Top 10 Prospects: The Milwaukee Brewers

The Milwaukee Brewers
2010 MLB Record: 77-84 (3rd in the NL Central)
Minor League Power Ranking: 24th (out of 30)
Click for: Last Year’s Top 10 Prospect List

The Prospects

1. Jake Odorizzi, RHP
Acquired: 2008 supplemental 1st round (Illinois HS)
Pro Experience: 3 seasons
2010 MiLB Level: A
Opening Day Age: 21
Estimated Peak WAR: 5.0

Notes: Odorizzi was my favorite prep arm in the 2008 draft and I was more than a little surprised to see the Brewers get him with the 32nd overall selection. He suddenly became the club’s top prospect after second baseman Brett Lawrie was dealt to the Jays. Odorizzi broke out in 2010 after being handled cautiously for the first two years of his pro career. The right-hander spent the entire ’10 season in low-A ball and produced a 2.93 FIP in 120.2 innings. Odorizzi saw his strikeout rate jump to 10.07 K/9, while his control was respectable with him posting a rate of 2.98 BB/9. He also had an average ground-ball rate of 46%. Odorizzi has a four-pitch mix with an 88-93 mph fastball, curveball, slider, and changeup. He may be better off scrapping the slider and focusing on three pitches. The right-hander has room to fill out and could add a few more ticks to his fastball. Odorizzi will likely continue to move slowly and he should spend most of the year in high-A ball. He has the ceiling of a No. 2 or 3 starter.

2. Mark Rogers, RHP
Acquired: 2004 1st round (Maine HS)
Pro Experience: 7 seasons
2010 MiLB Level: AA/AAA/MLB
Opening Day Age: 25
Estimated Peak WAR: 4.0

Notes: Rogers was the fifth overall pick during the 2004 draft. The Maine native had little trouble adjusting to life in pro ball despite signing out of high school. Injuries derailed his career, though, and he missed all of 2007 and 2008 after shoulder surgery. The right-hander has always struggled with his control – both before and after surgery – and he posted a walk rate of 5.56 BB/9 in double-A in 2010. Rogers made his MLB debut late in the season with two relief appearances and two starts. He showcased a solid fastball, as well as respectable secondary offerings: curveball, slider, and changeup. He has the pitches necessary to start but his injury history and lack of fastball command could lead to a career as a high-leverage reliever where he could focus on fastball-curveball. Rogers’ heater has reached the upper 90s in short stints but it has shown good movement when he throws it 92-93 mph. On the mound, Rogers has a strong lower half and utilizes a long stride in his delivery. His command issues come from an inconsistent arm slot and his throwing shoulder often flies open, which elevates his pitches. I’ve also noticed that you can pick up his grips from second base and he may need to shield his glove better.

3. Jeremy Jeffress, RHP
Acquired: 2006 1st round (Virginia HS)
Pro Experience: 5 seasons
2010 MiLB Level: A/A+/AA/MLB
Opening Day Age: 23
Estimated Peak WAR: 3.0

Notes: Jeffress is one of the most talented arms in the system – including the Majors – but the right-hander’s personal demons make him a tough player to rank. He has a fastball that can hit the upper 90s, as well as a good curveball and an OK changeup. Unfortunately, he occasionally telegraphs his breaking ball by throwing it at a slightly different arm slot. The right-hander moved to the bullpen in 2010 and had a lot of success. He could develop into a big league closer as long as his control holds up and he can avoid getting suspended from baseball. After already serving a 100-game suspension for an abuse of drugs, Jeffress is one positive test away from being suspended from baseball for life. The right-hander appears to have cleaned up his act, though, and he made his MLB debut in 2010 with 10 innings out of the bullpen. He should spend 2011 in the Majors, unless he has a poor spring.

4. Kyle Heckathorn, RHP
Acquired: 2009 supplemental 1st round (Kennesaw State)
Pro Experience: 2 seasons
2010 MiLB Level: A/A+
Opening Day Age: 22
Estimated Peak WAR: 4.0

Notes: Heckathorn is an interesting prospect. The right-hander was drafted for his ability to hit the high-90s with his heater with quality control, but he’s never been overly dominant due to an inconsistent slider and below-average changeup. He opened the 2010 season in low-A ball and posted a strikeout rate of just 7.09 K/9. He finished off the season with a 3.12 FIP in 39.0 innings and his strikeout rate dropped to 5.31 K/9. Heckathorn also produces above-average ground-ball numbers. If he cannot continue to improve his secondary pitches, he could end up in bullpen as a high-leverage reliever- likely as a set-up man.

5. Wily Peralta, RHP
Acquired: 2006 non-drafted free agent (Dominican Republic)
Pro Experience: 5 seasons
2010 MiLB Level: A+/AA
Opening Day Age: 21
Estimated Peak WAR: 3.0

Notes: Peralta has had a fair bit of success in the minors despite his youth. He has a strong fastball that can touch the mid-90s, and he also features a slider and changeup. The right-hander breezed through high-A ball in 2010 and posted a FIP of 3.70 and gave up 101 hits in 105.0 innings. After posting a strikeout rate of 10.24 K/9 in 2009 at low-A ball, Peralta’s rate dropped to 6.43 K/9 in ’10. He’s also shown inconsistent control throughout his career. Peralta has a larger frame and a lack of conditioning is a concern even at his young age. He throws with a three-quarter arm slot and does a nice job of making all his pitches look the same as they come out of his hand. He does, though, have a habit of holding onto his changeup too long at times. He also seems to lose concentration at times, which could suggest a career in the ‘pen might be better for him in the long run. But Peralta does get rattled easily so high-leverage situations could be a problem.

6. Cody Scarpetta, RHP
Acquired: 2007 11th round (Illinois HS)
Pro Experience: 3 seasons
2010 MiLB Level: A+
Opening Day Age: 22
Estimated Peak WAR: 3.0

Notes: Scarpetta had a solid season in 2010 while posting a 3.24 FIP and a strikeout rate of 9.98 K/9 in high-A ball. The right-hander made 27 starts and could develop into a real workhorse, but he might need to improve his conditioning a bit to maintain his stuff late into games. Scarpetta flashes a good 89-94 mph fastball and a plus curveball. His changeup has developed to the point where he’s no longer considered a future reliever- as long as he can improve his control (4.71 BB/9 in 2010). Scarpetta utilizes a long stride and throws with a high three-quarters arm slot. There is not a ton of effort in his delivery but he doesn’t have the smoothest throwing motion, which explains the control issues. Although he has a good breaking ball, he has a habit of slowing his arm down when he throws it, which will tip off advanced hitters.

7. Hunter Morris, 1B
Acquired: 2010 4th round (Auburn University)
Pro Experience: 1 season
2010 MiLB Level: A
Opening Day Age: 22
Estimated Peak WAR: 3.5

Notes: Morris was a talented prep hitter who fell to the second round of the 2007 draft due to signability concerns. He headed off to college and his hopes to improve upon his draft status were dashed after an inconsistent college career. In his pro debut, Morris hit .251/.306/.436 in 291 low-A at-bats. He’ll need to be more patience at the plate after posting a walk rate of just 6.4%. He stole seven bases in his debut and has OK speed for a first baseman but he’s not going to steal many bases at the big league level. He could use it to turn some singles into doubles. Morris hits with a wide, well-balanced stance. His bat speed is average, though, so his power is dependent on his strong wrists and good leverage; He clears his hips quickly. Defensively, he has quick feet and a strong arm. His range is above average. Morris is a little soft around the middle so he could lose some range before too long. He should move up high-A in 2011 and could reach double-A.

8. Jimmy Nelson, RHP
Acquired: 2010 2nd round (University of Alabama)
Pro Experience: 1 season
2010 MiLB Level: Rookie
Opening Day Age: 21
Estimated Peak WAR: 3.0

Notes: A big, strong pitcher at 6’6” 235 lbs, Nelson projects as a durable third starter. He struggles with his release point, which creates inconsistent control, but there is little effort in his motion. He throws with a high three-quarter motion and takes a long stride. When he throws 88-93 mph, his heater has some life but it straightens out when he touches the mid-90s. He also shows a good slider and a developing changeup. When he has good command, Nelson generates a lot of ground balls (61% in rookie ball in 2010). He was used as a reliever in his pro debut and posted a strikeout rate of 11.14 K/9 but his numbers were skewed by a .399 BABIP and iffy control.

9. Tyler Thornburg, RHP
Acquired: 2010 3rd round (Charleston Southern U)
Pro Experience: 1 season
2010 MiLB Level: Rookie
Opening Day Age: 22
Estimated Peak WAR: 2.0

Notes: A starter in college, Thornburg has the potential to develop into a set-up man at the MLB level. The right-hander has a fastball in the 89-95 mph range but he struggles to control it. His arm action has a lot of effort to it with a whippy action. He also shows a plus changeup but his breaking ball is below average. He has the potential to produce good K-numbers and solid ground-ball rates. A two-way player at Charleston, Thornburg’s command could take a step forward as he focuses on a single role. He throws with a high arm slot. In his debut, he posted a strikeout rate of 14.66 K/9 in 23.1 innings. If the organization can help him harness his fastball, Thornburg could move quickly, especially if he moves to the ‘pen full time.

10. Caleb Gindl, OF
Acquired: 2007 5th round (Florida HS)
Pro Experience: 4 season
2010 MiLB Level: AA
Opening Day Age: 22
Estimated Peak WAR: 3.0

Notes: Some prospect watchers will prefer Kentrail Davis to Gindl. Both outfielders are undersized but Gindl’s approach and mechanics at the plate impress me a little more. He’s more likely to carve out a nice career as a fourth or platoon outfielder. Gindl utilizes a wide, well-balanced stance but tends to get out on his front foot a little too much, which results in lazy pop flies. His swing produces average bat speed. He doesn’t have great stolen-base speed but he’s a good base runner underway and could stretch some singles into doubles. In 2010, Gindl spent the year in double-A and produced a triple-slash line of .272/.352/.406 in 534 at-bats. He shows nice patience at the plate (10.3 BB%) and has done a nice job of improving his contact rates (K% down from 23.4 to 16.8% from ’09 to ’10). His power output (.134) is short for a corner outfield spot. He can play all three outfield positions but projects better in right field.




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


32 Responses to “Top 10 Prospects: The Milwaukee Brewers”

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  1. camisadelgolf says:

    It’s usually not a good sign when a reliever (and it’s Jeremy Jeffress at that) is your #3 prospect, am I right?

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    • Bert says:

      Jeffress has some of the best raw stuff in the minor leagues, so I’m not sure what “and it’s Jeremy Jeffress at that” is supposed to mean?

      The Brewers haven’t entirely ruled out trying him as a starter again.

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  2. david says:

    Not quite accurate on Jeffress’s suspension situation. Because the CBA addresses minor league and major league testing separately, as soon as he moved onto the 40 man roster, he went back to the bottom of the suspension escalator. In fact, there’s a consensus that the Brewers added him precisely for that reason (why else would you add him midseason when you had zero intention of promoting him during the year?). If/when he next tests positive, he will be a first-time offender under the MLB program.

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  3. tbr says:

    Eight pitchers on the list. It seems the Brewers have certainly tried to address their long-standing pitching issues, they just haven’t done very well with what they’ve acquired. There’s a lot of “destined for the bullpen” going on here. None of these guys will get scouts drooling, except maybe for Jeffress – but he’s a pen guy too. Although Odorizzi has time yet; maybe he’ll turn into something more exciting than he is now.

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  4. Andy says:

    I never thought I’d see the day where 8 out of the Brewers’ top 10 prospects are pitchers (and right-handed). I wish I were more excited about this system.

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  5. GLB says:

    Would Lorenzo Cain be on this list if he had not been called up last year? I know he had a rough year in 2009, but seemed to turn it around in 2010. What does his outlook look like?

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  6. grandbranyan says:

    Lots of people are down on the Brewers farm but as long as Weeks is locked up the only position player going anywhere in the next few years is Prince so they really only need to produce a couple of role players on that side of the ball and still have plenty of time to develop some impact bats.

    As for the pitchers there’s plenty of good arms there so just throw em at the wall and see which ones stick i guess.

    They’ve also got two of the first 15 or so picks in 2011 I believe.

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  7. Big Jgke says:

    Still no plans of doing this from 10 to 1, huh?

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  8. Rog says:

    Thanks for the post. Very informative.

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  9. SF 55 for life says:

    What about Kentrail Davis?

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  10. arfuture1985 says:

    i know everyone is down on matt gamel but he is the best bat we have. he is not a good defender but he is just about ready for the majors. that makes him a top ten prospect in my mind.

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  11. rick p says:

    Yeah I was surprised at no Gamel too. If not for the emergence of McGehee he probably would have played a good bit of third for them by now

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    • Kurt says:

      hahahaha, he’s a butcher at 3B and he’s now saddled with a quad-A label. Not to mention he lost his prospect status in 2009 and hasn’t been much of anything so far at the MLB level. He’s 26 next year and he’s basically Marte with a helluva lot less glove.

      * = Read helluva lot less glove to mean useless to non-existent defensive value. Or to put it another way, he has the defensive ceiling of Adam Dunn.

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      • Kurt says:

        I am blown away, in 14 innings of playing 3B in 2010, Gamel never touched a baseball… ZERO CHANCES, ZERO ASSISTS, NOTHING, NADA, ZILCH, he literally could have sat down and drew shapes in the dirt for 14 innings and he wouldn’t have accrued less value defensively.

        I just want to know, did they put a batting practice net in front of him and move the shortstop over toward the line?

        And how do you play defense for 14 innings in the infield and not touch a baseball? He clearly has ZERO range.

        I think he’d have more defensive value if he just laid flat on his chest with his toes on the foul line and his head pointed towards second base, so he could use his body like a speed bump. At least Braun would have a better chance of cutting the ball off before it gets into the corner.

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  12. Marc Hulet says:

    Mat Gamel is not on the list because he’s not a rookie anymore. He has 145 at-bats. The cutoff is 130.

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  13. Dustin says:

    MAtt Gamel isn’t good defensively, but comparing him to Dunn? Really? Gamel’s range isn’t all that terrible, most of his mistakes come on throwing the ball actually. Haters gunna hate.

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  14. Bill says:

    I don’t find this list to be discouraging at all. I’m also not totally discouraged by a 24th of 30 ranking. Two recent #1 draft picks got traded (Lawrie, LaPorta). Lucroy and Escobar were regulars for the Brewers. Both were Top 10 prospects going into 2010. Cain was worthy of a Top 15 spot going into 2010 and now he looks like the leading candidate to start in CF in 2011. Axford and Braddock were Top 25 and now they anchor the bullpen – along with other call-ups, Loe (admittedly, not a “prospect”), McClendon, and Kintzler.

    With so many “prospects” either getting traded or making an impact at the Major League team in 2010, it’s neither very surprising nor very concerning to me that the Brewers’ minor league system should rank 24th of 30th.

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  15. Marc says:

    I have a hunch that Gamel could see work at 1B in 2011. His defense at 3B is average at best and with Prince’s future most likely outside of Milwaukee, Gamel’s bat actually fits well at 1B

    Just a hunch

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  16. Jhonny Peralta says:

    I believe Bryce Harper should be the top prospect! Don’t you? I don’t even see top prospect JA Happ on this list! What the F@!#

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  17. Jhonny Peralta says:

    Also, after watching Mark Rogers pitch live and on television, I can safely say, without hyperbole, that he is EASILY the worst pitcher in the history of baseball (and that includes college, high school, little league, etc).

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  18. Will says:

    Well the farm system looks even worse now, as 1 and 3 prospects got traded. It would be interesting to see who the next two are as well as re rank the system. 30?

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  19. Mike says:

    So, since 3 of these guys were drafted last year, did they rank that high just cause they haven’t disappointed yet like older prospects, or did the Crew do some really good drafting/scouting last year?

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  20. Choo says:

    Scooter Gennett: folk hero or legit prospect?

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  21. aunt barb says:

    keep up the good work scooter, we are proud of you.

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