Sign Up! Join our newsletters, get a FREE e-Edition
The Brewers invested several early-round picks in pitchers in the 2008 draft, and went 1-for-5. Evan Frederickson (supplemental first round), Seth Lintz (second) and Cody Adams (second) all had ERAs of 5.93 or higher in 2010, and Josh Romanski (fourth) was released before throwing a pitch in pro ball. The lone success story from that crop is Odorizzi, who became the system's top prospect when Milwaukee traded second baseman Brett Lawrie to the Blue Jays for Shaun Marcum in December. Scouts first noticed Odorizzi because of his athleticism, which he put to good use as a pitcher, shortstop and all-league wide receiver at Highland (Ill.) High. When his fastball rose to the low 90s during his senior season, some clubs rated him as the top prep pitcher available. After drafting him 32nd overall and signing him for $1.06 million, the Brewers handled Odorizzi with care. He spent his first two pro seasons in Rookie ball, throwing a total of 68 innings. They turned him loose at low Class A Wisconsin last year, and he responded by leading the Midwest League in strikeouts per nine innings (10.1) and throwing the first eight innings of a combined no-hitter in his second-to-last start. Milwaukee named him its minor league pitcher of the year. Two scouts who saw Odorizzi pitch at Wisconsin described him as a lesser version of Zack Greinke. Odorizzi's excellent athleticism results in a clean delivery that he repeats easily, allowing him to fill the strike zone. He consistently commands a fastball that ranges from 89-95 mph and seems even quicker because he throws with such ease. He maintains his velocity deep into games, and his fastball also features good sinking and boring action that makes it difficult to lift. Odorizzi's fastball is so effective that he has been able to thrive without a secondary pitch that presently grades as plus. He's working on two different breaking balls. Scouts like his curveball better, saying it could develop into an above-average second pitch, and his slider is really more of a cutter. He shows some feel for a changeup, though he sometimes tips it off by slowing his arm speed. Odorizzi fields his position well, though he has to do a better job of holding runners after surrendering 16 steals in 20 attempts last year. He's built for durability and though he pitched nearly twice as many innings in 2010 as he had totaled the previous two seasons, he got stronger in the second half. He's extremely poised and confident on the mound. Though the Brewers constantly are seeking starting pitching, they won't rush Odorizzi, who will pitch this season at age 21. He still needs innings to refine his secondary pitches and his command, but his athleticism and feel for pitching should allow him to develop into a No. 2 or 3 starter in time. He'll begin 2011 at high Class A Brevard County, where pitchers usually flourish, and could find himself in Double-A Huntsville before the year out.
Rogers missed the entire 2007 and 2008 seasons while recovering from a pair of shoulder surgeries, making it unlikely he would fulfill the expectations that came when he was drafted fifth overall and signed for $2.2 million in 2004. But he has stayed healthy the last two years and regained his stuff. He showed such determination in his comeback that the Brewers rewarded him with an unexpected September callup. Once again, Rogers regularly operates in the mid-90s and touches 97 at times. He throws both two-seamers and four-seamers, generating a lot of life on his fastball. His command has improved from earlier in his pro career, but it's still erratic. He issues too many walks and runs up high pitch counts quickly. When he throws his 12-to-6 curveball for strikes, he can be devastating. He also has a hard slider with good bite, but his changeup remains below average. Now that Rogers has proven he can stay on the mound, Milwaukee must decided whether he can be consistent enough with his command and keep his pitch counts low enough to remain a starter. The Brewers need rotation help more than relievers, and may have him open 2011 as a starter at Triple-A Nashville to make some more refinements.
Many eyebrows were raised when Milwaukee placed Jeffress on the 40-man roster last June, five months before necessary. After two suspensions for marijuana use in the minors, the 16th overall pick in the 2006 draft was one strike away from a lifetime ban. Players on the 40-man roster can be tested but not suspended for recreational drugs, and the Brewers didn't want to lose the most electric arm in the system. They moved him to the bullpen to help him maintain a daily focus, and his performance on and off the mound earned him a September callup. Jeffress regularly pitches in the mid-90s with his fastball and hit triple digits at the Rising Stars Game in the Arizona Fall League after the season. His heater doesn't have much movement but he throws it with such an easy delivery that he blows it by hitters before they realize what happened. He also has a big-breaking curveball that he struggles to throw for strikes but is devastating when he does. He never mastered a changeup and won't need one as a reliever. Many scouts have projected Jeffress as a closer from the day he was drafted, and his success out of the bullpen did nothing to dispel those thoughts. Assuming Milwaukee opts to keep him in relief, he has a good chance to make their Opening Day roster.
Scarpetta, whose father Dan was a 1982 third-round pick by the Brewers, dropped in the 2007 draft because of a torn flexor tendon in his right index finger. He had surgery before the draft and signed for $325,000 as an 11th-rounder, but that deal was voided when he needed a second operation. He re-signed for $125,000, but to keep his rights Milwaukee had to place him on its 40-man roster. Scarpetta's fastball ranges from 90-94 mph, and he backs it up with the best curveball in the system. His improved changeup gives him a dependable third pitch. He has enough stuff to start, but his command is a work in progress. Scarpetta had a tendency to freeze his front hip and land too hard in his delivery, affecting his ability to locate his pitches. Brevard County pitching coach Fred Dabney worked with him last season to smooth out his lower half, and his mechanical improvements helped his command. Because Scarpetta went on the 40-man roster so early, the Brewers will use their final minor league option on him in 2011. They'll try to advance him as far as possible, probably starting him in Double-A and trying to get him to Triple-A by the end of the season. He's a potential No. 3 starter, but not there yet.
Peralta has made steady progress since missing the entire 2007 season following Tommy John surgery. After never pitching more than 104 innings in a season and totaling just 176 in his first four years as a pro, he worked a career-high 147 frames in 2010 and held his own after reaching Double-A. Milwaukee added him to its 40-man roster in November. Peralta already has three dependable pitches in place, starting with a 92-94 mph fastball that touches 96. He throws his fastball with little effort, though the pitch lacks life and doesn't induce a lot of swings and misses. Both of his secondary pitches--a low-80s slider with good tilt and a changeup--are average to slightly above-average. He simply needs to hone his pitches and command them on a more consistent basis. Peralta has a simple, repeatable delivery and a strong body, ingredients for becoming a workhorse starter. He's a focused worker with a confident demeanor. With his maturity and work ethic, the Brewers think Peralta isn't far from pitching in the majors. He'll return to Double-A to begin 2011, with a good chance for a midseason promotion. He could join Milwaukee's rotation by the end of 2012.
Gennett had a polished bat for a prep middle infielder, but his commitment to Florida State caused him to slip to the 16th round of the 2009 draft. After he signed for $260,000, the Brewers planned to send him to Rookie ball last summer. But he performed so well in minor league camp last spring that he earned an assignment to the Midwest League, where he finished seventh in hitting (.309) and earned postseason all-star honors. He may look like a bat boy, but Gennett is an advanced hitter with surprising pop, as evidenced by his 52 extra-base hits in his pro debut. He has an open stance and the ball jumps off his bat. Sometimes he gets too long with his swing, leading to strikeouts, and he could use some more plate discipline. He has average speed that plays up on the bases because he has good instincts. A shortstop in high school, Gennett moved to second base as a pro and has average defensive tools. He led MWL second baseman with 21 errors in 107 games, but he should get smoother with more experience. The best-case scenario for Gennett is that he keeps hitting and proves he can stay at second base. At worst, he profiles as a gritty, offensive-minded utility man. He'll advance to high Class A in 2011.
He entered 2009 as one of the best college hitters available in the draft, but a rough season and his extra leverage as a sophomore-eligible player allowed Davis to last until the 39th overall pick. Signed for $1.2 million, he went to high Class A last April for his pro debut. He had hamstring problems and didn't hit, prompting a demotion to Wisconsin, where he flourished. Davis has a short swing with plenty of bat speed and solid plate discipline. He should hit for average, but scouts aren't sold that he has the power desired on an outfield corner. He got too pull-conscious when he struggled last year, and did a better job of using the whole field in low Class A. He has plus speed, though his hamstring issues forced him to shut down his running game for most of 2010. Despite his quickness, Davis lacks the instincts to play center field. He played in center at Brevard County and in right at Wisconsin, but he has a fringy arm and probably will wind up in left. He plays with confidence. Davis will get another chance to conquer high Class A in 2011 and could reach Double-A by the end of the season. His bat is calling card, but he has to work on his outfield play and keep his legs healthy.
Thornburg has drawn comparisons to Tim Lincecum for his height and his delivery. He impressed scouts as a closer in the Cape Cod League in the summer of 2009, then continued to throw well last spring while pulling double duty as a starter and outfielder at Charleston Southern. After signing for $351,900 as a third-round pick, he was hampered by an oblique strain in his pro debut but still had 38 strikeouts in 23 innings. Thornburg's fastball sits at 93-95 mph and tops out at 98, though it doesn't feature much life. Some scouts think his power curveball is his best pitch. He flashed an improved changeup in pro ball, so he may have the requisite three pitches to remain a starter. He'll need to improve his command, however. His aggressive nature on the mound would serve him well if the Brewers decide to make him a reliever. As a potential closer, Thornburg might offer more upside coming out of the bullpen. Milwaukee will continue to develop him as a starter for now, giving him time to work on his changeup and command. He'll probably begin his first full pro season in low Class A, but he could make a push for Brevard County with a strong spring.
After Farris hit .298 and stole 70 bases at Brevard County in 2009, the Brewers jumped him all the way to Nashville last year, in part to allow since-traded Brett Lawrie to play in Double-A. Farris hit .288 in April before hurting his right knee in a collision at the plate. He missed two months and his speed and quickness were diminished when he returned, though he did look better in the Arizona Fall League, where he batted .351. Farris put the ball in play with a consistent, easy stroke and then makes things happen on the bases. He's not a blazer, but he has plus speed and excellent instincts on the bases. He doesn't contribute much offensively besides singles and steals, because he doesn't walk a lot and has little power. His skill at bunting enhances his ability to get on base. Farris is a major league-ready defender who committed just four errors in 66 games last year. He has solid range, soft hands and a fringy arm. Milwaukee loves his competitiveness. Some scouts believe Farris projects as a utility player, but the Brewers believe his instincts and drive can put him over the top as an everyday second baseman. They placed him on the 40-man roster in November. The trade of Lawrie to the Blue Jays removed one obstacle, but Rickie Weeks still blocks him in Milwaukee.
The Brewers have focused on drafting big-bodied, hard-throwing pitchers in recent years, and Nelson fits the bill. A second-round pick, he became their top signee from the 2010 draft when first-rounder Dylan Covey was diagnosed with diabetes and opted to attend college. After landing him for $570,600, Milwaukee used Nelson strictly as a reliever because he had pitched 110 innings at Alabama in the spring, his first extended stint as a starter. Nelson can hit 96 mph with his fastball, but he has learned that he's more effective when he throws a two-seamer in the low 90s with heavy sink. He complements his fastball with a hard 84-86 mph slider that will give him a second plus pitch if he gains more consistency. He occasionally mixes in a slow curveball to keep hitters guessing. His changeup is below-average and needs work. Nelson loses his release point at times and becomes inconsistent with his control. He sometimes lands hard on a stiff front leg and must clean up his mechanics. If he does, he has the body to be a workhorse. While some teams projected Nelson as a closer, the Brewers believe he can be a middle-of-the-rotation starter. They'll turn him loose in low Class A this year.
Scouts sometimes consider Heckathorn more of a thrower who just rears back and fires fastballs in the 90-94 mph range. In shorter stints at Kennesaw State, he threw harder, into the upper 90s. His first full season was a strong success, as he led the organization with a 2.98 ERA and got 2.02 groundouts for every airout. He is a fulleffort, big-bodied, non-athletic pitcher who sometimes struggles with arm action and release points. Heckathorn uses his tall frame to throw downhill and does a good job of keeping the ball in the park (three homers in 124 innings in 2010) with his best pitch a sinker. Throwing from a three-quarter delivery, he was not as consistent with a slider in the mid-to-high 80s. His changeup is effective at times, and he commands it better than his fastball, but Heckathorn doesn't repeat his delivery as much as needed. The Brewers had him work on smoothing out his lower half as the season progressed and he became more efficient with his pitches. He competes on the mound and is a real bulldog in his approach to pitching, but Heckathorn projects as a reliever because his fastball command is below-average. Milwaukee moved him up to Brevard County last summer and he held his own over eight starts. He'll probably return to high Class A in 2011, and the Brewers plan to keep him in a starting role for now.
Rivas' individual pitches don't blow hitters or scouts away. He throws his fastball mostly in the low 90s and his slider is average at best. His fastball can reach 95 mph, but straightens out with more velocity and has more boring life and sink at lesser speeds. Rivas does have a quality changeup and developed a feel for that pitch at a young age. More than anything else, Rivas knows how to pitch and how to set up hitters, and he understands the importance of location and working both sides of the plate. He pitches to contact and doesn't hurt himself with too many walks. In short, he has shown good polish and no after-effects from having Tommy John surgery in December 2006. Some scouts believe Rivas eventually will evolve into a relief pitcher at the big league level but the Brewers don't see it that way for the organization's 2009 minor league pitcher of the year. They like his knack for making pitches and the way he attacks hitters with aggressiveness on the mound, and believe he will rise to the majors as a starter. Rivas likely will begin the 2011 season in the rotation at Triple-A with the possibility he could see action in Milwaukee at some point in the season.
Miller slipped down the draft boards of many teams after he pitched poorly during his junior season at Michigan and was removed from the rotation. He threw his fastball at 92-94 mph but it was straight for the most part, and he had trouble throwing his slider for strikes. After signing him for $157,500 in the fifth round last June, the Brewers liked just about everything they saw from him at Rookie-level Helena. Miller led the Pioneer League with seven victories and held opponents to a .244 batting average. After pitching 64 innings for Michigan in the spring, he maintained the velocity on his fastball as a pro, touching 97 mph at times, and was more consistent with his slider and changeup. Miller even mixed in a decent curveball at times. He was still throwing the ball well when Helena advanced to the playoffs and won the league crown. The coaching staff loved Miller's makeup and willingness to try coaching suggestions. With an above-average fastball and slider, and decent changeup, he projects as a middle-of-the-rotation starter in the majors. After a strong pro debut, Miller could jump to high Class A to begin the 2011 season.
It seemed like Komatsu came out of nowhere to challenge for the high Class A Florida State League batting title in 2010, but that's because he missed most of the previous season with a variety of injuries. He was limited to 26 games in 2009 by a concussion and wrist and hamstring injuries. Finally healthy again, Komatsu was able to show the hitting skills that scouts liked when he played for Cal State Fullerton. With a short, quick stroke and tremendous plate discipline, he posted a .413 on-base percentage in high Class A. Komatsu has some pop in his diminutive frame but focused on hitting line drives to all fields at pitcher-friendly Brevard County, finishing with 31 doubles. He also is a slightly above-average runner and threat to steal a base anytime he is on base. Komatsu also showed versatility in the outfield, making 73 starts in center, 30 in right and 22 in left. With not enough power to project as a corner outfielder in the majors, Komatsu must continue to show he is a viable center fielder. For his overall play, attitude and adaptability to coaching, the Brewers named him their minor league player of the year for 2010. He probably will begin next season in Double-A and profiles best as a fourth outfielder at the big league level.
Playing Double-A at age 21 last season, Gindl struggled more at the plate than in past seasons. He saw more breaking balls and didn't hit for as much power in the past. Still, it's Gindl's offense that has scouts projecting him as a big leaguer at some point, though his squatty build and average home run power make it difficult to see him as an everyday corner outfielder. He has a compact stroke and usually displays a good eye at the plate, proving tough to strike out and driving the ball in the gaps regularly to pile up doubles. Though a below-average runner, he shows good instincts and aggressiveness on the basepaths. Gindl is an average defender at best with average arm strength, and he's best suited for left field. The Brewers threw another challenge at him at midseason by asking him to play center field. Gindl worked hard at getting good jumps on the ball to compensate for his lack of speed. He is a grinder who shows up every day to play and Milwaukee loves the way he competes. Gindl was assigned to the Arizona Fall League as an injury replacement and rediscovered his power stroke there while swinging a hot bat. He'll get a shot to make the Triple-A roster in the spring.
The Brewers had high hopes for Schafer after he won the Florida State League batting title in 2009 and earned the organization's minor league player of the year award. But, in essence, his 2010 season was over before it began. Schafer suffered a groin injury in minor league minicamp the day before he was to report to his first big league spring training and missed the first half of the season as the injury morphed into a sports hernia. When finally activated, he played in only seven games before fouling a pitch off his right foot and breaking it. Milwaukee sent Schafer to the Arizona Fall League with hopes of making up some lost at-bats but continued discomfort in his foot nixed a regular assignment and landed him on the taxi squad. When healthy, Schafer is an athletic center fielder with good range, solid instincts in the field and an average, accurate arm. At the plate, he flashes some gap power on occasion but basically focuses on making contact and hitting singles. He shows poise and maturity and understands how to play the game. His "lost" season probably means Schafer will begin 2011 in Double-A, which was supposed to be his assignment a year ago. At 24, he already has a lot of making up to do.
Drafted in the second round out of high school in 2007 by the Red Sox, Morris opted not to sign and instead accepted a scholarship to Auburn. He was a freshman All-American but his production fell off dramatically as a sophomore. Morris responded by getting in the best shape of his life, stunning scouts with a 6.75 time in the 60-year-dash. Still, he was unable to improve his draft stock from three years before and was taken in the fourth round by the Brewers last June, signing quickly for a $218,700 bonus. Morris has good power but gets too aggressive at times and doesn't draw many walks. Some scouts have questioned his pure bat speed and grade his hitting ability ahead of his power. Morris, who played some left field at Wisconsin, has improved but remains a below-average defender at first base and needs improvement in his footwork and range. Accordingly, the decision was made in instructional league and later in the Arizona Fall League to convert him to a third baseman. Morris showed a strong enough arm to handle the position and was working diligently to improve his footwork. He is a dedicated worker, takes instruction well and shows mental toughness on the field. Morris probably will begin
The Brewers had reason to be more than a bit nervous about Arnett's performance in 2010. No first-round draft pick taken out of a major college program should get tattooed in low Class A the way he did. Signed for $1.197 million the year before, Arnett pitched so poorly that he was demoted for a period to the Rookie-level Arizona League, where he continued to get roughed up. For whatever reason, Arnett didn't show the consistent 91-94 mph fastball he had in his junior year at Indiana. Instead, he sat mostly at 87-90 mph and peaked at 92. When he fell behind in the count, he threw hittable fastballs that resulted in an alarming number of home runs. He ranked fourth in the Midwest League with 14 homers allowed despite his demotion. He gave in to hitters too often when he could not consistently command his often-flat slider and offspeed pitches consistently. Though he had problems repeating his herky-jerky delivery--his slow tempo didn't help--Arnett never complained of arm problems, making the slippage of his stuff more puzzling. Understandably, his confidence took a severe hit, and Milwaukee's hopes of moving him quickly through the system were dashed. Now, they have to wonder if Arnett's big junior season at Indiana was a fluke or if he merely stopped trusting his stuff. In the meantime, a major red flag has been raised.
As the 2010 season began, there was no talk about Lamontagne being one of the Brewers' better pitching prospects. An older sign out of college, he had a so-so pro debut in 2009 and was assigned to bullpen duty in high Class A at the outset of last season. Relief duty agreed with Lamontagne, whose fastball jumped from the 89-91 mph when he was drafted to 93-95 mph in 2010. He also began using a curveball that he had dropped in college, which kept hitters off his fastball and cutter. Lamontagne showed he could impact games out of the pen and pitched well enough to earn a promotion to high Class A. After another promotion to Double-A, he returned to starting and his stuff held up deep enough into games to show promise in that role. He also pitched out of the bullpen for Team USA in the Pan Am qualifying tournament after the season. With a long, lean pitcher's body, Lamontagne throws easily on a downhill plane and commands the bottom half of the strike zone. He smoothed out his delivery to look less mechanical on the mound, making his fastball jump even more on hitters. Lamontagne has the stuff to be a starter but could prove to be a reliable late-inning reliever in the major leagues. He probably will start the 2011 season in Triple-A.
The Brewers originally drafted Hawn out of a Knoxville high school in the 23rd round in 2007. He didn't sign and spent a year mashing at Walters (Tenn.) JC, getting drafted in 2008 by the Athletics (41st round). He then transferred to Tennessee and hit .364 with 22 home runs as a sophomore. But he got off to a slow start as a junior due to a sprained left shoulder and never put it all together, finishing at .327/.441/.593, and Milwaukee was able to sign him in 2010 for $125,000 as a sixth-rounder. An offensive player who has power to all fields, Hawn ranked third in the Pioneer League in homers and helped carry Helena to the league championship. In the decisive game against Ogden, Hawn pounded two homers and drove in eight runs. He has very strong hands and upper-body strength. Though not a classic first baseman in stature and without good range, he gets by through hard work and making the routine plays. He shows patience at the plate but sometimes gets a bit long with his swing and becomes strikeout-prone. Hawn shows an advanced knowledge of what pitchers are trying to do with him, uses the whole field and displays a knack for driving in runs. His bat will take him through the system. He has well-below-average speed. His makeup and leadership skills also impressed the Brewers, who could jump him to high Class A for 2011.
Rivera didn't hit a lick in his debut in the Arizona League, looking completely overmatched at the plate for the most part. He showed little strength and had the bat knocked out of his hands at times. Rivera showed no ability to recognize and hit off-speed pitches, revealing his inexperience. But he was playing at age 18 and the Brewers believe his offense will improve as he matures and fills out a projectable frame. Defensively, Rivera showed plenty of promise despite his 12 errors in 49 games. Very athletic, he is a true shortstop with great range and silky smooth movements in the field. He picks up instruction immediately and puts suggestions into action. With long strides, Rivera could develop into a basestealer. His arm is average but could improve as he becomes stronger and learns to set his feet and throw. How much improvement Rivera makes in terms of plate discipline and strength will determine where he begins the 2011 season. Milwaukee believes he has a high ceiling because of his already-solid instincts in the field and because his hand-eye coordination makes them confident he'll get better with the bat.
If Garfield looked overmatched at times in 2010 in low Class A, that was to be expected. He began the season at age 18 and had only 59 games of Rookie ball experience under his belt. He really struggled offensively, having difficulty getting on base consistently and showing little power. Garfield does have some pop in his bat, however, and the Brewers believe his power will develop with physical maturity, more at-bats and the understanding that he must use his hands more. He probably won't hit for a high average but should be able to hold his own enough at the position. Defensively, Garfield improved as the season progressed in both receiving and blocking balls. Opponents ran wild on Wisconsin's pitchers last season, and while Garfield displayed a strong arm, his erratic footwork cost him time and accuracy. Runners were able to steal 140 bases (in 173 attempts, an 81 percent success rate) in just 101 games. Milwaukee likes the leadership skills he shows behind the plate and thinks he will continue to improve in all areas of the game. He has a good head on his shoulders and understands what he must do to improve. Despite his young age, Garfield will move up to high Class A this year.
After playing 29 games in the Arizona League in 2009, Roberts was sent back to that circuit and impressed scouts with his dramatic improvement. Still a teenager, he projects to be a regular catcher in the majors who can contribute offensively and defensively. Slightly ahead as an offensive player, Roberts showed improved pop from his first season. He displayed good plate discipline and the ability to put the ball in play when necessary. Roberts has worked hard on strength and conditioning, firming up what was a somewhat soft body, and benefited greatly from working with catching instructor Charlie Greene. His arm is average to a tick above, but with improved footwork he should be able to control the running game. He threw out 32 percent of basestealers last year. Very raw coming out of the draft, Roberts made a big leap in calling games in his second pro season and showed he understood how to set up hitters. The pro coaching was invaluable because Roberts said most of the catching nuances he picked up in high school came from watching Atlanta Braves games on TV growing up in Georgia. He held up well catching in the heat in Arizona and should only get better with experience and maturity.
Richardson was primarily a football player in college, showing tremendous speed as a quarterback. He was preparing to make the transition to defensive back when the Brewers drafted him and convinced him to commit to baseball with a $400,000 signing bonus spread over multiple years under baseball's provision for two-sport athletes. As might be expected for an athlete with limited baseball experience--he'd received 210 at-bats in two seasons for Florida State in baseball--he was very raw and signed too late to play pro ball in 2009. Nevertheless, Milwaukee had Richardson skip Rookie ball and assigned him to low Class A last season. Depending on what night you saw him, he either looked impressive or lost. His inexperience at facing breaking balls resulted in a high strikeout total (164 in 522 at-bats) and his lack of instincts in tracking balls in the outfield also showed at times. Big and athletic, Richardson's 70 speed on the 20-80 scale was negated at times by a lack of savvy on the bases. Basically, what the Brewers have is a raw player with tremendous tools who is still learning how to play baseball. Richardson does display solid power when he makes contact and has the range to play center field, with the plus arm for right. He has a long way to go and may never reach his lofty ceiling, but Milwaukee will be patient.
Undrafted out of high school, McClendon boosted his stock during two years at Seminole CC. But the real break came early in the 2008 season when the Brewers shifted the tall righthander from a starting role to relief work. McClendon flourished in that role and soared through the system, resulting in an unexpected callup to Milwaukee last August. He debuted with three perfect innings in Colorado and went on to impress the major league staff with his effective work out of the pen. McClendon has an 88-92 mph fastball that he sneaks past hitters with a repeatable, simple delivery. He also disrupts hitters' timing by speeding up his delivery to the plate at times, resulting in claims of "quick pitching" by opponents. His primary out pitch is a sinker that results in ground ball after ground ball, but McClendon also mixes in a palm ball, slider and curve. He shows good command of all of his pitches and an understanding of how to set up hitters and keep them off-balance. The Brewers sent him to the Arizona Fall League to continue to hone his repertoire. The tremendous progress McClendon made in 2010 guarantees he will be given a shot to make Milwaukee's bullpen in the spring.
Kintzler was discovered by Brewers scout Tim Collinsworth at the independent American Association allstar game in 2009. He was throwing his fastball in the mid-90s with good command and the Brewers figured it was an arm worth taking a shot on, and they were right. Kintzler spent the rest of that season at Double-A and quickly moved through the top levels of the system last year, resulting in a September callup. Kintzler was a starter earlier in his minor league career but his velocity jumped dramatically after moving to the bullpen. He also has a sharp-breaking slider that he commands consistently. He works the bottom of the strike zone well but doesn't have a reliable offspeed pitch. Kintzler has a somewhat deceptive delivery that makes his fastball get on hitters even quicker. His smallish frame has not worked against him to this point. Kintzler often was used as a closer in the minors but projects as a middle reliever and perhaps a set-up man in the majors. Milwaukee sent him to the Arizona Fall League to continue working against advanced hitters and he will be given an opportunity to win a spot in their bullpen in the spring.
Bucci was a raw pitcher with limited experience when the Brewers drafted him out of Canada. He pitched little in 2008 but opened some eyes in the Pioneer League the next season by ranking high in several categories. Milwaukee loves his aggressive approach and fierce competitiveness on the mound, traits he's displayed for Canada's national team in the 2009 World Cup (helping lead Canada to its best-ever bronze medal) and the 2010 Pan Am qualifier. He attacks hitters with a fastball that sits at 89-92 mph and touches 93, and he isn't afraid to pitch inside and knock hitters off the plate. Bucci shows hitters his curveball to keep them off his fastball and mixes in an improving changeup that he will throw in any count. He has good balance and extension with his delivery but struggles with fastball command at times, leading to high pitch counts and too many walks. But opponents batted only .220 off him last season, so he is tough to beat when he throws strikes. Challenged in instructional league to do a better job of pitching down in the strike zone, Bucci showed improvement that had impressed the Brewers' staff. He pitched most of the season at 19 and has a good pitcher's frame and athleticism on the mound. Bucci should continue to develop because he is one of the hardest workers in the system. He should start 2011 in high Class A.
After he strained his back shortly after signing in 2008, the Brewers eased Lasker into professional ball by having him spend the entire 2009 season in the Arizona League. He quickly raised eyebrows there with his aggressive style on the mound, pounding the strike zone and pitching to contact. Lasker gets ahead of hitters with an 88-92 mph fastball with good movement. Milwaukee believes his velocity will improve as his projectable frame fills out. He spikes his curve at times and is prone to wild pitches (18 in 2010) and must improve his command of that pitch. Lasker improved in that area toward season's end and continued to improve his changeup. He adds a short slider, and at his best, he has four average pitches working. As one scout put it, he figured some things out toward the end of last season. He isn't overpowering and fits more of a back-of-the-rotation profile. One thing the Brewers are sure of is that Lasker won't sell himself short because he has a tremendous work ethic and makeup. He'll advance to high Class A to begin the 2011 season.
Haydel still has the tools of a center fielder--in particular, plus-plus speed--but because of a glut of players at that position throughout the organization, he played left field most of the time in Double-A last year. That was a waste of his ball-chasing skills and Haydel has no power to speak of, so it's difficult to project him as a left fielder in the major leagues. Haydel has made steady improvement in his overall approach to hitting, though he still strikes out too often and doesn't walk enough to take full advantage of his speed. He gets on fastballs with a quick stroke but still struggles with off-speed stuff. Haydel has responded to coaching and is learning to hit more balls on the ground instead of useless fly balls. The switch to left field forced him to learn how to take better routes to balls and he continues to work on his defense. He will have to play the Brett Butler game to get to the majors: slash the ball, bunt for hits and use his speed in all facets of the game. At this point, he projects as an extra outfielder at best unless he improves his plate discipline and starts getting on base more consistently. He probably will begin the 2011 season in Triple-A.
The Brewers think they got a steal in the eighth round of the 2010 draft by grabbing Ross for $100,000. He had an impressive pro debut, posting a 52-6 K-BB ratio in 47 innings. His fastball sat mostly in the low 90s but he located it well with a repeatable clean delivery. Ross throws a consistent slider but his below-average changeup was not effective against lefties, making him profile as a relief pitcher in the majors. If Ross is able to perfect a changeup, however, he could persuade Milwaukee to keep him in a starting role. Because he throws so many strikes, he gives up a lot of hits. The coaching staff loved Ross' pitchability and how he conducted himself with poise and confidence on the mound. Because he pounds the strike zone with mostly consistent location, Ross should make quick work of Class A in 2011, but his ceiling will be limited until he improves his changeup.