly once Milwaukee shifts him to that role. He should see Double-A for the first time in 2010.
The Brewers were so impressed with Schafer's skills and poise in spring training, less than a year after they made him a third-round pick, that they kept him with the big league club for its final exhibition games in Los Angeles. Milwaukee's major league coaching staff predicted good things for him, and he fulfilled those expectations. He won the high Class A Florida State League batting title (.313) and the organization's minor league player of the year award, finishing his first full pro season in Double-A. A contact hitter who draws a decent number of walks, Schafer isn't blessed with raw strength or speed. He has gap power and can steal an occasional base, but some scouts wonder if he'll produce enough offense to become a big league regular. Where Schafer shines is as a fly chaser in center field. He uses his instincts and quickness to run down balls from gap to gap, and he committed just one error in 2009. He also has an average, accurate arm. Schafer has drawn comparisons to Steve Finley and Mark Kotsay, and he could move quickly because the Brewers are looking for center-field help. His individual tools are not overwhelming, but his total package, combined with his confidence and maturity, bode well for his future. He'll start 2010 in Double-A and could reach Milwaukee by season's end.
Scarpetta might have been selected higher than his father Dan, a 1982 Brewers third-round pick, had he not torn the flexor tendon at the base of his right index finger six weeks before the 2007 draft. He had surgery before the Brewers made him an 11th-round choice, and he signed for $325,000. Milwaukee voided that deal when he needed a second operation, re-signing him for $125,000. To keep his rights, the Brewers had to put Scarpetta on their 40-man roster last winter, ahead of schedule, but he'll be worth it if he continues to progress as he did in 2009. A big-bodied pitcher, Scarpetta maintains velocity and downward tilt on his 90-94 mph fastball. Managers rated his curveball as the best in the low Class A Midwest League in 2009, and his improved changeup gives him a chance to have three solid or better pitches. Scarpetta isn't athletic and could use better conditioning, which might help him repeat his mechanics more easily. When he doesn't get out in front with his delivery, his pitches come up in the zone and are more hittable. Scarpetta was so impressive in 2009 that the Brewers promoted him to Huntsville for the Southern League playoffs. He could return to Double-A to open this season.
Peralta sat out the 2007 season following Tommy John surgery, and Milwaukee continued to protect him by using him in a tandem-starter system at Wisconsin last year. He worked as many as six innings in a game just three times, though his 104 total innings eclipsed his previous career total of 72. Peralta has one of the best arms in the system. He easily throws his fastball at 92-94 mph and touches 96, and it features cutting and tailing action. He augments his heater with a low-80s slider that has good tilt. He has worked hard on his changeup and impressed coaches with it during instructional league. His improving changeup allows the Brewers to continue to project him as a starter in the majors, though some scouts have touted him as closer material. He has command issues at times, usually when he doesn't stay on top of his pitches. His thick build should lend itself to durability, though his delivery isn't very smooth and he'll need to maintain his conditioning. The Brewers are shy of quality starting pitchers at the upper levels of the system, so Peralta has a chance to carve a niche for himself. He should reach Double-A at some point in 2010.
Salome hit .360 in Double-A in 2008, but has struggled to build on that performance. He left the Arizona Fall League after just one appearance with an ailing shoulder, then missed much of his first time in big league camp with back issues last spring. He had trouble staying on the field in Triple-A last season, put up the worst numbers of his four full minor league seasons and caught just 72 games, stunting his defensive growth. Salome has an unorthodox style at the plate, stepping in the bucket but staying on the ball long enough to use the entire field. He's powerfully built and has strong hands, though he didn't drive the ball as consistently in 2009 as he had in the past. While he's aggressive at the plate and doesn't walk much, he does make consistent contact. Salome has well-above-average arm strength, but his throws tend to tail off and he threw out just 26 percent of basestealers at Nashville. He needs to pay more attention to detail behind the plate, focusing on his footwork and improving his concentration. He has the tools to be a solid catcher if he makes defense a priority. He's a well-below-average runner, typical for a catcher. Jonathan Lucroy has passed Salome as Milwaukee's best catching prospect, and they both could open 2010 in Triple-A.
One club official refers to Rivas as a "carnivore" because of the tenacious fashion with which he attacks hitters. He used that approach to win the Brewers' minor league pitcher of the year award in 2009, when he ranked second in the Florida State League in wins (13), third in strikeouts (123) and fifth in ERA (2.98). Rivas has regained his stuff since having Tommy John surgery in December 2006. He throws his fastball in the low 90s, touching 95 at times. Before last season, some thought he projected best as a reliever because his secondary stuff lagged behind his heater, but he improved his slider and refined his changeup into a plus pitch. The combination of three pitches, command, confidence and aggression makes Rivas one of the most efficient pitchers in the system. He should begin 2010 in Double-A with the chance for a midseason promotion.
Because his individual tools don't stand out and he has an unusual body type--think a squattier Brian Giles--scouts have trouble figuring out where Gindl might play in the majors. The consensus is that he can hit and will find a spot somewhere. Gindl won the Rookie-level Pioneer League batting title with a .372 average in his 2007 pro debut and has kept producing since. He has a compact stroke and good hand-eye coordination. He drives the ball into the gaps and has average home run power. He has consistently improved his strike-zone discipline since entering pro ball. Almost all of Gindl's value lies in his bat. He's a below-average runner, though he has good instincts and is aggressive on the bases. As a left fielder, he's just an adequate defender, though he does have arm strength. The Brewers like the way Gindl competes and will keep moving him up the ladder until pitchers start getting him out. His next assignment will be Double-A.
Though Richardson had sporadic success playing baseball at Florida State, he wowed the Brewers in a predraft workout. They grabbed him in the fifth round and signed him for $400,000, spreading his bonus over multiple years under baseball's provisions for two-sport athletes. Richardson attended Florida State on a football scholarship, showing electrifying speed. He set a Seminoles record for the longest run by a quarterback with a 55-yard touchdown in 2008, and he would have become a defensive back had he not signed with Milwaukee. On the diamond, Richardson hit .351 as a freshman, but sat out 2008 to focus on his classwork and played sparingly last spring. His raw tools are undeniable, however, and his ceiling is huge. He's the best athlete in the system and the fastest of several speedsters whom the Brewers drafted in June, capable of covering 60 yards in 6.4 seconds. Though he hit just two homers in 210 college at-bats, Richardson has power and the ball jumps off his bat. Making consistent contact and controlling the strike zone are the main skills he's still working on. His speed gives him the range to play center field, and he has an above-average arm. The Brewers realize they'll need to be patient and he'll need at-bats. Richardson will likely make his pro debut in low Class A in April.
Farris became one of the most disruptive baserunners in the minors last season, ranking third in the minors with 70 steals and getting caught just six times. Despite his gaudy steal total, he doesn't have eye-popping speed. He's an above-average runner who excels at reading pitchers and getting good jumps. He doesn't have much power and needs to focus on getting on base, so he'll have to improve his plate discipline after drawing just 29 walks in 2009. He's an adept bunter who led the minors with 26 sacrifices last season. Farris is a quality defender at second base, showing good instincts, nice range, soft hands and a decent arm. In short, he knows how to play the game and gives consistent performances night in and night out. Farris probably will begin 2010 in Double-A, though a good spring might get him a shot at Triple-A. He may be more of a utility player in the long run, but he could start at second base for the Brewers while they wait for Brett Lawrie.
A pitch hit Green on the left wrist near the end of the 2008 season, but it wasn't until well into the offseason that tests revealed a compression fracture that required a bone graft. The Brewers worried he would miss all of 2009, but self-motivation and an aggressive rehab program got him back on the field by mid-May. He wasn't 100 percent, however, and didn't hit as he had in the past. He still controlled the strike zone but rarely drove the ball with any authority. Hitters often take a long time to regain their power following a wrist injury, but whether Green would have the pop desired in a third baseman already was in question before he got hurt. He's more of a line-drive, contact hitter. His bat profiles better at second base, but he's a below-average runner and may lack the quickness to move there. He has decent range and an adequate arm at third base. Scouts love his competitive nature. Green, who was on the short list of potential players to be named in the 2008 C.C. Sabathia trade, will return to Double-A in 2010.
Jeffress has as much sheer talent as any prospect in the system. But his continued pattern of substance abuse casts doubt that he'll ever make it to the majors. He failed multiple drug tests before drawing a 50-game suspension for testing positive for marijuana near the end of the 2007 season. After another positive test last June, he received a 100-game penalty that will carry over into 2010 and leaves him one more strike away from a lifetime ban. The 16th overall pick in the 2006 draft and recipient of a $1.55 million bonus, Jeffress has one of the most powerful arms in the minors. His fastball sits in the mid-90s and has reached 100 mph. His heater lacks life, but he throws it so hard and with such an easy motion that he blows it by hitters before they know what happened. Jeffress throws from a high three-quarters angle that makes his big-breaking curveball tough to hit when he throws it for strikes. He has yet to come close to mastering his changeup, control or command, so his future may lie in the bullpen. He had such difficulty throwing strikes in Double-A last season that the Brewers demoted him as a wakeup call before he was hit with the suspension. Milwaukee had hoped Jeffress would be on the brink of the majors by now, but he spent much of the offseason in a treatment program and his future lies in doubt.
The Brewers think they got an absolute steal in Howell, a 15th-round pick in June who signed for $260,000. Poised to go in the early rounds after ranking as the top prospect in the Texas Collegiate League the previous summer, he was hampered by a bout with mononucleosis during the spring and went 5-3, 6.33. When he's 100 percent, Howell shows the potential for three plus pitches. He operates with an 88-92 mph sinker that touches 94, and he complements it with a sharp slider. He also has an effective changeup. Howell needs a bit more deception and sometimes has problems keeping his front side closed in his delivery. When he has his mechanics in order, he keeps hitters off balance. Howell signed at the end of July and worked just 12 innings in his pro debut. A two-way player at Alabama, he pitched just 83 innings in college and needs experience. He figures to open his first full season in low Class A.
It seemed like Axford came out of nowhere as he shot from high Class A to a September callup in 2009. And he certainly did take an unorthodox route to the majors. He started his college career at Notre Dame and was on track to being an early-round pick in the 2004 draft before he had Tommy John surgery in December 2003. After sitting out 2004 and barely pitching in 2005, he transferred to Canisius but went undrafted after a lackluster senior season in 2006. Axford returned home to Canada to pitch in the summer collegiate Western Major Baseball League. After he struck out 19 in a seven-inning game and fanned 66 in 36 innings, the Yankees signed him as an nondrafted free agent. New York released him after the 2007 season, and he hooked on with the Brewers the following spring. He led the Florida State League with 73 walks in just 95 innings in 2008, so Milwaukee shifted him to the bullpen and had him lower his arm angle slightly last season in hopes it would help with his control. The changes worked, though Axford still has stretches when he struggles to find the zone. When he throws strikes, he can overpower hitters with his 92-96 mph fastball. His sharp curveball is his No. 2 pitch, and he also mixes in a slider on occasion. Axford saved Milwaukee's final game of the 2009 season, and he should make the Opening Day roster if he throws enough strikes in big league camp.
Obtained from Tampa Bay in an April 2008 trade for Gabe Gross, Butler struggled at high Class A in his first season with his new organization. But after returning to Brevard County in 2009, he put his game back together and rose through the minors, making his major league debut in September. If he hadn't been shut down with a strained oblique in July, he probably would have gotten an earlier opportunity with the Brewers when the big league rotation was thinned by injuries. Tall with long arms, Butler gets good movement on a fastball that sits in the low 90s. His breaking ball is a cross between a curveball and a slider, but it's a solid pitch. His changeup lags behind his other two pitches. Butler throws strikes and has deception in his delivery. He figures to open 2010 in Triple-A, ready to serve the Brewers in the majors if they need help in their rotation or long relief.
The Brewers expected big things from Periard after a strong 2008 season, but he showed up for his first big league camp with shoulder tightness and never threw a pitch there. He opened the year on the disabled list and didn't pitch well when he returned to the mound in mid-June. The good news was that Periard was healthy by season's end, though his fastball didn't sit in the low 90s as it had the year before. When he's 100 percent, Periard uses his strong lower half to pound the bottom of the zone with lively fastballs. He also has a nice slider and a decent changeup. He does a good job of staying ahead in the count, inducing grounders and letting his infield go to work for him. He's still learning the nuances of setting up hitters and using both sides of the plate. Milwaukee likes his confidence and poise. Had things gone as expected in 2009, Periard would be vying for a spot in the big league rotation this spring. Instead, he'll be trying to make the Hunstville staff. Though he has taken a step back, he's still just 22.
Anundsen showed he was primed for a breakthrough season by throwing a no-hitter in April for Brevard County, and he took off from there. He finished the season with the third-best ERA (2.69) in the Florida State League, and second in both opponent average (.216) and baserunners per nine innings (10.7). With his tall frame and long arms, he throws on a downhill plane and pounds sinkers at hitters to induce groundballs. He has below-average velocity and often sits at 84-88 mph, but he isn't afraid to work inside and jam hitters. He's still maturing physically, so there's hope he can grow into at least average velocity. His slider and changeup are average pitches, and he also mixes in an occasional curve. Anundsen keeps hitters on the defensive by staying ahead in the count and using all of his pitches. A workhorse who pitches deep into games, he projects to fit in the back end of a major league rotation. Though Anundsen took a big step forward in 2009, the Brewers won't rush him. He should open 2010 at Double-A Huntsville.
Hall pitched just five innings as a high school junior and 20 as a senior, but the Brewers saw enough to give him a $700,000 bonus after drafting him in the fourth round last June. He was shooting up draft boards thanks to his projectable frame and a perfect game that he threw in March, but he didn't pitch again after coming down with biceps tendinitis in April. He had committed to South Carolina as a two-way player who would have also been a power-hitting third baseman at the college level, but his future definitely was on the mound. Tall and lean, Hall uses his size to drive his 88-92 mph fastball down in the zone. He touches 95 at times and should do so with more regularity as he fills out. He also flashes a hard slider that could give him a second plus pitch. Like most young pitchers, Hall needs to develop a changeup, refine his command and improve his consistency. Because he hasn't logged a lot of innings on the mound, the Brewers could take it slow with him and allow him to make his pro debut in Rookie ball after opening 2010 in extended spring training.
Walla put on buzzworthy power displays in high school, and between his junior season at Albuquerque Academy and the summer showcase circuit in 2008, he socked 51 homers. At a workout last spring, he hit 18 homers in 25 swings with a metal bat, then 18 more in 25 swings with wood. He found the going a little more difficult in pro ball after signing for $499,000 as a second-round pick, hitting just two homers while striking out 82 times in 186 at-bats. Scouts said he got off to a bad start and started pressing, and he may have been tired after participating in an aggressive schedule of workouts for clubs prior to the draft. When Walla is going well, he has a compact stroke and lets his strong hands and wrists do the work. He has the upper-body strength that comes with being a competitive swimmer, and he was part of a high school relay team that broke two New Mexico state records in his senior year. Though he struggled, he impressed scouts with his aggressiveness and makeup. Walla is a below-average runner, but he plays hard and gets the job done in left field. He has arm strength and makes accurate throws. The Brewers aren't concerned by his debut and believe in his offensive upside. His next stop could be the low Class A Midwest League, one of the tougher hitter's leagues in the minors.
A somewhat raw pitcher who came to pro ball with limited experience out of Canada, Bucci worked just 11 innings in his 2008 pro debut. Bumped up a notch to Rookie-level Helena last season, he opened eyes by ranking second in the Pioneer League in wins (six), fourth in strikeouts (66) and fifth in ERA (4.41). He also threw five shutout innings to beat Korea at the World Cup in September. Bucci pitches regularly at 88-92 mph with his four-seam fastball, and he has room to fill out and add velocity. He also has an effective curveball and a changeup with sink. He mixes in cutters and two-seamers to keep hitters guessing. Athletic on the mound, Bucci has good balance and extension with his delivery. He stays on line to the plate but will have to do a better job of throwing strikes as he advances. He didn't turn 19 until late in the season, so he has plenty of time to develop. Most scouts think he projects as a back-of-the rotation starter. He'll move up to low Class A in 2010.
Lasker strained his back strain shortly after signing as a fifth-round pick in 2008, which delayed his professional debut until 2009. The Brewers eased him into pro ball in the Rookie-level Arizona League, where he quickly caught the eye of scouts with his aggressive style of pitching. He performed so well in Arizona that Milwaukee promoted him to low Class A before the season ended, and he threw seven scoreless innings in his first start there. Lasker pounds the strike zone with an 88-92 mph fastball that touches 93 and has plus movement. There's still projection remaining in his frame, so he could throw harder down the road. His breaking ball is a slurvy slider that's improving in terms of depth and tilt. His changeup can be a good third pitch, but he needs more confidence in throwing it. He's not overpowering, but he doesn't hurt himself by walking hitters, either. The Brewers love Lasker's makeup and dedication to his craft. He should return to Wisconsin to open 2010.
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