Milwaukee Brewers: Top 10 Prospects

General Manager: Doug Melvin
Farm Director: Reid Nichols
Scouting Director: Bruce Seid

FanGraphs’ Top 10 Prospects:
(2009 Draft Picks/International Signees Not Included)

The organization has three nice hitting prospects right at the top of the system – and all three are not that far away from helping out Milwaukee. In fact, both Escobar and Gamel could break camp with the big club in 2010. There are some arms on the Top 10, as well, but the majority of them are in A-ball and their ceilings are modest (No. 3-4 starters).

1. Alcides Escobar, SS, Majors
DOB: December 1986 Bats: R Throws: R
Signed: 2003 non-drafted international free agent (Venezuela)
MLB ETA: Now 40-Man Roster: Yes Options: 2

Escobar’s rookie status survived the ’09 season as he fell one at-bat short of being ineligible for the 2010 Rookie of the Year award. As it stands, he projects to be one of the better impact rookies in the year ahead, thanks to his solid bat and defensive skills at shortstop. This past season, Escobar hit .304/.333/.368 in 125 at-bats. He’s shown the ability to hit for a high average in the minors, but he sacrifices power and he posted an ISO of just .064 at the MLB level. The Venezuela native does have a fair bit of speed and he nabbed 42 bases in 52 attempts in 109 triple-A games in ’09 prior to his promotion. Escobar does need to be more patient at the plate, as he walked just 3.1% of the time in his debut, and his 6.9% at triple-A was his highest mark in four years. The trade of incumbent shortstop J.J. Hardy has cleared the way for Escobar to play everyday in 2010. He won’t provide the power that Hardy did, but the 23-year-old infielder will add an exciting element on the base paths.

2. Brett Lawrie, 2B, Double-A
DOB: January 1990 Bats: R Throws: R
Signed: 2008 1st round – British Columbia (Canada) HS
MLB ETA: Late-2011 40-Man Roster: No Options: 3

The club’s top pick from the ’08 draft, Lawrie has flashed a potent bat but serious questions remain about his defensive home. The club originally wanted to move the Canadian behind the plate, but he changed his mind and ended up back at second base, where his defense was not pretty. He’s not a big guy (5’11′) but Lawrie possesses some pop in his bat, as witnessed by his .180 ISO in his debut season of ’09. Despite not playing in his draft season (due to contract negotiations), Lawrie reached double-A in ’09 at the age of 19. At low-A ball, where he spent the majority of his season, the right-handed hitter batted .274/.348/.454 (.308 BABIP) in 423 plate appearances. He also stole 19 bases but was caught 11 times. If he can clean up his base running, Lawrie could develop into a 20-20 player.

3. Mat Gamel, 3B, Majors
DOB: July 1985 Bats: L Throws: R
Signed: 2005 4th round – Chipola Junior College
MLB ETA: Mid-2010 40-Man Roster: Yes Options: 2

The club had hoped for more from Gamel in ’09. Given a shot at everyday duty in the Majors, the third baseman hit just .242/.338/.422 in 148 plate appearances. He did show some pop with an ISO of .180, and he also did a nice job of getting on base with a walk rate of 12.3%. He had a lot of trouble making contact though, and posted an alarming whiff rate of 42.2%. In 75 triple-A games, Gamel struck out at a rate of 32.6%. He definitely needs to make more contact, especially considering that his power potential is good, not great. A high BABIP in the Majors of .377 helped to keep Gamel’s triple-slash line respectable. For a guy who was supposed to be near-MLB-ready in ’09, he still has a fair bit of work to do (His contact rate was 14% below the league average)… and we haven’t even discussed his defense, which is below-average at third base (although his range is not bad).

4. Zach Braddock, LHP, Double-A
DOB: August 1987 Bats: L Throws: L
Signed: 2005 18th round – Burlington County College
MLB ETA: Late-2010 40-Man Roster: No Options: 3
Repertoire: 88-93 mph fastball, slider, change-up

A former starter, Braddock moved to the bullpen in 2009 due to durability and injury concerns. Although his overall value takes a bit of a hit from the move, the southpaw thrived in the new role and posted some video-game-like numbers. With a FIP of 1.74 in 24.2 innings in high-A, Braddock then moved up to double-A where his FIP was 2.82. His strikeout rate at high-A was an eye-popping 14.59 K/9 and it remained strong in double-A at 12.64 K/9. He also showed solid control with a walk rate of 1.50 on the year. Normally strong against left-handed batters (.174 average, 11.54 K/9 in his career), Braddock was even better against right-handers in ’09 and held them to a .178 average with a strikeout rate of 14.73 K/9. On the downside, his 36.3% ground-ball rate needs to rise a bit to help with the gopher balls (1.15 HR/9 in double-A). Braddock isn’t overpowering, but he has a solid fastball-slider combo and good deception.

5. Jonathan Lucroy, C, Double-A
DOB: June 1986 Bats: R Throws: R
Signed: 2007 3rd round – U of Louisiana-Lafayette
MLB ETA: Mid-2010 40-Man Roster: No Options: 3

A catching prospect with a solid offensive reputation, Lucroy had a nice year in ’09 despite suffering from a low BABIP at .299. Overall, his triple-slash line was .267/.380/.418 in 506 plate appearances. His BB/K rate of 1.18 (15.7 BB%) helped to offset the low batting average, and Lucroy also showed gap power with an ISO of .150 and 32 doubles. Defensively, he did a nice job of throwing out base runners (40%) but he’s still working on his receiving skills. The right-handed hitter has a good shot at being the club’s long-term answer behind the plate. The acquisitions of Gregg Zaun and George Kottaras will buy Lucroy some more development time.

6. Jake Odorizzi, RHP, Rookie
DOB: March 1990 Bats: R Throws: R
Signed: 2008 supplemental 1st round – Illinois HS
MLB ETA: Late-2013 40-Man Roster: No Options: 3
Repertoire: 88-93 mph fastball, curveball, slider, change-up

One of the more advanced prep arms in the ’08 draft, the organization has been cautious with Odorizzi and he has spent the past two seasons in rookie ball. He had a solid year in ’09 by showing good control (1.72 BB/9) and the ability to miss his fair share of bats (8.23 K/9). He allowed a few too many hits – 55 in 47.0 innings – but he was hurt by a .367 BABIP. He did not get a lot of breaks in the field, either, and his ERA of 4.40 was much higher than his FIP of 2.90. Odorizzi should move up to low-A in 2010 and he has the ceiling of a solid No. 3 starter.

7. Cody Scarpetta, RHP, Low-A
DOB: August 1988 Bats: R Throws: R
Signed: 2007 11th round – Illinois HS
MLB ETA: Mid-2012 40-Man Roster: No Options: 3
Repertoire: 89-94 mph fastball, curveball, change-up

An ’08 draft pick, Scarpetta has posted solid minor-league numbers and he had a nice year in low-A ball. The right-hander allowed just 83 hits in 105 innings, while also posting a strikeout rate of 9.94 K/9. He needs to polish his control, though, as he had a walk rate of 4.71 BB/9. Scarpetta performed particularly well against left-handed hitters, who managed a batting average of just .197. He did struggle with his control in those situations, though, and posted a walk rate of 5.32 BB/9. The right-hander is raw, but he has the potential to develop into a No. 2 or 3 starter down the road.

8. Evan Anundsen, RHP, High-A
DOB: May 1988 Bats: R Throws: R
Signed: 2006 4th round – Colorado HS
MLB ETA: Late 2011 40-Man Roster: No Options: 3
Repertoire: 87-91 mph fastball, cutter, curveball, change-up

Anundsen is not flashy, but he gets the job done. The right-hander has a fringe-average fastball but he gets good sink on his pitches and he posted a ground-ball rate of 52% in ’09. In his first three seasons, he averaged a ground-ball rate around 60%, which is well above average. Anundsen, 22, allowed just 101 hits in 130.1 high-A innings in ’09 and he showed solid control with a walk rate of 2.83 BB/9. His strikeout rate was a career high of 8.15 K/9 and he allowed just two homers. Anundsen was aided by a low BABIP of .284. If he can maintain a healthy ground-ball rate in the upper minors, along with his good control, the Colorado native should make a nice No. 3 or 4 starter for the Brewers.

9. Wily Peralta, RHP, Low-A
DOB: May 1989 Bats: R Throws: R
Signed: 2005 non-drafted international free agent (Dominican Republic)
MLB ETA: Mid-2012 40-Man Roster: No Options: 3
Repertoire: 89-95 mph fastball, slider, change-up

Peralta’s career has been slowed by injuries (Tommy John surgery caused him to miss all of ’07) but he’s still young and he posted solid numbers in ’09. The hard-throwing right-hander has a good fastball-slider combo, which allowed him to post a strikeout rate of 10.24 K/9 at low-A ball. He also allowed just 91 hits in 103.2 innings of work and did a nice job of keeping the ball in the yard with just five homers allowed (0.43 HR/9), thanks to a respectable ground-ball rate of 46%. The right-hander projects as a late-game reliever, but he made 15 starts in ’09, mainly to help him get added experience. Peralta is still working on his control/command and he posted a walk rate of 3.99 BB/9.

10. Angel Salome, C, Triple-A
DOB: June 1986 Bats: R Throws: R
Signed: 2004 5th round – New York HS
MLB ETA: Early-2010 40-Man Roster: Yes Options: 2

Salome lost his title of “Catcher of the Future” to Lucroy in ’09, but he still has a lot of potential. The catcher hit a solid .286/.334/.413 at triple-A but he hasn’t played more than 101 games in the past three seasons. At just 5’7”, durability has been a long-standing concern at Salome is probably a back-up catcher at the MLB level, if he wants to avoid the DL. Despite his size, the catcher has shown solid pop in the past, although he’s likely to provide more gap power at the MLB level. He’s a .300 minor league hitter, but he’s been helped by very high BABIPs, which is unusual for catchers. Defensively, Salome has a strong arm and he threw out 30% of base runners in ’09.

Up Next: The Houston Astros




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Marc Hulet has been writing at FanGraphs since 2008. His work focuses on prospect analysis. Follow him on Twitter @marchulet.


8 Responses to “Milwaukee Brewers: Top 10 Prospects”

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  1. battlekow says:

    Good list, except that Anundsen’s fastball is so fringy–85 mph–that it’s really difficult to see him succeeding against Major League hitters. I’d replace him with Amaury Rivas, whose three-pitch arsenal is really flying under the radar.

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  2. acerimusdux says:

    I agree with battlekow above. Anundsen is vastly overrated here. His celing is probably middle relief.

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  3. LuckyStrikes says:

    Are Escobar and Andrus clones? Looks like Bill James thinks so. Surprise to see both with 40+ SB’s. If true, these two might represent some great, cheap SS alternatives in 2010. Maybe fans can project Escobar soon to compare to Andrus, but right now they look like the same man…

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  4. Mark says:

    I haven’t checked all the numbers, but it seems Gamel’s K rate with the Brewers last year might have been less about an inability to make contact than an inability to judge the strike zone. IIRC, an inordinately high number of his strikeouts were looking.

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    • LeeTro says:

      He only chased 24% of pitches out of the zone, which is average, but he only made contact on 67% of swings, which is Ryan Howard territory. The only qualified hitters with lower contact rates were Reynolds, Pena, and Branyan. He doesn’t have as much raw power as them, so he needs to improve the whiffs to succeed.

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  5. Derek says:

    Scarpetta is on the 40-man. He may have three options left if MLB awarded him a 4th option because of his contract situation, but if not, he’s down to two.

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