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Brewers Prospects

Moderator: Drew Olson compiled the Brewers top 10 list, and will field your questions about the organization.

 Q:  Mario from Ohio asks:
J.J Hardy has seemed to have been put on a fast track to the major leagues.. What do you see his estimated time of arrival to the big club being and do you think he could develop into an offensive player that hits .280 with 10 to 15 home run potential?

Drew Olson: Hardy's star is definitely on the rise, but his trip to the big leagues may be a bit slower because of the front office shakeup that took place late last season. If Dean Taylor and crew were still calling the shots, Hardy would have been in big-league camp and probably would have been told he was competing with Bill Hall for a backup job. With Doug MelvinReid Nichols in office, he didn't get a big-league invite. (I'm sure he'll get called over a few times so that the brass - not to mention reporters and fans - can see him face big-league pitching again). I would not be stunned to see Hardy spend an entire season at Class AA Huntsville. The new regime is preaching patience and the idea of keeping Hardy, Hart, Jones, Krynzel, etc. together to win a Southern League title has appeal to the new bosses. Of course, some things could change. If JJ or any of the aforementioned players absolutely dominates, it's certainly possible they'll move up a level this year. I'd say he will get a look in big-league camp next year, but it's hard to project him as a starting candidate until 2005. As for his future power potential, I know they'd like him to lift the ball more. I think 15-20 homers in the majors would be optimistic, but not out of the question. Let's see how his power develops in the Southern League this year. Given his age and body type, I think he's going to put on some muscle as he matures. Most guys in their early 20s do start to fill out (of course, it's usually from pizza and beer).

 Q:  al from nyc asks:
How would you compare Mike Jones to other 2001 draftees Kris Honel and Jon Vanbenschoten? Seems like Jones' numbers are slightly less impressive than the other two RHPs. Would you attribute that to him trying to develop his curve rather than simply blowing everyone away with his fastball?

Drew Olson: I think there is a degree of truth to that. Jones is a very bright kid. With continued urging from his coaches, he's resisted the temptation to simply try to overpower hitters with that plus-fastball of his. That should help him as he climbs the ladder and faces better hitters. As long as he continues to show good control, he should keep pace with other hard-throwing prospects like those you mentioned.

 Q:  vic from nyc asks:
Has Cris Guerrero's star fallen that much? He's not even in the top 10 after topping out at # 4 a couple years ago. Is it mainly because of his bad year in 2002 (his first real bad season) or because other players in the organization simply developed faster than him? Thanks.

Drew Olson: The Brewers certainly haven't given up on Guerrero. Given his age, body and bloodlines, that would be foolish. It is taking him a long time to polish his game, though. The fact that he continues to repeat the same mistakes and struggled last season has hurt his status in the prospect rankings. I think this is absolutely a pivotal year for him. Even though he's still young, the Brewers want to see some progress.

 Q:  Patrick from Milwaukee, WI asks:
Since Enrique Cruz was the 1st pick in the Rule V draft, what does the organization see in Matt Ford that actually puts him ahead of Cruz on the top 10 list?

Drew Olson: The organization didn't have anything to do with the top 10 list, Patrick, other than providing a lot of infoinsight on the players in the system. As for the guts of your question, there really isn't an answer. Any list like this is subjective. Players are ranked on a slew of factors such as big-league potential, past performance, etc. A lot of times, placement on the list comes down to a coin-flip type decision. When there were doubts, I deferred to the experts at BA such as Josh Boyd, Jim Callis and their crew. Those guys are amazing. Cruz probably does belong in the top 10. After all, he IS going to be in the big leagues this year and there were about six teams clamoring to take him in the Rule 5 draft. If Ford can master his secondary pitches and add a little zip to his fastball, it's not a stretch to think he could reach his potential quicker. The experts tend to think pitchers mature faster than position guys. Keep in mind, also, that the Brewers are eyeing Cruz as a second baseman. In addition to getting used to the big-league life and reduced playing time, he'll have to learn the nuances of a new position.

 Q:  Patrick from Milwaukee, WI asks:
Scouting Director Jack Zduriencik recently said that they have 5 candidates they are considering with the #2 overall pick, 2 from the high school ranks & 3 from college. Is it safe to assume that these 5 players are Lastings Milledge, Delmon Young, Adam Loewen, Rickie Weeks & Kyle Sleeth? If they had their choice right now, which one of these guys do you think they'd select?

Drew Olson: Those are the names you'll be hearing for the next few weeks. But, as we saw last June, the names at the top of the list get shuffled as guys get hurt or underachieve during the spring. If the draft was today, I think they'd probably pick Delmon Young. I've heard nothing but good things about him physically and emotionally. Of course, they'll have to wait to see which way Tampa Bay goes. Having a pick that high is one of the few positive ramifications of losing 106 games. (By the way, I have told my colleagues in Green Bay that the Packers should use a relatively high pick to select Drew Henson as Brett Favre's heir apparent).

 Q:  Jodi H. from Madera asks:
Has JM Gold fallen that far that he doesn't even get mentioned? I would believe that the tools that made him a top 10 pick still would warrant prospect status.

Drew Olson: JM Gold has fallen out of the top 10 due to inactivity. Everybody who has seen him throw - with that free and easy motion - can envision him moving up the ladder. In order to do that, though, he'll have to stay healthy. He's already on the 40-man, so the meter is running. In order to justify a spot at the top of the rankings, he has to stay healthy for a full season and show that he can get people out above A-ball. Chronologically, he's going to be older than the competition for awhile. In terms of experience, though, he's got some catching up to do.

 Q:  Tom from Arizona asks:
I was just wondering what you think of Mike Jones and also who could you see the Brewers taking in the 2003 draft?

Drew Olson: I've pretty high on Mike Jones ever since his first press conference after he signed. For a kid just out of high school, he was remarkably composed but also quite confident. I've seen him pitch in big-league spring training game and he showed guts and good stuff. As for 2003, it's really too early to say. This team really needs everything and the new regime is coming in with an open mind. Their assessment of the club's biggest needs will change over the next six weeks. Remember, Reid Nichols and Doug Melvin haven't seen these kids play yet. Right now, they are just name plates on a depth chart. I think it's very safe to say that the Brewers will draft a catcher somewhere VERY HIGH in the draft. Catching is - and has been - a pressing need in the organization for a long, long time.

 Q:  ContractTheYankees2003 from Anywhere but Yankee Stadium asks:
Yo Drew, What is the status of two of my boys, Nick Neugebauer and J.M. Gold?

Drew Olson: Neugebauer will be one of the more intriguing guys in camp this year. Given his age and injury history, I think the team is leaning toward starting him in Indianapolis this season. He didn't get a lot of innings last year, he has options left and the lower-pressure of Class AAA may help keep him healthy while he continues to build strength and stamina. Nick is such a good kid that I'm sure he'd handle the mental part of being demoted. One of the biggest mistakes of the past regime was rushing Nick into the big-league rotation last spring after an injury and illness-shortened camp. One scout called it "the worst thing I've ever seen done to a high-ceiling kid.'' It's not like the Brewers were picked to win the pennant. Neugebauer had only thrown about three innings in camp. Of course, everybody is covering his own tracks on this matter but it seems that Dave Stewart and Davey Lopes convinced everyone that Neugebauer could handle the workload. That was a risk that SHOULD NOT HAVE BEEN TAKEN and Neugebauer paid the price for it. If he's healthy, I think he'll be at the top of the Indy rotation. Of course, if he pitches well from the get-go he also could end up in the No. 5 spot. That's why it'll be interesting to see how he progresses. As for Gold, who was drafted ahead of Nick, I can't see him starting above High Desert this year.... That is, if he's healthy enough to go full bore from Day 1 of camp.

 Q:  Patrick from Milwaukee, WI asks:
What are the team's plans for Josh Murray? Is he going to stay at SS or does the team think he has enough pop to eventually be moved to 3B & fill a glaring organizational hole there?

Drew Olson: Murray's numbers weren't jaw-dropping and I heard some mixed comments about him from last year, but the Brewers scouting staff - Jack Zduriencik and Tom Flanagan are absolutely in love with him. They are confident he'll turn into a solid player with some power. It's hard to say if his future is at short. That could depend on external factors such as how JJ Hardy develops, whether Corey Hart can indeed play third base, etc. If he is as good as the scouting dept. thinks, they'll find a place for him.

 Q:  Dean Minutolo from Kingston, NY asks:
What are the realistic chances of Enrique Cruz sticking in the majors this year?

Drew Olson: I'd say they're pretty good. I don't think there is any chance, given the interest clubs showed during the winter meetings, that he could clear waivers to go to the minors with Milwaukee. Given their non-contending status, the Brewers can keep him around as a backup at 2bSS3b and pinch-runner. They'll go in with a plan to get him 100-125 at-bats. He'll also be used in every simulated game that takes place this year.

 Q:  Uncle Fester from Morristown, NJ asks:
With the depature of Ronnie Belliard, does this open the door for Bill Hall at 2B?

Drew Olson: Fester - It's not out of the question that Hall will play at 2B during spring training, but Eric Young is going to get most of the playing time at the big league level. Given his throwing problems in the past, maybe 2B is a good option for him. My guess is that Hall will be the starting shortstop at Indy. The addition of Cruz probably hurts his chances of being in the majors out of camp. I think he needs to have success at Indy to boost his confidence. It'd be better for him to play every day in the minors than to sit the bench in the majors.

Drew, Do you see John Foster as a prospect or is he just another overhyped Braves pitcher?

Drew Olson: It's hard to gauge that, DJ Fan. The Braves do tend to build their guys up quite a bit. He's in the mix, though, along with Shane Nance. With Ray King out of the picture and Valerio De Los Santos just more than a year past elbow surgery, the door is open for situational lefties to step up.

 Q:  NOT a BUD SELIG fan from milwaukee, wi asks:
Hey Drew, What are the chances of Ben Diggins and Dave Pember starting the season with the Brewers?? Do you think they were rushed and used just as inning eaters on a depleted Brewers pitching staff in 2002?

Drew Olson: Diggins may have a flicker of a chance to make the big-league camp, but Pember is beyond a long shot. I think they were rushed to eat innings and generate excitement in the Brewers' farm system. It was almost as if the previous regime used them as an advance marketing scheme. They wanted to drum up interest and optimism while deflecting attention from the negativity surrounding the 106-loss season.

 Q:  BB02 from Houston asks:
Your scouting report on Mike Jones??

Drew Olson: Check it out in the current issue. I think he's the best pitcher int he organization and will be in the big league rotation by 2005 - if not sooner.

 Q:  Crazy Dave R from Pottsville, Pa asks:
Drew. wasssssssssssup? How many years away is Prince Fielder from joining the Brew Crew. Thanks and keep it real homey!

Drew Olson: Given the new regime's focus on patience in player development, I don't think Prince will hit the big leagues until 2005 at the very earliest.

 Q:  John M. Perkins from Macon, GA asks:
Jeff Deardorff is still around and after many years still young. Is Jeff still a prospect?

Drew Olson: I think he's headed the way of Bucky Jacobsen.

 Q:  justin from bangore, Maine asks:
are the brewers going to be good any time soon?

Drew Olson: Justin - Define soon... Playoff contender? Not this year. I predict somewhere between 90-94 losses this year, which is a big step up from 106. It's hard to project beyond this year. They are only committed to about $16 million in salary for 2004 - with Sexson and Jenkins the only players on the books. That will give them flexibility. Maybe they'll actually go after a free agent or two that could have an impact. It just seems to me that MelvinAsh and Co. are biding their time and hoping that HardyKrynzelJonesHartetc. pan out. It's the approach the Brewers should have taken as soon as the funding for Miller Park was approved.

 Q:  Andrew Squigmond from Milwaukee asks:
Where would RHP Matt Yeatman have placed within the Top 30? Hated to lose him (to the Twins for RHP Matt Kinney C Javier Valentin), but that's a trade that made sense on several levels, almost to the point of being an automatic pull-the-trigger deal. Thanks.

Drew Olson: Yeatman was definitely in the Top 10. I'll be interested to see how he develops with the Twins.

 Q:  Lenny Kosnowski from Milwaukee asks:
Say what you will about Dean Taylor's regime, but no other big league GM was able to peddle his excess baggage at the trade deadline (Mark Loretta, Tyler Houston, Alex Ochoa, Jamey Wright) better than he did in 2002. While time will tell, even if none of the players acquired (Keith Ginter, Shane Nance, Mike Matthews, Wayne Franklin, Johnny Raburn, and Chris Morris), pan out in the long run, just the opportunity to find out is well worth the effort, not to mention fun to watch. Would you say that RHP Pedro Liriano or RHP Ben Diggins is the potential jewel among these deadline acquisitions? Maybe both?

Drew Olson: Lenny - Dean's dumping of veterans wasn't enough to save his job, but it was definitely a highlight of the season. You're right: even if none of the new guys pan out, those moves were solid. Franklin could very well be in the rotation this year. (He should big cajones in his few starts last year.) Diggins could be a gem, but he needs a second pitch. I think a strong slider would really help. His future could be in the bullpen, but I expect him to be a starter at Indy this year.

 Q:  doug from santa clara, ca asks:
Hi Drew, I was just wondering what--if any--prospects we can expect to see in Milwaukee this season?

Drew Olson: Doug - Enrique Cruz will be around all year. Ginter, Franklin, Helms, etc. will be around, but I don't know if you consider them prospects.

 Q:  Jon from Mishicot asks:
With the logjam the Brewers have at first base with Sexson, Fielder, and Nelson, what do you see the Brewers doing to try to keep each guy?

Drew Olson: Nelson is getting a look in the outfield. Fielder probably will at some point, but his future may be at first. Sexson's future will be determined by his performance and the salary market when he hits free agency after next season.

 Q:  Jim Goulart from Assonet, MA asks:
Hey Drew. RHP Ben Hendrickson -- AA Huntsville or AAA Indianapolis to begin the season? If Nick Neugebauer is dominant in spring training, will he be in the big-league rotation, or are Doug Melvin and Reid Nichols absolutely committed to him having AAA success first, regardless? Thanks.

Drew Olson: Good to hear from the president of the Meat Levrault Fan Club!!! My guess now is that Ben will start at Huntsville. Again, I base that on the new regime's patient approach. I think they really want to get a core group of guys together and establish a winning tradition. It would be nice for the organization to see the kids at Huntsville put up a huge year and experience winning a title. When I covered the playoffs, several members of the Twins talked about the value of the time they spent together in the minors and the bonding and growing that they did.

 Q:  Jason from St. Paul asks:
What prospects have had their organizational stock change the most by the switch in management? Who is viewed more highly, who is viewed less highly of?

Drew Olson: It's too early to make that call, Jason. The new guys say they'll come in with a clean slate. Of course, existing problems with coachesinstructors could help color opinions of the new brass, but guys are basically starting from scratch. Again, they're going to be conservative when it comes to assignments and moving players up. We'll see how the players react to that. Sometimes, players and management have different timetables in mind and that can lead to conflict and a decrease in performancemotivation. Nobody really knows what to expect right now - on either side.

 Q:  Jeremy from Two Rivers, WI asks:
How high is the ceiling on Manny Parra? Is he the best non-firstbaseman in the organization? Last year when he was signed as a draft and follow, the Brewers made it sound like he could be a legitimate number two starter at the major league level.

Drew Olson: I don't know if they consider him a No. 2 starter at this point, but they are as high on him as they could possibly be. I bet he gets off to a strong start in Beloit this year. At that level, righties will have trouble against him. As for him being the best non-first baseman, that's probably not a reach. Left-handed starters are coveted. The Brewers are convinced that they have a good one. Thumbs up to them for using the DFE process the way it's supposed to be used.

 Q:  Nathan from Roncalli asks:
Where would the Brewers system rank using only double A and below?

Drew Olson: Nathan - You'd be better off asking Josh Boyd, Jim Callis or the other guys at BA for their opinion on that one. Like most writers covering big league teams, I don't have enough time to study other team's systems beyond maybe their top draft picks. It's hard enough to cover the Brewers, let alone stay on top of what's going on with the six or seven teams below them. That's a lot of players. That's why the boys at Baseball America are so incredible. They can tell you about second stringers on people's rookie ball teams. It's amazing.

 Q:  Jason from St. Paul asks:
Who are some non- Top 15 players who are sleepers according to management? Prospects that they expect to take a big step forward?

Drew Olson: I don't know if he's a sleeper any more, but the Brewers are very high on Steve Moss, the HS outfielder drafted last year from California. He's a plus baserunner, plus defensive player and they say he has a good idea at the plate.

 Q:  Jim Goulart from Assonet, MA asks:
With all due respect to the fine people who run the High Desert operation in the Cal League, the park and climate conditions there skew numbers well beyond Coors Field proportions. With that in mind, what's the biggest trap for the organization there -- giving too much credence to big offensive output (older OF's like Jim Rushford and Pete Zoccolillo are among the only recent players to make a seamless offensive transition to pitcher-friendly Huntsville), or souring too early on pitching prospects that don't perform well there (and the fact that Ben Hendrickson was so outstanding there in the first half of 2002 only strengthens his cause). Or as fans do we simply make too much of trying to analyze High Desert statistics properly? Thanks.

Drew Olson: Jim - The Brewers had the same problems for years when they had their AA team in El Paso and their AAA team in Denver. (Remember Joey Meyer?) For that matter, we see the same things with hitters in Arizona (Lyle Mouton, Jose Fernandez, etc.) The stats can get out of whack, but the competiton is the same. I don't think they obsess about it too much in the organization. As long as psyches don't get skewed, everybody just accepts the conditions for what they are. After all, they still play on the road. Plus, you can judge by how guys perform in relation to teammatespeers. In the cases you mentioned, age may have been more of a factor than the park conditions.

 Q:  He's Not Vladdy from Montreal asks:
Isn't the momentum running out on the Cristian Guerrero-is-a-prospect campaign?

Drew Olson: It's losing steam, yes. He needs to have a good season and a solid showing in spring wouldn't hurt. It's one thing to make people ooh and ahh in batting practice. It's another to do it in the games.

 Q:  Rodrigo Lopez from Baltimore asks:
Doug Melvin and Ned Yost continue to mention Mexican League pitcher Francisco Campos' name in the rotation mix. Worthwhile longshot to duplicate my success with the Orioles of this past season?

Drew Olson: Rodrigo - We'll close this session with a celebrity query. How fitting. I wasn't wowed with what I saw of Campos. He was pretty much run of the mill. Because he throws in the winter, he may report to camp ahead of everyone else. He has pretty good movement and an easy motion, but I didn't see enough power or deception to set him apart. Good luck to you, by the way. Congratulations on a great year. Thanks to everyone for the questions. Given what happened this past weekend and what's happening in the world, it's nice to be able to use baseball as a diversion. Best wishes to everyone out there. See you at the ballpark.

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