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Milwaukee Brewers Top 20 2014 PRE-SEASON Prospects in Review

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The Milwaukee Brewers farm system still lacks impact depth, but there was good news for the organization in 2014.

Jimmy Nelson
Jimmy Nelson
Tom Lynn

We continue our organization reviews this afternoon with a look at the Milwaukee Brewers. Remember, this is the PRE-SEASON list. This is not a new list. These are pre-season rankings and grades. This is a general review of 2014 not a detailed preview for 2015.

This list was originally posted January 30, 2014

1) Jimmy Nelson, RHP, Grade B: Age 25, posted 1.46 ERA with 114/32 K/BB in 111 innings for Triple-A Nashville, then 4.57 ERA with 53/18 K/BB in 65 innings for the big league squad. I think he continues to steadily improve.

2) Victor Roache, OF, Grade B-: Borderline B. Age 23, hit .226/.298/.400 with 18 homers, 11 steals, 37 walks, 138 strikeouts in 433 at-bats for High-A Brevard County in the Florida State League. Tremendous raw power but serious contact problems.

3) Tyrone Taylor, OF, Grade B-: Borderline B. Age 20, hit .278/.331/.396 with 36 doubles, six homers, 22 steals, 39 walks, 58 strikeouts in 507 at-bats for Brevard County. Solid reports with solid numbers and young.

4) Devin Williams, RHP, Grade B-: Borderline C+. Age 20, posted 4.48 ERA with 66/20 K/BB in 66 innings for Helena in the Pioneer League, 74 hits. Not dominant statistically but a very live arm, transition to full-season ball will be illuminating.

5) Clint Coulter, C, Grade B-: Borderline C+. Age 21, hit .287/.410/.520 with 22 homers, 73 walks, 103 strikeouts in 429 at-bats for Low-A Wisconsin. Much better than injury-plagued 2013, still needs defensive polish but I think the bat is real.

6) Orlando Arcia, SS, Grade C+: Borderline B-: Age 20, hit .289/.346/.392 with 29 doubles, four homers, 31 steals, 42 walks, 65 strikeouts in 498 at-bats for Brevard County. Very strong defensive reports and bat is rapidly improving; stock up.

7) Mitch Haniger, OF, Grade C+: Borderline B-: Age 23, traded to Arizona Diamondbacks for Gerardo Parra, hit .259/.324/.422 with 11 homers, 23 walks, 51 strikeouts in 282 at-bats for Double-A Huntsville and Mobile.

8) Johnny Hellweg, RHP, Grade C+: Tommy John surgery. Age 25.

9) Taylor Jungmann, RHP, Grade C+: Age 24, posted 3.57 ERA with 147/61 K/BB in 154 innings for Huntsville and Nashville, 140 hits. A solid season, ready for a trial.

10) David Goforth, RHP, Grade C+: Age 25, posted 3.76 ERA with 46/29 K/BB in 65 innings, 60 hits, 27 saves. Converted to relief after being used as a starter in the A-ball, projects as middle man type in the majors.

11) Tucker Neuhaus, 3B, Grade C+: Age 19, hit .233/.296/.328 with 20 walks, 76 strikeouts, three homers in 232 at-bats for Helena in the Pioneer League. Very disappointing but Brewers still like his tools and he’s young.

12) Taylor Williams, RHP, Grade C+: Age 23, posted 2.72 ERA with 137/28 K/BB in 132 innings for Wisconsin and Brevard County, 107 hits. Solid campaign for inning-eating strike-thrower.

13) Tyler Wagner, RHP, Grade C+: Age 23, posted 1.86 ERA with 118/48 K/BB in 150 innings for Brevard County, 118 hits. Another inning-eater type with a strong year under his belt, Double-A pitching staff will be interesting next year.

14) Nick Delmonico, 1B-3B, Grade C+: Borderline C. Age 22, hit .262/.300/.404 in 141 at-bats for Brevard County before being suspended 50 games for amphetamine use.

15) Jason Rogers, 1B, Grade C+: Borderline C. Age 26, hit .296/.365/.489 with 18 homers, 53 walks, 94 strikeouts in 493 at-bats between Huntsville and Nashville. Rated as a sleeper pre-season and lived up to that, earning a little major league time. Older prospect but could be a useful role player.

16) Hunter Morris, 1B, Grade C+: Borderline C. Morris will rank ahead of Rogers on every other prospect list due to his draft pedigree, but he’s only five months younger than Rogers and hasn’t been as productive due to weaker plate discipline and more serious contact issues. Hit 24 homers in Triple-A but wasn’t promoted to the majors for September. Neither Rogers nor Morris offer much defense, both are slow slugger types, but Rogers has a more consistent track record, strikes out less, and they are not that far apart in age. I will go where the numbers lead me in this case and put Rogers ahead. That looks like the right decision, as Rogers out-hit Morris again. Age 25, Morris hit .279/.323/.448 with 11 homers, 20 walks, 74 strikeouts in 330 at-bats for Nashville.

17) Ariel Pena, RHP, Grade C+:
Borderline C. Age 25, posted 4.56 ERA with 140/75 K/BB in 128 innings for Nashville, 96 hits. Still throws hard, still wobbles with command.

18) Michael Ratterree, OF, Grade C+: Borderline C: Age 23, hit .235/.350/.452 with 33 doubles, 18 homers, 75 walks, 154 strikeouts in 447 at-bats for Wisconsin. Excellent power production for Midwest League, but was old for the level and has contact issues.

19) Barrett Astin, RHP, Grade C+: Borderline C: Age 22, posted 4.96 ERA with 81/36 K/BB in 122 innings for Wisconsin, 132 hits. Traded to Cincinnati Reds for Jonathan Broxton.

20) Damien Magnifico, RHP, Grade C:
Age 23, posted 3.74 ERA with 76/43 K/BB in 120 innings for Brevard County, 110 hits. Throws hard, still working on secondary pitches.

The Brewers ranked 29th on my pre-season organizational ranking list, but there was good news on the farm this year. Jimmy Nelson looks like he will be a workhorse starter, and fellow right-handers Taylor Williams, Tyler Wagner, and Taylor Jungmann all had solid campaigns. Right-handers Jorge Lopez and Drew Gagnon also boosted their stock, and the 2014 draft brought in highly-regarded lefty Kodi Medeiros. There’s a foundation for a pitching staff here.

Positionally, the best news was the development of catching prospect Clint Coulter and a solid season from outfielder Tyrone Taylor. The ’14 draft added a pair of extremely high ceiling high school bats in Monte Harrison and Jake Gatewood, although both will need time and Gatewood is high risk in particular.

The system still lacks impact depth, but the Brewers have shown an admirable ability to identify under-rated talent. Sophomore second baseman Scooter Gennett hit .291/.322/.437 and is a feather in the cap of the system. Outfielder Khris Davis, another sophomore, contributed 36 doubles and 22 homers in the majors despite scout skepticism about his tools.

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Khris Davis, photo by Mike McGinnis, Getty Images

Mike Fiers, like Davis a late-round pick who didn’t excite scouts, returned to effectiveness after an injury-plagued ’13: he now has 218 major league innings with a 3.51 ERA and a 221/61 K/BB, showing that you don’t need a blazing fastball to get people out.

Overall, this system still needs work but it was a year of improvement.