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When his handlers were shopping Peralta out of the Dominican Republic in 2005, they tried to sell him as an outfielder with raw power, speed and athleticism. But after the Brewers saw him display a quick arm capable of flashing a 96-mph fastball, they preferred him on the mound. He signed for $450,000 but suffered a significant setback early in his career, missing the entire 2007 season after undergoing Tommy John reconstructive elbow surgery. He has progressed steadily since then, developing into the workhorse pitcher Milwaukee always envisioned. At the outset of 2011, an injury to Zack Greinke gave him the chance to open the season in the Brewers rotation, but Peralta put too much pressure on himself and gave up 15 hits and 10 runs in 10 innings in big league camp. Instead, he returned to Double-A Huntsville after finishing 2010 there and led the Southern League with a 3.46 ERA. He earned a promotion to Triple-A Nashville in August and excelled even more, posting a 2.03 ERA and 40 strikeouts in 31 innings. With a big, physical frame and a repeatable delivery, Peralta regularly sits at 91-95 mph with his explosive fastball. When he reaches back for a little extra, he can get up to 98. He uses both twoseam and four-seam fastballs, with the two-seamer running down and in to righthanders, jamming them and often breaking their bats. He throws on a downward plane and keeps his fastball down in the zone, inducing grounders when he isn't missing bats. Peralta has developed better command of his secondary pitches, a low-80s slider and a changeup. Most scouts prefer his slider, which has some deception and sharp bite. He has improved his changeup in the last year and it features some good sink, though it still lacks consistency. Peralta has made strides with his control and command, but he still needs to throw more strikes and improve the location of his secondary pitches. He does a fine job of controlling the running game, permitting just four steals in 11 attempts in 2011. He fields his position well but has been an automatic out as a hitter, surprising considering his background. Peralta's confidence has continued to rise with his success and he displays more poise on the mound than he did early in his career. He's a hard worker who listens to instruction and absorbs it. He has a thick body and conditioning will always be key for him, but to his credit he has been committed in that regard. Early in his career, when he wasn't getting his secondary pitches over the plate, many observers thought Peralta profiled best a closer or set-up man. The Brewers stuck with him in the rotation and had him keep working on all of his pitches, and now they have a possible No. 2 or 3 starter. He'll get a good look in big league camp in spring training but, barring an injury to a veteran, he'll almost certainly begin 2012 back in Triple-A. Milwaukee believes he'll be big league-ready during the year if needed and definitely if Zack Greinke or Shaun Marcum departs as a free agent after the season.
Jungmann was a star almost from the day he arrived at Texas, winning 11 games and pitching a complete-game five-hitter against Louisiana State in the College World Series finals as a freshman. He ranked second in NCAA Division I in wins (13) and opponent average (.165) last spring before going 12th overall in the draft and signing for $2,525,000, the second-largest bonus in club history. Jungman uses his lanky frame to throw downhill easily, working primarily with a fastball that sits at 90-94 mph and tops out at 96. He can get lefthanders and righthanders out with the combination of velocity and life on his heater. He has improved the sharpness and command of his slider, and he continues to work on a changeup that's a tick below average. Some scouts worry that his delivery features a short stride and some effort, but he has smoothed it out some since high school and it doesn't hamper his ability to throw strikes. Jungmann waited until the final minutes before the Aug. 15 signing deadline to come to terms and has yet to make his debut. He got his indoctrination into pro ball during instructional league and likely will start 2012 at high Class A Brevard County. A potential No. 2 starter, he could move quickly through the minors.
When the Brewers didn't sign 2010 first-rounder Dylan Covey after he was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, they received the 15th overall pick in 2011 as compensation. They were pleasantly surprised that Bradley was available there, in part because he was inconsistent right before the draft. He signed for $2 million at the deadline and saw some action in the Arizona Fall League. Bradley got stronger and saw his stuff improve during three years at Georgia Tech. He generally pitches at 88-94 mph, and Milwaukee saw more of the high end of that spectrum with some 96s sprinkled in during instructional league. His low-90s slider gives him a second plus pitch, and he throws his changeup with deceptive arm action and fade. He has a great pitcher's body and a clean, repeatable delivery that allows him to throw strikes. The Brewers believe they picked up a perfect lefthanded complement to Taylor Jungmann in Bradley and see them rising through the system together. They both project as No. 2 starters, figure to make their pro debuts in high Class A and may not need even two full seasons in the minors. The system is short on southpaws, so Bradley was a welcome addition.
Compared to Tim Lincecum because of his slight frame and pinwheeling delivery, Thornburg has had little difficulty in the lower minors, compiling a 2.48 ERA and 198 strikeouts in 160 innings since signing as a 2010 third-round pick. In his first full pro season, he allowed 12 runs in 12 starts at low Class A Wisconsin and appeared in the Futures Game and held high Class A hitters to a .186 average. Thornburg has been clocked as high as 98 mph when used in relief, but as a starter he usually pitches at 89-92 mph and peaks at 94. His changeup can be his best pitch at times, confounding hitters because it has good fade and he throws it with deceptive arm speed. His 11-to-5 curveball has the potential to be a solid third offering, though his unorthodox mechanics make it difficult to finish the pitch. His delivery is funky but it also leads scouts to wonder if he'll have enough command and durability to remain a starter. The Brewers have no plans to take Thornburg out of the rotation, though his stuff and aggressive nature would play well in a late-inning relief role if needed. A likely No. 3 starter, he'll step up to Double-A to begin 2012 and could surface in Milwaukee at some point in 2013.
After abandoning a Florida State scholarship to sign for $260,000 as a 16th-round pick in 2009, Gennett has done nothing but hit. He has batted .300 or better in each of his two pro seasons, earning all-star honors in both the low Class A Midwest and high Class A Florida State leagues. He concluded 2011 by finishing second in the Arizona Fall League batting race with a .411 average. Gennett uses an open stance and level swing to consistently stroke line drives to all fields. He makes a lot of contact, though his aggressive nature cuts into his walks and on-base percentage. He has some surprising pop for his size, most of it coming in the form of doubles rather than homers. Gennett has average speed and good baserunning instincts, though he's not much of a threat to steal. A high school shortstop, he still needs considerable work at second base. He has led his leagues' second baseman in errors in each of the last two years, but he has average defensive tools for the position and the work ethic to improve. Gennett has a ceiling as an everyday second baseman with a solid bat, and a fallback option of becoming an offensive-minded utilityman. He'll spend 2012 in Double-A at age 22. With Rickie Weeks signed through 2014 with an option for 2015, the Brewers won't have to rush Gennett.
Schafer followed a breakout 2009 season--he won the Florida State League batting title (.313) and the Brewers' minor league player of the year award--with a lost year in 2010. Between a groin tear that morphed into a sports hernia and a broken right foot, he played in just seven games. He broke his right thumb in big league camp last spring, but returned in mid-May and picked up where he left off two years earlier. Schafer has a simple lefthanded swing, controls the strike zone and makes line-drive contact. He doesn't have much power, but he can drive some balls into the gaps and slugged a career-high .521 after arriving in Triple-A. He has solid speed and good instincts on the bases and in center field. He covers a lot of ground and has an average, accurate arm. He plays with poise and intelligence. Schafer is old for a prospect at 25 but also on the verge of being a reliable contributor in the majors. Nyjer Morgan played a prominent role in Milwaukee's 2011 success, but should he get injured or revert to his 2009 form, the team wouldn't hesitate to promote Schafer. He could end up as a regular with the Brewers sooner than many people might expect.
Scarpetta slipped to the 11th round of the 2007 draft because a torn flexor tendon in his right index finger required surgery. He originally signed for $325,000, but that deal was voided when he needed a second operation. Milwaukee re-signed him for $125,000 but had to place him on its 40-man roster to retain his rights. The Brewers used his fourth and what normally would be his final option to send him to the minors in 2011, but he was granted an extra option. Scarpetta has a pair of plus pitches in a 90-94 mph fastball and a sharp-breaking curveball. He has worked on improving his changeup but it's still a work in progress. At times he gets out of whack with his short-arm delivery and his control and command become erratic, resulting in too many walks. He has worked on smoothing out his lower half to be able to locate his pitches down in the zone with more consistency. He has the raw stuff to be a No. 3 or 4 starter, but Scarpetta could wind up in the bullpen if he can't refine his changeup and control. Now that he has the extra option, he'll spend 2012 in Triple-A.
Green was the Brewers' minor league player of the year in 2007 and was on the list of potential players to be named later in the C.C. Sabathia trade the following year. His career took a downturn after he had surgery on his left wrist in January 2009, costing him half of that season and continued to affect his swing in 2010. He got back on track in 2011, earning Triple-A Pacific Coast League all-star honors, his second organization player of the year award and his first big league callup. His aptitude as a pinch-hitter earned him a spot on Milwaukee's postseason roster. Green has a compact swing, an all-fields approach and solid power. He makes consistent contact and draws his share of walks. Much of his value lies in his bat, because he's a below-average runner with only adequate defensive skills. He doesn't have great range or a fantastic arm at third base, and lacks the quickness desired at second base, but his reliable hands and good instincts allow him to make routine plays. After getting left off the Brewers' 40-man roster after the 2010 season, Green went from Double-A on Opening Day to the National League Championship Series in October. Now he's in position to push his way into Milwaukee's lineup with a strong performance in spring training.
The Brewers figured Lopez would go in the supplemental first round of the 2011 draft, and they were thrilled to grab him with the 70th overall choice and sign him for $690,000. He became Puerto Rico's second-highest drafted pitcher ever, trailing only Braves 2003 sandwich pick Luis Atilano. Also a volleyball and track star in high school, Lopez has a lot of physical projection remaining in his lanky frame and should improve now that he's focusing on baseball. With long arms and a loose delivery, Lopez regularly throws his fastball at 89-91 mph and touches 93. Milwaukee believes he'll throw in the mid-90s once he fills out. He also has an over-the-top curveball that can buckle hitters' knees. He has unusual feel for his curve for a teenager and will throw it in any count. He only has been pitching for three years, so his changeup and command are still works in progress. Lopez has good body control for a lanky youngster, though his arm action can get a little sweepy in the back. Lopez has a ceiling as a No. 2 or 3 starter but a long way to go to get there. He'll probably spend 2012 at Rookie-level Helena and make his full-season debut the following season.
When first-rounder Dylan Covey was diagnosed with diabetes and opted to attend college, Nelson became Milwaukee's top signee in the 2010 draft as a second-rounder. Used exclusively as a reliever in his pro debut after a heavy workload as an Alabama junior, he had an up-and-down season as a starter in 2011. He did show improvement in the second half, going 6-2, 3.71 in his final 13 starts, and made significant strides in instructional league. Nelson can be an intimidating presence on the mound, with his size and a fastball that he can run up to 97 mph. He has better command when he relies on his two-seamer, a low-90s offering with heavy sink. His 84-86 mph slider that is a plus pitch when he throws it for strikes but he often struggles to keep it in the zone. Nelson's changeup remains a work in progress and a key to his continued development. He has trouble repeating his delivery at times, which negatively affects his control. He has the body and mentality to be a workhorse. The Brewers were excited with Nelson's performance in instructional league and believe he can become a middle-of-the-rotation starter. If not, he profiles well as a late-inning reliever provided he throws more strikes. He could force his way to Double-A at some point in 2012.
When the Brewers signed Manzanillo two months shy of his 17th birthday, he was a raw pitcher with a good arm who had no idea where the ball was going. He walked a stunning 47 batters in 16 innings in his 2006 pro debut and didn't total more strikeouts than walks until 2008. He blew out his elbow and missed the entire 2009 season following Tommy John surgery, then continued to struggle with his control the next year. He finally harnessed his stuff under the tutelage of Brevard County pitching coach Fred Dabney and flourished last year. Manzanillo's lively fastball explodes on hitters, regularly arriving at 94-96 mph and peaking at 99. He has a second power pitch in his mid-80s slider, though it has more cut than bite and is no more than an average offering. His changeup is actually more effective than his slider, because hitters have to gear up to hit his fastball. If Manzanillo can continue to improve his control and command like he has over the past year, he could become a set-up man for Milwaukee in the near future. He was added to the 40-man roster in November, but later that month his status for the spring was clouded when he dislocated his right shoulder in an auto accident in the Dominican Republic. He also fractured his right scapula and is expected to miss spring training.
Nova Southeastern (Fla.) already has sent two late-rounders from the 2009 draft to the big leagues, with J.D. Martinez and Fiers making their debuts last season. The Astros drafted Martinez in the 20th round, while Fiers went two rounds later after leading NCAA Division II with 145 strikeouts in 109 innings that spring. Signed for $2,500, he broke into pro ball as a closer and has split the last two years between starting and relieving. Milwaukee's 2011 minor league pitcher of the year after leading the system in wins (13) and ERA (1.86), he made two scoreless relief appearances for the Brewers in September. Fiers pitches from an over-the-top delivery with excellent control, constantly working ahead in the count. He's not overpowering, but there's deception in his delivery and hitters have trouble picking up his pitches. His best pitch is a solid changeup with tailing action that keeps lefthanders at bay. He sets is up with an 88-92 mph fastball more notable for his ability to locate it down in the zone than its velocity. He also mixes in a low-80s slider and a mid-70s curveball. Fiers' 2011 performance has the Brewers projecting him as a back-of-the-rotation starter, though they have no openings in the big leagues. He may open the year in Nashville unless he wins a middle-relief job during spring training.
After having the worst full season of his pro career in 2010, Gindl rebounded with his best in 2011. One of the youngest regulars in the Pacific Coast League at age 22, he set career highs in batting (.307) and on-base percentage (.390). He finished on fire, batting .346/.429/.508 in the final two months. Gindl has a squatty build and doesn't wow anyone with his athleticism, but he has a track record of producing at the plate. His short stroke and discerning eye have made him a career .300 hitter in the minors. The question is whether he has enough pop to profile as a regular corner outfielder. His power comes mostly to the gaps and he never has hit more than 17 homers in a season. Gindl's speed and arm strength are average to fringy, though his instincts help those tools play up. He gets good enough jumps that the Brewers have given him some time in center field, but he's best suited for left. He's a grinder who shows up to play every day. Gindl impressed the staff in big league camp last spring with the way he swung the bat without being intimidated. He has little left to prove in Triple-A, but he'll probably return to Nashville this year because Milwaukee has Ryan Braun and Corey Hart manning its outfield corners. The Brewers protected Gindl on their 40-man roster this offseason.
Morris turned down the Red Sox as a second-round pick out of high school in 2007, then spent three years at Auburn and signed as a fourth-rounder in 2010. He has the most usable power in the system and clearly is the Brewers' top first-base prospect, but he also has to address a couple of glaring flaws in his game. Morris generates his pop more with strength than bat speed. He does a good job of making consistent contact and is equally dangerous against lefthanders and righthanders. How well his power will play at high levels will depend on his ability to tone down his aggressiveness. He has just 38 walks and a .303 on-base percentage in 201 pro games. Morris will have to produce at the plate, because he didn't show much in brief trials as a third baseman and outfielder, limiting him to first base. He has a lot of work to do defensively after leading Florida State League first basemen with 19 errors last year, many the product of substandard range and footwork. He does have good arm strength for the position. While he's a below-average runner, Morris isn't bad once he gets going. He'll spend 2012 in Double-A, working on his plate discipline and defense.
The Brewers have no doubt about Rivera's ability to one day play shortstop in the big leagues. He makes it look easy at times and was a unanimous choice of Pioneer League managers as the best defensive shortstop in the Rookie league in last summer. He makes all of the routine plays and uses above-average range and arm strength to also produce web gems. He has sure hands and good lateral movement. The question, however, is whether Rivera can generate enough offense to be an everyday player in the majors. He hit just .194 with 34 strikeouts in 32 games at Wisconsin to open the 2011 season, and he ranked second in the Pioneer League with 91 strikeouts in 330 at-bats. He has some pop but it actually works against him because he focuses on trying to hit homers rather than putting the ball in play. His swing gets too long and pull-oriented, and he sometimes has trouble catching up to ordinary fastballs. He's also too aggressive and doesn't draw enough walks for a player whose focus should be getting on base. Rivera has just fringy speed and won't be a basestealing threat. He'll get a second chance at trying to solve low Class A pitching in 2012, but he's going to have to show much more at the plate to profile as a regular.
Considered one of the best college hitters in the 2009 draft, Davis hasn't lived up to that billing since signing for $1.2 million as the 39th overall pick. He struggled when sent to high Class A to make his pro debut in 2010, and again when he returned to Brevard County last season. Davis has the short swing and bat speed to hit for average and power, but he gets too pull-conscious at times and his plate discipline deteriorated in 2011. Some scouts question whether he has enough pop to play on an outfield corner in the majors. Davis has plus speed and uses it well to steal bases, but his defensive instincts are a bit lacking and may prevent him from playing center field at the upper levels. He spent more of last year in right field, though his arm strength is fringy and eventually could relegate him to left field. The Brewers hoped Davis would already have reached Double-A by now, and they'll send him there and hope his bat gets going in 2012.
Goforth had mixed results as a starter in college at Mississippi, though his arm strength got him drafted in the 31st round by the Indians as a redshirt sophomore in 2010 and in the seventh round by the Brewers last June. He signed for $100,000 before starring in his pro debut, when he worked exclusively as a reliever. Goforth's four-seam fastball is erratic at times, but when he comes out of the bullpen he throws it comfortably at 94-97 mph and peaks at 99. He has had trouble throwing his secondary pitches for strikes, though he helped himself in that regarded by adding an 88-92 mph cutter last spring. He throws a slider in the mid-80s, but it's often slurvy and Milwaukee would like him to develop a true curveball. He also has a changeup that's a below-average pitch just used for show. A bit undersized, Goforth gets into trouble when he works too high in the strike zone. If he can come up with a solid secondary pitch, he'll profile as a set-up man and possibly a closer. He may spend 2012 as a starter in Class A to get more innings.
The Brewers always have believed that Maldonado had the defensive skills to play in the major leagues. He just never showed anything with the bat, which is why the Angels released him after he hit .237/.294/.274 in his first three pro seasons, none above Rookie ball. He didn't fare much better in his first four years in the Brewers system before surprisingly breaking out in 2011. He set career highs across the board and benefited from working with hitting coach Sandy Guerrero at Nashville, where he hit .321/.410/.537 in 39 games. Maldonado's work behind the plate remained as good as ever, with managers rating him the best defensive catcher in the Double-A Southern League last year. He used his plus-plus arm to throw out 43 percent of basestealers. He also has soft hands and moves well behind the dish despite being a well below-average runner. In the past, Maldonado found little offensive success with a long swing, overly aggressive approach and a maddening inability to punish mistakes. Whether the gains he made in 2011 are real will determine his future. He got a cup of coffee in Milwaukee in September and is a significantly better defender than the club's two main catchers last year, Jonathan Lucroy and George Kottaras. Maldonado projects as at least a defensive-minded backup and possibly a starter if he continues to hit.
After the Brewers gave up Brett Lawrie and Jake Odorizzi in deals for Zack Greinke and Shawn Marcum in December 2010, Rogers entered last season as the organization's top prospect. He was fresh off a September callup, a stunning turnaround for a pitcher who missed the 2007 and 2008 seasons while recovering from a pair of shoulder surgeries. The No. 5 overall pick in the 2004 draft and the recipient of a $2.2 million bonus, he arrived in spring training with a chance to earn a job in the big league rotation. Rogers came down with shoulder stiffness, however, then came down with carpal tunnel syndrome in both wrists after he was sent to Triple-A. Though he tried to work through the issue with physical therapy, he ultimately pitched just 44 innings before having surgery on both wrists. After another lost year for Rogers, Milwaukee is left wondering if he'll ever realize his vast potential. Before his latest setback, he was again regularly throwing his fastball in the mid-90s and touching 97 at times. His 12-to-6 curveball was devastating when he threw it for strikes, and he also threw a hard slider and an inconsistent changeup. Rogers has enough stuff to start, but his durability remains a major concern. His control never has been his strong suit and regressed in 2011. The Brewers are worrying more about his health than his future role at this point, but he seems destined for the bullpen.
Extremely raw when he signed out of Canada for $50,000 as an 18th-round pick in 2008, Bucci has made steady progress and pitched well last year in high Class A at age 20. His experience with Canada's national teams has helped his development, as he contributed to bronze-medal finishes at the 2009 and 2011 World Cups and a championship at the 2011 Pan American Games. Bucci likes to pitch inside with a 90-92 mph fastball that tops out at 94. He added a cutter/slider last season that became a solid pitch at times, and both his downer curveball and sinking changeup have the potential to become average offerings. He did a better job in 2011 of limiting walks and keeping his pitch counts down, allowing him to work a career-high 150 innings. Bucci has a good pitcher's frame and athleticism that enables him to repeat his delivery. He's a hard worker and tough competitor with a reasonable projection of becoming a No. 4 starter. He's ready to pitch in Double-A.
Richardson was limited to 97 games last year by hip and vision problems, not good for a player who needs plenty of development time after a limited baseball career at Florida State. He went to Tallahassee on a football scholarship and set a Seminoles record for the longest run by a quarterback with a 55-yard touchdown in 2008. He would have shifted to defensive back had he not signed with the Brewers for $400,000 as a fifth-round pick the following summer. Richardson is the system's best athlete, but his lack of baseball instincts has limited his success. That has been particularly evident on the basepaths, where he has been caught stealing 28 times in 54 attempts despite above-average speed. After fanning 164 times in his 2010 pro debut, he cut down his swing, though that also reduced his power. He tightened his strike zone and started to make adjustments against breaking balls, lending hope that he can become a tablesetter who can get on base and provide some occasional pop. Richardson also is still learning as a center fielder, needed to improve his reads and jumps to maximize his considerable range. He has a strong arm and has recorded 30 assists in two pro seasons. Ticketed for Double-A this year, he has a long ways to go to reach his ceiling and no guarantee that he'll do so.
The Brewers let their Latin American program laps in the mid-2000s and at one point were the only organization without an academy in the Dominican Republic. They re-opened an academy after the 2009 season and have tried to increase their presence on the international market. The best of Milwaukee's recent finds is Arcia, who signed out of Venezuela for $95,000 in 2010. His brother Oswaldo is a top outfield prospect in the Twins system. Making his pro debut as one of the youngest players in the Rookie-level Dominican Summer League last year, Orlando attracted attention with his live bat. He showed surprising pop at times for a player with such a lanky frame, and his plate discipline was just as impressive. He shows average speed and good instincts on the basepaths. In the field, Arcia displays fine range to both sides and solid footwork around the bag on double plays. He's a very instinctive defender and has enough arm to stay at shortstop. While Arcia will need plenty of time to develop, the early returns on him are intriguing. He should make his U.S. debut this year.
Gagnon went just 12-24 in three seasons at Long Beach State, but he improved each season and showed a truer glimpse of his potential when he led the Cape Cod League with five wins in the summer of 2010. A third-round pick last June, he went through a dead-arm stage after signing for $340,000 and got roughed up in his pro debut. He threw much better in instructional league and will be ready for Class A ball in 2012. Gagnon has good life on a 90-93 mph fastball that reaches 95 at times. He had issues in the past with his curveball and slider blending into a slurve, but he showed a quality 79-82 mph curve in instructional league. He also has an average changeup, though he's still learning how to put hitters away with his secondary pitches. Gagnon has good mound presence and likes to attack hitters with his fastball. The Brewers envision him become a workhorse who could fit in the No. 4 slot in a rotation.
Though the Brewers focused on pitching in the 2011 draft, they also came away with a potential five-tool outfielder when they signed Reed in the fifth round for $500,000. If he hadn't turned pro, he would have played at Mississippi, where his father Benton played football en route to a brief NFL career. Michael has plus speed and raw power. He doesn't get cheated at the plate, though he may have to tone down his swing to hit for average. He has enough range to make center field a possibility, and after throwing 90-mph fastballs as a high school pitcher, he clearly has the arm strength for right field. Some area scouts weren't as high on Reed, considering him a physically maxed-out player who does everything with effort. Milwaukee believes he's much more than that and will send him to low Class A for his first full pro season.
Hall played mostly shortstop in high school, pitching just five innings as a junior and 20 as a senior. The was enough for the Brewers to take him in the fourth round and give him a $700,000 bonus in 2009. He signed late that summer and began each of his two pro seasons in extended spring training. A slew of doubleheaders left Wisconsin needing an extra starter last May, and he pitched so well as a fill-in that he stayed in the rotation for the remainder of the season. Hall touched 95 mph with his fastball in high school, but he has sat at 87-92 mph in pro ball. He improved his fastball command in 2011, consistently driving the ball down in the zone with an over-the-top delivery. His best secondary pitch is a changeup that gives him a weapon against lefthanders, and he also throws a slurvy breaking ball in the low 80s. He's working on adding a cutter to expand his repertoire. Hall doesn't miss a lot of bats, but he stays ahead in the count and pitches to contact. A good competitor who profiles as a back-of-the-rotation starter, he'll begin 2012 in high Class A.
With 2009 first-round pick Eric Arnett looking like a bust, the Brewers would like to get something out of Heckathorn, who signed for $776,000 as the 47th overall pick in the same draft. But he got hit hard in Double-A last year and hasn't shown the same stuff he featured at Kennesaw State, where his fastball sat at 91-94 mph and topped out at 98. Heckathorn mostly pitches at 88-93 mph, relying on sinking and tailing action to get groundouts rather than blowing his fastball by hitters. He throws both his slider and changeup in the mid-80s. His changeup is more effective and moves like his fastball, but he doesn't throw it enough. With a big frame, Heckathorn sometimes struggles with his mechanics, losing his release point and his command. He does a good job of throwing strikes but doesn't always locate his pitches as well as he needs to. He has a bulldog approach to pitching, sometimes to his own detriment. At some point soon, the Brewers might have to move Heckathorn to the bullpen. He'll likely remain in the rotation this year in Double-A to see if he can get over the hump.
Farris stole 70 bases in 76 tries in high Class A in 2009, but he hasn't run as wild since injuring his right knee in a home-plate collision in April 2010. He earns points for his competitiveness and defensive play, but he has a limited offensive ceiling and doesn't have a clear path to the Brewers. Farris is too aggressive at the plate, especially for a hitter with little power to speak of, which prevents him from getting on base enough to be a true tablesetter. He does make contact and is a good bunter, but he needs to draw more walks. Farris isn't the blazer that 70-steal season might suggest, as he's more of a solid-to-plus runner with excellent instincts. He shows nice range, hands and athleticism at second base, though he lacks the arm strength needed on the left side of the infield, which hurts his potential as a utilityman. Even if he provided more offense, he'd be blocked at second base by Rickie Weeks in Milwaukee. Farris got a one-day callup last July and figures to spent a third straight season in Triple-A.
Ramirez starred in two roles at Cal State Fullerton, serving as the Titans' primary power threat as well as their closer. He led the team with nine homers and 16 saves last spring before signing for $213,300 as a fourth-round pick. While he showed good feel for a solid mix of four pitches, the Brewers focused on his offensive ability and never really considered drafting him as a pitcher. Ramirez got off to a tremendous start in pro ball, batting .369 with eight homers in 23 games at Helena, before dropping to .197 with three longballs in 36 contests at Wisconsin. Moving forward, Ramirez will need to develop more plate discipline to have success. He has above-average raw power, thanks more to strength than bat speed, though some scouts worry about an arm bar in his swing. His hands work well at the plate and enable him to turn on pitches as well as drive them into the left-center gap. Ramirez has below-average speed and range, but he's an average defender with good hands at first base. He'll return to low Class A to start 2012 but could earn a promotion as soon as he proves he can handle Midwest League pitching.
A teammate of Nick Ramirez at Cal State Fullerton, Davis offers some of the best power in the system. He won the Midwest League home run derby and set a Wisconsin franchise record with 22 longballs in 2010, his first full pro season. He followed up by slugging .533 in high Class A last year, though his power dropped off after he was promoted to Double-A in late July. Davis is a streaky hitter, using bat speed to drive the ball to all fields. He'll take a walk when he's pitched around, but he has some holes in his long swing and may not hit for high averages against big league pitching. Davis is a below-average runner and doesn't read balls well in the outfield, though he can make the routine play. His arm is substandard as well--he has two assists in 206 pro games--so he's limited to left field and possibly first base. Davis profiles more as a power bat off the bench than a regular, but he'll have to keep proving he can produce at every level. He'll take another shot at Double-A in 2012.
After making his league's all-star game in the previous three seasons, Rivas wasn't as effective when he moved up to Triple-A for the first time last year. He couldn't throw his inconsistent slider for strikes and led the Pacific Coast League with 81 walks. Rivas still has a quality fastball that usually operates in the low 90s with good sink. He can run it up to 94-95 mph but it straightens out and gets hit at higher velocity. He developed feel for his changeup at a young age and it remains his best pitch. Unless Rivas can finally develop a breaking pitch, he probably faces a future as a middle reliever. He doesn't have the stuff to survive repeatedly falling behind in the count like he did in 2011. Rivas has overcome adversity in the past--he missed almost all of 2007 following Tommy John surgery--and has the mental toughness to make the necessary adjustments. He'll return to Nashville this season.
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