Milwaukee Brewers: Top 10 Prospects

Milwaukee Brewers

Baseball America's Top 10 Prospects lists are based on projections of a player's long-term worth after discussions with scouting and player-development personnel. All players who haven't exceeded the major league rookie standards of 130 at-bats or 50 innings pitched (without regard to service time) are eligible. Ages are as of April 1, 2009.

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Tom Haudricourt
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1. Alcides Escobar, ss
2. Brett Lawrie, 2b
3. Mat Gamel, 3b
4. Eric Arnett, rhp
5. Jonathan Lucroy, c
6. Kentrail Davis, of
7. Zach Braddock, lhp
8. Lorenzo Cain, of
9. Jake Odorizzi, rhp
10. Kyle Heckathorn, rhp
Best Hitter for Average Brett Lawrie
Best Power Hitter Brett Lawrie
Best Strike-Zone Discipline Jonathan Lucroy
Fastest Baserunner Lee Haydel
Best Athlete D'Vontrey Richardson
Best Fastball Jeremy Jeffress
Best Curveball Cody Scarpetta
Best Slider Zach Braddock
Best Changeup Amaury Rivas
Best Control Amaury Rivas
Best Defensive Catcher Carlos Corporan
Best Defensive Infielder Alcides Escobar
Best Infield Arm Alcides Escobar
Best Defensive Outfielder Logan Schafer
Best Outfield Arm Brendan Katin
Catcher Jonathan Lucroy
First Base Prince Fielder
Second Base Brett Lawrie
Third Base Casey McGehee
Shortstop Alcides Escobar
Left Field Ryan Braun
Center Field Carlos Gomez
Right Field Mat Gamel
No. 1 Starter Yovani Gallardo
No. 2 Starter Eric Arnett
No. 3 Starter Jake Odorizzi
No. 4 Starter Kyle Heckathorn
No. 5 Starter Cody Scarpetta
Closer Zach Braddock
Year Player, Position 2009
2000 Nick Neugebauer, rhp Out of basebball
2001 Ben Sheets, rhp Free agent (injured)
2002 Brad Nelson, 1b Mariners
2003 Rickie Weeks, 2b Brewers
2004 Rickie Weeks, 2b Brewers
2005 Rickie Weeks, 2b Brewers
2006 Prince Fielder, 1b Brewers
2007 Yovani Gallardo, rhp Brewers
2008 Matt LaPorta, of Indians
2009 Alcides Escobar, ss Brewers
Year Player, Position 2009
2000 Dave Krynzel, of Orioles
2001 Mike Jones, rhp Brewers
2002 Prince Fielder, 1b Brewers
2003 Rickie Weeks, 2b Brewers
2004 Mark Rogers, rhp Brewers
2005 Ryan Braun, 3b
2006 Jeremy Jeffress, rhp Brewers
2007 Matt LaPorta, of Indians
2008 Brett Lawrie, 3b/c Brewers
2009 Eric Arnett, rhp Brewers
Rickie Weeks, 2003 $3,600,000
Ben Sheets, 1999 $2,450,000
Ryan Braun, 2005 $2,450,000
Prince Fielder, 2002 $2,400,000
Mark Rogers, 2004 $2,200,000
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Milwaukee Brewers

Under former scouting director Jack Zduriencik, who's now the Mariners' general manager, the Brewers focused on hitters in the draft and succeeded in advancing several to the big leagues. Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder form the heart of Milwaukee's lineup, and J.J. Hardy, Corey Hart and Rickie Weeks have played strong supporting roles. Another position player, Matt LaPorta, was the key player in a 2008 deal for C.C. Sabathia, who led the club to its first playoff berth in 26 years that season.

However, concentrating on bats came at the expense of developing arms. The Brewers dropped to 80-82 in 2009, finishing with the second-worst starters ERA (5.37) in the majors and the fourth-worst overall mark (4.84).

Of the pitchers who saw regular action with Milwaukee, only three—Yovani Gallardo, Manny Parra and Mitch Stetter—were originally drafted by the club. When Dave Bush and Jeff Suppan went on the disabled list for extended periods at midsummer, the system had no suitable replacements.

The Brewers suffered a major setback when righthander Jeremy Jeffress, their top-rated pitching prospect entering the season and one of the hardest throwers in the minors, was suspended for a second time for testing positive for a substance of abuse. Caught with marijuana in his system again, he received a 100-game suspension that carries well into the 2010 season and leaves him one positive test away from a lifetime ban.

Other pitchers took steps forward, though they're all at least a year away from being ready to help Milwaukee. Righthander Mark Rogers, the fifth overall pick in 2004, was back throwing upper-90s fastballs after missing two seasons following multiple shoulder surgeries. Lefty Zach Braddock, who also had been plagued by injuries, advanced to Double-A and prospered after moving to the bullpen with the idea of limiting his workload. Righties Evan Anundsen, Jake Odorizzi and Amaury Rivas also showed promise.

In the first draft conducted by scouting director Bruce Seid, a former crosschecker under Zduriencik, the Brewers moved to address their lack of pitching depth. They took righthander Eric Arnett in the first round and added righty Kyle Heckathorn in the supplemental first round, giving them a pair of big-bodied hard throwers who might advance quickly. Another righty, fourth-rounder Brooks Hall, also has a big arm but will need more time to develop. Lefty Del Howell (15th) and righty Michael Fiers (23rd) are two late-round sleepers who also could hop on the fast track.

Nevertheless, the best prospects in the system are still position players. Alcides Escobar wrested the starting shortstop job away from Hardy, who was traded to the Twins for Carlos Gomez in November. Brett Lawrie moved to second base and reached Double-A as a teenager.

Mat Gamel got his first extended stay in the the majors, though his playing time was sporadic as rookie Casey McGehee grabbed the third-base job. Jonathan Lucroy is close to making a push to become Milwaukee's catcher.

Powered by Braun and Fielder, the most productive pair of teammates with 255 RBIs between them, the Brewers actually scored more runs in 2009 than they did during their wild-card run the year before. With Escobar, Gamel and Lucroy almost ready to step in, Milwaukee has the ammunition to trade bats for arms while waiting for more homegrown pitchers to develop.

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